Mountain-biking and cycling in the Trossachs
The Trossachs are criss-crossed by an endless network of cycle routes, from gentle, lochside trundles to full-on Danny Macaskill type single-track descents. Running right through the heart of the Trossachs and its lochs, National Cycle Route 7 passes through Aberfoyle and Callander, our two closest towns, and can be picked up anywhere along the way for stunning – but easy – off-road cycling.
Road cyclists have got it made at Lochend as well, with stunning, hilly loops south to Kippen (fab pub halfway round) and west around Loch Katrine via the Duke’s Pass. Not for nothing the lovely, wee B8034 that brings you here comes alive with MAMILS (Middle Aged Men In Lycra) at the weekend. “An amazing place to stay and train,” commented Tour de France winner Chris Froome, when he stayed here as a teenager.
There are several bike-hire companies close to Lochend, including Katrinewheelz, Wheelology, Aberfoyle Bike Hire and Wheels Cycling Centre. Some local biking enthusiasts (there are many!) have put together a pretty good website about cycling in the Trossachs, but here are some of our favourite places to take the bike:
Forest trail; 2 miles
Just past Aberfoyle on the picturesque back road to Loch Lomond, Milton is a wee village with a foreverness of gravel roads cut through the forest. There is a lovely two-mile loop here that takes you past wee Lochan Spling, where a large metallic pike jumps out the water!! The trail has eight artworks to spot from mirrored foxes to Jedi squirrels, produced by local artist and friend, Rob Mulholland, whose brilliant mirror men hide among the trees round the forest cycle trails at The Lodge.
Disused Railway; 2 or 4 miles
Another easy off-roader for wannabe Wigginses is along the disused railway between Cobleland and Aberfoyle (it’s two miles flat flat flat, with Aberfoyle’s lovely wee play park at journey’s end). Families with older kids could do it as a four-mile loop, heading back on pretty Forestry Commission tracks along the Forth.
Along Loch Katrine; 14 miles
For one of the best pedals on the planet, hire bikes from the pier at Loch Katrine, stick them on the steamer for the hour-long cruise to the other end of the loch at Stronachlachar (fab cafe alert!), then cycle back via Rob Roy’s childhood home along a fantastically scenic single-lane road that undulates (and I mean, undulates!) for 14 miles alongside the loch.
Loch Venachar Loop; 16 miles
In Callander, thanks to a new, smooth dirt track completed a couple of years ago, you can now do a beautiful, almost entirely off-road loop that twists and turns via many a potential picnic spot for 16 miles around Loch Venachar. Better still, about halfway along you’ve got Brig O Turk Tearoom, a real icon of Scottish cycling. Actually built as a meeting place for Glasgow’s weekend cyclists in 1923, the wee timber cafe featured in Kenneth More’s 1959 classic, The 39 Steps, and today is run by a lovely Hungarian couple – if their goulash doesn’t get you round the loop, nothing will. Bikes can be hired actually on the route at Wheels Cycling Centre.
Kippen Loop; 20 miles
This is my big brother Nick’s favourite old training run. Leaving right from Lochend, this lovely loop climbs an absolutely magical back road up to a hilltop junction known in Scottish cycling circles as the Top Of The World. Catch your breath, soak up the staggering Trossachs views, then it’s down via Kippen with a pitstop either at Cross Keys, or the Woodhouse Cafe. From here, the quiet road across the panflat Carse, takes you past Flanders Moss, a stunning, pristine bog with viewing tower and boardwalk, then on via Thornhill and Port of Menteith to Lochend.
Loch Katrine Loop; 44 miles
This time turning left from Lochend along the Lake road (B8034), this is a belter of a loop out on a dramatic single-lane road into the mountainous, loch-littered wilds west of Aberfoyle. From here, head back along Loch Katrine (via Rob Roy’s childhood home) and over the Duke’s Pass, a dipping, twisting, panoramic stretch of road put in by Victoria so she could enjoy the best of the Trossachs from the comfort of her carriage. You’re going to have to be pretty fit for this, but it’s worth every drop of sweat (and though driving the first bit to Aberfoyle is technically cheating, it does cut out about 12 miles from the loop!)
The Trossachs are getting quite a name for themselves in mountain-biking circles, with lots of hardcore mountain-bikers moving out here from Glasgow and Edinburgh to be near a burgeoning network of trails. There are a number of YouTube clips of Danny Macaskill in the Trossachs.
The nearest mountain-bike routes start at Braeval car park on the road to Aberfoyle. Here on the Boundary Fault Line where the Highlands meet the Lowlands, there are oodles of waymarked gravel tracks and unmarked, gnarly single-track down through the forest.
My big brother, Nick, is a big mountain-biking fan, and his favourite rides are in the Queen Elizabeth Forest above Aberfoyle. This is a vast area of Forestry Commission gravel roads for going up and daring single-track for flying down, carved out by local mountain-biking loons!
About 15 miles north-west of Lochend, Carron Valley has a proper mountain-biking centre for experienced riders, with four miles of drop-offs and table-tops, bombholes and bermed corners – and if you don’t know what any of those things are, we suggest you stick to the lovely, rolling gravel Forestry tracks at The Lodge in Aberfoyle!
In fact, for a sort of junior version of Carron Valley’s roughtie-toughtie mountain-biking park, head to Aberfoyle where there is a lovely, new wee mountain biking trail park on Rabbit Hill. Just along from the play park, the trail park has proper banked turns and the odd easy obstacle. Hey, it’s almost as good as our own mountain-bike trail and trials bike skills park at Lochend! We are always happy to advise you on routes once you are here.