Top 5 Natural MTB Trails in Britain

We’ve featured some of the best trail centres across the country in the past few weeks, but now it’s time to take a look at some of the best natural trails the country has to offer. Britain may be small, but there are loads of world class natural trails littered in the folds and creases of the land, you just need to know where to look.

Torridon in Scotland is as close to wilderness riding as you are likely to find in Britain, but even at the opposite end of the country there is superb natural riding on Dartmoor and the Quantocks. Photo © Andy Lloyd.
Torridon in Scotland is as close to wilderness riding as you are likely to find in Britain, but even at the opposite end of the country there is superb natural riding on Dartmoor and the Quantocks.
Photo © Andy Lloyd.

The five places I’ve listed here do require some basic map reading skills or a suitable GPS device, don’t expect to rock up to a trail centre-style car park with a cafe and waymarked route, it ain’t going to happen. Perhaps the easiest way to discover trails in these, and other places, is to hook up with some local riders who’ll happily (most of the time) show you the way around. The Bike Magic forum is a good place to start.

Of course, this is only a tiny fraction of the vast array of natural riding all Britain, most of which casuses little confliction with other trail users as, perhaps, it may have done only a matter of years ago. Britain is embracing two-wheeled sports of all kinds and now is a brilliant time to ride here if you live outside of the country.

My top 5 natural trails:

Torridon

It’s hard to find proper wilderness in this overpopulated country, but Scotland still offers the sense of escapism many mountain bikers crave. Torridon is one such destination, on the west coast of scotland 100 miles north of Fort William.

Go-Where offer guided riding if you’re keen to explore the area, click here to find out more.

Lake District

A little bit easier to get to and still rating very highly for Big Landscape, though you will have to share with loads of walkers in the busier summer months, the Lake District is a stunning place to explore on the bike. There are a couple of trail centres which can form part of a trip, but make sure to hit some of the natural trails that abound in the hills.

Get a map and explore the many bridleways that criss-cross the hills, and both Helvellyn and Skiddaw can be climbed to on such paths. You could take in Stick’s Pass, a tough trail with rock gardens, old mines and sweet singletrack.

Check out this video of the descent.

Peak District

There’s a hell of a lot going for the Peak District as contender for the best natural mountain biking in the UK. It’s handily placed, close to some large population areas and also to the motorway, and offers some really rocky and challenging trails that will keep the most demanding riders happy.

There’s a good variety of trails, from the coarse gritstone of the Dark Peak to the north and the limestone of the White Peak to the south. No matter where you start from there’s good riding to be had everywhere, with a loop taking in the infamous Jacob’s Ladder sure to be one you’ll remember forever. The riding is punishing on bikes and body, but the rewards of huge views and cracking descents more than make up for it. Ladybower and Edale are popular starting points, from where you can access the good stuff.

Have a look at this video.

Quantocks

Often overlooked in favour of nearby Dartmoor, the Quantocks offers some staggeringly good riding. Look at it on the map and it doesn’t cover a very large area, but what it lacks in size it makes up for with altitude and quality trails, the descents are steep and fast and you’ll remember the ride long after you’ve left.

Every ride starts with a serious lung busting climb, so make sure you’ve let your breakfast digest before riding here.

I’d recommend the Vertebrate Outdoors South West Mountain Biking guide to discover the trails.

Dartmoor

If you like your climbs long and hard, then you’ll love Dartmoor, a big expanse of exposed moorland and forested trails in the south west of England. The riding varies from super techy rock gardens to flat-out blasts across the bleak moorland tops. You can be guaranteed of a hard day’s ride on Dartmoor.

Popular starting points are Postbridge and Princetown which take in a lot of the moorland riding, while North Bovey lets you access the techy trails of Lustleigh Cleave.

Here’s a video that gives as small taste of the riding.

Where are your favourite natural trails in Britain?  

  1. Richard

    Greetings from South African Bikers;thanks for a great blog

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