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What is the North Highlands and why should you visit?

The North Highlands are a rugged and varied landscape. For mountain bikers Golspie and the Kyle of Sutherland have well established trail centres, and Torridon is known for its rugged mountain paths. But explore further there are great experiences to be found if you are resourceful and love an adventure, big or small.

Golspie

Destination Highlights

Golspie

Golspie Highland Wildcat trails is a rider’s favourite. A tough and technical climb takes riders to the top of Ben Bhraggie, where the Duke of Sutherland monument looks out over the Morayshire Firth coastline. The descent has a real mix of fast and flowing, rough and rocky, slow speed technical sections and lower down berms and jumps. Although it is a hard black grade trail better suited for more advanced riders there are options to miss out the more challenging upper trails on the red route. There is also a blue route, which takes riders on a gentler tour out to Dunrobin castle on single track and estate roads. Golspie is also a great base for exploring the wider countryside by bike on the many forest road and estate tracks.

Golspie lower

Golspie Wildcat trails


Learnie

Learnie Redrock trails, on the Black Isle is great for a range of riders, including families. The trails allow progression up from beginners to more advanced riders, and there is a nice friendly atmosphere. The gentle climbs through the pines makes the way up enjoyable, and the descents are generally flowing and fun. The onsite picnic area is next to a set of jumps, so even if you need to take a break you can still have fun.

Learnie 2

Amazing family riding at Learnie Red Rock trail centre


Balblair

The area around Bonar Bridge on the Kyle of Sutherland has the Balblair trail centre. These trails are short and punchy, with a lot of interesting rock features on the Black graded trail that visits to top of a wee hill called Cnoc an Tionail – the hill of the gathering. The blue trail is more sheltered in the trees lower down the hill and is a gentle mix of singletrack and forest roads.

Ella

Balblair


Adventure Riding

Exploring the mountains and coast

The vast network of easier tracks and trails, and harder stalkers paths makes the area great for longer gravel rides or adventurous mountain rides. There really are too many options to mention, but for riders who love to plan a route to explore the landscape there are endless possibilities.

Torridon is possibly the most well-known Scottish mountain riding destinations. Its network of challenging but rideable trails in epic landscapes makes it a must ride for many mountain bikers. There are no formal mountain bike facilities, so treat the land and others who are using it with respect and plan and prepare for an epic day out in exposed mountain landscapes.

Whilst not having the profile of Torridon, Skye and Lochalsh have some epic landscape and great trails to explore. Further North, Sutherlands inland areas have a wild feeling - while the terrain can be rugged and of mixed quality by bike, there are some established routes that pass through the landscape that will excite bike packers and is featured in the Highland Trail 550 bikepacking event and the An Turas Mor route. The tracks between the Kyle of Sutherland and Ullapool allow a classic and relatively achievable coast to coast route. Spend time planning, pack the right gear and stop off to restock and refuel in local communities!

NH gravel

Exploring the North Highlands by gravel bike


Inspiration for your North Highlands Trip

To minimise our environmental impact we are promoting riders to visit our key destinations and stay for as long as possible.

We hope that riders will consider their impact - travel as sustainably as they can, eat and drink local, give back to the trails they ride, and ride responsibly - considering their impact on other users, mountain rescue teams, landowners/managers, and the environment.

Information on Caithness and Sutherland, including Golspie and Balblair Venture North

Information on Wester Ross, including Torridon Visit Wester Ross

Information on the Isle of Skye Isle of Skye

Information on the Black Isle, including Learnie Red Rocks Black Isle information

Train: You can access area via the ScotRail North Highland Line. It has limited availability for bike storage and we recommend (attempting) book your bike onto the train in advance of travelling. If you are unable to book your bike on the train, and although it is not guaranteed, we do find the train guard's and staff generally take a reasonable approach to taking your bike on a train. If there is no space then please be polite and considerate towards all staff (we know you will but just in case). The train also opens up potential for bigger adventure rides through epic scenery.

Bus: There are bus services around the North Highlands operated by Citylink. They have just launched a pilot scheme to make travel with bike easier, providing covers for bikes to be stored in coach luggage compartment.

Car: We recognise that a car, or van, is a really flexible and handy option for mountain biking trips. Covid considerations/restrictions should be taken into account, however, when possible we would recommend sharing lifts and minimising any unnecessary journeys. Where possible, park up and ride from your accommodation. Electric car charge points are available in various locations across the North Highlands.

Hotels: There is a good selection of hotels across the North Highlands, including some with great bike facilities. Please consider booking with Expedia through this link and 5% of your booking will go to the local trail associations to help them maintain and develop the trail network you will be riding.

Camping: We highly recommend staying in a recognised campsite which has facilities including toilets, showers, and waste disposal onsite.

You may also, under Scottish Outdoor Access Code, choose to 'wild' camp - especially if you want a bikepacking adventure. Please be aware that you only have this right if you are a responsible camper - click away for more details on what that means in practice from our friends at Nature Scot.

Campervans: The North Coast 500 give some good guidance on using Motorhomes & Campervans in the North Highlands.


Trail Maps & Apps For Destination

To help you plan your visit to the North Highlands we have collated the official trail centre maps and rider-driven apps which can help you discover the best trails across the area.

Rider populated apps are a great way to discover new trails however they may not be up to date with trail conditions and we recommend doing further research before you ride.

Please ride responsibly on all trails - follow our Do The Ride Thing guidance.



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