The Glenlivet Estate lies off the infamous ‘Tomintoul’ road between Braemar and Grantown-on-Spey – Infamous for being the road in Scotland most often closed due to snow.
Basecamp in the Glenlivet Estate
From the village of Tomintoul itself you head North East up either the B9008 or the B9136 towards the village of Glenlivet. This is the upper Spey valley – a world of fertile valleys, upland heather moor and whisky distilleries, lots and lots of whisky distilleries (about 15 just within this small area).
Miles of estate tracks
There are also bike trails on the Glenlivet Estate. Apparently they are building some singletrack mountain bike trails there but for now it’s just waymarked loops on estate roads with small touches of singletrack path – the riding is not very exciting but it’s the best way of exploring the landscape (as the paths would be really dull to walk). We choose a 20km route which had a bit of climbing and the highest % of off-road.
Braes of Glenlivet distillery
Mid-way though the ride there was a ‘spur’ marked to the ‘Scalan Seminary’. We had no idea what that was but the weather was good and the riding easy so we went to explore.
It was the strangest place. Totally off the road network, surrounded by grazing sheep, and not a person to be found, but a sign saying ‘Scalan College 1716-1799’ and ‘open’. We looked inside and found a whole little exhibition about the place with leaflets for sale… in the absolute middle of nowhere. You can read all about it here, it’s a fascinating place with an amazing history – what a hidden gem!
Catholic Church – Our Lady of Perpetual Succour
Giving our legs a rest from cycling, the day after the Morven Killer Loop, we drove to the Linn of Dee on the Mar Lodge estate and went for a walk in the rain.
And THIS is why it’s worth going for a walk on a dreich and miserable rainy day:
Second ride of the week was out of Ballater; the Morven ‘Killer Loop’ according to a well-known mountain bike magazine. There wasn’t actually much ‘killer’ about it – but it was a very nice ride which started in the centre of Ballater at a very good bike shop, and ended back in the town at a very good cake shop.
A ride of two halves, after a warm up along the river Dee, the first half involved a climb up estate landrover tracks which gained a lot of height relatively painlessly onto a very exposed ridge above the town and back down again on the other side towards the Burn O’Vat visitor centre by Loch Kinord. The loop round the loch is optional but a lot of fun with rocky and rooty single track and even a Pictish stone.
Pictish Stone at Loch Kinord
After the loch loop, head back to the visitor centre and then up the path to the ‘Burn O’Vat’ where you come across this waterfall:
Scramble up to the water and in-behind and the you find yourself in quite a spectacular hollowed out pothole which is the ‘Burn O’Vat’.
Inside Burn O’Vat
Looking back out at back of waterfall
After the detour to the Burn O’Vat, there’s a short bit of pushing up out of the gorge and then a fantastic single track path that isn’t market on the OS map which leads to a track and then some tricky route finding to some of the locals’ favourite trails around the ‘quarry’ and then a fun descent back down to the A9 and the sustrans cycle route back to Ballater and that cake shop I mentioned earlier 🙂
Distance: 38km Time: 4hrs 49min Ascent: 624m.
It’s a long drive up Glen Clova to Glen Doll. I remember coming here as a child when the youth hostel and campsite were both open. Now neither are, but there’s a nice car park and somewhere convenient to park the van overnight. The ride started at the main ranger station and went up the glen that runs parallel to Glen Doll and doesn’t seem to have a name of its own.
Start of the ride
After about 5k the path got stony and we ended up pushing, then carrying, past the bridge and waterfall and on up to the very top of the ridge that separates this glen from Loch Muick.
Resting at the waterfall during the hike-a-bike
The hike-a-bike was tough (stony steps) but the views and ride along the top was worth the effort.
First sight of Loch Muick
A long ride on easy paths along the top was followed by a steep track down to the shores of the loch opposite the hunting lodge where Queen Victoria met John Brown (apparently) and then along the south shore to the far end. From there it was a long but steady climb up to nearly 700m again and over the top on the ‘Capel Road’ followed by the most spectacularly amazing descent I’ve ever ridden in Scotland! Switchbacks like I have only seen in the Alps, exposure, rocks and logs/branches from where the forestry has been harvested. This descent is a real ‘must do’ for any Scottish mountain biker. I have no photos because I was far too busy enjoying it. But here’s a wee friend we met on the road back to the van:
Distance: 27km Time: 4hrs 30min Ascent: 866m