Abriachan is a 530-hectare area of forest and open hill ground, suitable for newcomers to mountain biking yet it can still offer something to those more advanced.
Sitting high above the shores of Loch Ness, half way between Inverness and Drumnadrochit, Abriachan is a 530-hectare area of forest and open hill ground. Thanks to the Abriachan Forest Trust, it now also includes 14kms of managed mountain biking trails - known as the Kelpies' Trails - after the famous and mythical local water horse.
Around 130 people live in this rural community, and they joined forces in 1998 to purchase the land. Since then they have used it to create local employment, improve the environment and encourage its enjoyment by the public. With this third aim in mind and to complement the other all-ability recreation opportunities available in the forest, the mountain biking trails are the latest development. Their design and construction was overseen by renowned trail builder Rik Allsop, who was behind some of the early trails on Mabie forest and, more recently, all the trails in the Drumlanrig estate in Dumfries & Galloway.
But whereas those at Drumlanrig especially are distinguished by their 'natural' quality, with roots aplenty, at Abriachan the trails are quite different. Using crushed local stone, the green and blue trails in particular, are more built up with a good, solid surface, making them highly ride-able and very suitable for newcomers to the sport. However there are a couple of red options for those seeking a more adrenaline charged experience.
That said, Abriachan is primarly a family-friendly mountain biking centre, and the idea is that it will convert some of those who use the forest to the pleasures of mountain biking.
The trails are reached by travelling up the Abriachan road for a mile, until you reach the village hall; at the next junction, take the left fork, signposted Abriachan Forest Walks. Passing Loch Laide on your left, the forest is the next left turn, with the Forest Trust car park 300 metres further along.
From this car park there is easy access to a 3km green trail and also a skills loop. The ongoing development of the skills area - known as the 'Kelpies Dare' - gives novices the opportunity to practice their skills or for more experienced mountain bikers a limber up facility, with ramps, skinnies and other features, all constructed with local timber.
The green trail also provdes a good introduction to moutain biking, and it can be extended to take you on to the 7km blue trail - alternatively, this can also be accessed from a second car park. The blue trail provides a moderately technical ride on 'footpath spec' trails but there are a couple of surprises, with the Rivoulich bends and a link into the jump park.
The 4km red trails provide an exciting option, taking you up and down steeper slopes, on narrow single-track. At the end of this loop you can also take in the jump park with its eight table tops, bermed corners and gap jumps.
The other main selling point of Abriachan is the views - from the top of the hill there's a 360 degree panorama looking out over the Monadh Liath hills and Loch Ness to the south, the Affric hills and from Ben Wyvis up to Ben Bhraggie in the north. In 2008, there are tentative plans which will hopefully see further developments of the trail network which include an extension to the red routes and the building of a new black route.
Green - A 3km route
Blue - A 7km route
Red - A 4km route
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