There is a complete dearth of traffic-free cycle routes where we live, which is disappointing when you have a young child who likes to cycle. What a delight it was to spend a couple of days based near Aviemore where we could leave our ‘front door’ armed with a route map and a choice of miles of scenic off-road, family friendly cycle trails to explore.
Day 1: Afternoon
On our first half day excursion we cycled the Old Logging Way, a linear traffic free cycle route between Aviemore and Glenmore/Loch Morlich (6.5 miles each way). The trail is well-surfaced (manageable for my Brompton folding bike), easy to follow and is signposted. It ascends gently towards Glenmore, with a few short sharp hills to negotiate, but nothing a 6 year old can’t manage. Arriving at Glenmore there’s the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre to visit, a choice of cafes, or as we opted for, a picnic on the shores of Loch Morlich.
You can’t visit the Cairngorms without climbing a hill, so on Day 2 we swapped our bikes for our walking shoes and set off from Glenmore on a narrow ascending path to the Ryvoan Pass. We stopped at An Lochan Uaine (the Green Lochan) intending to have lunch, but no sooner had we unpacked the sandwiches than we were swarmed by a cloud of biting midges, so we abandoned what would have been a very picturesqe picnic spot and headed for more elevated (and windier) ground.
We continued to Ryvoan bothy, an simple shelter open for anyone to use, which was packed with people eating their lunch when we arrived. The view was much better outside and the air was midge free.
From Ryvoan bothy we took the well maintained mountain path which ascends the heather covered eastern slopes of the Corbett, Meall a’ Bhuachaille (Shepherd’s Hill, 810m), with spectacular views over the Cairngorm plateau.
The summit affords clear 360 degree views, over to Cairn Gorm and Loch Morlich. It was windy on the top so Finn and I took refuge in the large drystone shelter and got chatting to a woman and her two young teenage sons. They were on holiday from Devon and after about 20 minutes of talking we discovered that they knew my keen mountaineer cousin who lives in Exeter. Small world!
Arrving back at the car park, after plenty of stops on the descent to chat to other families out for a hill walk, Finn was still full of energy so we headed south west to Inshriach forest and the Uath Lochans (via a cake stop at the highly recommended Potting Shed Tearoom at Insriach Nursery).
There is a lovely waymarked circuit of the lochans, which takes you through pine forest and over sections of boardwalk. This is one of my favourite spots in the lowland Cairngorms, imbibed with magical qualities!
It was back on the saddles for our final day, beginning with a waymarked circular cycle from Aviemore along one of the Rothiemurchas trails to the popular Loch an Eilean, fringed by pine forest and with a tiny island complete with ruined castle. It’s the perfect spot for a picnic and the local mallards knew it. We circumnavigated the loch, which was no problem for Finn but demanded a bit more concentration for me on my tiny-wheeled Brompton folding bike.
The trail became rougher after the turn off towards the Lairig Ghru and there were a few rocky sections that required us to dismount and push, particuarly when we took a wrong turn and ended up on a narrow, uneven footpath. But the sun was shining and the scenery spectualar and the accidental detour was well worth it in spite of a few complaints from the wee one.
We were back in Aviemore by 3pm and wanted to make the most of our short visit and the favourable weather (it felt like summer had finally arrived), so we drove out to Feshiebridge for a walk. The trails here are quieter than around Loch An Eilean and we had a three mile circuit through the forest and alongside the river to ourselves. We spent an additional half hour exploring the Frank Bruce Sculpture Trail (easily accessible from the Feshiebridge car park) and were still home in time for a well-earned tea.
Our short two and a half day adventure felt a lot longer but you could easily base yourself in the area for weeks with no shortage of places to explore, either by bike or on foot. There are options for all ages from easy short walking trails for little legs to strenous mountain climbs and trail riding for older teenagers, and plenty inbetween.