The Highlands of Scotland are famously known in the mountain bike world for the arduous Fort William Downhill World Cup track, long, tough and rocky. However, away from that there is a wealth of trails that remain undiscovered.
I, Scotty Laughland, a Scotsman, have lived in Scotland for 28 years but I've never truly gone in search of the very best trails on the West Coast. Joining me would be fellow SCOTT ambassador Monet Adams who had previously ridden Fort William as a race venue but never explored any further North or West. This, would be a new experience for both of us. Our photographer and videographer would be Sam Flanagan, a longtime friend and the following days were going to be full of good riding, laughter and new experiences.
Scotland is lucky enough to have a 'right to roam' where by any means you may respectfully cross land by bike, horse or on foot allowing for some incredible exploration of the beautiful Highland countryside.
We would start our journey in Fort William, where unfortunately the trip started on a low as we were greeted by a cold, wet and snowy Spring morning. It meant we had to decide to slightly alter our route and stay on lower ground due to the snow level of 300m. Shuttling to Mallaig, a small coastal town where we jumped on a private charter would take us to one of the many peninsulas in the areas. Arriving in an almost deserted Loch Laggan we were greeted by the locals, a population of 3 and some sheep. We headed over a pass originally created by the Vikings who attempted to conquer Scotland between the 9th and 12th Centuries, it had been made to carry the Longships between sea inlets making for quick and successful invasions.
We rode back to the port via a picturesque rocky and technical trail, back in the boat and this time bound for Knoydart - the UK's most remote marked red trail due to it being only accessible by boat. The trails here were varied, some natural loam mixed with hardpack flowing berms with a beautiful ocean outlook. It quickly became clear why our guide Mark Clarke (Alba Mountain Bike) had picked this, finishing the days ride we arrived at The Old Forge, the UK's most remote Pub and were welcomed by warm roaring fires. On offer was a freshly caught seafood platter with only Scotland's finest catches. Distracted by the warmth and comfort we had to make a dash for the ferry and head back to Mallaig, as the following day we were heading to the Isle of Skye at dawn.
Boarding the ferry in treacherous conditions, as we neared the Isle of Skye the clouds began to part and the sun beamed through lighting up the Island. We parked the van just outside Broadford and headed for the coast, our singletrack trail meandered through the Glens and eventually arrived at a beautiful seafront with an abandoned village. Climbing through some technical and challenging passes our next stop would be Camasunary Bay, descending we met golden hour, the bay lit up and showed us Scotland's true scenery, green snowcapped mountains, clear blue oceans and complete wilderness. Making a quick coffee at a seaside Bothy we were fueled up for the last climb and descent on the West side of the Island.
Travelling through the Islands capital of Portree our final day would be spent riding the Quaraing, the eastern face of Meall na Suiramach and the northernmost summit of the Trotternish on the Isle of Skye. Its trails were rocky, everywhere there was an opportunity to catch a pedal and it was a true test of a riders technical skill. Steep in sections you really had to be comfortable on your bike. It was the perfect end to riding some singletrack gold on Scotland's West Coast. To finish the trip we'd ride to the most Northern point of Skye and stay in the Lookout Bothy, a popular Whale and Dolphin watching spot.
As the sun set on a what was an incredible trip, we raised a glass of Talisker to an amazing few days of great trails, local food and lucking out on the weather whilst our potatoes boiled for Mark's Bothy Stovie's. It amazes me what I have right on my doorstep and it won't be too long before the next two-wheeled adventure exploring more of the Highlands!