Taking the High Road

Taking the High Road photo

"Oh, ye'll tak' the high road, and I'll tak' the low road,: And I'll get to Scotland afore ye." So go the lyrics of "The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond." In this case, you'll be taking the high road through the Scottish Highlands, a region of exceptional ruggedness and beauty. So hop on your bike — regular bike, mountain bike, or ATV — and head for the hills.

The Scottish Highlands, known locally as the Highlands became culturally differentiated as early as the end of the Middle Ages and refers to that part of Scotland northwest of the Highland Boundary Fault, which crosses mainland Scotland in a near-straight line from Helensburgh to Stonehaven. Here you'll find ancient rocks from the Cambrian and Precambrian Periods strewn across incised valleys,, as well as lochs carved by the action of mountain streams and ice. This sparsely populated area has many mountain ranges, including Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles.

The Highlands delivers adventure in abundance if you seek it. For the ultimate adventure experience, nothing beats quad biking. Whether you're an experienced quad biker or a novice, you'll have an exhilarating time and surprise yourself with the adrenalin rush. On a quad bike, also known as an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV), you can explore the Highlands on Honda UK quad bikes, tearing around the countryside as you go. The wide open spaces and natural beauty of the Scottish Highlands lend themselves to this exhilarating method of travel.

ATVs, reaching speeds of 50 mph, can easily handle the Highlands' rugged terrain, steep hills, mud, and water. Honda's Rincon model, one of the Japanese manufacturer's range of leisure quads, has a handy Suretrac function that transfers power to the wheel with most traction. This makes for a positively light-footed ride!

You can trek over acres or even miles of varied and interesting terrain, or you can choose to ride a circuit or agility course. Plan for an adventure either way, and don't be surprised when you get covered in mud and drenched in water as you ride your quad bike through forests and over hills, up rugged trails and across rivers and burns, and through fields and moors.

If you're a little less adventurous but still love rugged biking, then mountain biking may be just for you. The Scottish Highlands offers some world-class mountain biking trails. Whether it's a short trip through a forest, testing your skills on some technical features, or a white-knuckle ride down the UK's only official world mountain biking downhill track, you'll have a great day.

With over 18 miles of single-track mountain bike routes, graded from green to orange, plus a free-ride section, the three centres of the Moray Monster Trails have a route to suit your skill level.

If you're looking to perfect your mountain bike skills, you can head to the Abriachan community-owned forest with its jump park and 8 miles of mountain biking trails. Though this is primarily a family mountain biking center, it also has over 2 miles of red trails for you to tackle if you're more experienced.

Visit Sutherland in the north of Scotland, and you'll discover one of the country's hidden mountain biking gems. With stunning views over the Kyle of Sutherland, the inner Dornoch Firth and Bonar Bridge, the Kyle of Sutherland Mountain Bike Trails offer over 10 miles of trails for a range of skill levels. There are blue, red and black graded trails combining in-forest riding, technical features and forest roads. The Highland Wildcat Mountain Bike Trails at Golspie and the Laggan Wolftrax near Newtonmore are two other top mountain biking destinations.

And if you just want to peddle along and enjoy the scenery, get on a regular bike and explore the Highlands. Cycling is a great way to explore the pretty villages and beautiful countryside of the Scottish Highlands, and you'll find miles upon miles of cycle routes and forest trails from which to choose. Since many connect, you can embark on an epic journey, or ride smaller manageable sections.

Explore the 'undiscovered' side of Loch Ness on the South Loch Ness Trail. This excellent 28-mile cycling adventure, from Loch Tarff in the south west to Torbreck on the edge of Inverness, is suitable for all abilities and offers beautiful wildlife and awe-inspiring views.

If you prefer to explore the Highlands at your own pace, take Cycle Route 1 from Aberdeen to John o' Groats or Route 7 from Glasgow to Inverness. Both are well signed and offer a full range of maps and guidebooks to accompany the routes.

If you really want a challenge then cycle the Great Glen Way. This 73-mile route from Fort William on the west coast to Inverness on the east can either offer a challenging experience to mountain bikers, or offer many scenic miles of quiet road for the regular cyclist.