Cycling is probably our second best outdoor activity after hiking/mountain walking. I know you wouldn’t know that browsing our blog but the reason for that is the fact that the blog was born only when we took a career break for travelling in a self-converted van. Before that we used to spend a lot of time on bikes and have done hundreds of kilometres across Scotland. We hope to cycle more again soon.
We are not crazy road cyclist and do not wear these super-sporty lycra outfits, we don’t pretend to be pros, but certainly we do love a good ride! We ride Specialized hybrid bikes, which are brilliant for our way of cycling, which could be described as “avoid busy roads and cycle on the unpaved, off-road tracks whenever possible”.
We strongly believe that everyone can enjoy cycling, that you do not need an expensive bike but what you do need is passion and love for an adventure.
Cycling allowed us to discover many lovely villages around Edinburgh and further away. For us personally, cycling is not about the speed, it’s more about enjoying slower pace of travel and enjoying the surroundings, with many stops to take in beauty of places.
Ela developed a special hair style (see left) which is a result of using a helmet, after most rides she ends up with funky hair! I am sure most of you, keen cyclists are well familiar with the ‘helmet hair’ style!
Since cycling is a more and more popular way of spending free time, we thought it would be a great idea to share with you some of our best cycling routes across Scotland, what we loved about them and why they’re worth your attention!
Which one would be your pick? (let us know in comments!!)
For navigation we usually use either Google Maps or mobile app Mape.me (works offline, all trails and smallest paths marked!)
THE BEST CYCLING ROUTES IN SCOTLAND – OUR TOP 12 CYCLING TRIPS IN SCOTLAND!
1. Pitlochry to Loch Rannoch and back
2. Isle of Bute
3. Isle of Arran
4. Killin, Glen Lochay and Glen Lyon
5. Loch Leven Heritage Trail
6. Edinburgh to North Berwick and back
7. The Great East Lothian Loop
8. The Great Loop around Edinburgh incl Pentland Hills and Musselburgh
9. The Hebridean Way
10. Edinburgh to South Queensferry via Dalmeny estate
11. Edinburgh to Blackness Castle
12. Loch Katrine and Aberfoyle circular
Pitlochry to Loch Rannoch (and back)
Length 68 km.
Elevation gain 852 metres.
Approximate time 5.5 hours
Start/finish point Pitlochry
This route is ideal for cyclists who relay on public transport, as Pitlochry is on main north-south railway route and therefore easily reachable without a car! Please keep in mind, thou, that bike spaces are very limited on Scottish trains and advance booking is essential!
What we loved about cycling from Pitlochry to Loch Rannoch: beautiful surroundings, very little traffic, famous Scottish landmarks along the way (Queen’s View, historic Tummel Bridge, sea-like Loch Rannoch), we also enjoyed the quiet villages along the way. We loved the sense of exploration, especially on our way back, when we used an alternative route to Pitlochry. The company of other friendly and smiling cyclists was a bonus!
Route description: Having arrived to the charming town of Pitlochry (either by train or by car) head north along road A924 (towards Killiecrankie). It’s a minor road with local traffic only. Initially a A924, it crosses under A9 and changes into B8019 as it passess Faskally Forest. Follow this road for a couple of kilometres, until a Garry Bridge (turn left there), the road is still marked as B8019. Cross the bridge and immediately you’ll face a very quiet road with a sequence of small ups and downs, with sharp turns. In no time you’ll pass ‘Queen’s view’ a viewpoint over Loch Tummel, a café and visitors centre. From this iconic point you’ll see the full length of Loch Tummel with triangular silhouette of Schiechallion mountain in the distance. Past Queen’s view the road becomes virtually traffic free, and runs west along loch’s northern shore. This section is one of the nicest, with a lot of downhill. The ride along the shores of Loch Tummel is mostly flat and in an open space, which could be a downside on a windy day! Cycle up to Tummel Bridge village and continue straight to Kinloch Rannoch a village at the eastern end of iconic Scottish Loch Rannoch. It’s a pleasant ride thru serene scenery with some woodlands. You can continue further along Loch Rannoch, however this adds another 23 miles to the route, which is a considerable distance! We decided to skip this additional circular section around the sea-like Loch Rannoch and having rested and refreshed ourselves in the village café we cycled back to Tummel Bridge. For those who like to explore more and don’t enjoy cycling ‘there and back’ the same way we have great news! There is an alternative return way to Pitlochry from Tummel Bridge! Cross the bridge at western end of Loch Tummel and follow small road B847. Initially you’ll face a big hill, we conquered it much easier than we anticipated! Almost at the top of the hill you’ll come to a small single track road signposted to Foss, turn left there and follow this local road along southern shores of Loch Tummel. Luckily, it’s mostly down the hill and runs thru very peaceful and quiet area. Past Loch Tummel follow the river, which unfortunately will cost a lot of sweat due to several uphill sections. As the road quality deteriorates you’ll end up negotiating muddy sections with potholes. Nearing Pitlochry cycle under main road A9 and follow trails along River Tummel, to the dam, where you’ll cross back to centre of Pitlochry.
