There are many ways to explore the hills, valleys, trails, woodlands and even cities in Scotland, but have you considered on two wheels? Cycling is a great way to soak in Scotland’s mesmerising landscapes and fascinating attractions, all whilst getting a bit of healthy fresh air and not adding to your carbon footprint. There are new cycle routes popping up all over Scotland, meaning travelling around has become just that bit easier. Why not browse the Sustrans Cycle Route Map for more ideas and inspiration? We can provide bikes, so don’t worry if you don’t have your own! In Scotland there are 2,300 miles of National Cycle Network routes across country roads and cycle paths, as well as over 500 miles of traffic-free walking and cycle routes on railway paths, canal towpaths and forest trails for you to uncover.
WHY GO ON A CYCLING HOLIDAY IN SCOTLAND ?
It’s an awesome way to see the best of our islands, coast, lochs, countryside, towns and villages, and there are plenty of great points to stop for a breather and a lovely view. The National Cycle Network makes it easy to get around on quiet roads and traffic-free paths. Many routes are suitable for families. There’s great cycle-friendly accommodation. The VisitScotland Cyclists Welcome scheme recognises establishments which go the extra mile to help make your trip go smoothly, from drying facilities to flexible dinner times. Scotland has a relatively mild climate (but bear in mind that the weather can change, so be prepared for a range of conditions!) One of the best things about any cycle trip is stopping for a well-earned break! In Scotland, you can stop for a picnic at some truly picturesque places, including beside ancient castles and on the banks of famous lochs.
10 CYCLE ROUTES FOR BEGINNERS
The joys of cycling in Scotland know no limits. You may discover an unexpected waterfall, freewheel down a quiet woodland trail or crest a hill to see an incredible vista before you. It’s a healthy and fun way to cover a lot of miles and see some of the most breathtaking corners of Scotland. If you’re new to cycling, or perhaps have a shiny new bike that is begging to come out of the shed, these routes are for you. Each follow mostly traffic-free, clearly sign-posted National Cycle Network (NCN) routes and mountain biking trails. Just don’t forget to pack a picnic! A big thanks to our friends at Sustrans and Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland for the suggestions.
1. THE CALEDONIA WAY: CORPACH TO GAIRLOCHY
Following the Caledonian Canal from Corpach towards Gairlochy, this route is perfect for those looking to experience the sheer beauty of the Great Glen. Setting off from Corpach train station on the northernmost banks of Loch Linnhe, this route runs alongside Neptune’s Staircase – a series of canal locks and a stunning feat of engineering which raises the Caledonian Canal by 67 ft over a quarter-of-a-mile stretch. Continuing in the formidable shadow of Ben Nevis, this quiet section of the Caledonia Way provides stunning vistas towards the Grey Corries before arriving at the southern bank of Loch Lochy, where you can enjoy a peaceful picnic beside the ‘Pepperpot’ lighthouse by the water’s edge.
2. STRATHYRE TO LOCHEARNHEAD
Ideal for those setting out on one of their first cycling adventures, this stunning route begins at the Broch Café in the village of Strathyre and meanders through the vivid colours of Strathyre Forest and the rugged surrounding landscape of Rob Roy Country. Stop at Mhor 84 for a delicious bite to eat or continue onwards to Lochearnhead. This route also incorporates part of the BLiSS Art Trail, a unique selection of sculptures by local artists, so keep an eye out for some very Scottish characters along the way including Drover’s Bho the Highland Cow and Ewen the West Highland Terrier.
3. KILMACOLM TO JOHNSTONE
This lovely ride is super smooth all the way and only a 15-minute train journey from Glasgow, with the peaceful path winding through open Renfrewshire and Inverclyde countryside from Johnstone, on the route of the former Paisley and Clyde railway line. As you pedal, keep an eye out for two striking artworks by David Kemp – Brick Traction (1990) and XVII Legion (1990). The route emerges directly into the heart of Kilmacolm village at the Pullman Tavern, a fab turning point if you’re looking for a relaxing half-day cycle.
