Perthshire seeks to become UK gravel bike capital with fresh investment

Highland Perthshire Cycling has announced the launch of the Perthshire Gravel Trails Project, which has received a grant of £9,835 from Rural Perth and Kinross Leader Programme 2014-2020: The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, match funded with £15,000 from the SSE Griffin and Calliachar Community Fund.

Speaking to CI.N this week, Highland Perthshire Cycling trustee Mike Stead said of the development: “We will be looking for Phase 2 funding in 2020 and a broader stakeholder audience. I’d like to see Perthshire recognised as the home of gravel in the UK, easily accessible by sleeper train from The South, great family/group accommodation, stunning trails. I’d love the industry to get behind this, it’s clearly the future!”

Arguably Scotland is leading the charge for developing its cycling network, particularly off road, with numerous links made to bolstered tourism and wider increased economic benefit.

Explaining the importance of the Rural Perth and Kinross Leader support, Jackie Brierton, the LAG chair, said: “The award of £9,835.20 towards Perthshire Gravel Trails is one of a number of projects benefiting from the £3.8 million share of Leader and Scottish Government funds available for the development of rural communities and enterprise in Perthshire until 2020. This is an innovative project which will establish a network of off-road cycling routes across Highland Perthshire, for cyclists of all ages and abilities. Making these areas accessible to all will encourage people to explore their local areas with confidence and will have a positive impact on the mental health and well being of the communities involved, we are thrilled to have been able to support it.”

Starting in November 2019 and running until September 2020, the Perthshire Gravel Trails Project will deliver a network of gravel routes passing through the Highland Perthshire towns of Dunkeld, Pitlochry, Blair Atholl and Aberfeldy. The trails will be suitable for riders of different abilities and will be complemented and connected by a long-distance bikepacking route.

Community consultations and an online survey will form the first phase of the project. The consultations will be held on 10 December at 7pm in Dunkeld, on 11 December at 7pm in Pitlochry and on 17 December at 3pm in Comrie and 7pm in Aberfeldy.

More information about the community consultations can be found here, where local businesses, interested groups and individuals can also sign up to an email newsletter about the project. The online survey is available here.

The project will be led by Stead, with the assistance of Project Manager Kat Brown. The routes will be designed and promoted by Markus Stitz of Bikepacking Scotland, who has developed a number of long-distance cycling routes in Scotland, including the Wild About Argyll Trail, Dunoon Dirt Dash and Capital Trail.

Stead concluded: “Highland Perthshire is criss-crossed with many estate roads and forestry trails of varying quality and length. Some are only suited for mountain bikes, whilst others are suited for gravel or all-road bikes with fat tyres, which are the sort of bike increasingly used for long-distance multi-day cycling. Worldwide the trend is for people to use wider-tyred gravel bikes for cycle touring, as they open up the possibility to use unpaved roads and paths, to get closer to nature and away from motorised traffic. This project will increase visitor and resident participation in off-road cycling opportunities, it will increase local business income through accommodation, food and other visitor spend, and finally it will increase awareness of Highland Perthshire as a holiday destination.”

More information about the project can be found at perthshiregravel.com and Highland Perthshire Cycling’s Facebook page.

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