Bennachie Turnpike Mountain Bike Trail
The Bennachie Turnpike Trail Circular is a tough mountain bike route, using for its first few miles part of the old Aberdeen to Inverness turnpike road. Although it is only 10 miles long, making it an ideal route for a summer evening mountain bike ride, it is definitely one for the more experienced and fitter mountain biker.
Yes, the circular mtb trail may only be 10 miles long but offers a huge variety of cycling; expect immaculately groomed way marked track (thanks to the Bailles of Bennachie), landrover track - some of which is quite gnarly, small sections of tarmac, single track and a couple of hundred meters of pushing/carrying your bike. Something for everyone?
Part of the turnpike road leads you through a working farm, so do act responsibly by following access signs and instructions from the farmer.
The route starts from the Bennachie Visitor Centre. Follow the Turnpike Trail signs - you can not miss them! It is a gentle start, on a well manicured path. After the junction with the Colony Trail the path narrows to pedestrian width then soon opens into a vehicular width path following a low level route into the wooded Pittodrie Estate.
Soon you come to the first test of the day. A short, fairly steep downhill on loose rock/gravel leads to a longer fairly steep uphill on loose rock/gravel. A test of both your climbing prowess and ability to pick the best line through the brick sized rocks. This levels out, the rocks disappear and you continue to the rear gate to Pittodrie House Hotel on your right. Ignore it, and continue round to the left then swing round to the right ignoring the rocky uphill trail on the left marked "Hill".
The Turnpike trail again resumes its manicured appearance as it descends across the "Maiden Causeway" and onto a tractor track. Continue to join a rough and rocky vehicular width track that descends to a tarmac junction. This route continues straight ahead (despite the prominent No Access sign) following the ancient Turnpike trail around the working farm of Horndoyne.
Horndoyne is a working farm so be careful, leaves gates as you find them, follow direction signs and any instructions given by farm staff. Look out for two white-on-green arrows on wooden posts showing the, often muddy, way past the farm buildings. After passing the farm buildings the trail is again vehicular width on a stoney tractor track which soon gives way to a grassy track running through scrubby woodland. Continue until you come to a tarmac road.
Turn left onto the tarmac road and follow it to the Back O'Bennachie car park. Continue uphill through the car park and take a left onto the forestry road. Follow this until it starts to peter out. It degenerates from a forestry road into a landy track before becoming a footpath all within a couple of hundred yards. Keep a look out for a stream on your right with a narrow path crossing it.
Take the narrow path, and be prepared to push/carry your bike for a few minutes. Some of the path is rideable depending on your strength, bike handling skills and determination. However, even if you have all three in Olympian amounts you will still be pushing before long! After a couple of hundred metres the path begins to flatten out and becomes rideable.
Continue straight on. The path widens to vehicle width and contours through the forest. Keep alert, as some parts of the trail have slippery slabs of stone just waiting to cause you an inelegant dismount. This trail will take you again across the Maiden Causeway, and another unsigned trail. On both occassions just continue straight.
Soon you will come to a small lochan. The trail takes you round it and then descends over some rock slabs to rejoin the Turnpike. On joining the Turnpike trail turn right and prepare to navigate the rock/gravel section you climbed on the way out. As you climb out of this section a forest road departs from the Turnpike on the right. Follow it for about 10 metres, looking out for a narrow width pedestrian path into the woods on the left. This narrow path provides some single track that runs parallel to the Turnpike for a few hundred metres before rejoining it.
From here keep straight on to retrace your way back to the visitor centre.