This year’s bank holidays are going great so far, it’s been a glorious few days this weekend and I’ve been out trying to make the most of it.
On Friday a group of us piled up to Dalbeattie in Dumfries & Galloway for a weekend of mountain biking at the famous 7stanes centres. When I was much younger I’d cycled at one of these venues, Mabie Forest, as part of the old Diamondback Race Series and then been back a few times with my family. I remembered it being largely fire-road slogging in dark and enclosed forestry land but that’s all changed and these centres now offer a fantastic array of varied and exciting trails at all difficulty levels.
On Saturday we visited the trails nearest where we were staying, Dalbeattie Forest. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was really struggling for fitness on Saturday having not really been in the saddle much in the last few years but we tackled the blue loop with the red taster extension. This made for a great introduction to the weekend, getting the legs back into things with some easy fire-roads and straightforward singletrack before tackling a couple of kilometres of more testing trails, afterwards the rain came in quickly so I showed everyone some of my favourite spots along the beautiful Galloway coast (I grew up near Carlisle and know the area well).
Sunday we went back to Mabie and tackled a combination of blue and red trails which combined some technical and fast descents with gruelling singletrack climbs and amazing views to give a fun and satisfying loop, I only wish we’d made it a bit longer! A barbeque at Sandyhills completed the day (with a quick sneak back to the car to hear Newcastle get relegated).
Monday came and we had to make it a short day in order to get some hire bikes back in time but we went over to Kirroughtree and did a flying lap of the blue circuit. This was my favourite of the three venues, the singletrack sections were continuously interesting and it never felt like becoming a slog.
I had a great trip but the thing that stood out for me was the superb provision the area has made for cyclists of all abilities. Not just the trails but the ability to hire good quality bikes from one of dozens of providers, cycle shops in every town and a solid body of local knowledge with everyone from pub landlords to campsite owners offering you advice on where to ride. Dumfries and Galloway have made an astonishing effort to be welcoming to cyclists and I can’t recommend highly enough that you get up there and try it out.
Not everyone was as fortunate with the weather as myself however: James and Jake had planned to make this weekend James’s first step into paragliding and the first test for Jakes tandem this year, sadly however the weather was against them and it was just slightly too windy for them to get up. James had a good day riding at Dalby forest on Saturday though so it wasn’t a complete write off.
Sunday saw Kevin and his wife Rachael run in the 2nd Ilkley trail race – a 6.9mile and 930′ climb through Middleton Woods and up on to the moor and back. Stunning views and a beautiful day saw a great turnout of over 300 runners. Plus many more entering the junior races. Proceeds from the event (and excellent cake stall) went to the Revival Centre & Orphanage in Matugga, Uganda. It was a family affair at the awards as both Kevin and Rachael picked up their respective V55 prizes.
Stu and Tim are both away on holiday at the moment, Skye and Mello respectively, so we’re pretty confident they’ll have been making to most of things too.