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Bennachie Turnpike 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. This is definitely one for the more experienced mountain biker.
At only 10 miles long, this is an ideal route for a summer evening mountain bike ride.
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.
 

 
Route Description
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 way past the farm buildings - often muddy.
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 carpark 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.
 
Rocky return path 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.
 

 
History
The first few miles of this trail uses the old Turnpike that ran between Aberdeen and Inverness. This suggests that you are following in the wheel tracks of horse drawn carriages and carts. Turnpikes were a set of roads that were built in the 18th and 19th century and were funded by tolls. It is thought that the name "Turnpike" derives from a practice where the road was barred by soldiers with pikes until travellers' paid their tolls and the pikes were turned allowing onward progress. In the USA the term turnpike is still used for some roads.
Look out for the old milestone located at the Newmains junction (GR 678 245), which shows "Inverness 80 miles". That would be an epic trail!
 

 
Getting to Bennachie Visitor Centre
Aberdeen, Inverurie and Pitmedden (OS Landranger Map Series)      
The Bennachie Visitor Centre can be found on OS map 38 ( Aberdeen, Inverurie and Pitmedden), or on the active OS map 421 (Ellon and Inverurie - OS Explorer Map Active). This later map provides more detail and depicts loads more tracks around Bennachie.
 
Travel north from Inverurie on the A96. Approximately two miles beyond Inverurie take a road on the left sign posted "Chapel of Garioch". At Chapel of Garioch turn left (sign posted to the Bennachie Centre). Follow this road for two miles, and the Visitor Centre is sign posted to the right.
For Sat Nav use postcode AB51 5HX.
Bennachie Visitor Centre Grid Ref - NJ660245.
 

 
Facilities
Parking - £3 for all day parking. See above for where to park.
Toilets - Available at the visitor centre when open and at Back O'Bennachie car park. The visitor centre is usually open 10.30am - 5pm, Tuesday to Sunday, closed on a Monday during summer.
Showers - None
Bike Wash - No
Cafe - No. A limited selection of drinks are available at the visitor centre. BBQ facilities also available at the centre. Note, visitor centre has limited opening hours and usually is closed on a Monday.
Bike Hire - No
Repairs - The nearest cycle repair shops are in Inverurie
Camping - Wild camping available at Back O'Bennachie.

 
Nearby Trails
Other trails to explore in the area include:
Kirkhill Forest between Aberdeen and Blackburn
Pitfichie Forest near Alford
Scolty Hill near Banchory

 

 
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