Making a splash on family cycle in the Cairngorms

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A COUPLE of summers ago I took my two young children on this off-road cycle ride by myself – this time I had parental back-up!

Back then our eldest had been riding her first pedal bike for little over a month and I was pulling the youngest in the double trailer, with room to strap Clara’s bike on top if things got tough for her.

That was certainly tough for me, dragging a wide trailer with two growing kids around the sometimes narrow trails through the Rothiemurchus forest. But the biggest problem was crossing the Cairngorm Club Bridge, which involved unhitching the trailer, walking the kids across and going back for the bike then the trailer.

So I was delighted to make this a bigger outing with the girls and their friends Olly and Freya coming along, with four grown-ups in tow, to boot! This time I had help from my wife Meg, Olly and Freya’s mum Kristina and their grandad Roger.

The first couple of miles were great fun on a gloriously sunny day – with the entertainment provided by me taking the empty trailer (this time as a back-up for Jennifer, the youngest) straight through the burn at the ford rather than using the narrow bridge.

The route starts at Coylumbridge outside Aviemore, near the campsite, where there is space for several cars alongside the road. Follow the track alongside the campsite then pass through two gates into the forest.

Fork left at an early junction, taking the route towards the Lairig Ghru, then keep ahead on the well-made trail.

Playtime came when we reached the Cairngorm Club Bridge just two-and-a-half miles into this 12-mile ride, so we settled down for a picnic by the river.

Eventually we persuaded the youngsters to carry on, and beyond the bridge the route gets a little rougher as it heads towards the Lairig Ghru.

There are open views to the mountains and wonderful pine forests to enjoy throughout this traffic-free trail. Instead of turning towards the Lairig Ghru, we continued on the route to Loch Morlich.

This delightful section of trail rolls through the forest to meet the track coming down from Rothiemurchus Lodge. Veer left onto this wide vehicle track, complete with potholes, to pass the smaller Lochan nan Geadas before turning right onto the route around the south shore of Loch Morlich.

Towards the far end of the loch I had another opportunity to splash through a ford – this time with Jennifer sitting in the trailer!

We considered cutting left to keep nearer the water to reach Glenmore but decided the longer route to meet the ski road a little further up would be a smoother ride, and the temptation of ice cream at the visitor centre was enough to keep the kids going.

When we reached the road we turned left for the short distance to the café, reaching it just after the doors had closed… Thankfully the staff, who were busy tidying up, were good enough to sell us a batch of ice creams anyway.

Cue another long play break while we discussed the options for returning to Coylumbridge. Our friends were camping here at Glenmore so Kristina headed back to collect the car while we enjoyed the sunshine.

Clara especially was determined to complete the whole route, so the four of us headed off along the Old Logging Way, a fine off-road route with views over the loch to the Cairngorms before winding its way through the forest.

Eventually you cross the road before enjoying a final fun downhill that reaches the road just a few yards from the parking area at Coylumbridge.

Having cycled more than half of the route two years ago, Clara managed to ride the whole 13 miles, and Jennifer pedalled a good chunk of it, too. After all that, it wasn’t long before they were fast asleep on the way home.

Route details

Glenmore family cycle

Distance 13 miles / 21km

Terrain Mostly well-made trails with some rougher stretches; short section on minor road

Start/finish Coylumbridge, near Aviemore

Map OS Landranger 36

Taking the children on a cycle adventure in the Cairngorms

* Article first published in Active Outdoors | June 2, 2017


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