In the beginning…

Drunk on dusty trails and intoxicating sunshine. How a simple Torridon ride grew into something more…

The final day on Skye (Photo Credit: Jon Sparks)

I get asked ‘what made you take up guiding?’

To be honest, when I’m stuck on an exposed trail, 500m up a Scottish mountain, in driving sleet, helping someone mend their 3rd puncture of the day, I have asked myself the same question!

Truth is, the answer is always the same: ‘I just love it!’

No matter how testing it can be at times, weather, clients or both, there’s still nothing I’d rather be doing.

But there is a story to the birth of MTB Guiding. So as we race headlong into the new season, I thought I’d tell it.

It was mid-June and it was scorching hot. We were exploring trails in Torridon and some were even dusty. If this wasn’t good enough to make us believe we’d died and gone to heaven, it was also pretty midge-free.

So in a moment of intoxicated madness, we found ourselves swapping our riding glasses for a kind of mtb equivalent of beer goggles, and started musing: ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could show our readers this in person?’

‘Imagine how good it would be if rather than just reading our routes in a magazine, and looking at our pictures, they could actually be here with us, experiencing it in the same way as we do.’

A seed was sown…


Torridon sunset (Photo credit: Jon Sparks)

It was a typical route research trip: we dashed from east to west and north to south, exploring new trails and making sure we had a good spread from all corners to slot into the magazine over the months to come. It’s how we work – we never get to stay in one place and ride it out.

But it dawned on us that this wasn’t how other people did it. If they went to Aviemore, then they went to Aviemore. And if they went to Torridon they went to Torridon etc. etc. So what would our readers make of our fast-forward, flitting all over the place, trail-bagging expeditions?

Would they enjoy being in different areas every day? Being shown different trails every day? Would they get the same buzz from an endless stream of new vistas, new trails, new pubs and new hotels as we did?

Was it even possible to see the best of what Scotland had to offer in just one trip?

And if it was, could we possibly show it to them?

We came home, talked to friends and surveyed contacts. We looked at what other companies were offering in other parts of the world, and we decided to take a flyer. The Ultimate Scotland Road Trip was born.


Enjoying the evening sunshine (Photo credit: Jon Sparks)

The next 12 months were full of booking hotels, organising buses, checking rules and regulations, and of course swotting for and passing some mtb leadership awards.

Then in April 2015, myself, guest guide Jay Mulvey, driver Graham Draper, and 8 pioneering clients motored our way up to Aviemore to put the whole thing to the test.

Did it work? Over to them…

“Had spectacular week in Scotland riding the best spots! By far the most beautiful place I have been mountain biking. Really good organised and superb guiding. Thanks a lot for this awesome week!” Jeroen Hook, Nederlands

“A fantastic week of riding, some brilliant and totally unforgettable memories. Thanks to the company, the scenery and most importantly, the organiser. Congratulations Tom, you have a genuine winning combination on your hands. All in all…stunning” Nik Wadge, Gloucestershire

“As the name suggests ‘The Ultimate Scotland Road Trip’ had a lot of expectation to live up to, but Tom Hutton of MTB Guiding managed to ensure that the trip did not disappoint. The biking destinations were classic tick list rides including Lairig Ghru, Glen Tilt, Torridon and Skye. The logistics and organisation re food and accommodation were excellent, and bike security and client safety were paramount. It was an awesome week, with stunning scenery, challenging technical riding and lots of laughs and fun. An epic trip, can’t wait for the next one :)” Anne Strafford, Birmingham

“What an absolutely brilliant week. Some of the best trails on Earth, good weather, great company, excellent support. It doesn’t get much better than this.” Jon Sparks, Lancaster

“A brilliant week away with MTB Guiding, the only thing you have to do is get up every day and ride your bike. It doesn’t get much better than that, especially when it’s in the Highlands of Scotland. What’s not to like when all the routes, accommodation and meals are sorted for you. Riding with a group of like-minded people was such fun and new friends have been made. I would recommend it without hesitation, if you’re thinking about it -do it.” Fiona Vaughan, Bromsgrove


The last descent of a memorable week (Photo credit: Jon Sparks)

Tom Hutton is a mountain bike guide, photographer and journalist. He has been the route researcher for mbr magazine for 17 years, provides classic route guides for Singletrack magazine and has written a number of guidebooks. 

For more info on Tom Hutton MTB Guiding, our holidays, weekends and guided rides, see our website. For more details or to join our April 2017 Ultimate Scotland Road Trip, click here!


