Dalbeattie, a staple of the 7stanes menu, is your classic xc trail centre. Over the last few years, much of the long forest road sections that marred the start and end of the blue and red routes have gone and been replaced by sweet flowing single-track, raised wooden trail and much more! The red graded Hardrock Trail certainly lives up to its name, at 25km its definitely hard, and most certainly rocky! As well as offering excellent technical single-track trails, there are also numerous easier - or should that be less challenging - options for all levels of rider, including a short skills loop from the car park, which is great for beginners or as a warm up before tackling the longer routes. Embarking on those routes, you are immediately on to single-track and there are optional and brief black sections within about thirty seconds of leaving the car park - which is why the skills loop might be a good place to start. Head out on the red route and long sections of single-track and easy boardwalk sections get you into the groove as you head for the Moyle Hill and the Barnbarroch loop. The blue route starts the same way then takes an easier and shorter route avoiding the more difficult sections.It's The Slab however that Dalbeattie has become most famous for - a 15 metre long almost vertical (well, that's what it looks like from the top) slab of granite rock. The best strategy (apparently) is to point your bike down it and hope for the best (and on no account touch the brakes half way down). But another option which will be infinitely preferable to many - is to avoid it altogether, taking the glorious bit of single-track trail that loops around and comes out beneath it.This is typical of the 25 km red-graded Hardrock Trail: for all that there are some technical sections, arguably more than on any other red-graded route in Scotland, there are always easier options, or 'chicken runs.' After The Slab the way is undulating on trails that are by turns, rooty, rocky and smooth: the variety is endless. En route to the trail's far point, Barcloy Hill, the technical challenges continue with numerous rocks and large stones to negotiate, and views all the way across to Cumbria. Then come the Terrible Twins - mini versions of The Slab - though these two steep slabs of granite are optional. Then you're into Spooky Wood II - the trail's first entry into dark, dense forest - before the next technical challenge of Jacob's Ladder, described as 'steep and pitchin,' and providing a brief but fast descent down a series of rocks and stones arranged like steps. Rock Don't Roll provides more of the same, but on level ground this time - this with the trail turning into rocks and boulders lying side-by-side - like crooked teeth! Momentum is essential; speed is of the essence. Fast road sections mixed with sections of easy single-track now lead back towards your start point until you encounter the Instigator and Volunteer Ridge. Speed on through to the finish or linger and test your skill and nerve on the many black-graded log and rock options. Either way it's a fitting end to some great trails. Overall, Dalbeattie has a bit for everyone and as for The Slab, it draws mixed opinions - some love it, others wonder what all the fuss is about. Why not find out for yourself? Routes Green - Ironhash Trail, 11.5kmsBlue - Moyle Hill Trail, 14kms Red - Hardrock Trail, 25kmsBlack - Hardrock Trail sections: Volunteer Ridge, The Slab and Qualifier, The Terrible Twins, Log on Log off, Shakey Jakey, Eye of The NeedleBike Shops/HireCastle Douglas Cycle Centre 01556 504542Halfords 01387 267118MPG Cycles 01556 610659
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Dalbeattie offers excellent technical singletrack on a hard granite foundation with a few interesting features thrown in for good measure.