Birse Woods with Tom Hutton MTB

There is a particularly fine runout, perfect I'd say, three quarters of the way down the trail called Scooby Doo in Birse Woods. After a long section of fast flowing trail, rolling and sweeping, bucking and falling, from pine tree to pine tree, the trail pauses, flattens out and runs smoothly, balanced along the crest of forested ridge.

Tom and Steph catch up with me, coasting along this runout, and we slow to a stop. There's a short pause, taking in the scent of the pines and breathing hard. Tom gives the trail we'd just ridden the highest rank on the mountain biker's universal trail assessment scale when he says "What a great trail, so flowy, and so long".

Tom and Steph, from Tom Hutton MTB are on reconnaissance of the Cairngorms for a guided mountain bike holiday their company will host in June. It is also a good reason to escape from the well trodden trails around their home in North Wales (They took in the Lake District on the way north). After a stay in a B&B in Aviemore, I had managed to persuade them to try the less well known delights of Deeside. They had agreed to both drive over after breakfast and spend a night in their van rather than the B&B.

I know that the three trails, all with the same long, flowy lines from the heather tops to the forested valley floor, are some of the best intermediate trails anywhere. So Tom's seal of approval is satisfying. Tom and Steph have ridden all over the world - Morroco, India, America and Europe, even the great mountain biking principality of Wales.

The Cairngorm and Deeside landscape is also showing off for the visitors. They had driven over the Lecht in driving hail and high winds, so we were prepared to dodge showers, but as we climbed the Gorse Track across the eastern flank of Carnferg, the sunshine was raising a heat haze and coconut fragrance from the gorse flowers. Still the distant low cloud blocked the view across the Ballogie Estate, and Aberdeen to the sea.

Because of this risk of showers, I avoid the high point on Carnferg, and approach Scooby Doo from the estate road on the west. There are a few soggy, slippy patches which Steph powers up, while Tom rests his full Scottish breakfast on the toughest sections. This gives Tom and I a chance to talk trails, tours, guests, bikes and trips for next time. We are still chatting when we reach Steph at the mid-morning oat bar stop

at a fork in the trail.