Isle of Bute
Length: 55 km.
Elevation gain 499 metres.
Approximate time 5 hours.
Start/finish point Rothesay
Bute is a peanut-shaped island located in proximity to Glasgow, conveniently it’s easily reachable by frequent ferry service from Wemyss Bay. Crossing time less than 1 hour. Getting to the ferry terminal is just as easy by car (large car park next to the harbour) as it is by public transport (train from Glasgow)
What we loved about exploring Bute by bike? We believe that Bute is a perfect cycling destination!! It’s a small island easily explored by bike, with very little traffic (mostly local and farm traffic), plenty of off-road trails and tracks, cycling trails are signposted. What is more, Isle of Bute is well off the main tourist routes in Scotland, hence tourist traffic is very limited but you’re likely to meet dozens of other cyclists! The island also offers several interesting outdoor locations to visit, the route we described below includes them all (such as Mount Stuart, Ettrick Bay, Kames castle, Dunagoil Bay and fort)
Having arrived to Rothesay you may be surprised by its architecture, with some fine Victorian villas, a memory of its past splendid – back in the day Bute was one of the most popular holiday destinations. Another interesting spot in Rothesay town is the Victorian public toilet block, just at the harbour. What a unique monument!
Route decription: We recommend discovering the southern end of the island first, hence follow the road A844 from Rothesay towards Ascog, and further to Kerrycroy. It’s a nice scenic ride along the sea shore, over a quiet minor road. Once you reach Kerrycroy look out for large iron gate (at the far end), your entrance to Mount Stuart mansion grounds. Follow forest tracks to the mansion, why not explore its gardens and surroundings before continuing further. Once you’ve rested at Mount Stuart, follow the woodland tracks ahead to join the very small road (Bruchag Road); it’s D-shaped, follow the ‘D’ to Stravanan junction, then head south to charming Kilchattan Bay, with a quiet village at the end of the road. Return to Stravanan junction and set to explore the island’s western shores, follow road A844. Why not make a small detour to Dunagoil Bay to check out a unique basalt hill, the volcanic columns exposed to the world. Retrace your way to the main road A844. Pass Bute Golf Club and cycle on to Ambrismore. Turn left to continue along road A844, and you’ll face a longish climb over to the viewpoint, a perfect spot for a break, with benches. Overlooking Scalpsie Bay, with a bit of luck you’ll be able to spot seals playing in the shallow waters beneath you. Further, pedal on along A844 to a T junction with road B878, turn left to reach Straad and Ettrick Bay with a beautiful sandy beach and a café. The last section of the ride before returning to Rothesay is a quiet road to Port Bannatyne with historical Kames Castle and cottages. Less than a mile further you’ll pass Ardbeg and only a couple of minutes later you’ll be back at Rothesay.
We omitted the northernmost part of Bute, as visiting Rhubodah involved cycling in and out the very same route, which we’re not very found of, also we wanted to make sure to catch the ferry back to mainland.
To sum up, we believe that Isle of Bute offers one of the greates cycling experiences in Scotland; with many locations and spots along the way to keep the trip interesting and rewarding. It’s easily accessible and the day spent on Bute will be the one to remember! Therefore, it won’t come a surprise that the island is very popular amongst local cyclists and you’re likely to meet many other keen bike enthusiasts, most of them Glaswegian.
Isle of Arran (especially the northern loop)
Length: 60 km.
Elevation gain 570 metres.
Approximate time 5-7 hours.
