Just got back from visiting friends up on the north coast of Scotland, and when I say north coast, I mean north coast, Bettyhill is only a few miles west of Thurso!
Great time catching up with an old friend and his family, and nice to get so far away from it all, surrounded by Munros, Lochs and stunning scenery, it got me thinking what it would be like to live up there with a bike. Scotland is famous for its “Right to roam” laws, I wonder; do these rights apply to us, the mountain biker…..?
To quote Wikipedia; “In Scotland the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003
comprehensively codified into Scots law the ancient tradition of the right to universal access to the land in Scotland. The act specifically establishes a right to be on land for recreational, educational and certain other purposes and a right to cross land. The rights exist only if they are exercised responsibly.
Now this on face value would seem to suggest that mountain bikers also would have the right to ride, freely. A study at Aberdeen University back in March 2009 though would suggest that, although this is the case, tension still arises between walkers and mountain bikers in much the
same way as it does here in England and in Wales. You would think though, given the vast expanse of the place that the two would co-exist without ever really seeing each other. Back in England on the other hand, where accessible green space can be at a premium to city dwellers, you expect a high volume of traffic, and ergo, the odd conflict.
There is an interesting thread here discussing which Munros are rideable, but there’s rideable and there’s RIDEABLE! Back in the late 80’s, when I started Mountain Biking, we used to head into the hills with a map and compass and just suck it and see! Inevitably, the bike spent a lot of time on your shoulder, whilst you traipsed round in less than appropriate clothing and footwear, regular walkers would see us and
laugh! We are now so conditioned by the type of riding man made trail centres offer, we expect our rides not only to be rideable, but also offering maximum thrills.
So when I was sat on the plane, approaching the airport in Inverness looking down on the snow-capped Munros, dreaming of tearing down un molested mountain sides, perhaps a dream is what it will have to remain, if, for no other reason, getting a bike up there with a family in tow is never going to be easy, but going out and riding in places like that solo is probably far from sensible! Having said that though, there was a nice loose trail coming down the hill behind my friend’s cottage, and he has a quad bike, I wonder if he would fancy giving me some up lifts!?