From the bustling high street of Pitlochry to the empty quiet of Farragon Hill, few rides pack in as much variety as this loop in Highland Perthshire.
It’s a case of two straightforward up-and-overs – the first of mid length and the second being more substantial – before a total change of pace on the rooty singletrack blast home through the trees.
- Wherever you’ve parked, head south through the town. Follow the road as it passes under the rail bridge and turn right on a sign for the Festival Theatre. Carry on until an inconspicuous road on your left takes you up to a gate and the busy A9.
- Cross here and carry on up the track directly opposite. Things start to steepen up here on the first big climb of the day, with the consolation that the views improve and the crowds are left behind. This is the Rob Roy Way to Strathtay.
- About halfway up, there’s a tempting sliver of singletrack peeling off to the left that heads straight up the climb rather than the daundering track. Attempt with caution – even in the best of weather, this piece of trail stays damp and boggy. Most folk will be a lot happier at the top of the hill after sticking to the track.
- Carry straight on, heading slightly down now, to the edge of the forest and a stile next to a caravan. The view over Strathtay here is lovely, and pleasantly rural compared to the wilder vistas of the next climb.
- From here, it’s a case of following your front wheel down the clear trail into Strathtay. Beware of the occasional hidden dip in the trail, unexpected gorse bush, and closed gates. There are close to half a dozen gates on this descent, which becomes a little tedious after a while, but doesn’t detract too much from the experience.The corners are tight, too, so keep an eye and ear out for any walkers.
- Coming out alongside the golf course in Strathtay, turn right and right again on-road, following the National Cycle Network signs. With little traffic, it’s a pleasant stretch of road. The area has an abundance of red squirrels and pheasants running around, and you’re far more likely to see these than other people.
- Carry on until a right turn on to the Edradynate estate, with a house on the corner of it just after a stone bridge. The road climbs ever upward. Follow it to its end at a T-junction of sorts, take a left through some converted cottages on your left and farm buildings on your right, then take a right on to rough track again. Follow this up past the edge of the woods, and take another right.
- There are some junctions from here on, but it’s clear where you’re going now – straight on and up, up and up. Soon you’re out on the moor high above the green of the strath below, getting ever closer to the steep face of Farragon and its sister hills.
- At its foot, the path gets loose and steep. It’s a heroic set of legs that can conquer this whole climb without a dab. False summit after false summit passes. It’s best to not tease yourself here by hoping for the end, just settle into the climb and enjoy the views!
- Across the top there’s a little gentle contouring before the trail throws you down the hill. This is traditional downhill mountain biking at its best. Wide open tracks with several line choices, big boulders, and the ability to see miles ahead. Nearest Bike Shop: Escape Route, www.escape-route.co.uk.
- Join the road and head right for a while, before a sharp left-hand turn takes you over a suspension bridge. Follow your nose along these woodland paths, skirting the edge of the river until the path swings left and takes you up to the road bridge. It’s here that the famous Killiecrankie bungee jump operates, the apparatus clinging to the underside of the bridge.
- Carry on until the path reaches the footbridge, cross and turn right on the other side. Follow this great gorge-side singletrack for a while, until you reach a junction near an open field. Turn right to stay on a riverside path. Plenty of walkers here, but visibility is good.
- Come to the road, carry on up it and then turn right into the Faskally Woods car park. From here, simply follow the white-marked posts, which will take you through the forest to the trail that passes under the A9 and drops down to the café on the water’s edge. Then just follow the exit road from this up to Pitlochry proper.
- Length: 37 km (22 miles)
- Ascent: 1158m (3800ft)
- Time: 3½ to 5 hours
- Maps: OS Landranger 52 & 43
- Parking: Pitlochry has plenty of parking options. You can pay and display at the station, or get a spot on the high street if you’re early. Alternatively park on the side of the road near the northern edge of the town.
- Nearest Bike Shop: Escape Route, www.escape-route.co.uk
A bit less strenuous?
Why not visit Faskally Woods?
They’re riddled with gentle trails, perfect for walking and cycling.