This is part of our series in collaboration with Komoot, the route planning app for runners, bikers, and long-distance hikers. We enlisted the help of Mark Clark, an expert in all things cycling in Lochaber, one of the coolest regions for off-roading in the Scottish Highlands. Mark began his outdoor career as a downhill mountain bike racer, though these days you’ll find him coaching new riders and leading mixed groups on off-road cycling adventures. He runs Alba Mountainbike, a dedicated team of cycle guides and coaches based in Fort William. They offer guided tours for any skill level, private coaching sessions, and even training courses to earn qualifications up to the Level 2 Mountain Bike Leadership Award.
Take it away, Mark.
The Best Off Road Cycling Routes Near Fort William
- Tour De Ben
- Cour Loop
- Cow Hill
- Nevis Range Resort
- The Hidden Glen
Tour De Ben
I’ve always fancied “The Tour de Mont Blanc” but I suppose the mini version here in the Highlands, the “Tour de Ben”, is a good enough alternative closer to home! This ride leaves Fort William and circumnavigates its way round Ben Nevis, heading south on the West Highland Way to reach Kinlochleven, meaning the end of Loch Leven. Be sure to pause and admire the stunning view to the west. Making your way back inland, you’ll pass by an old shooting lodge and make for high ground, meeting Loch Eilde Mor and pushing your way towards a scattering of old ruins.
We always hear of the old spooky stories surrounding these old houses in the wilderness, but this one is so creepy there was even a BBC show about it. The old stalker’s house sent some climbers packing after the house “erupted with noise” in the night. Quickly leaving the old ruined bothy behind you, the new one is conveniently placed just across the river, crossing about 100m downstream from the ruins – be careful! This river can be un-passable in wet weather, so plan accordingly. Stay at the bothy if you fancy, or keep pressing on over the hill, you pass another bothy before heading back into the forests of the Nevis Range Resort and finally back home. In fact this route can be done in a day if you are keen but why not take your time staying in Kinlochleven or at one of the two bothies? With many options on offer, this ride is a fantastic mountain journey.
The remnants of an old tramway track that once serviced the multiple hydro schemes of the local aluminium smelter here in Fort William is the useful vein that cuts its way from the mountains here in Lochaber to the heart or Fort William.
Locally known as the Puggy Line, the best part of the Cour loop heads out from Fort William passing the Nevis Range resort in the forests of Leanachan. Before you plunge deep into the mountains, you’ll cut across the Great Glen, the ancient glacial glen that runs through Scotland via the Caledonian Canal. After visiting the old ruined bridges once crossed by Jacobites and steam engines, you’ll ride alongside the canal and make your way south again on this luxurious path all the way back to Fort William.
A sweet little circuit with brilliant views the whole way round. Leaving the local bike shop, you head out of town and towards the steep sides of the hill of cows. Making your way up and up will be a bit of hard work, but nothing beats the benefit of seeing “The Ben” himself, aka Ben Nevis, from this peak. Take your time to spin up as your breath will be taken by the views of the mountain and Glen Nevis when you arrive.
A purpose built trail cuts its way homeward and out of the forests of the glen. Bear in mind, this is multi-use, so don’t get carried away with the speed of the trail. There are other options in the forest as you make your way round but I highly recommend you find someone who knows them as they are Double Black Diamond as they say. You’ll finish up in the very car park which was once filled with tents and star studded trucks for some Mel Gibson film about that famous Highlander. It’s easy to miss without all the tents, so, keep an eye out. Making your way back to Nevis Cycles, be sure to stop in for a “blether”, they love to hear about your day.
Nevis Range Resort
Difficulty: Beginner to Advanced
Fantastic fun for all the family and seasoned gravity riders, the heights of Nevis Range are well suited for everyone’s needs. Swing by the shop for your hire bike and snatch your ticket for the Mountain Gondola experience. This is the usual way the resort gets enjoyed but I like to partake differently, still using the station as a base I quickly flee the masses and head for the forests and mountains.
Heading up through the trees you arrive suddenly upon a view to the north face of Ben Nevis, a place world renowned by rock climbers and mountaineers. Leaving the view behind, you’ll dive into the tight twisty trails of Leanachan forest, a rabbit warren of locally crafted trails which make for a fun and creative journey through the forest. Home to the Downhill World Cup and the 2023 World Championships, Nevis range has a history in mountain biking that has sustained the resort here as a hub for travellers and locals alike.
The Hidden Glen
A well hidden gem, and my home. The trails of Glen Loy make for a secluded ride, filled with stunning ancient forests and meandering paths. Once home to small farms (not quaint farms, though. Farms run by fierce Highlanders) this sleepy wee glen has an abundance of trail networks not well known to the masses. They run up and down the slopes of the Nevis range just across the canal.
So starting your ride, you head up though the dark forests before picking up the old oak forest trail. Linking this through the croft land and over to the other side of the Glen you can loop round some interesting little cuts that disappear deep into the spruce. You can always bet that here in Lochaber, you’ll discover more than initially meets the eye. We have many secret trails which a local would love to let you in on. The same can be said for this glen, so don’t be shy, ring the doorbell.
Komoot: Your Route to Adventure
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