4. BROUGHTY FERRY TO CARNOUSTIE
This gorgeous coastal route begins at Broughty Ferry train station, immediately hugging the Firth of Tay alongside a picturesque Broughty Ferry Beach and eventually passing by the famous Carnoustie Golf Links. You can really build your confidence with road cycling along this section, which includes three short, quiet, on-road sections at Broughty Ferry Esplanade, Monifieth and Carnoustie. At Carnoustie, you can catch onward rail connections towards Edinburgh and Aberdeen, or head back to Dundee.
5. ROSEBURN TO LEITH
This route forms part of both the North Edinburgh Path Network and NCN Route 1, along a former railway line. If you’re looking to explore the capital whilst avoiding the bustle of the city centre or if you’re cycling with the family, this route is perfect for you. With smooth surfacing and flat riding, the path also provides an urban green haven, with chances to spot a huge array of wildlife. Explore Leith where you’ll find lots of great places to stop for a bite to eat.
6. AVIEMORE TO BOAT OF GARTEN
This short ride follows part of the Speyside Way, a long-distance trail through the heart of the Highlands. Running alongside the pretty banks of the River Spey, this gentle cycle will introduce newbies to cycling on gravel surfacing, meanwhile the dramatic scenery comprising spectacular mountains, moorlands and forests will take your breath away. Keep an eye out overhead for soaring ospreys – these magnificent birds of prey fish the area’s rivers and lochs frequently. In fact, if you feel confident enough, it’s well worth extending this route for a further three miles along quiet minor roads to the RSPB’s Loch Garten Osprey Centre.
7. CULLEN TO BUCKIE
Meandering alongside the dramatic cliffs and coastline of Moray, this exceptionally pretty route provides riders with stunning views across the Moray Firth. Keep an eye out for playful resident bottlenose dolphins as you pedal along! The route incorporates a climb at Findochty for those looking for a wee uphill challenge. All your hard work is immediately rewarded with a straight, flat and smooth trail towards the charming fishing town of Buckie for well-deserved fish and chips!
8. EDINBURGH TO ABERDOUR
This is a longer, but relaxing and safe route which you can take your time on. You also don’t have to bike back on this route, just take the train from Aberdour back to Haymarket! And if you don’t have a bike, just grab one at the Bike&Go in Haymarket Station. The route leaves Haymarket and joins the Roseburn Path and then the Blackhall Path and then goes through the leafy suburbs of Barnton and Cramond, before continuing alongside the busy A90, after a few quite steep sections, to the historic town of South Queensferry. Then it’s over the Forth Road Bridge and on to Inverkeithing, where a right onto Townhall Street and then King Street followed by a right onto Commercial Road, takes you on a lovely coastal route through Dalgety Bay. Through Dalgety Bay, head along Beech Avenue and on alongside Aberdour golf course to your destination. The views across the Forth, with its iconic three bridges for much of this route, are spectacular!
9. DRUMLANRIG CASTLE
Time to go off-road! This route circles through the beautiful grounds of Drumlanrig Castle, passing breathtaking scenery and woodlands, the Druids Loch and Drumlanrig’s heather houses. As you return to the castle, you will be cycling the exact same route as Kirkpatrick Macmillan, who is credited by many as inventing the bicycle and rode the world’s first pedal bicycle to Glasgow. There are shorter green routes available, which can be enjoyed on most bikes and hybrids or you can hire a bike at Rik’s Bike Shed. There are also blue, red and black routes available for more advanced bikers.
10. CALLENDAR ESTATE TRAILS
The trails at Callendar Estate wind through lovely woodland and are family-friendly and safe one-way routes, which are ideal for most bikers. The trailhead is just three miles from the centre of Falkirk. The Canada Trail is a lovely flowing off-road route with no steep sections, just gentle and fun ups and downs and there’s an optional wee board walk section if you want to test your skills. When you feel confident enough, you can combine the Canada Trail with the more demanding blue-graded two-mile Craigieburn Trail.