Wednesday, 1 December 2010

5 Best MTB trails in the UK

1. Afan Forest Park, South Wales
Great for: Those who love magical forest riding.
Trail breakdown: Best known for its hard-core mountain biking, Afan is also home to the brilliant, family-friendly Rheilffordd Trail, a 14-mile, purple-graded (easy) loop that follows the gentle river and valley floor and is perfectly suitable for road, mountain or BMX bikes. The trail starts at the Afan Forest Park Visitor Centre, and aims for the Glyncorrwg Mountain Bike Centre for a food stop and leg rest.
The route then heads back on the opposite side of the river using reconditioned railway embankments that weave their way through the unspoiled countryside. With plenty of BBQ areas, picnic benches and the old Cynonville train station – which has been converted into a viewing stop-off – there’s no shortage of rest stops, while more adventurous riders might wish to tackle some of Afan's more famous routes: the red-graded Penhydd, The Wall, Skyline and White's Level trails. Expert riders can try the black-graded W2 trail – a 44-km loop of serious off-road riding and one of the most challenging trails in Europe. 

Standard of riding: Afan caters for everyone, from absolute beginners through to professionals. Bike hire is available from Skyline Cycles (, 01639 850011) at the Glyncorrwyg Visitor Centre with prices from £20 per day for a Kona-branded mountain bike. 

Further info: Try the site as well as The Forestry Commission site lso has a wealth of info on the area. 

Ordnance Survey map number: OS Landranger Map 170 – Vale of Glamorgan covers the region.
Ordnance Survey grid references: Afan Forest Park visitor centre can be found at: SS821951, while the Glyncorrwyg Mountain Bike Centre is: SS872984. 

2. The Ae Line, Ae Forest, part of the 7Stanes Project, Dumfries, Scotland
Great for: Adventurous daredevils.
Trail breakdown: Scotland’s 7Stanes Project – seven trail centres spread over southern Scotland – may share one website, but each centre has its own character and charm and appeals to different riders. Ae Forest, to the north east of Dumfries, is the best place to head if you like lots of jumps, twisting trails, and high-octane riding. The centre’s fabulous Ae Line trail is 24 km of twisting and turning single track through untouched forest, with plenty of rest stops that take in the fabulous views over Big Knowe, Green Hill, and Whaup Knowe.
While there is a specific downhill trail here for serious racers (with an uplift service on scheduled days), the Ae Line has been built for those who love to get airborne but still want a full work out and a good ride into the wilderness. Near the highest point of the trail sits the Omega Man, a sculptured head – or ‘stane’ (hence the name of the centres). From here the run back to the impressive visitor centre is so full of adventurous launches, balance beams and tight turns that riders regularly walk back up the purpose built ‘push up’ track to have another go.
Standard of riding: As with all the 7Stanes resorts, there are trails to suit all abilities, though more advanced riders will get the most from the technical challenges here.
Further info: has full details of the trails, while the site has info on the cafĂ©, visitor centre and bike hire facilities. Prices start from £20 per day for a Specialized-branded bike. 

Ordnance Survey map number: OS Landranger Map 78 – Nithsdale & Annandale is the one to get.
Ordnance Survey grid reference online: The Ae Forest Visitor Centre can be found at NX983893

