Why Highland Perthshire?

From its serene glens and endless expanses of lush forest, to its bleakly beautiful moors, rushing rivers and tumbling waterfalls, it’s easy to see why Perthshire was named “the fairest portion of the northern kingdom” by Sir Walter Scott. The area covered by the trails extends to the Cairngorms National Park in the north, Comrie and Crieff in the south, Rannoch Moor in the west and Bankfoot in the east. The cities of Perth, Dundee and Stirling are all within a day’s cycling distance from the southern and eastern edges of the area covered.

What does the website want to achieve?

Highland Perthshire is criss-crossed with many estate and forestry trails of varying quality and length, ideal for gravel cycling. Whilst there is an abundance of trails and growing interest in cycling, clear information and planned routes were missing. We want locals and visitors to be able to make choices, safe in the knowledge of a planned route with full awareness of their options. Even for experienced off-road cyclists, the time and effort required to plan a route, and the inherent risk that the surface may not be suitable, that bridges may not exist or that facilities may be closed, means only the most enthusiastic do so. We want people, locals and visitors, to be able to enjoy Highland Perthshire in a healthy, carbon-neutral way. Highland Perthshire Cycling wants to use the Perthshire Gravel Trails Project to encourage many more people of a variety of abilities to explore our countryside by bike, support the local economy and their own physical and mental wellbeing.

Who is behind it?

The project, funded by Perth and Kinross Leader and SSE, is led by Highland Perthshire Cycling Trustee Mike Stead, with the assistance of Highland Perthshire Cycling Project Manager Kat Brown. The trails and bikepacking route were designed by Markus Stitz of Bikepacking Scotland, a round the world cyclist and adventurer, who has worked with organisations in different parts of Scotland to combine existing trails into new itineraries.

Why are the trails only available online?

The Highland Perthshire Gravel Trails are not about creating new physical infrastructure, they are about understanding the needs of users and the local economy to develop routes for a wide range of riders with different abilities. Those routes can be downloaded and followed on a GPS device or mobile phone. While we did our best to cater to as many people as possible, those routes only represent a small proportion of the opportunities you can find in Highland Perthshire. These online routes are ideas to fuel your own adventure on two wheels. You can either shorten some or make them easier by using quiet roads and other trails as short cuts, or combine multiple routes into a big day out.

How were the routes selected?

The Highland Perthshire Gravel Trails were created following a process used by Bikepacking Scotland, which has already been successfully used in Argyll and East Lothian. In a first step we asked people from the local communities about their advice, using four events in Dunkeld, Pitlochry, Comrie and Aberfeldy to source local information. We also conducted an online survey, asking cyclists about their needs. In a next step we researched local landmarks, studied existing routes further and used this input to map routes in the area, of various lengths and difficulty. Like with all other projects, Markus then took to his bike and cycled the routes himself, documenting them with images and scouting alternatives where needed. From those potential routes cycled we then selected ten different day trips and a longer bikepacking route, starting from five different locations in Highland Perthshire, with a range of easy, straightforward, challenging and expert routes.

What kind of bike and tires shall I use?

The routes are mapped with a gravel or adventure bike in mind. Designed for long days tackling both off-road trails and roads, a gravel bike is a very versatile option. As with every bike on the market, those bikes are evolving fast. Most gravel bikes come with drop road handlebars, tires that range from 38 – 50 mm width and tread pattern that offers a compromise between relatively low rolling resistance on the road and decent grip on loose off-road surfaces. The routes have been designed with this in mind. Some of the routes where rougher surfaces are mentioned will be more-suited to mountainbikes or gravel bikes with 47mm or larger tyres. There’s no hard and fast rule about which bike or tyre size is better for a given route, but generally the wider you go, the more fun you will have – especially in wetter months. However, it’s really up to you, depending on trail conditions and ability, which bike you find most suitable to use.

In a few places some hiking/pushing of bikes is needed, to join up sections of trail. This is all part of the Highland Perthshire wilderness experience. Bring good shoes and a happy outlook, you’ll be braw!* (*local term meaning ‘to have an awesome day out on a bike’)

Best time to ride?

You can ride the trails in all seasons, but please be considerate of other users. Most deer stalking takes place between August and October, so please check ahead with the estates in that time. The grouse shooting season extends from 12 August to 10 December each year. Some of the higher sections of the routes might not be accessible in winter, as snow can accumulate on the tracks. The best time to visit Highland Perthshire is in spring and autumn, before and after the midge season.

What is the Scottish Outdoor Access Code?

Scotland’s outdoors provides great opportunities for open-air recreation and education, with great benefits for people’s enjoyment, and their health and well-being. The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 ensures everyone has statutory access rights to most of Scotland’s outdoors, if these rights are exercised responsibly, with respect for people’s privacy, safety and livelihoods, and for Scotland’s environment. Equally, land managers have to manage their land and water responsibly in relation to access rights.

The Code is based on three key principles: Respect the interests of other people, care for the environment and take responsibility for your own actions. For more information visit www.outdooraccess-scotland.com.

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