The UK’s first waymarked gravel cycling trails opened near Aberfoyle

25 July 2022  |  
Aberfoyle Gravel Riding

Credit: Stu Thomson

Bike Trossachs CIC, a cycling focused community interest group based in Aberfoyle, has opened three new gravel cycling routes in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, the first waymarked trails in the UK dedicated to gravel riding. This opening also coincided with the pandemic delayed launch of Gravelfoyle, the new destination tourism brand for Aberfoyle, whose prime objective is to promote the area as Scotland's premier gravel cycling mecca.

The 10km, 20km, 30km waymarked routes start and finish in the centre of Aberfoyle and venture deep into the Loch Ard Forest, exploring the areas surrounding Loch Ard and Loch Chon.  The routes have been designed to encourage more cyclists, everyone from families with an appetite for more relaxed off-road adventures to weekend warriors keen on longer distance challenges, to experience the joys and thrills of gravel riding in the area, while using Aberfoyle as a base.

Aberfoyle Gravel Riding

Credit: Stu Thomson

The village of Aberfoyle, located on the edge of The Trossachs in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, within easy reach of Stirling, Glasgow, Perth and Edinburgh, has, in the last few years, become a hotspot for Gravel Riding, the latest trend in cycling.  Within just a 12km radius of the village there is a network of over 200km of off-road, multi-surface forestry tracks and trails, gravel roads and paths in the most stunningly beautiful countryside, all waiting to be explored.

The new Gravelfoyle brand is an evolution of a hashtag initially born out of Dukes Weekender, the hugely successful, community run, family friendly, gravel cycling festival, staged in and around Aberfoyle in 2018, 2019 and 2021, that encompasses the true spirit of gravel riding - adventure, exploration, wild countryside and the simple pleasure of riding your bike. The event, initially started by local riders, is now operated by Bike Trossachs and following the inaugural event the hashtag #gravelfoyle grew in popularity, with visitors and the community using it year-round across social media channels while sharing gravel riding photos and adventures from the area. The tag now with thousands of shares across instagram was the obvious choice for the destination brand name.

The success of Dukes Weekender in promoting the high-quality gravel trails in the local forests of the national park has also been one of the catalysts in both establishing Aberfoyle as a booming year-round cycling destination, and the recent economic upturn for local businesses.

Aberfoyle businesses and the local community are fully invested in Gravelfoyle, driving and implementing this project.  They are keen to build a diverse community of practitioners to promote cycling participation, infrastructure and tourism in Aberfoyle, with a view to developing local jobs, wealth and encouraging sustainable economic growth.

Aberfoyle Gravel Riding

Credit: Stu Thomson

Partnership and collaboration are at the heart of the Gravelfoyle brand. Funding for the UK’s first three waymarked gravel routes has come from Forth Valley and Lomond LEADER, Forestry and Land Scotland, Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park and The Strathard Development Trust.  They have all committed to providing support for the future development of access infrastructure in the national park.

Enda McLoughlin, Chair for Bike Trossachs CIC, said: “We have seen a definite increase in outdoor, active tourism in the area over the last few years, with cycling leading that change. We are harnessing this success, and are delighted to be the community lead for this local initiative, providing beautiful and safe routes for locals and tourists, to explore the Loch Ard Forest."

Kenny Auld, Head of Visitor Services for Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park said: “We are really excited that the Gravelfoyle Trails are opening and more people can discover this wonderful area for gravel riding.

“Aberfoyle is already a great destination for all types of cycling and these three routes highlight the best of the forest road network with amazing views of Ben Lomond and Loch Ard. With three waymarked loops of 10km, 17km and 30km there are routes for everyone. The routes provide a fantastic opportunity for people to leave the car in Aberfoyle and explore Loch Ard Forest by bike and we encourage everyone to give it a go. We know the 'Gravelfoyle' brand has taken off through the local cycling community even before the routes were launched and this just shows the level of demand for cycling in the area. With the waymarked trails now going live we hope Gravelfoyle will be an addition to Scotland's list of must do cycling experiences."

Jason Clark, Cycle Tourism Officer for Forth Valley & Lomond Leader, said: “FVLL is delighted to support the development of these trails around Aberfoyle with a significant funding contribution. It’s an exciting and ambitious project which will enhance Aberfoyle’s reputation as a gravel riding destination and cycling hub for all, bringing significant economic benefits to both local businesses and communities.”

Stu Thomson, local rider and one of the founders behind the Dukes Weekender, said: "This is a hugely exciting step for the village and the Trossachs area as a destination. It’s been wonderful to witness the organic growth of gravel cycling in the area and as locals the first question we’re always asked is ‘where do I go?.’ Now we have three fantastic routes for visitors to explore, opening up the sport to new participants and further elevating the village as the go-to location for gravel cycling."

Phil Crowder, landlord of the Forth Inn in Aberfoyle, said: "What Bike Trossaschs and Gravelfoyle is doing is magnificent for the community. I didn’t realise how much we needed the waymarked trails until the boards were erected this week. My business sits adjacent to the boards. They are viewed then ridden and when people return they frequent the Inn and talk in glowing terms about the experience. All these routes have been hidden in plain sight and Bike Trossachs have brought them to life and it’s to everyone’s benefit."

Liz MacGregor, owner of Liz MacGregor cafe on Aberfoyle main street, said:  "We’re delighted to see the launch of the Gravelfoyle trails in Loch Ard Forest. Highlighting and developing one of the fantastic opportunities Aberfoyle has to offer for outdoor activity is likely to have a positive impact on many local businesses and help to further raise the profile of Aberfoyle and Strathard."