Seek adventure at Balblair
If you're looking for a mountain bike challenge, or peaceful walks to a pond where beasties lurk, this hidden gem is worth seeking out. You can explore its sunny forest glades and high rocky slabs on bike, foot or horseback. There's a sense of wild country on the tops, with views west and east over the hills, while deep in the forest you'll find sheltered clearings full of wildflowers and berries.
Our map guide to the forests of the Far North will help you explore Balblair and other forest trails in Sutherland.
Need a refreshment?
You'll find public toilets and a café less than a mile (1.6 km) away in Bonar Bridge, and bike shops in Ardgay and Tain.
A short climb through the pine forest to an enchanting little dipping pond.
Moderate climb to dipping pond. Narrow gravel path through trees to a wide forest road. No obstacles.
1 miles / 1.7 km Allow ¾ hour
Open forest glades let the sunshine in all the way to a pretty dipping pond. In summer these woodland clearings are home to butterflies and blueberries; in winter there are views to the snowy Struie hills.
Climb up through pine, larch and spruce forest for hilltop views across the Kyle of Sutherland.
Long fairly steep slopes for 400m. Mostly firm but uneven gravel surface. Some grassy and earthy sections that may be muddy. One narrow opening.
2 ¾ miles / 4.3 km Allow 2 hours
Some short sections are shared with mountain bike trails and horse riders, so please watch out for bikes and horses. The Pine Trail follows the same route as the Pond Trail from the car park to the dipping pond.
Mountain biking trails
Blue: Moderate - 2.0 miles / 3.2 km
Soar through the trees on this twisting trail.More information...
An enjoyable quick blast through the trees for competent riders looking to improve their bike handling skills and an ideal warm up for experts attempting the Balblair Black. Work on your balance on the tight twisting sections, then let the good times roll on the smooth downhill Ceilidh Trail. Start at the second car park.
Mostly wide gravel paths with some loose sections and long, gentle to moderate slopes. Can be muddy when wet.
Black: Severe - 4.5 miles / 7.2 km
Top of the world rock slab.More information...
A fun and memorable black with technical rock features and fast-flowing downhill. The full, lung-busting climb up Cnoc an Tionail (knock an tinnell - hillock of the gathering) gives you spectacular views before a rock slab descent down Candy Mountain that'll test even the most courageous! Start at the second car park. The route follows the Blue Trail at the start and finish.
Mostly loose gravel singletrack with sections of bare rock and boardwalk. Can be muddy and very steep in places.
How to get here
Balblair is 40 miles north of Inverness, close to the village of Bonar Bridge. Take the A836 from Bonar Bridge towards Lairg for one mile (1.6 km) and you'll see the car park on your right at grid reference NH 603 929.
IV24 3EE is the nearest postcode, on the edge of Bonar Bridge.
From Inverness, there's a train to Ardgay, an easy 2 mile / 3.2 km cycle from the forest. Or you can catch a bus to Bonar Bridge and walk to Balblair. You'll find timetables and details at Traveline Scotland.
The Highland Wildcat MTB trails near Golspie are well worth checking out. For gentle walks and leaping salmon in the summer go to the Falls of Shin, and for sheer forest delight, Raven's Rock is hard to beat.
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