Start/finish point Brodick or Shiskine
Another Scottish island perfect for a cycling trip is Arran. Situated only a short distance from Glasgow, the island is within easy reach by car as well as by public transport (regular train service to ferry harbour in Ardrossan). Arran is very popular with Scottish cyclists who usually come for a day trip, most of them arrive to the island by first morning ferry and cross back to mainland by last ferry. If you consider doing the same, please keep in mind that Scottish trains offer very limited bike space and you must book the journey (especially a bike space) in advance.
Most cyclists opt for the full Arran circle, which is a very strenuous riding day with significant elevation gain (distance 110 km, elevation gain 1000 metres, approximate time 8-9 hours. Start and finish Brodick harbour).
Arran is very likely to surprise you, despite the main roads and trails encircling it along the coast you’ll find that the island is quite hilly and many ascents will leave you literary breathless. Arran is often referred to as ‘Scotland in miniature’, therefore expect to discover some wild hills and deep long glens, spectacular coastal scenery, ancient landmarks… It’s a first class cycling destination, local traffic is adjusted to increasing number of visitors on bikes, with speed limit 30 mph on all roads. Locals are used to large number of bikes on their road and drive accordingly, at least this was our experience.
What we loved about cycling in Arran: We thoroughly enjoyed exploring northern half of Arran by bike hence we strongly encourage you to follow and get to know the island by bike, as well as spend more than just 1 day on Arran, maybe add a hike or two to your itinerary. But, let’s go back to the Arran cycling trip…
Route description: Having arrived to Brodick you’ll have to pick your route, if you’re for a ‘full circle’ follow road A841 south, to Lamlash, and further tick off the southern end of the island. If the ‘northern Arran’ sounds more up your street, follow the ‘string road’ B880 to Shiskine (sorry, you’ll face a long steep climb first). The route we’re describing below starts and finishes at the campsite near Shiskine, which we made our base for Arran adventure.
The ‘string road’ cuts Arran in half, and runs thru a glen between the northern and southern part of the island. Its western end is much gentler than eastern part (nearer Brodick), it was quite OK to cycle even for ‘average fitness guys’ like us.
Once you get to the western side of Arran join main road A847 at Torbeg (use shortcut) or Blackwaterfoot, We used the shortcut between Tarrnacraig and Machrie, this small road is pretty much unused and runs across fields and blooming meadows, we especially enjoyed the smell of wildflowers and newly grown bracken warmed by the sun. This section is almost flat.
Soon after joining A841 you’ll pass Marchie Moor (before Tormore) with ancient standing stones. This site is well worth a visit! Ensure to include the stones in your trip plan!
The road following north west shores of Arran is mostly flat, with only a couple of small ascents all the way to Lochranza. Lochranza itself is worth a mention, due to its amazing location at a small bay, and a wee distillery. Also, this village marks the end of easy riding for the timebeing, as directly past Lochranza Golf begins the most serious ascent of the trip. It’s a long ride up, a single hill with ascent of almost 200 metres, but the bright side is – once you top this hill it’s only a downhill ride to Brodick.
The next location worth your visit is Corrie sea shore. Perfect to have a break! Look out for Corrie’s unique rock features and formations along the coast!
Cycle down to Brodick, passing a small castle and gardens along the way.
Depending whereabout you started either finish the trip at Brodick harbour or continue further to your ‘base’. Based on our own experience, we’re sure you’ll be exhausted but also very happy to have cycled in Arran! For us, personally, Arran was the very place that inspired us to seek other stunning cycling routes in Scotland (some of them listed in this article)!
If, by any chance, you feel that the Arran cycling trip seems too much, you should definitely set your eyes on Isle of Bute which is a much easier ride, but still very rewarding with views and landmarks!
Killin, Glen Lochay and Glen Lyon
Length: 55 km.
Elevation gain 780 metres.
Approximate time 6-7 hours.
Start/finish point Killin at Loch Tay
What we loved about cycling From Killin to Glen Lochay and Glen Lyon: One of the most scenic bike rides we discovered in Scotland was a circular route near Loch Tay! It was as strenuous as it was rewarding with views! Starting in a charming village Killin, which sadly is not along any train route, which makes reaching Killin with bike by public transport virtually impossible. Once you reach Killin, park your car at one of the visitors car parks.
