Highland Wildcat Trail at Golspie reviewed by Singletrackworld member Jason Curle…
The Highland Wildcat trial at Golspie is a long, long way away from me, but I would quite happily do the 20hr round trip again to ride it again. The layout nicely mixes Blue, Red and Black runs that flow almost imperceptibly into each other. Located on the hillside next to the small town of Golspie in Sutherland, about 50 miles north of Inverness, there are only a few (very lucky) people that could call this their local trail. There is no lavishly furnished visitors centre to sit around and discuss how ‘gnarly’ the trail was, or how you railed the berms down the hill. Golspie has a cafe that sells large slices of cake, and a chip shop among other things. Anyways, there is plenty of time on the drive home for most to discuss the trail.
Standing in the car park in Golspie, you only need to look up to the statue of some posh bloke to see that there is only one way to go at the start of the trail, that is up. You start this trail at sea level, so don’t get any ideas of an easy start. For a long climb, this is pretty good. You start on the Red graded single track, that gently meanders up the hill giving some amazing views along the way. It’s fairly standard stuff. It’s when you hit the black that the Highland Wild Cat starts to bite. I’m not usually a big fan of the climbs. I tend to ride big bikes, and I’m not exactly the build of an XC whippet – the last thing I need is a long, uninteresting climb to be continuously overtaken by someone in tight lycra on a 20lb carbon bike. However, I do enjoy having to think about what I’m riding. Lactic ladder is such a section, and unusually it forms part of the black ascent. Several short switch-backed sections, stepped with rocks and leg achingly steep. Further towards the top you are reminded that you are in the north as you turn a corner and get hit by the wind. Make sure you are prepared for this, you are over 300m higher than when you started, and the winds come straight off the North Sea.
As you reach the top you are again met by the monument (looks a lot bigger close up so I’ve upgraded its description from “statue”). You’ll sit around for a moment then you see what is ahead waiting for you. A large berm points you off in the direction of the, well you could call it the final decent. But we’ve only just got to the top? I’m used to riding Welsh trail centers, with there broken sections of singletrack. The decent at Golspie flows all the way back down, over 7km of flowing decent. Starting at the top of the back run you will hit drops, doubles, slabs and some very flowing sections. The black turns to red where things calm down slightly (similar level to spooky wood at Glentress) but the flow is maintained through to the end.
Unless you are local, this is not a trail for begineers – it is just too far to drive, for what would probably in sections be a bit too much. But for more experianced riders it is as good as it gets. It is the only trail I’ve ever got to the bottom of and after a breif cake stop headed backout for a repeat loop.
Head to Inverness, and keep following the A9 North. You will eventually hit Golspie. The trails are on the right hand side just as you come into the town.