Aviemore cycle route takes in Loch an Eilein and Rothiemurchus Forest
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Children are often capable of so much more than we – or they – think.
That’s my excuse for dragging my daughter out for a 10-mile bike ride last weekend after she’d already run a speedy mile in the Macdonald Aviemore Fun Run!
We had an hour or two to kill after that, before I could collect my number for the half marathon the next day, so I decided we’d go for a spin on the bikes while we were down here.
There are endless opportunities for family-friendly cycling in the Aviemore and Glenmore area. It makes me wonder why we don’t use the area as a model for how to get people more active – there are safe, traffic-free trails everywhere, right from the heart of the village and out into the hills.
The Old Logging Way is a classic example, a former forestry route largely parallel to the ski road which allows people of all ages and abilities to travel safely and enjoy this wonderful area.
From the Macdonald Aviemore Resort, opposite the railway station, we headed across the main road and onto the cycle path that drops below the railway line. Bike signs point in all directions from here, and we turned right to reach the Old Spey Bridge, turning left onto it to cross the river.
A surfaced cycle path crosses the road – where courteous drivers stopped to allow us to cross – and heads up to Inverdruie. Clara was already asking how long the ride was and complaining of tired legs, but I knew she could handle a ride like this, even after her run.
We took a right turn up the minor road to Blackpark, which climbs gradually before you go straight on to join a track where the road bends sharply left. The October sunshine was starting to add some heat to the late afternoon now, turning it into a lovely day for a bike ride.
After a gate, we dropped down to meet a road, keeping left to reach its end at another gate. An opening allows easy access for pedestrians and cyclists, and a right of way sign points to Braemar via the Lairig Ghru.
The track reaches the end of Loch an Eilein, popular as ever with walkers doing the circuit, and we followed the route past the red-roofed Forest Cottage.
You pass through one gate then, immediately before a second gate further on, turn left on a path signed to the Lairig Ghru. A bumpy, steep little rise here is hard work on smaller wheels, but Clara made it up onto the relatively smoother path a short way ahead.
She was getting tired, however, and asking how far it was again. But to the rescue came a river crossing – or at least a wide, shallow burn. There was the option of crossing by a footbridge but, having watched me ford it on the mountain bike, she was keen to follow suit.
After some brief instruction from me, she went for it – and made it across easily, with a big smile on her face. After that, every puddle became a target for riding through, and there were plenty more to aim for on this path.
From that point on, she really enjoyed the ride and there was no more mention of being tired.
At a junction signed left for Loch Morlich, we jumped off to explore a little rise with a fine viewpoint over the surrounding forest and mountains. Then we followed the Loch Morlich route, going straight on at a crossroads of paths ahead to pass Lochan Deo on our right.
It was peaceful out here now, with not a soul about and the water shimmering in the evening sun.
Soon we arrived at our turning point, but we detoured right to the Cairngorm Club Bridge for a break before heading back. I knew it was mostly downhill and on smoother trails from here, so I wasn’t worried about the rest of the route.
The bridge is a great place to stop, with a large flat area beside Am Beanaidh perfect for picnics or just playing. Clara headed over the 107-year-old bridge to see what was on the other side, as a group of mountain bikers crossed on their way towards the Lairig Ghru, or Loch Morlich perhaps.
Heading back to the junction, we forked right towards Coylumbridge, enjoying a speedy ride through the magnificent Rothiemurchus pine forest on a bed of soft needles.
At the campsite, we turned left to rejoin the Old Logging Way and follow this excellent trail back to Inverdruie before the short ride over the Spey to Aviemore.
After a day of fresh air, fun and freedom, she eventually drifted off on the drive home, no doubt filled with exciting new experiences she will hopefully treasure – and a knowledge that she is stronger than she thought before the day began.
Loch an Eilein and the Cairngorm Club Bridge from Aviemore
Distance 10 miles / 16km
Terrain Surfaced cycle paths, minor road, forest tracks and paths
Maps OS Landranger 36; Explore Aviemore Footprint map
A family-friendly cycle on some of the Highlands’ best trails