The easiest of the three mountain bike routes at Glentress - doesn't mean it's flat!
Glentress was the first centre to be built for the innovative 7stanes project - 7 mountain bike centres located in the south of Scotland. The other centres can be found at Newcastleton and Innerleithen in the Scottish Borders area and at Ae, Mabie, Dalbeattie, Kirroughtree and Glentrool in Dumfries and Galloway. Glentress however, is the most famous and now attracts over 200,000 visitors per year. Phase one of the 7stanes project is now complete and a second phase will see an improvement in centre facilities and more novice and family-friendly trails being built over the next two years.
Glentress Forest is located on steep sided hills that rise to over 500 metres. It was the first to be established in south Scotland by the Forestry Commission and includes stands of Douglas Fir as well as the more common spruce and larch. There have been guided walks and bike routes here for many years, the more technical routes are a recent innovation. They incorporate trail building expertise from all over the world. The volunteer trail builders go by the name of Trail Fairies, if you live locally and would like to help ask at The Hub. You don't need any experience to help out. It does involve physical work and can be quite strenuous at times, the more people that come along the better!
If you are visiting the forest with children and are looking for something a little less challenging there are two Trailquest Routes which take in some of the historic features of the forest. An information leaflet and map is available at the toilets just before the ponds.
The blue route is the easiest of the three mountain bike routes at Glentress. Easy is of course a relative concept, by no stretch of the imagination could it be called flat. Easy here means it lacks the challenging steep single track, tight chicanes and drop-offs of the black and red routes. People who are not regular mountain bikers will still find it quite interesting. It's a good idea to tune-up at the Skills and Freeride areas if you are out of practice. Mountain biking can be a taught skill - speak to Tracy or Emma at The Hub cafe.
The Blue route offers you two options, you can start at the upper Buzzard's Nest car park which avoids an 180 metre climb and shortens the route to about six miles. Alternately you can start from The Hub cafe which makes the route about ten miles. Your reward at the end is the Falla Brae single track descent which swoops down through the trees. This includes a couple of log drop offs which perhaps take it into the Red category.
Assuming you take the long option the blue route climbs up a forest road past ponds then turns left at the top of a hill, climbing again round Cardie Hill to the high level car park. After this there's an easier uphill on forest road. You join a flattish singletrack (1), left to another road; left to another singletrack, then climb again for about half a mile on road. After this you join the Spookywood Climb (2) (70m ascent). By then you're nearly at the top of Caresman Hill.
There's another brief section on road then you turn right to the Spookywood Singletrack (3). This is a long section of nearly a mile with an 80 metre drop - a bit bumpy. After this you join the Betty Blue singletrack (4) twisting and swooping through the trees. A right turn along a forest road might come as a relief, you are on this for nearly a mile and pass a singletrack you came up on. 100 metres after this you turn left down Heritage Path (5). After this you join another forest road descending to the top of the Freeride Area (6) which you descend on the west side. If you are doing the shorter option you finish here. If not you go round Cardie Hill, descending this time, then turn right to the Falla Brae singletrack (7). At the bottom of this it's just a brief descent, on road again to The Hub for a cup of tea.
The place to meet and eat at Glentress is THE HUB in the forest. This is run by mountain bike professionals Emma Guy and Tracy Brunger. This should be the first place you go even if you don't need something to eat as they offer trail advice, weather information, bike hire and maps. In addition there are spray wash facilities, spare parts and accessories.
Riding single track (narrow paths) is the ultimate mountain bike experience. It can be alternately technically challenging and terrifying as you negotiate tight bends and whoosh down through the trees. By any standard Glentress Forest is up there with the best of them, be it New Zealand, Utah, or The Alps.