Clachnaben Mountain Bike Trail
Clachnaben, located in Glen Dye, is an Aberdeenshire hill offering a remote circular mountain bike trail, or a very demanding out and back gravel route avoiding the rocky descent.
The prominent granite tor, sticking up like a gigantic wart at the top of Clachnaben makes the hill instantly recognisable and visible from miles around, and distinguishes it from all the other round topped hills in the area. It is very popular with hill walkers, especially at weekends so this route is best attempted mid week.
Although the round trip is only 12.6 miles (20km) it has 2200ft (670m) of climbing, some of it at 22% gradient, and a descent which is technically challenging and rocky in parts. Definitely a route not to be underestimated.
The name Clachnaben is derived from the Scottish Gaelic, "Clach na Beinne" meaning Stone of the Hill. With Bennachie it ranks as one of the most familiar hills in the North East of Scotland.
The route starts from the small, invariably busy and often full car park nestled inside an old quarry beside the B974. From here the trail follows the Water of Dye more or less easterly, round the front of Clachnaben before climbing the Hill of Badymicks to turn westerly and follow the ridge via Hill of Edendocher to the Clachnaben trig point and granite tor. From there it plummets down the rocky steps through Millar's Bog and back to the car park.
Allow 2 to 2½ hours to complete the ride.
A signposted path leads from the bottom of the car park parallel with the road into an evergreen wood. As always seems to be the case when leaving a car park on a mountain bike, you are going uphill, though this soon gives way to a short descent out of the trees from where the summit of Clachnaben is immediately obvious.
The trail now changes from a well worn, wide walker path to hard packed firebreak road. The firebreak, of varying quality, will continue for the next few miles
Continue descending to the gate (usually locked) and stile and then onward over the Mill Burn, the lowest point on the route. Ignore the fork right (that will be your return route), keeping on the firebreak with the Water of Dye to your left and dig in for a wee warm up climb; more of a drag really with 400ft over the next mile. This is sheep country, so you expect them to be on the road as you make your way to Charr Bothy.
Charr Bothy (approx 3.7mile from the start) is easy to spot, it is the only building you will see on the trail.
From the Bothy you roll, albeit slightly uphill for a couple of miles until you reach Burn of Badymicks. Do not ford the burn, instead follow the firebreak to the right and start the climb.
800ft of climbing over 1.5 mile with gradients in excess of 21% on a sand strewn surface make this a tough climb to the junction at the top. At the junction bear right for a short but welcome descent before another wee push to summit the Hill of Badymicks.
You are now in a surreal landscape of large peat islands sticking up in the air, from their white sand loch.
The firebreak road is a good bit rougher up here, but still provides great grip for the fast short downs, and slower ups as you make your way to the summit of the Hill of Edendocher, only 9.5 miles into the ride.
At the summit there is a fork in the firebreak, you head left toward the granite Tor. The firebreak soon gives way to rough landy track, and then to a wide stony single track. These sections offer some fun short descents, and interesting climbs where you need to engage your bike handling skills to pick your way through the rocks.
It ends will a little climb to the trig point, and nearby Clachnaben tor.
From the tor, you immediately begin the descent.
It is technical, it is steep, it is rocky, it is exposed, and it is not for the feint hearted!
The more proficient riders will be able to ride it, but most riders will walk down the first section. After the narrow rocky steps are out the way the trail becomes less technical, though there are many wide drainage ditches that require long and high bunny hops to avoid a buckled wheel.
And do remember, as this is the main route for walkers ascending Clachnaben be on the look out for them as they are unlikely to be expecting anybody on a bike to be hurtling toward them.
When you reach the trees the trail changes again to become a narrow swooping forest track with roots, blind bends (watch for walkers!) and the occasional large step (small drop off) to keep you focused. You exit the plantation with a short descent to a deer fence, and stile.
Cross the stile and continue the gentle descent via a couple of streams (bridges available but too big a step up to them to make them rideable) to rejoin the main firebreak road. You should recognise the junction, you passed it about 2 hours ago!
Take a left, climb over the stile and head back to the car park with a smile on your face, and that wonderful feeling that you can only get from a great bike ride.
Clachnaben Trail Map & Profile