This is one of the iconic Scottish rides, and perhaps the best known ride on the picturesque Isle of Skye. First, you'll traverse the gorgeous Strath Mor valley from the north coast to the south coast even if this path can be at times a little boggy. The return starts with a challenging, rocky climb over the Am Mam Pass. You'll descend to the secluded Camasunary beach on the south coast.
The return to the north coast in the Glen Sligachan valley has been named as one of the best singletracks in the UK. It has some fun technical features that will keep advanced riders interested but intermediate riders should also find the trail enjoyable.
The scenery is breathtaking: the wild and imposing Cuillin Mountains lie to your west; the River Sligachan meanders through the valley connecting a number of small lochs; and there are a number of waterfalls up in the hills in the many tributaries to the River Sligachan.
The ride traverses part of a 30,000-acre tract preserved for lovers of the outdoors by the John Muir Trust.
The ride is described as the loop, but if you can arrange a shuttle it's better to skip the A87 section at the beginning. It's an extra 500 ft of climbing on a busy road and there is no reason to do it on a mountain bike if you can avoid it. If it's not the dry season (which lasts about two weeks every other year in Scotland), you may get bogged down in the Strath Mor
segment and find yourself slogging through the muck.
There is a parking area just outside of Kilmarie of the B8083 road that allows you to cover the best parts of the loop (Am Mam Pass
and Glen Sligachan
) if you can arrange a shuttle.
Bring insect repellent or a face net or suffer the wrath of the midges!
From the Hotel Sligachan, take the A87 road east along the coast to Luib where the Strath Mor
singletrack begins. There are a number of farm roads and animal trails that take off at the end of the short road which passes through the hamlet, so a GPS track or the MTB Project mobile app
will be useful. It can be quite boggy, but the scenery is awesome with large mountains along both sides of the valley and several small lochs. If it's boggy, you may have to walk more than ride. Ride through the boggy sections at your own risk - you never know if you'll sink a few inches into the muck or if it will swallow half of your front tire leading to a rather spectacular endo.
After you pass by a small loch (Loch nam Madadh Uisge), you'll climb a very low pass (100 ft) into the beautiful Strath Mor
valley which drains into the Atlantic Ocean. Another creek feeds into the second, larger lochan (Stratha Mhor). The trail passes very close (and at times seemingly through) the western side of the lochan. On the positive side, the bottom of the lochan is rocky, so if you have found the trail to be a bogfest, the rocks will prevent your sinking into the lakebed and it may be easier to ride through the lake than "over" the boggy ground. After the lochan, you'll have to find a place to ford the creek as the trail continues on the eastern side of the creek. I found a convenient crossing area after a small fenced area at the south end of this lochan
The trail along the eastern bank is more defined and generally easier going but there still may be some boggy sections. You'll reach a third, much larger loch (Loch na Squabaidh). Again, the trail passes directly along (and at times through) the edge of the loch. Past the loch, the trail becomes more manageable and very quickly, you'll reach the B8083 road on the Atlantic Ocean.
The B8083 road takes you to the Am Mam Pass
trail, which traverses the 620-ft pass. The first half mile is a peaceful ride through a sheep pasture with the climb up the pass looming in front of you. You'll cross a small creek and then the steep, rocky climb begins. You'll climb 450 feet in a little over a half mile on at times loose rocks. Needless to say, it is a difficult climb, so kudos if you don't end up walking a portion of the way.
At the pass, a magnificent view of the Cuillin Mountains opens up. Loch na Creitheach lies in the valley below. A rowdy descent on, at times, loose rocks takes you quickly to sea level where there is a small secluded beach. You can do some rock surfing on the way down, but you are a long way from help.
There's a derelict cabin at the bottom along with the more modern Camasumary Lodge. You can't miss the Glen Sligachan
trail as directions are painted on the side of the derelict cabin.
The Glen Sligachan
trail is one of the most spectacular in the UK. The first mile climbs gently to Loch na Creitheach and then the trail follows the western shore of this remote lake. This takes you into a quiet valley in the interior of Skye. A creek runs from the hills to the east and it spreads out into multiple branches in the valley leaving some boggy crossings. This takes you to the shore of another small lochan at about three miles before you start climbing over a pass where there are a few more lochans.
The climb is a gentle grade but there are some more technical rock features to keep the climb interesting. After the pass, you've got a look down the River Sligachan valley and can look forward to the long descent. The descent features rocks of all manner: big, small, loose, embedded, gravelly... overall quite a fun ride with some technical sections but intermediate riders should be able to ride most of the way. Several waterfalls can be seen in the many small tributaries to the River Sligachan along the route.
The trail ends at the Hotel Sligachan after you cross an old stone bridge over the river. The hotel does have a good pub... a perfect ending for the perfect ride.