One of the best ways to get out and explore the Cairngorms National Park is on your bike. In the winter you can get your heart pumping with some warming exercise along some of our lower trails and take in the amazing landscape and breathe the clear air as you go. We suggest 6 Cairngorms winter bike rides below for you to enjoy and earn your cake stop at the end.
1. The trails at Laggan Wolftrax
Distance: various routes from 4.5km to 13.4km
Grade: beginner to expert
Stop suggestion: cafe on site
Don’t be put off by a “bike resort” by thinking it’s just for expert mountain bikers, or pros who just want to jump over boulders and do daring tricks! Yes, if you’ve got an adrenaline junkie in your group who loves to do this, they can – but similarly, Laggan Wolftrax bike centre is a great place for young ones to learn how to ride better.
A trip to Laggan Wolftrax is the perfect day out for your ‘bubble’ because it genuinely has a route for everyone – often groups come here and split up depending on ability, but still can enjoy the same activity in the same place, at their level.
It has a ‘Green Route’, which is its easiest route, which is 4.5km and appropriate for young riders.
Its Red Route is more of a challenge at 13.4km and its Black Route, as with skiing, is for experts. According to Laggan’s website, this route is like “staring into the jaws of the wolf”! There’s also a dedicated ‘Orange’ bike park for those who do want to whizz around “berms” and get “big air”…
After all the exertion, you will definitely want to refuel which, handily, you can do right on the Laggan Wolftrax site at its dedicated cafe, which has gained a solid reputation for great, flavoursome food from soups to home bakes.
Alternatively, just a short drive away is Laggan and Newtonmore (10miles, about 15 minutes in the car) where you can find cafes too.
2. Speyside Way: from Aviemore to Boat of Garten (or vice versa)
Distance: 10miles in total (there and back)
Start/end: Aviemore (Route 7 Cafe in Dalfaber Industrial Estate, from where the route is marked, is a good starting point) / Boat of Garten (various parking available around the village)
This is a great, out-and-back starter bike ride for kids (or adults who haven’t been on a bike for a while!). In total, there and back, the route is approximately 10 miles. Although, if this is still too long for younger children then families often park a car at either end and draw straws for who gets to ride the full route to retrieve it!
The stunning views will be noticed by even the most hard-to-please, and the wide trail and open vistas give an incredible sense of space, openness and that take-your-breath-away feeling. Kids will love the fact that the steam train often toots past, too, and adults will particularly appreciate the sight of the mountains as they cycle.
There’s a reason why part of this route is used as the Aviemore Park Run and is often voted one of the most picturesque runs in the UK. If you wanted to add a bit more mileage, and make this route extra extra scenic, then you could always take the turning off to Loch Vaa from the Speyside Way, too (marked).
A good refuelling spot – either at the middle or end, depending on where you start – is the Route 7 Cafe. It’s aptly named because it is literally situated at the beginning of the route you’ll be cycling. It serves a lively, imaginative menu with healthy choices and tasty treats – again something to please kids’ and adults’ palates alike – and is particularly welcoming to young diners.
Or, if you want to stop in Boat of Garten, the Boat Hotel is an excellent choice, serving food and drink in both its bar and restaurant areas. Why not enjoy its roaring fire and perhaps, even, a sly G&T after all that pedalling? Children are also welcome in the bar area. The Boat of Garten Post Office is also an excellent place to stock up on hot pies, sandwiches, coffee and snacks – a real treasure trove of goodies and a very warm welcome to boot.
3. The circuits at the Uath Lochans
Distance: Various routes possible (the two marked routes, starting from the car park, are 2.4km for the white route and 4km for the red route)
Start/end/park: Loch Insh Watersports Centre car park
Grade: expert to beginner
The Uath Lochans, near Kincraig, afford some of the most stunning panoramic views in the Cairngorms but are quite a hidden gem. A fabulous winter day out, particularly with the kids, would be to start your bike ride at Loch Insh Outdoor Centre and head to the lochans.
Even little legs will manage the well-managed trail path to the car park and, from there, there are two clear routes (also walking routes, so be mindful of walkers): one is a low-level circuit suitable for beginner mountain bikers, a second takes a steeper route up to the stunning views over the valley (well worth pushing your bike up the short, sharp hill to the gorgeous ‘Farleitter Crag’ viewpoint, if you don’t fancy pedalling!).
The Uath Lochans is also fantastic for more experienced mountain bike riders, with plenty of bumps and jumps through the forest on single track.
If you don’t have bikes, you can hire them at Loch Insh Watersports Centre. The centre’s staff will be happy to point you in the right direction on your travels as there are also great routes in the nearby Feshie Valley and Inshriach Forest, too.
Not only that, after a few hours blasting about on your bikes, you can return to the centre for refreshments including soups, full-works hot chocolate and mouth-watering tray bakes.
Why not grab a drink from the bar and simply soak up the wintry scene?
Alternatively, particularly if you’re an art lover and want more of a cafe ambience, then don’t miss a stop at the Old Post Office Cafe Gallery in Kincraig, run by acclaimed local artist Ann Vastano and her chef husband Toni. This is a favourite cyclist stop which services authentic Italian cuisine, as well as lovely cakes and sweet treats, surrounded by bright, beautiful artwork.
4. The Deeside Way
Distance: to Burn O’Vat = 9km, to Dinnet = 11km
Start: Ballater Station Square
This disused railway track is a fabulous route to do with younger kids wanting to get more confident on their bikes. It’s a flat gravel cycle route with only a short section necessary on road, clearly way marked throughout. If you didn’t want to go all the way to Burn O’Vat or Dinnet, you could do an easy out-and-back cycle taking in the beautiful woodland and mountain views.
There are various stop-offs possible en route, such as Tullich Kirkyard and historic Pictish stones, the suspension bridge at Cambus O’May, geological point of interest Burn O’Vat and the Muir of Dinnet Nature Reserve.
For those that want more, you can ride on to Aboyne.
A lovely way to end your bike adventure would be to enjoy a winter-warming bowl of soup or steaming drink at one of the cosy cafes nearby.
Or, take a slightly longer drive down the stunning SnowRoads to Braemar where you can sample the delicious home bakes at the Hazelnut Patisserie.
Alternatively, if you really feel like treating yourself, why not take high tea under the Picasso at the Fife Arms?! That’s truly an extraordinary way to round off your biking day, fittingly luxurious for your trip to Royal Deeside.
5. The Old Logging Way
Distance: approx 5 miles each way
Grade: easy, but a continual climb from Rothiemurchus to Glenmore
This is a magical woodland wonderland purpose-built path, ideal for families, which allows for 2 bikes to cycle side by side. The route follows parallel to the ‘ski road’ up to Cairngorm Mountain, and skirts Loch Morlich ending up directly, and conveniently, at The Pine Marten Bar, where you can stop to refuel and relax after your efforts! There are lots of loops off this main route so you can make a circular route home.
The Pine Marten is renowned for its lively atmosphere and warm highland welcome and pulls out all the stops to make guests welcome; you’ll find an outdoor shelter, as well as a full breakfast, lunch and dinner menu, along with the usual favourites of hot chocolate and/or an alcoholic tipple.
It’s all downhill from The Pine Marten back to Rothiemurchus but, still, you may feel like rewarding yourself when you get back with a delicious homebaked cake from The Barn perfectly placed just outside Aviemore.