My love of mountain biking began on the trails of Glentress Forest on the outskirts of Peebles in the Tweed Valley, just over an hour’s drive from my hometown of Edinburgh. And despite having ridden many other trails throughout the UK since then, it still remains a firm favourite.
Widely regarded as one of the best mountain biking trail centres in the UK, Glentress has something for everyone, whatever your ability and preferred style of riding. It’s one of the group of Scottish trail centres known as the 7 Stanes, which are all excellently run and maintained by Forestry Commission Scotland, and have superb facilities as well as world class trails.
All of the trails start just up from the main base and car park at Glentress Peel, which also has a great café, bike shop, toilets, showers and bike wash. There’s also another car park further up the road at the Buzzard’s Nest for those who just want to session the freeride park and skills areas, or cut out the initial climb.
Personally, I really enjoy the climb up Cardie Hill and Dougie Bank to the Buzzard’s Nest, which winds up through the forest and has a series of log skinnies and rock obstacles of varying degrees of difficulty, to test your skills and keep things interesting.
Once up at the Buzzard’s Nest, there’s plenty of opportunity to test your skills further still in the skills loop and freeride park. The skills loops are the perfect place for kids, and those new to mountain biking to practice riding berms, small step ups and drops before hitting the main trails. For more advanced riders, the freeride park has loads of tabletop jumps, drops, rocky steps, more challenging log skinnies, and a massive ‘funbox’ The features are set out so that you can either session individual features or ride a whole line, and there are plenty of push up tracks to help you get back up safely. There’s even a line of smaller features to allow intermediate riders to work up to riding the bigger lines.
It’s very easy to end up lapping the freeride park for hours, but it’s well worth saving some time and energy to ride the trails! There are four different routes of varying degrees of length and difficulty. The most popular, and my favourite, is the red route, which is an 18km loop with fantastic singletrack for intermediate/advanced riders.
From the top of the freeride park, you continue up the fire road until you get to the first of the first section of singletrack descent/downhill section, Pennel’s Vennel. It’s a fun blast through the trees, but before you know it, you’re at the bottom, with a fairly big climb ahead of you to reach the best of the descent.
If you’re pushed for time, or just want to get to the top, you can skip Pennel’s Vennel and just continue up the fire road until you arrive at the start of the climb up to Spooky Wood. Whichever way you’ve come, this is a good spot to stop for a breather and there’s a strategically positioned picnic bench that’s perfect for resting the legs and enjoying the stunning views.
The climb up to Spooky Wood is a bit of a leg and lung burner, but it’s well worth it when you get to the top and are rewarded with stunning views of the Tweed Valley and the prospect of a fantastic long singletrack descent.
The first section, Spooky Wood is a definite highlight and consists of 1.5km of fast, flowing singletrack, with loads of perfectly shaped berms, jumps, tabletops and drop offs along the way that will leave you grinning from ear to ear. At the bottom, you cross the fire road and then it’s straight into the next sections, Super G and Hit Squad Hill, where the fun continues. When you come out at the bottom of Hit Squad Hill, you can either take the steep fire road climb up to the top of Matrix for another fast descent with endless line choices, or continue along the technical, rooty Pie Run. Either route will eventually bring you out at Magic Mushroom, which is another fun blast through the trees, with bridges and boardwalk sections. The red route eventually takes you back to Glentress Peel car park but if you’re parked up at the Buzzard’s Nest or want to session the freeride park some more, you can just skip the final descent and join the trail back up instead.
Although less technical than the red route, the blue is still lots of fun, with plenty of berms, jumps, tabletops and rock features that are slightly easier to ride. The route consists of two 8km long loops, which can either be ridden separately or combined. One of the highlights is Berm Baby Berm, which, as its name suggest is fast and flowing stretch of singletrack packed full of berms, with some jumps and rollers thrown in for added fun. Its proximity to the Freeride Park and Buzzard’s Nest car park means it can easily be tagged on to the red route or a session in the freeride park.
At an epic 29km long, the black route is for experienced riders with a good level of fitness. After sharing the initial climb with the red route, the black branches off just up from the Buzzard’s Nest car park and takes you on a demanding, but thoroughly enjoyable ride to the area’s uppermost point, high above the Tweed Valley and back down, incorporating loads of fantastic technical singletrack climbs and descents to satisfy the most gnarly of mountain bikers.
Complete beginners and those with kids are also well catered for with some excellent green routes that offer a great introduction to mountain biking.
There’s also plenty to keep non riders entertained, with separate walking trails, Go Ape and a large café that serves great food, and is the perfect place to refuel after your exertions.
People come from far and wide to ride the trails and Glentress and it’s so highly regarded that it regularly plays host to major mountain biking events, such as the Enduro World Series. However, despite its popularity, it never feels busy on the trails, and thanks to excellent trail building and maintenance, you rarely see any signs of wear. It’s little wonder it receives endless awards and rave reviews.