Down but not out!

You’ve crashed, you’re hurt, but look on the bright side 🙂


Jay Mulvey v’s gravity in the Cairngorms… Photo credit: Jon Sparks

Being injured sucks. It hurts, it stops you riding, it stops you working and it stops you being you. And if you’re anything like me, and always turn to your bike to relieve the stresses of life, it also adds hugely to those stresses while eliminating your most efficient coping mechanism.

But you can take some positives from it.

If you can’t ride, now’s the time to do all the things you want or need to do, that you can’t do when you’re trying to maximise your time on the bike. So once you’ve devoured the first tub of comfort ice cream, and emptied that bottle of red, sit down with a pen and a piece a paper and start writing a list.

1. Recovery

This has to be your number one priority. You’ve got time on your hands, so make sure you dedicate as much of it as possible to getting better as quickly as possible. If relevant, see a physio or a specialist. Sure, these cost money. But if you snapped your frame rather than your wrist or collar bone, you’d be spending money repairing that. And this is your body… your engine…

20151209_120942-1Then write a rehab plan and stick to it. If you have to do 20 reps with theraband 4 times a day, do them. If 5 times a day will make it even better, do 5. If you need icepacks then use them.

And don’t forget the rest of your body. Ask your physio, or your local fitness instructor, or even a specialist mtb fitness instructor, to write you a program that will help keep the rest of your body as fit as possible without slowing your recovery. And then do it.

This will also help you avoid putting on weight.

2. Improve your credit rating

List all the things that you can think of that you really need to do in your everyday life that will at some stage in the future keep you off the bike. Can you do more of these now? Can you get some credit now for some extra bike miles when you’re up and running again? Work’s an obvious one, if you have a flexible job, but what about other stuff? Here’s a few for starters:





Book keeping, accounts, tax return

Car maintenance

In-law visits (major on this one if necessary!)

Taxi duty

Dog walking

There will be many, many more…

3. Room for improvement

If you’re anything like me, there will be loads of things you could do, that you know would improve your riding or increase the amount of fun you have when you’re out on the bike, if only you had time. Well you do!


Start with




Studying sports psychology

Watching Danny Hart’s Champery run from 2011 (again!)

Watch coaching videos (Global Mountain Bike Network, Ryan Leech, Seth’s Bike Hacks)

First aid course

Mechanics course

Join a local advocacy group

4. Service your bikes (This could come in no. 2)


Yup, fine-tooth comb time. Grease/replace all those bearings, replace your cables, clean and lube the chain, service the pedals, send the shock/fork/seatpost for servicing. Do everything you can to make sure that when you are riding again, the bike isn’t going to keep you off the trails. You could also look at the odd upgrade to cheer yourself up (assuming you’re still working or getting sick pay)

5. Other stuff you never do

There must be other things you’d enjoy if you lived in a parallel universe and didn’t ride?



Big walks in the mountains

Play guitar


Sunning by the pool in the Bahamas 🙂


Once I start this list, I find it’s almost never-ending. In fact, I’m almost sad when I am fully recovered and back on the bike.


Tom Hutton is a mountain bike guide, photographer and journalist. He has been the route researcher for mbr magazine for 17 years, provides classic route guides for Singletrack magazine and has written a number of guidebooks. 

For more info on Tom Hutton MTB Guiding, our holidays, weekends and guided rides, see our website




Our 5 favourite Scottish trails

World class trails and out of this world scenery – the Scottish Highlands have it all. 

 1. Torridon


Torridon’s blend of slick rock trails, towering peaks and sublime coastal scenery has rightly earned it a slot on most mtb bucket lists. There’s plenty to go at but our favourite is the classic ‘lollipop’ from Anat; climbing almost 700m in one go, before dropping to Achnashellac on one of the best trails we’ve ridden anywhere – world class. It then grapples with gravity again as it regains Bealach na Lice from other side. Time it right, and it’s singletrack heaven into the sunset.

2. Glen Tilt


Remote. That’s got to be the best way to sum up the classic Glen Tilt loop. Although awesome wouldn’t be far behind. This is a big ride, with some long climbs and some equally long descents. It lacks the sustained technical going of many of Scotland’s finest routes, but instead it offers a real wilderness feel that’s only added to by the tricky river crossing towards the end. A swim in the Falls of Tarf is optional…

3. Sligachan, Skye


@Jon Sparks

Skye. Just the name conjures up some kind of magic. And it really is every bit as captivating as it sounds. The riding’s great too. Our favourite is a point to point that first drops to the beach at Camasunary – an ideal spot for lunch – and then threads its way through the glen, on delightful singletrack, all the time in the shadow of the imposing Cuillin Ridge. It finishes at a pub too, if it needed anything else to commend it.

