The incredible scenery of Perthshire, from its various river banks to the floral woodlands to the rolling Highland hills, are veritable invitations to ‘Cycle Perthshire’ for cyclists, mountain bikers and BMX-ers looking for a route off the beaten track. With no fewer than 16 mountain biking routes in the whole of Highland Perthshire, as well as a variety of other paths and cycle friendly roads available across the entire district, you’re free to pick and choose to your heart’s content. Perthshire is also home to Etape Caledonia, one of the UK’s toughest cycling races – an 81 mile route through Pitlochry and past Lochs Tummel and Rannoch, all in the name of raising money for Marie Curie Cancer Care.
But if you’re not quite ready for that level of endurance, there’s plenty available for you to try. Whether you’re looking for a laidback day out or an entire holiday of stamina testing treks, you’ll easily be able to find a route to your preferred level of exertion.
River Tay at Birnam & Dunkeld: Dunkeld and Birnam sit on opposing sides of the River Tay and feature some of the prettiest scenery in Perthshire, as well as some of the most fascinating history – spanning from its foundation by the Picts to the building of its famed cathedral and stripping of its furnishings during the reformation; to the defeat of the Jacobites at the Battle of Dunkeld to the establishment of the Hermitage in the 18th century.
Begin in the town centre square and follow the path past the striking ruins of the famed cathedral, then take the route upstream until you reach the A9 road bridge. It’s a soft route of about 13km that you can follow north and south, and is perfect for those cyclists looking for something with a focus on the sights rather than the legwork.
Loch Faskally to Killiecrankie: The man-made reservoir is popular with fishers and tourists thanks to its salmon ladder. The loch lays between heavily wooded hills and acts as the start of this low level route. The journey alongside the loch banks and through Pitlochry’s main street, down the road straight to Tummel Bridge and towards the end point on Killiecrankie Visitor Centre. If you’re a more experienced rider, you can follow the path alongside the river but with its steep banks it’s not for the faint hearted. This long, picturesque journey ends at the visitor centre for Killiecrankie, home to the famous battle of the Jacobite Rebellion.
The Old Railway Riverside Path: Beginning just outside Aberfeldy, past Dewars World of Whisky, follow the River Tay until you meet the old railway track to Grandtully. This is a relatively simple route, mostly flat except for the occasional bump, and allows you to cycle back the way you came once you reach Grandtully, or cross the river and see the other side of the River Tay.
Medium Difficulty Routes
Atholl Roads & Loch Ordie: Returning to Dunkeld and Birnam, this route of moderate difficulty begins in the former location and takes a long, wonderfully scenic journey around the lochs and hills of the surrounding area. Start off in Dunkeld and head north, cycling past Rotmell Loch, around Deuchary Hill – the highest rocky hill in the area – and towards Loch Ordie, where you can circle it and head back to Dunkeld on the same route. Alternatively, add an extra 11km to your journey by taking a left turn back to town. This route is an all day effort with more technical aspects for the intermediate cyclist.
Dull Wood: Don’t let the name fool you. This Aberfeldy bike route, ideal for mountain bike enthusiasts, offers great elevated views of the River Tay, the Appil of Dull and surrounding Highland Perthshire. If you’re driving in to take the route, parking is free at the Highland Safaris, where the route starts, just under 3 miles west of Aberfeldy. Start at the Highland Safaris’ entrance and take the S-shaped journey through the forest. There are three options available for you to take depending on your level of difficulty, although all of them are intended for more experienced cyclists. Whatever route you take, make sure you return to Highland Safaris, where you can pick up a cup of tea and slice of cake! There are also picnic benches in the area available for use.
Banvie Circuit: Glen Banvie, within walking distance of Blair Atholl, is popular with cyclists and hill-walkers alike, thanks to its mixture of moorland, woodland and deep forests, all with a selection of incredible views whatever route you take. The route includes the territory of the roe deer, so you may be lucky and spot one on your journey during the spring and winter seasons. As the path climbs higher, closer to the moors, you’ll enter the majestic Pass of Killiecrankie, a beautiful wooded gorge run by the National Trust of Scotland where the Battle of Killiecrankie was thought in 1689. You can also take the detour to the Falls of Bruar, a longtime Perthshire tourist attraction written about by the Bard Robert Burns himself in his poem, The Humble Petition of Bruar Water to the Noble Duke of Atholl. The poem requests that John Murray, the 4th Duke of Atholl, who owned the land the falls are on, plant some “tow’ring trees and bonnie spreading bushes” around the area to make it more pleasing to the eye. Murray relented a decade later and helped make the falls what they are today, ready for your visit.
Glassie Circuit: This circular trail, starting from Aberfeldy golf course, is an adrenaline pumping route with ups and downs and a variety of views to match. Considered one of the harder cycle routes in the Highland Perthshire area, this 15km journey takes you up through Weem and Camserney before turning past the Glassie Bunkhouse and moving uphill. The journey upwards is tough but worth it for the panoramic views it offers of the incredible Highland Perthshire countryside.
Perth to Dundee: If off-road isn’t your preferred method, or if you’re looking for a full day activity that takes you from city to city, try this route from Perth city centre to Dundee and back. Start in the city centre and head north to Scone, following the road through some of the most scenic towns and villages in the district before crossing the border to Angus. Follow the firth of Tay to Dundee and cross the bridge to follow the route back to Perthshire and return to Perth. This is an extremely long journey that’ll take up most of your day so prepare accordingly, but on a beautiful Summer’s day, there’s no better way to experience the area.
Camserney: Brace yourselves for a full mile of uphill rough riding, but the journey will be worth it. Camserney and Dull, on the outskirts of Aberfeldy, are popular destinations with cyclists, and the local hotels and cafes welcome enthusiasts to the area. Follow the main road towards Camserney and turn up to Beehive Corner, through the forest and upwards. The roads and peaks offer stunning views of Loch Tay, Ben Lawers and the Appin Valley. The vertical nature of this path makes it one for more experienced riders with higher levels of endurance.
Cream O’ The Croft
Outside of these routes, Perthshire is also home to Scotland’s first mountain bike festival – Muckgedden! Located in Comrie, a place well known for its mountain biking, this Cream o’ the Croft celebration is a chilled out weekend of camping, bike racing for all ages and abilities, music, performance, food and drink and much more revelry to suit everyone’s tastes. This year, the festival takes place from 17th to 19th June, and tickets are still available so check out their website for more information.
Coming soon to Perth: A cycling event like no other. Fair City Enduro promises to mix the thrill of biking with the madness of Halloween. Where else could you see a day of family activities and bike racing where the participants include Dracula, the vicar and a penguin? Fun, exciting and totaly silly, Fair City Enduro promises to bring the surreal to all. Their website has all the website for further details.