Route description: From Killin follow the main road A827 north (signposted to Kenmore at the other end of Loch Tay). Pass Coach House Hotel, and a campsite. Just past the campsite you’ll see a brown signpost to Morlanich Longhouse, turn left there. It’s a narrow minor road, you’re very unlikely to encounter any traffic at all. Follow this road to the very end, it runs along River Lochay (in fact you’re just cycling along glen Lochay), very soon after a small bridge over the river, the road will pass a mini power station and join another minor road. Turn left there, and cycle along this single track road (being on a bike you can confidently ignore the ‘no thru road’ signs). It’s a pleasant section, partially shaded by old trees, still following River Lochay. Once you come to an open space you’ll finally see more of Glen Lochay itself. Having arrived to Kenknock the paved road ends (near a gate) and continues as a rough track. Don’t follow it any further. There, at Kenknock you’ll leave the main road and begin the merciless climb over mountain ridge to Glen Lyon (Pubil). Just before the gate, there is a short stretch of paved track going uphill (to the right), this is the way forward! Cross the tall gate (yes, it’s ok, being a cyclist) and climb up the winding track. It’s a hard call, I ended up pushing the bike initially. Higher up the gradient decreaes, and cycling is easier once again. Soon you’ll reach the highest point with views to both glens, Lochay and Lyon. Be careful when cycling down to Loch Lyon and Pubil, some sections of the road are in rather bad condition. Next several kilometres, past Pubil, are a nice downhill ride along evergreen beautiful Glen Lyon, very picturesque indeed. Further down the glen you’ll come across brief and gentle uphill sections, but most probably no road traffic at all, apart from other cyclists and maybe walkers.
Some 8-10 km further you’ll arrive to Bridge of Balgrie. Look out for the bridge (on the right) and cross it, this road is the best return way over the mountain range to Loch Tay and Killin. Initially a gentle ascent becomes steeper as you climb up between the two most iconic mountains in the area Ben Lawers and Meall Nan Tarmachan. It is, by no means, as steep as the previous major ascent, between the glens. As you cycle past the lake Lochan na Lairige, the road levels and before you know it, you’ll be cycling downhill towards Loch Tay and main road. Having reached A827 turn right to Killin (be aware that the traffic along Loch Tay can be quite busy).
We strongly encourage you to enjoy refreshments in Killin as well as walking to see the local main attraction Falls of Dochart (along main road at the western end of Killin).
Loch Leven Heritage Trail
Length: 20 km.
Elevation gain: 15 metres, almost perfectly flat.
Approximate time 2 hours.
Start/finish point Kinross Ferry Landing.
What we loved about cycling Loch Leven Heritage Trail: This easy cycling route encircles Loch Leven, the largest lake in Fife, north of Edinburgh. The trail runs thru tranquil surroundings, we enjoyed the views as well as the cycling experience itself, the route is easy and very pleasant to pedal on. 80% of the route is in the open space, running among fields and along loch shore, we recommend picking a windless day for your trip, to improve the experience.
Sadly, it’s impossible to get to Loch Leven by train, so the best and easiest way of getting to the start point is to drive.
Route description: Park your car at the large car park near Loch Leven National Nature Reserve Office and get ready for a nice and easy ride around the loch! As the route follows the well known Heritage Trail, navigation is very straight forward, the trail is marked and signposted; also it’s maintained and in good condition, mostly forest paths or gravelled, however some sections may not be suitable for road bikes.
Along the way you’ll cycle thru woodland, marshland, at lakeside, thru fields. Loch Leven is a well-loved recreational spot for local communities, so it may get busy with walkers, kids and dogs during sunny weekend days. Be prepared to share the trail with the others! There are many picnic spots and benches along the trail, finding a beauty spot with a view to have a rest is very straightforward!
Edinburgh to North Berwick (and back)
Length: 90 km.
Elevation gain: 390 metres.
Approximate time 6-7 hours.
Start/finish point: Portobello Beach Edinburgh
This lengthy route is one of my summer favourites and I cycled it numerous times starting from Cramond Beach at the other end of city, where I lived. I mentioned Portobello Beach in Edinburgh as a starting point because it’s easy to locate and the well signposted web of Edinburgh cycling trails will take you there in no time, but in fact you can start anywhere you like.
What we love about cycling from Edinburgh to North Berwick: the route includes a lot of traffic free roads and trails, can be shortened or extended, depending on the mood. Amazingly, the route follows the beautiful coast of East Lothian region, and it’s really easy to alter it and visit a beach along the way. The web of rural roads in East Lothian provide almost endless opportunities of cycling on very quiet roads, undisturbed, and close to nature!
