Scotland is a home for natural beauty, and acts as the perfect backdrop for a number of outdoor activities. Until recently, I didn’t really know where to start when it comes to cycling, despite having so many fantastic opportunities to get out to explore on two wheels near to where I live and having worked in a role within an outdoor clothing and equipment company in the past. However, after a bit of research, and making the most of the dry weather – I’ve had the chance to test out some of the top places to go, and made a note of my top five cycling routes in scotland.
Cycling is a fantastic way to explore new areas, allowing you to get out of the city and back to nature. Whether you’re brand new to cycling, or you’re a seasoned rider, scotland offers a brilliant variety of cycling routes. Over recent years, there has been an increased demand for specific cycling routes to be adopted by the various national parks that scotland is home to, from the Cairngorms to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. With this uptake in outdoor fitness, and a desire to keep our natural landscape as well protected as possible, cycling routes are now a mainstay of the top scottish outdoor tourist traps. Alongside opening access to the great outdoors, through a network of public transport links – including trains with dedicated cycle space, taking to the open road, or cycle tracks, could be a great way to explore more this coming year.
Based on our recent experience, and some of the top reviewed cycle routes across the country, we’ve picked some of our favourite cycling getaways that are great for riders of all abilities. If you’re venturing out alone to get away from the bustle of the busy cities, or you’ve got kids, this can be a great way to get out during the long summer for a bit of fresh air and exploration.
Hebridean Way – Outer Hebrides
Following part of the National Cycle Network Route, the 185 mile route of the Hebridean Way is perfect for those long weekends of exploring the islands, or as a part of a longer family holiday.
When choosing your route, you have a few options on the Hebridean Way. You could, for example, cycle from Vatersay on the Isle of Barra, to the Butt of Lewis lighthouse up in Ness, using the ferries and quiet roads to travel the full length of the chain of Hebridean islands. The outer hebrides have some of the most stunning landscapes that the country has to offer, from the beautiful beaches such as Luskentyre in Harris to historical sites such as the Calanis Standing Stones or traditional black house village on the West side of Lewis. This cycle route comes top of our list with so many hidden gems along the route, and many opportunities to capture the perfect memory as you travel up along coastal roads and through picturesque island communities.
A confident cyclist will be able to do the full route in around four to six days, and smaller sections can be completed if you’re short on time. Find out more and plan your route along the Hebridean Way Cycle Route by visiting the website.
Loch Leven Heritage Trail – Kinross
One of the top cycling routes in Scotland – and one that is great for beginners and families is the Loch Leven Heritage Trail. With excellent views along the whole route, and a great stopping point on the shore by Loch Leven Castle, this cycling route is brilliant for a summer sunday or autumnal evening.
The cycle route itself is fairly flat, following a simple circular route, and is great for beginners and those wanting to enjoy some of the late sunshine. Circling the banks of Loch Leven in Perthshire for approximately 12.1 miles, this ride is a great option for those who aren’t looking for too much of a challenge. You can start at any point along the route, and there are plenty of fantastic spots for lunch. Highlights for this cycling route include the opportunities for wildlife spotting or fantastic scenic views. Depending on the time of your visit, you should keep an eye out for Ospreys, Kingfishers and Otters among the natural inhabitants of the Loch Leven area. This ride should take around an hour and a half to complete in full. Find out more about the Loch Leven Heritage Trail.
Speyside Way – Cairngorms National Park
Threading through quintessential heather moorland and woodland, this top cycling route is a great ride for those that love to take in the scenic views. The speyside way cycling route is a slightly more relaxed way of seeing the scenery in the area and a more comfortable ride for beginners. From quiet village lanes, to gently undulating off road gravel tracks, the cycle route along the speyside way is great for families or more recreational riders.
With plenty of spots for picnics and access to the Cairngorm National Park, this ride offers ample opportunities to feel closer to nature. If you’re looking to make this top cycling route more of a day out, you can extend the five mile simple looping route to include the RSPB Loch Garten Osprey Centre (approximately 2.5miles from Boat of Garten) and catch a train back to Aviemore on the Strathspey Railway. The scenery in this part of Scotland is truly spectacular, and well worth getting to explore on two wheels. The route offers so much more than simply a great family ride, it’s the highlight of our list of the top five scottish cycling routes purely for the ability to see more of the fantastic country.
Isle of Bute – Firth of Clyde
Escaping the hustle and bustle of the city is becoming more and more popular amongst city dwellers . With local weekend mini adventures being a cheaper alternative to the more traditional european city break weekends – these trips offer more in the way of getting out and exploring more. When it comes to a scottish micro adventure, there’s plenty of choose from, with routes such as the north coast five hundred becoming as iconic as americas’s route sixty six. As well as natural beauty on offer, the great outdoors are a lot closer than you might think in Scotland, with the Loch Lomond national park and Pentland Hills within an area less than an hour outside of the centre of Glasgow or Edinburgh.
If you’re looking to plan a micro adventure, and you’re a keen cyclist, then the Isle of Bute can be a fantastic choice. Situated off the west coast of the country and with fantastic transport links over to the island on a regular basis, and plenty to do while you’re there, it’s well worth adding cycling on the Isle of Bute to your must-see list.
We’ve included the various cycling routes around the island off the west coast on our list of the top scottish cycling routes, both for their variety, unique scenery and experience and the ability to challenge you as well. If you’re a confident cyclist, then there is the option to see the best of the whole of the island for yourself by taking to the road on the 23 mile loop of the island. Showcasing the making the beautiful west coast scenery and sea views, this route is a climber, with some challenging hills and tight bends. There’s also shorter sections of this route that you can do if you’re pushed for time or don’t feel as confident enough for the full steep uphills that pass goatfell.
Exploring the island on two wheels is a great way to experience the landscape and culture. The full island route takes in the stunning Ettick Bay as well as the town of Rothesay but there’s no shortage of places to visit on your cycling trip, no matter how long you decide to make it. Both Scotrail, the national railway provider for Scotland and country wide, Caledonian Macbrayne ferries have ensured extra bike storage for the trips from the main cities over to the island, in order to make sure that the micro-adventurers can make the most of the island while they are there.
Glentress Trails, Scottish Borders
For thrill seeking riders, and the more experienced – the Scottish Borders trails, starting in the historical town of Peebles, are a great choice for the whole family.
Traversing their way through the natural woodland of the order forests, and again making the most of the incredible scenery in the area, the Glentress Bike Trails are great for those looking to try mountain biking and seek out beautiful natural landscapes on two wheels. Glentress was one of the first trail centres in Scotland, and, thanks to over 80km of purpose-made trails, it’s the number one visitor attraction in the Scottish Borders.
Glentress has made the Tweed Valley something of a spiritual home to UK mountain biking, for beginners and enthusiasts alike, and despite some of the trails dating back almost 15 years now, thanks to great design and maintenance, as well as continual evolution, the award-winning trail network just keeps on getting busier.
For beginners and families, the selection of ‘green routes’ offer mountain biking on purpose-made tracks and are perfect for building basic confidence and skills. Thanks to gentle descents speeds are kept at family -friendly low levels. Similarly,if you’re looking for one of scotland’s most beautiful cycling routes, then the surrounding areas of innerleithen, glentress and the borders are the perfect way to spend a relaxing summer sunday exploring.
When it comes to cycling in Scotland, there’s so much variety and plenty of great routes to choose from. Whether you’re new to getting out on a bike, or you’re looking for a new exciting route to try on warmer weekends, any of these top five scottish cycling routes will be perfect to add to your list. Let me know what you think of the list, and don’t forget to leave a comment with your top cycling routes below.