4. Devil’s Staircase & the Ciaran Path, Glencoe


It’s a big push from Glencoe up the Devil’s Staircase. It certainly doesn’t seem like a promising way to start a classic. But trust us, it is. From the top, the grimacing will be replaced by grins. And they’ll be with you for the rest of the day. the drop into Kinlochleven is mainly fast and fun, but it has it’s techie bits too. But the the Ciaran Path steals the show for real techie singletrack. And boy, does it keep delivering. The clamber back over into Glencoe is never as bad as it looks. And the drop back down the Staircase at the end makes it more than worthwhile.

5. Aviemore & the Cairngorms


There’s so much good mtbing in this area, we decided to cop out and name the whole area rather than any specific trail. It really does have it all: heathery, sandy singletrack that weaves its way between huge granite boulders; or twisty, rooty fun in the stunning pine forests that line the foothills. Favourites? The Lairig Ghru for atmosphere, mountain scenery and technical challenge, or Inshriach Forest for some top-notch singletrack fun.

Tom Hutton is a mountain bike guide, photographer and journalist. He has been the route researcher for mbr magazine for 17 years, provides classic route guides for Singletrack magazine and has written a number of guidebooks. 

For more info on our legendary Ultimate Scotland Road Trip and our long Highland’s weekends, see our website


5 Best Lake District Trails

Awesome Lakeland riding that works all year round – what are you waiting for?

 1. The Langdales, Hodge Close and Loughrigg


Not so much a trail or even a specific loop, just a mix and match of perfect, all-weather techie rock that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Favourites? the clinky slate funnel of Hodge Close, the rock and root cocktail of Sawrey’s Wood and of course, the stunning views from Loughrigg. This is even better combined with a visit to the cave.

2. The Dunnerdale Fells


Little-known, seldom-visited, yet just superb. OK, perhaps not at their very best in winter, when some stretches will get soft. But even then, Wallabarrow Crag, the Walna Scar Road and the Park Head Road are rocky enough, and gnarly enough to keep most folk happy. And the singletrack around Stephenson Ground is pretty tasty too.

3. Grizedale Forest


No, not the man-made stuff. Grizedale Forest is also home to some of the best natural stuff in the Lakes. And again, it works all year! Climb from High Nibthwiate to Low Parkamoor, and head east to drop through the forest on 3 awesome trails to Satterthwaite, before continuing east on more of the same, including the infamous Breasty Haw. the really keen can extend all the way to Far Sawrey and the shores of Windermere.

4. Back o’ Skiddaw


The loop around Lonscale Fell that links Thekeld with Keswick, must be one of the best sub-20km routes in the country. The scenery is breath-taking, the surfaces superb and the riding, encapsulating. The slick rock singletrack section at half distance will test even the best, with a huge drop beneath your left pedal. If you’re looking for more mileage, old mining tracks around the Caldbeck Fells to the north offer plenty of options.

5. High Street


OK, we had to have one high mountain in here (although in fairness, you could ride the Lakes for a month and have a great time without hitting a single summit), so we chose High Street. Not so much for its lofty top, but more for the seemingly never-ending descent over Loadpot Hill and down to the shores of Ullswater. Oh! and did we mention the techie singletrack along the side of the lake? Amazing stuff, but best tackled on a quiet day.

Tom Hutton is a mountain bike guide, photographer and journalist. He has been the route researcher for mbr magazine for 17 years, provides classic route guides for Singletrack magazine and has written a number of guidebooks. 

For more info on our all-inclusive Lake District weekends and guided riding in the Lake District, see our website

For more Lake District route ideas check out Tom’s guidebook




Back on track

  TOM HUTTON MTB RGB marin_1152_645_s

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Last Friday was a great day. After a busy few weeks guiding clients around Snowdonia, and finally clearing some admin, paying some bills and sorting some dates for 2017, it was playtime again! Well, work really, but look at the picture above, can’t really call that work 🙂

So we were back on the road and back on the trail hunt for mbr magazine.

First up was an overdue visit to the Elan Valley, where buddy and fellow guide, Jay Mulvey, of MudTrek, joined us for some seriously good singletrack.