Route description: First follow the signposts to Portobello Beach, cycle along the promenade (signposted to Musselburgh), once you reach Musselburgh harbour, follow the shore (cycle along a narrow sandy beach) till you reach river Esk. To cross the river, use one of the two bridges between New Street and Eskside East, once you cross the bridge turn left and follow the road until its end at the large grassy open space, locally called ‘the lagoons’. Follow the gravel track along the shore to pass the northern edge of the lagoons (it’s a part of John Muir Way) till you reach a small car park. Turn left at the car park to get to the main road. Unfortunately, you will have to cycle along the main road (B1348) all the way pass Prestonpans to Cockenzie. Just as you reach Cockenzie you can leave the main road and continue thru quiet neighbourhood (Cockenzie High Street, and further along the promenade over the beach). Finally you’ll have to rejoin the main road near the Holiday Village in Seton Sands. Follow this road to Longniddrie Bents beach, and further to Aberlady village. I haven’t yet figured out how to cycle this section on small traffic free roads or trails, and the part between the lagoons and Aberlady bay is the busiest of the day. Luckily, as Aberlady village is surrounded by fields and woodlands, you can leave the main road A198 and cycle along narrow local, rural roads between fields, which are virtually traffic free. I recommend following A198 to Aberlady Bay, and turning right at the nearest junction, past Luffness Castle. Then, take second left to West Fenton. The next location along the way is Kingston, where you’ll join another road B1347 directly to North Berwick.
How to return from North Berwick to Edinburgh: you’ve got a couple of options. There’s an hourly train service, or you can cycle back along the main road A198 all the way to Aberlady and further ahead to the lagoons and Portobello, or alternatively you can retrace your route.
The Great East Lothian Loop, incl Haddington and North Berwick
Length: 100 km.
Elevation gain: 456 metres.
Approximate time 6-7 hours.
Start/finish point: Portobello Beach Edinburgh
This ultimate East Lothian loop route can be started at any point in Edinburgh or along the way, I mentioned Portobello Beach simply because it’s easy to locate and get to from most of Edinburgh.
What we enjoyed the most along the Great East Lothian Loop: quiet and traffic free roads, the feeling of freedom to pick roads and trails whichever we felt suited us best, visiting historic villages along the way, refreshments at Haddington. The sense of exploration and achievement on completion!
The route follows minor roads, cycle paths and old railway trails.
Route description: Initial section follows the sea shore along Portobello, Musselburgh and Prestonpans (similarly to Edinburgh to North Berwick route, above). However, once you reach Longniddrie, keep along the railway tracks, pass the train station and soon you’ll see a passage on your right, the beginning of Longniddrie Railway Walk. Follow this unpaved track all the way to Haddington (slightly uphill ride). This charming small market town offers many cafes and restaurants, generally speaking we recommend having a wee wander. To continue further follow Market Street, pass Aldi, and continue further along Whittingehame Drive, a quiet minor road to Traprain. At Traprain turn left, pass Equestrian Sports Centre and pedal under A1 to East Linton. How to get to North Berwick, the next destination along the way? We recommend cycling thru East Fortune and Kingston (as these roads are quieter than Whitekirk and Auldhame route). From North Berwick you can either take a train back to Edinburgh (hourly service) or cycle back via Dirleton, Gullane, Aberlady to Longniddrie (and retrace your route back). Or alternarively cycling back to Kingston and finding your way in a web of rural roads between Kingston and Aberlady (nice and almost traffic free)
Another option is skipping North Berwick altogether and returning towards Edinburgh from Kingston, but you’ll probably find that North Berwick was well worth a visit, once you’re there.
East Lothian region offers great cycling routes, traffic free trails, the rural roads are quiet and with little car traffic. If you don’t like the way you’re on- there’s always a possibility to take another route, as the rural road web of East Lothian is very dense. Almost unlimited opportunities! We especially like discovering small villages along the way, some of them are unique or rich in history!
This route can be extended all the way to Dunbar (from East Linton), cycling along A199, however before adding extra miles to Dunbar I would double check whether the train service is running OK. Once, in the past, we cycled to Dunbar with a plan of taking a train back to Edinburgh, but the service was disrupted and we ended up pedalling additional miles to North Berwick just to catch a train back to Edinburgh…
The Great Loop around Edinburgh incl Pentland Hills and Musselburgh
Length: 70 km.
