Mountain biking enthusiasts have been left disappointed after the most challenging of the popular Moray Monster Trails near Fochabers closed due to safety concerns.
Forestry and Land Scotland bosses are saying that the Gully Monster black trail has closed after becoming “too dangerous”.
This comes after the organisation held a safety inspection that determined that the trail posed a potential danger to riders.
The trails attract large numbers each year to experience the thrills of mountain biking.
But due to a section of the toughest trail becoming eroded and overgrown, it has shut.
Meanwhile the Scottish Government agency has confirmed that the other trails near the town will remain open.
Director of Mountain Bike Skills Tuition Company Jim Barron warned that the closure of the trail may lead to some bikers building “unsanctioned” trails to challenge themselves.
Mr Barron said: “It is really disappointing as I was part of a small team who handcut a large part of the trail and I know there has been a target on its back for a long time.
“There has been some cases around Scotland where people have been injured and mountain biking is very much at your own risk.
“We need trails that challenge people and encourage people to continue using the official trail system rather than going off into the woods and building unsanctioned trails which is dangerous.
“I wouldn’t say it is a dangerous trail in general but certainly not one for beginners.
“Everything is fixable given time and effort.”
The region’s MSP Richard Lochhead added that “every effort” has to be made to ensure people can enjoy the outdoors.
While FLS’ Regional Visitor Services Manager Justin Livesey insisted that the safety of all visitors was a “top priority.
He added: “Unfortunately, over time this trail has become too dangerous to ride so we’ve closed it off and removed all of the route markers.
“It would be a very costly and quite difficult job to effect repairs to the standard that would make this route usable.
“At the moment we’re focussed on getting our forestry activities back up to speed, so we just don’t have the resources available to tackle this.”