Team Wideopenmag’s Hutch and Christo embark on a three day road trip taking in the best riding along one of Scotland’s most famous roads, the A9.
The A9 is well trodden for those heading North to the now famous North Coast 500 or the stunning hills and coasts of Torridon… but few know that there’s actually a load of riding that’s easily accessed along it’s route.
Team Wideopenmag’s Chris Hutchens and Christo Gallagher headed out for a three-day A9 road trip.
Photos by Euan Camlin, words by Chris Hutchens.
The first couple of days of our road trip had seen us visit Inverness for big jumps and some of the best technical single track I’ve ever seen. Christo and I both pushed ourselves over some big gaps and were feeling the aches and pains of two big days. After that, we sampled the technical delights that Aviemore had to offer. Despite that, we were hungry for more trails and excited to press on up the A9 to our next stop.
We spent a great night in the local pizza joint and then left Aviemore behind, promising to come back soon, and hit the road for Dunkeld.
We headed south to where the River Tay, Scotland’s largest river, meets the A9 and where we would find a couple of fairly well established, but relatively unknown trails. It made a nice change to be out of the pine plantations we’re so used to in Scotland and enjoy some silver birch. We’d be short of time to pack in all the trails here and get to Dunkeld, so we rode the best bits several times then packed up again to head just down the road.
Both Christo and Euan did their bit of unplanned trail maintenance. Christo’s exuberant cornering style led to a berm disappearing before his eyes, while Euan decided to look for change in the undergrowth at speed.
Then for a stone cold classic of Scottish mountain biking, Dunkeld. There’s been downhill racing in Dunkeld for aeons and with the help of some very industrious locals and some big enduro races coming to town, it’s become another one of Scotland’s must-ride locations.
With Birnam Hill, Newtyle Hill, The Hermitage and more sporting amazing trails, you could spend a month here and never get bored.
As with any thriving riding scene, you have your local celebrities to look out for. Taj from Flotec Suspension was spotted getting his stash of Empire Biscuits topped up and Ric McLaughlin of Enduro World Series fame was caught looking through the classified section in AutoTrader. Our day was made.
Then of course, we had to visit Flora’s bakery. Any Great British Bake Off fans will recognise her and she’s taken up shop on the main street in Dunkeld. An hour in Aran Bakery passed, mainly due to my need to find out how to cook focaccia properly. Flora kindly took some time to jot down the recipe and some top hints…
We threw our legs over the bikes and headed out for the rest of the day. South along the Tay, we headed high to begin with, looking north back to where we’d just come from before sampling the rest of the delights in near perfect conditions.
The sun continued to beat down on us creating some perfect trail conditions. Just enough moisture in the dirt for all time grip levels but no dirt coming back up at us.
Our main point of focus for the Dunkeld portion of the road trip was to revisit some of the stages made famous by the Highland Perthshire Enduro that brings hundreds of riders here every May Bank Holiday.
Without the traffic that and the Scottish Enduro Series brings, the trails were in prime condition and were just starting to shrug off their winter coat of slime having not seen the sun since last summer.
With our Dunkeld fix complete, we’d set our sights on the southern end of the A9 and the Gateway to the Highlands, Stirling, for day three of our A9 Road Trip.
We’d opt to skip the amazing trails around Perth and save them for another day and head to one of the most historically significant Scottish cities to round off our three day A9 extravaganza.