Billed as the longest freeride descent in the UK, the new trail currently being built high up on Ben Bhraggie, Golspie is sure to attract downhill aficionados from all over the UK.
The most northern of Scotland's mountain bike centres, the evocatively named Highland Wildcat Trails are accessed directly from the centre of Golspie, a picturesque village about an hour's drive north of Inverness.
The village, with a population of less than 2,000, sits by the shores of Moray Firth and in the shadows of Ben Bhraggie (pronounced Ben Vraggy). At 397m, this is not an enormous mountain, but the monument near the summit in memory of the 1st Duke of Sutherland - known as 'The Wee Mannie' - is visible for many miles around. There has also been a desire for many years to have some kind of mountain biking facility on the slopes of Ben Bhraggie - and now, thanks largely to the vision and drive of local enthusiasts, Sutherland Estates and many more besides, that facility is here and will likely be further developed in successive phases.
The trail, which climbs up the side of Ben Bhraggie before plunging back down to Golspie again, was designed and built by Pete Laing, the man who built the first trails at Glentress. And it includes many of the features common to 7stanes and other man-made centres, with jumps and berms, as well as more technical rock sections and drop-offs.
Not surprisingly, it begins climbing as soon as you leave the new car park (located under the railway bridge beyond the public car park in the village centre) and meanders all the way up the slope to the monument. However, this isn't just a grinding, exhausting climb. It zig-zags up and around the trees, with lots of interesting features and diversions, and it's so well made and nice to ride that you might eveb forget , in places, that you're climbing at all.
From sea level the trail takes you all the way to the top of the Ben, from where there are stunning views, especially of the beaches that dot the Moray Firth coastline. The monument provides a good place for a rest before the real fiun begins; the descent back to Golspie.
It starts with some tight and twisting berms, then takes you along single-track that clings precariously to the side of the hill. Further on there are berms, jumps, rock drops and fast single-track which swoops into the forest below, taking you all the way back to the village, for a total ride of 15kms.
This is likely to be a ride that appeals all year round, with local sandstone providing a great base for much of the trail and very high quality surfaces that make it resillient and good to ride on, with a nice natural feel.
The Highland Wildcats Trails includes 4kms of blue graded single-track from Ben Bhraggie northwards to Dunrobin Castle; connecting the purpose-built trails to attractive fireroads and natural trails into the wider countryside. The Ben trails are red and black graded single-track with red at the bottom and black at the top. It is also worth noting that at 7kms it claims to have Scotland's longest continual single-tack descent.
And at 7.5kms it also boasts the longest single-track climb of all the purpose built centres.
Blue - 6.5 km
Red - 7.5 km
Black - 13.6 km
For detailed descriptions and maps of the routes visit the Highland Wildcat website.
Ticket To Ride - Company offers bike hire and a 'bike taxi' service -they can help up to 6 cyclists to get to the trails with their bikes and all their kit. Their vehicle is fully licensed Private Hire Car.
Square Wheels 01997 421000