This Saturday I set off on my bike to explore the compact network of forestry trails that wind their way through the Blackhall Forest near Banchory. These trails struck me as a quieter, albeit less spectacular alternative to those in Glentanar – often highly populated with local walkers, hill runners, and mountain bikers – and a convenient practice ground for bikers in the Banchory area who don’t fancy the trek up to ‘Tanar. In Blackhall Forest, recreational bikers have the option of keeping it short and sweet by sticking to the forest tracks, or extend their ride by including Scolty hill into their circuit. I also happened upon some smaller woodland trails designated for walkers only, whose root and rock riddled paths provided some fun technical relief from the sometimes monotonous forestry roads. Readers be warned, however: these paths are designed for walkers, so prepare to put their safety before your daredevilry!
As luck would have it – as we know it too often doesn’t in these parts – the day started off bright and mild. As a safety measure, I stuffed a light waterproof jacket in my Deuter Speed Lite backpack, a favourite of mine. A basic, no-frills design, it does exactly what it says on the tin, its 10 litre variation coming in as one of the lightest sports backpacks on the market. With a few necessary embellishments to accommodate a sports bladder and a pocket for essentials, it’s perfect for long runs and short to mid length rides. As for an upper layer I risked attiring myself in a decidedly skimpy selection, since I wasn’t going far: the Paramo Cambia reversible t-shirt and my Helly Hansen Stripe hoodie. Both indispensible staples of my outdoor sports ‘wardrobe’, the Paramo t-shirt and HH technical midlayer (made from Lifa Stay Dry fabric) are, on a mild Spring day, all it takes to stay cool, dry and wind-chill free. I often wear them for longer runs and rides, slinging the midlayer around my waist or into my backpack once I’ve warmed up. I particularly relish the knowledge that, with my hood up, I look like a cross between Mary Quant and Billy Murray in The Life Aquatic – if a little redder in the face.
To get there: from the old military road between the Potarch Hotel and the Feuchside Inn, meet the well-marked trails at the Shooting Greens car park. From here follows a mild, untechnical climb up to the shoulder of the Hill of Tillylair, from whose vantage can be glimpsed to one side the Mains of Potarch and the woodland flanking the Dee as it snakes its way through the valley, and to the other a more dramatic assembly of low hills surrounding Clachnaben. The road continues until it reaches a fork – to the left the road loops back onto the sign-posted Forest Trail, to the right it is possible to follow the track over to Banchory, and up on to Scolty Hill.
(All the gear mentioned above is sold by our very fine selves at Hilltrek in Aboyne. For more information and technical specs, why don’t you come in for a natter with our approachable and experienced staff?)