We then hot-footed it up to the Yorkshire Dales – another place that was overdue a visit, for 2 top-notch rides between those amazing limestone walls. Always love the Dales – the mtbing’s awesome and the scenery is sumptuous, and we always manage to find a damn good pub to make base camp in for a few days…


Back on with the guiding hat this week – first a chance to explore some new trails in Hopton Woods, and then back on my home turf for 3 days in Snowdonia – just love showing people around here and may even get to ride the famous Marin trail – a real old school Welsh classic and one of my favourites. Even better on a bike of the same name 🙂

To find out more about our guided weekends, holidays and day rides, click here 



The year that was


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A year ago today started wonderfully. I was up early, my bike was in the van, and I was on my way to Capel Curig to guide and instruct at Plas y Brenin – a legendary institution and somewhere I’d always aspired to work.

Life really couldn’t have been much better.

No way could  I have dreamt that just a few hours later, a momentary lapse of concentration would be so life changing.

Fortunately, I have been lucky, and the changes to my life that really matter aren’t the slightly stiff neck, the dimples in my forehead or my even healthier respect for wooden trails. The real change has been in perspective. I got up close and friendly with my own fragility and maybe even my own mortality, and it’s certainly made me view life in a different way.

So the point of this blog isn’t really to retell a story that’s already been told, but just to thank everybody that’s supported me during the last year. In particular Steph, who obviously took the lion’s share of the stress. But also to all my family and friends who gathered around and gave me something to smile about during the darker times.

And also to my customers. Both my guiding clients – a lot of whom I now call friends too – who supported the business and booked trips, which really gave me something to aim for. And the wonderful magazines I work for, who were happy to shift deadlines and change working patterns to keep me gainfully employed.

Thank you…

Wild Earth Day


The Diary of a mountain bike guide, route researcher and guidebook writer


April 22nd is World Earth Day – a nominal slot in the calendar chosen to try and focus attention on the plight of our planet. To celebrate the occasion, both last year and this year I posted the following quote from Gerhard Manley Hopkins on social media.

“What would the world be, once bereft Of Wet and wildness?
Let them be left, O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.”

Anyone who knows me will know my passion for wild places and these 3 lines say so much to me.

This year Earth Day felt particularly special as Steph and I were lucky enough to be experiencing some real wildness – or about as close as you can get to it on these islands – in Torridon, on the north-west coast of Scotland.

It could be argued that any ride in this part of the world has a wild feel to it. But this one proved to be more ‘out there’ than most . First we climbed to one col: Bealach na Lice – a broad, heathery gap overlooking a remote lochan; and then we continued up to another:  Bealach Bán – a decidedly rocky affair defined by some tempting slabs.

A singletrack traverse then carved a sweet line around the head of the gaping Coire Grannda and by now, we were feeling a long way from the road, the glen we’d started in, or in fact any form of civilisation.


And then, as the burnt red of the Torridon sandstone gave way to the dazzling grey/white of a band of slippery quartzite, we clambered awkwardly over a steep, sloping shoulder and dropped into a hidden inner sanctuary – a secret flat-bottomed choire, walled in by a steep, stony carry and topped by a more remote col still. This one was unnamed on the map but we were now over 700m higher than our start point.

This felt wild with a capital W. Each col we crossed was like a door being slammed closed behind us. And we definitely felt that there was no going back from here. Beyond lay Coire Láir: as stunning a descent as you are ever going to ride – type Steve Peat and Visit Scotland into Google if you need evidence. And there’s over 600 vertical metres of it to boot…


So we’d done a huge climb, and a huge descent and a fair bit of technical singletrack as well – a big day out already by anyone’s standards. But at this stage we were on the wrong side of the hill. The homeward leg presented us with another 400m of ascent – epic in its own right on a different day,but relatively straightforward on the back of the action we’d seen so far.

Back at Bealach na Lice, we were comfortably perched at the top of yet another absolutely top-notch descent. It was rocky, it was technical and with the sun now setting over the sea directly ahead, it was also mind-blowingly scenic.

And it finished at a pub – we’re making it up right?

Food and drink was both welcome and well-deserved at this point, and we were grateful for some rest too. It had been an awesome day. The riding was as good as it gets anywhere and the scenery was sublime. But despite all of this, it will be the wildness of it all that stays in the mind longest. What a way to truly celebrate Earth Day.

Can’t wait to go back.


For information on our guided trips to Torridon and the rest of the Scottish Highlands, see 


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