Tucked away in the south western corner of Scotland are several of the world-famous 7 Stanes trail centres. This quiet and often overlooked area offers a whole host of riding possibilities from the long but forest road based trails at Glentrool to the forest singletrack and North Shore of Mabie to the rocky singletrack trails of Dalbeattie.
Up on the hills overlooking the Solway Firth and Urr Estuary, Dalbeattie has been constantly refined and improved since its opening in 2002 and now boasts Green and Blue-graded routes to cater for all the family as well as it’s defining ride: the Red/Black – graded Hardrock Trail. Starting off easily enough on forest roads and singletrack, the trail offers options straight from the start, Skills Loops and black-graded features all getting a look in early on. The outward route is shared with the Blue and climbs gradually into the hills via long sections of easy boardwalk over the marshland. The views over the coastline open out in front as the altitude is gained and soon enough the trail starts undulating, a steep climb into the woodland followed by sections of tricky rocky singletrack between the trees. It eases out towards the end but the height is regained to join up with a forest road which takes you onto probably the most talked about trail features of any of the 7 Stanes – The Slab. A 15-metre long section of steeply sloping weather-grooved granite, The Slab can look pretty terrifying and it’s not helped that to get to it is a much more difficult section of packed rock steps called The Qualifier. Ride that succesfully and you’re ‘qualified’ to attempt The Slab. Once on it, you’re committed, there is no going back, no option half way down of thinking about bailing. If that all sounds a bit too much, there’s an easier option of a rocky descent which traverses down the hillside a short distance away which brings you out at the base of The Slab and offers an excellent vantage point to watch others ride the monster!
To let the heart rate recover and the adrenalin subside, the trail eases out considerably after The Slab, forest road and singletrack climbing and undulating around the hill to bring you out at the next set of Black-grade, more granite protrusions known as The Terrible Twins. Not as long and much smoother than the monstrous Slab but technical challenges in their own right, again all easily bypassed for the faint-of-heart! From here on the trail is mostly downhill with man-made jumpy sections, fast flowing singletrack and bits of Blue Route fireroad added in for good measure as the trails combine again heading back to the car park. Towards the end the options appear again, trails branching off and strewn with boardwalk, North Shore and log rides before you’re pitched back onto the main trail with it’s singletrack sections interspersed with looming ridges of granite to ride along and drop off.
This area of Southern Scotland was once the heart of the granite industry and it shows in the trail design but don’t be fooled by all this talk of Slabs into thinking that Dalbeattie is a one-trick wonder. It has excellent variety and the smooth grippy granite surface, either as the huge hulking rocks themselves or the crushed rock surface of the man-made singletrack means it’s one of the best all-weather trail centres in the UK.
The trail head is found at Richorn just off the A710 south of Dalbeattie town where there’s a car park with a bike wash facility available. Postcode for those with sat-nav is DG5 4QU.
Nearby Dalbeattie has a range of pubs, B&B’s, eateries etc as well as a bike shop, MPG Cycles, which offers bike hire – call 01556 610659 for details. The town of Castle Douglas is only 6 miles away and offers similar facilities along with the excellent bike-friendly B&B, The Break Pad. The B&B owners also run the bike shop at the nearby Kirroughtree trail centre and, as the area is home to 5 of the 7 Stanes, Castle Douglas makes a great base for a week of riding.
Other Trail Centres
Dalbeattie is 13 miles from Mabie, 23 miles from Ae, 37 miles from Kirroughtree, 50 miles from Glentrool and 85 miles from Glentress & Innerleithen. It’s certainly possible to ride both Mabie and Dalbeattie in one day.