Elevation gain: 723 metres.
Approximate time 6-7 hours.
Start/finish point: Cramond Beach/village Edinburgh
What we loved about cycling around Edinburgh: This is an ultimate circular cycling route around Edinburgh which will see you explore Edinburgh’s cycling paths, the two beaches (Portobello and Cramond), Pentland Hills as well as suburbs (Dalkeith, Musselburgh). This route is not straightforward and requires a lot of navigating, jumping between paths and roads, sometimes improvising. It’s essential to have some kind of navigation tool on you while completing this one! We greatly enjoyed the challenge of this route, its length and a significant elevation gain, what a fantastic training route indeed! Our favourite sections of this loop are crossing Pentland Hills (Harlaw to Flotterstone, oh a bit of excitement and a lot of work out! Best suitable for mountain bikes!) and relaxed Auchedinny to Dalkeith trail.
Route description: Starting at Cramond village follow Cramond Glebe Road and Whitehouse Road to Barnton junction where you can either cycle on the pavement along busy Maybury Road or be creative and explore Cammo Estate (Cammo Road and Cammo Walk) to come to Maybury Junction. Pass Grosvenor Casino and follow main road towards Gogar Roundabout (don’t join the carriageway, but stay on pavement/cycle path). Cycle down to Edinburgh Gateway station and use underpass to get to South Gyle, pass shopping centre and follow signposts to Heriot Watt University in Riccarton. Follow Riccarton Mains Road up the hill and join A70 to Balerno. Set your navigation to Harlaw, your starting point to cross Pentland Hills.
From Harlaw Car Park follow signposts to Glencorse, it’s a gentle uphill ride at first, over a well made path, however approximately half way the path becomes eroded and unsuitable for road bikes, great care is required on the downhill section to Glencorse Reservoir. Not only the path is rough, but also popular with walkers. Once at the reservoir turn left and follow the paved road to Flotterstone car park and inn. Soon you’ll come to busy A702; follow it right, uphill for about 1 km and take first left towards Auchendinny. Join the traffic free cycling trail to Rosewell, then a cycling path to Dalkeith. Some sections will require following local roads and navigation can be tricky. Most of cycling trails are signposted, try to stick to them as much as possible. In Dalkeith follow the trail towards Musselburgh and you’ll arrive to the seaside. It’s a long ride back to Cramond village, via Portobello and the dense web of Edinburgh’s old railway paths. Despite the cycling paths being well signposted, you’ll have to know where exactly you want to end up and which way to get there. Therefore we mentioned that this great Edinburgh loop required a lot of navigating and planning in advance, especially if you want to focus on traffic free sections as much as possible. This route may require you to improvise occasionally or use navigation (to combine directions as per Google Maps with signposts along cycling trails).
The Hebridean Way
Length: 300 km.
Total Elevation gain: 723 metres.
Approximate time 5 days.
Start point: Vatersay
Finish: Butt of Lewis
What we loved about cycling the Hebridean Way: The Hebridean Way is by far the most iconic cycling route in Scotland. Why should you consider completing it? Along the way you’ll explore some of the most spectacular scenery and remote Scottish locations. The Hebridean Way stretches along the unique Outer Hebrides archipelago in Northern Scotland, and visits 10 islands. Although it mostly follows local roads, the traffic is close to none (90% of the time). Scenic beaches, landmarks, moorlands and quiet villages you’ll visit along the way will make you want to return to the islands for further exploration. Most Hebridean islands are connected by causeways, with only 2 ferry crossings necessary between them. A lot of the 300km way is flat or flat-ish, two most strenuous sections are vicinity of Clisham (archipelago’s highest mountain!) and northern Lewis island, towards the end of the route (rolling hills). Accommodation wise you can easily pick your favourite style, ranging from wild camping to hotels with spa. For some, exploring the Outer Hebrides by bike could be an adventure of a lifetime! The islands are beautiful and unspolit.
Cycling trip to Outer Hebrides requires some planning, especially if you consider getting there with your bike by public transport. It is essential to book the train journey to Oban (where you take a ferry to Barra at the southern end of the islands) and well plan ahead the return journey from Ullapool. Ferry connections between Scottish mainland and the islands are regular and cyclists are treated the same way as pedestrians (pretty much unlimited spaces).
