Hit the (Highland) Road
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Q: I am planning a trip to Scotland in the fall and need info about mountain biking the Highlands. Any suggestions or resources?
-Â Therese Ingram, Colorado Springs, Colorado
A: You can start by hopping a train to Aviemore, the almost too-cute mountain town just south of Inverness. In the winter, this place is the Vail of Scotland, totally dominated by downhill snow sports. But the crowds thin when the snow melts, leaving miles and miles of nearly empty mountain trails that cut through the narrow valleys and pine forests of the Cairngorm range. Trails in the Highlands are at their most bikeable August through October.
For rentals, go to Bothy Bikes (www.bothybikes.co.uk) or Service Sports (www.servicesports.co.uk), either of which will hook you up with decent wheels and all the accoutrements you’d expect from a well-stocked outfitter (helmet, repair kit, maps, etc.). Trail options range from wide and flat to impossibly technicalÂ—ask at the bike shop for specific recommendations to fit your ability level. In the meantime, here’s one possibility: The 14-mile Glen Brown Loop runs through Glen More Forest Park, starting and ending in the nearby town of Tomintoul (best known for its brewery). The terrain isn’t too tricky, but there are quite a few water crossings to keep things interesting. You’ll dip into glens with sandstone and granite walls rising up around you, and climb to clearings with views of distant peaks and secluded villages. When you get back to Aviemore, stop in at the Winking Owl pub to reward yourself with a pint or two of Tomintoul’s finest. I recommend the Nessie’s Monster Mash.