Zoom down narrow descents through the trees!
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 red route, while not as tough as the V Trail is still a difficult mountain bike route; it's about 12 miles, and like the V trail or Black starts at The Hub. The Red Route differs from the V trail in that it's a bit shorter, but there are still plenty of flowing descents, steep drops and water splashes. At weekends there will be plenty of people coming along behind you so walking the difficult bits is not really an option!
The Red Route climbs up a forest road past ponds then turns left, climbing again round Cardie Hill. It keeps straight on at the high level car park. After this there is a right turn to a forest road passing a quarry after which you bear left climbing gently. Shortly after you turn right to Pennel's Vennel singletrack (1) - a 45 metre descent dodging rocks. The singletrack then levels out and meets a road where you turn left.
Another singletrack follows shortly, a climb this time then another climb 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 continue descending on the Table Top singletrack (4). This is fast, 55 metre drop with a chute near the top then steep zig zags.
The action continues on Hit Squad Hill (5) which has a jump and two steep chutes. following this there is an easy climb on a road leading south towards Kirn Law. You soon lose this height though, dropping from 380 metres to 290 metres, passing through The Moguls (6) with its steep bankings. The section after, Lombard Street (7) is somewhat easier.
After this there is another gentle forest road which leads you to the Magic Mushroom singletrack (8). This is 600m long with a 50 metre drop - take care at the bridges. Following this there are two short sections of singletrack with brief sections on roads to get you across the Glentress Burn and on to Cardie Hill. Finally it's a left turn to the Falla Brae singletrack dropping to the forest road just above The Hub.
The Red Route is the one that is generally used by mountain bike professionals Emma Guy and Tracy Brunger when they lead night time bike rides. This is made possible by new technology halogen bike lights. The duration of the battery though is limited to a couple of hours, so setting off in the dark to go round the 18 mile V trail is not really an option! Riding round the forest by moonlight is a unique experience if you are up to it. Going round with Emma or Tracy is certainly the safest way, they offer an evening package which includes hire of the necessary equipment and a meal afterwards. Above all don't try it on your own!
Emma and Tracy are based at THE HUB in the forest cafe. This should be the first place you go as they offer trail advice, weather information, bike hire and maps, plus bike wash facilities. They have been getting a lot of publicity recently, both in the mountain bike and mainstream press. One recent piece in a well known magazine implied that Emma was finding fulfilment being a tea lady in The Hub cafe. I don't think so - the job has more difficult aspects!