To get to Vatersay, the beginning of the Hebridean Way take the Oban-Castlebay ferry, to return to the mainland sail Stornoway –Ullapool. Please keep in mind that Ullapool is way off railway route and the nearest station is Garve, so you may want to arrange private transfer between Ullapool and train stations in Garve or Inverness.
Follow this link to find details, help planning the trip and cycling map for each island.
Edinburgh to South Queensferry via Dalmeny Estate
Length: 20 km (there and back)
Elevation gain: 215 metres.
Approximate time 1.5-2 hours (each way).
Start point: Cramond Village or Cramond Brig
What we loved about cycling from Edinburgh to South Queensferry: The linear route from Cramond village to south Queensferry is very popular with leisure cyclists, we have enjoyed it countless times (as it was in our local area) and are happy to recommend it to others! Exploring the Dalmeny Estate by bike is a pleasure, Firstly it’s a beautiful park with old trees, wildlife and livestock, offering the fresh smell of meadows in bloom, and quiet sea shore tracks. Lovely, relaxing ride over well made tracks and paved access roads in peaceful surroundings!
Route description: The best starting point is Cramond Brig (and old stone bridge on river Almond, below the pub), but I guess that Edinburgers will be more familiar with Cramond village location, although the brig can be easily found on navigation too. Starting at the village makes the route just a bit longer and means either following Whitehouse Road, or climbing hundreds of steps along river Almond if one wanted to avoid the road. Anyway, the first landmark along the way is an old Cramond Brig. Up to this point you can follow a signposted cycling route. Once at the bridge continue up the hill only to pass the pub’s car park and join a gravelled track to Dalmeny Estate and House (to the right at the cottage). The track is wide and gently rises at first, only to turn into a nice downhill past the farm. Follow the track towards the sea shore, mind walkers and dogs thou! We recommend taking the first left past the farms. It’s a steep paved uphill road. This hill fully deserves its nickname ‘hill of tears’, it’s a hard climb, I feel like a hero every time I manage to cycle up (time after time it is just as hard as the first attempt). It’s not a long ascent therefore pushing the bike up takes only a couple of minutes. At the top continue to the junction with another paved road and turn right to enjoy an incredibly long downhill ride. Follow the signs to Dalmeny House and South Queensferry. Very soon you’ll be passing a magnificent Dalmeny House and a park, with access to the sea shore. There’s a log bench at the far end, near the beach, a great spot to have a break and enjoy the panorama of Edinburgh in the distance. Return to the paved road and continue to the right, thru a woodland towards Queensferry. Ignore all turns and junctions, keep cycling ahead, pass Barnbougle Castle (private). Follow the sea shore till a small hill with viewpoint to sandy Peatdraught Bay, where the trail changes direction and runs directly to Forth Bridge and South Queensferry. Return to Edinburgh the same way (although there are numerous country tracks and roads in the area, retracing your way is the easiest).
Why this route made it to the list of our favourite cycling routes in Scotland? First of all it’s easily accessible from Edinburgh, it’s traffic free (or can be as much traffic free as you like), it offers peaceful experience and is partially sheltered from the wind, a lot of the route is flat or near-flat, ending up in Queensferry allows getting refreshments or visiting a café, going for lunch etc. Also, it’s very likely you’ll spot local wildlife along the way, which always is a bonus! We feel that cycling thru Dalmeny Estate to South Queensferry is much easier than walking (surely, the estate is just as nice to walk as it is for cycling, but going there and back is a considerate distance and could be too much to walk).
Keep in mind that the main Edinburgh to Queensferry cycling route follows busy A90 roadside (busy and noisy) but it’s much more pleasant to get there thru Dalmeny Estate (all trails and tracks of the Estate are marked on Google Maps, so it’s easy to navigate).
Edinburgh to Blackness Castle
Length: 60 km (there and back)
Elevation gain: 450 metres.
Approximate time 4-5 hours
Start point: Cramond Village or Cramond Brig
What we loved about cycling from Edinburgh to Blackness Castle: scenic, quiet tracks in Dalmeny Estate, visiting the UNESCO site of Forth Bridge in South Queensferry along the way, exploration of Hopetoun House area, rural roads and forest tracks. Very peaceful scenery, with historic castle-like bouldings: Dalmeny House and Hopetoun House, as well as Blackness castle! We especially recommend having a wee wander in Abercorn, explore church grounds and the old graveyard.