3. The South Downs Way, Winchester to Eastbourne, Hampshire & Sussex
Great for: A bank-holiday weekend adventure.
Trail breakdown: At just over 160 km long, the South Downs Way is a serious ride by any stretch. Add in the total vertical climb of 3 555 metres and it sounds like a gruelling slog. In actual fact, ridden over three days it’s a hugely rewarding challenge for almost all abilities. Most of the route is over chalk gravel bridleway, but there are plenty of sections where the trail dips into the woods and has great single-track loops to discover. Make sure you ride from west to east (odds on the wind will be on your back), and take a camera for the beautiful views from Beacon Hill as well as the stunning Seven Sisters sea cliffs just before Eastbourne.
Foodies will love a detour to Lewes, while a stop in Arundel – with its incredible castle – is another brilliant minor excursion. If you only have one day, and simply wish to sample the trail, then head to Bignor Hill (Ordnance Survey grid reference SU978131) which has great views along the coast. From there ride to Washington – around 15 km down the SDW – and finish with a pint at the brilliant Frankland Arms pub (Ordnance Survey grid ref TQ122128).
Standard of riding: Absolute beginners might be better off trying their skills out at the brilliant Queen Elizabeth Country Park (a mini section of the SDW, with fantastic waymarked trails and bike hire available –; otherwise, the entire SDW is fine for all standards, though slower riders might wish to add an extra day to their plans.
Further info: A list of accommodation ideas along the way can be found at, while the brilliant has detailed plans for each section of the route specifically for cyclists.
Ordnance Survey map number: Winchester is covered by OS Explorer Map 132, while Eastbourne and Beachy Head are covered in map number 123. In between, you’ll need numbers 133, 134 and 122.
Ordnance Survey grid reference online: Start at Winchester Cathedral (SU481292); finish in Eastbourne (TV598982). 

4. Mineral Tramways Project, Portreath, Cornwall
Great for: A family day out in spectacular countryside.
Trail breakdown: Cornwall’s Mineral Tramways Project has converted many of the disused ex-mining railways around the Redruth area into one of the country’s finest cycle path and bridleway networks. There are currently seven waymarked trails to chose from: Tehidy, the Portreath Branchline, Tresavean, Great Flat Lode, Tolgus, Redruth & Chasewater, and the main attraction – the Coast to Coast Trail. This 15-kilometre route stretches from Portreath on the north coast down to the beautiful estuary village of Devoran on the south coast, where the Old Quay Inn makes for a perfect full stop on the day’s riding.
Being ex-railway and pony-treck lines, the riding is naturally very gentle, but don’t be fooled into thinking the MTP only caters for beginners. The sheer variety and number of loops will satisfy riders hungry to eat up kilometres, while more experienced thrill seekers will love the fact that the dirt-jumping spot of The Track is within the network, as is the downhill heaven of Poldice Valley.
Standard of riding: Absolute beginners through to experts. Bike hire and accommodation is available from £12 per day either from the Bike Barn near Portreath ( or from The Bike Chain in Bissoe near Devoran (
Further info: for the MTP, while The Track can be found at
Ordnance Survey map number: OS Explorer Maps 104 and 105 cover the area.
Ordnance Survey grid reference online: The visitor centre at The Bike Barn near Portreath can be found at SW694457. The Bike Chain in Bissoe is at SW771413. 

5. Kielder Water & Forest Park, Northumberland
Great for: Empty road riding and brilliant off-road terrain.
Trail breakdown: There are two reasons for heading to Kielder – the road-bike friendly Lakeside Way route (which at 35 km skirts Europe’s largest man-made lake) and the incredible mountain biking to be found in the UK’s largest forest. Recently voted ‘the most tranquil place in England’ by the Campaign to Protect Rural England, visitors can expect to see newly introduced Ospreys, the beautiful Kielder Castle and enjoy the numerous visitor centres and cafes around the park.
Road riders will love the views, the car-free roads and the fresh air, while mountain bikers can reap the benefits of a recent £900 000 investment into the area’s trails. There are three new routes for 2009: a blue-graded easy trail and a more challenging red-graded run, both of which take in the summit of 1 900-feet-high Deadwater Fell; and the new Lonesome Pine trail – the UK’s longest section of Northshore (purpose-built wooden beams that test a riders skill and balance).
Standard of riding: Absolute beginners and families will love the Lakeside Way, while the mountain biking is perfect for all levels. There’s even a ‘skills area’, designed to show what grade of obstacles suit your standard.
Further info: The Purple Mountain Bike hire and shop has Kona-branded bikes for hire from £25 for a full day (, while info on the trails can be found at or the local rider site
Ordnance Survey map number: OS Landranger Map 80 covers the Cheviot Hills and Kielder Water.
Ordnance Survey grid reference online: Kielder’s main visitor centre at the castle (also home to Purple Mountain Bike) can be found at NY632936.

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