Route description: The most convenient starting point for this lengthy route is Cramond Brig or village. The route to Blackness Castle passes South Queensferry, hence we recommend cycling to Queensferry as per route described above, as this is the safest, quietest and nicest trail, above all, it’s traffic free! Once you arrive to South Queensferry follow the seaside road, pass the bridges. Follow signposts to Port Edgar Marina and further to Hopetoun House. Having arrived to Hopetoun House you can explore its grounds or pass the estate and gardens by cycling from Society (along the sea) towards Abercorn. At Abercorn we recommend visiting the old church and graveyard before heading further to Blackness along the woodland trail. It’s a pleasant ride, sheltered from the wind and will take you to Blackness Castle within minutes!
To return to Edinburgh we recommend retracing your way back to South Queensferry and Dalmeny Estate, Cramond Brig. If you feel adventurous, like we did, you can continue to Linlithgow and return to Edinburgh along the track at the canal (changing to ‘roads’ at Winchburgh, Kirkliston, and return to traffic free tracks at Craigiehall and Cramond Brig), however this involved a lot of route finding!
Why should you cycle to Blackness Castle? First of all it’s a nice wee castle overlooking the Firth of Forth, the route is partially marked and traffic free most of the way. We can easily picture ourselves taking this one again, exploring Hopetoun House Estate as well as Dalmeny Estate by bike is such a pleasure!
Loch Katrine and Aberfoyle circular route
Length: 54 km
Elevation gain: 456 metres.
Approximate time 6 hours.
Start/finish point: Aberfoyle (Trossachs)
What we loved bout cycling in The Trossachs: This circular route is perfect if you’re keen to explore some of the most beautiful corners of The Trossachs region in Scotland. Conveniently, starting and finishing in Aberfoyle village where you can easily enjoy refreshments in its numerous cafes after you’ve completed the ride. The trail along Loch Katrine is especially scenic, we loved the view to still mirror-like waters and reflection of mountains! The sense of remoteness adds to the experience!
The route we’re recommending is straightforward and follows traffic free tracks and ‘local access only’ roads for most of the way. The initial section involves a steep climb to Duke Pass (but we’ll tell you how to pass this strenuous section on traffic free forest tracks rather than going along main road A821. Road or not, you still have to climb the same height, there’s no way around it, Duke Pass is the highest point of this cycling route.
Route description: From Aberfoyle village centre follow road A821 signposted to Callander, but only for approximately 300 metres, as very soon you’ll see a cycling trail to your right (watch out for ‘bike shaped’ blue barrier), take the trail. At first it rises gently thru the woodland, but soon becomes steeper. After about 500 metres it meets a forest track, follow it uphill, to the left. There is a dense web of forest tracks in the area, all suitable for cycling, so how not to get lost? You can set your navigation to Lochan Reoidhte which is where you’ll rejoin main road A821 (at Duke Pass). If not for the elevation gain, you’ll most likely find these forest tracks an incredibly enjoyable ride!
Since you rejoin A821 follow it downhill, pass Loch Achray and at its top turn left, to Loch Katrine. It’s a small road which soon arrives to a large car park and visitors centre at the southern end of Loch Katrine, at the foot of famous Ben A’an. Pedal on towards the loch and continue on a paved track along the shore. This road is local access only to a couple of farms located further over the loch, there won’t be any traffic apart from walkers and fellow cyclists. The trail runs along eastern and northern shores of Loch Katrine, pretty much up and down all the time. It’s a very enjoyable ride with stunning views over the loch and to nearest mountains, Ben A’an, and Ben Venue across the water, but it’s not particularly easy, due to elevation changes.
Despite really enjoying the ride along Loch Katrine, we felt it was never ending, and it took us ages and a lot of effort to reach its other end (near Glengyle). We followed it round to the boat pier in Stronachlachar, and further we joined road B829, which took us all the way back to Aberfoyle (mostly downhill).
Along this circular route you’ll visit a couple of beautiful lochs and lochans, quiet rural locations, maybe even spot wildlife, you’ll also be challenged a few times! The scenery along Loch Katrine is amazing, feels very remote and the roads and tracks are virtually traffic free. Don’t hesitate, plan your cycling trip in The Trossachs!