4 Cycling Routes in Scotland For An Epic Bikepacking Adventure
When you think of Scotland, you probably think of bagpipes, cloudy skies, and… cycling holidays? If the latter wasn’t on your list, think again—Scotland is made for cyclists!
With thousands of miles of cycling routes—many of them paved and on traffic free trails—through cities and mountains, shorelines and small villages, it’s hard to know where to begin.
Great news: we’ve found some of the best cycling routes in Scotland for you so you can be off adventuring quicker than you can say “Ecclefechan” (that’s a small village in Scotland, it’s Eck-el-feck-hen, if you’re curious).
Top Cycling Destinations In Scotland
No matter where you’re cycling in Scotland, you’re bound to find amazing views and delicious whisky along your route. Another thing you’re apt to find? Plenty of camping!
Wild camping is legal in Scotland, so if you’re bikepacking, you can pitch a tent on pretty much any unenclosed land.
The exception is Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park between March-September, make sure to get a permit for camping in this case!
The Trossachs are part of the larger Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park located in the south. Filled with woody glens, meadows, lochs (that’s a lake, for you non-Scots), wild hills and fantastic views around every corner, the Trossachs are the perfect place for bike rides.
One of the best cycle routes in the Trossachs is National Cycle Network Route 7 (NCN 7), which stretches for almost 50 miles from Dumbarton to Balquhidder across some of the park’s most stunning scenery. For an alternative route, try the Loch Leven Heritage Trail (13 miles).
- How to get there: The Trossachs are less than an hour’s drive from Glasgow. There’s also two train lines from Glasgow that run to a centrally-located park train station.
- When to visit: Time your trip for late summer or early fall, when the weather is warmer and midges are (hopefully) less pesky.
- Where to stay: Stay in Callander or Aberfoyle. These small towns have plenty of lodging and dining, but are also great jumping-off places for cycling.
- What else to do there: There’s plenty of activities in the park besides riding—go hiking, rock climbing, kayaking or take a water tour!
Edinburgh & Glasgow
Exploring the “Central Belt” of Scotland on two wheels is a beautiful way to see two of Scotland’s most famous cities, while still being a very enjoyable ride.
Route 754 is a 56-mile route between Glasgow and Edinburgh, made entirely of cycle paths, with plenty of places along the way to eat, sightsee or just rest your legs.
- How to get there: Edinburgh & Glasgow both have international airports, or you can take a train in from London or other major UK cities.
- When to visit: Weather-wise, the summer months are the best time to visit these two cities. However, this is also the peak travel season. If you’re looking for a quieter visit (and off-peak season prices), visit between late March and early June.
- Where to stay: Central Glasgow and Old Town/New Town in Edinburgh are, of course, great places to be in the middle of the action. If you’re looking for somewhere quieter and a bit more local, check out the West End in Glasgow or Stockbridge in Edinburgh.
- What else to do there: There is so much to see and do between these two cities! Visit Edinburgh castle, go shopping on the Royal Mile, climb Arthur’s Seat, visit an art museum or just stroll through the 900+ years of history in Old Town.
Hebridean Way (Outer Hebridean Islands)
For keen cyclists who’d like a longer cycling holiday, The Hebridean Way is a great way to explore the off-the-beaten-path Outer Hebrides Scottish islands.
The 185-mile route connects 10 islands and is fully way-marked, so don’t worry about getting lost. And with little cafes, cozy B&Bs, and spectacular scenery the whole way, it’s a stunning cycling experience in Northern Scotland.
Speaking of incredible scenery, how do Caribbean-esque sandy beaches, sea views, quiet valleys and foggy mountains sound? Because you’ll find all that and more in the Outer Hebrides.
- How to get there: The easiest way to the starting point is to take the ferry from Oben (about a 3 hour train ride from Glasgow). The most northerly point (where most cycle routes end) is at the Butt of Lewis (hold the jokes). From there, you can fly out of the Stornoway airport to Glasgow or Edinburgh, or use bike transfer services like Bespoke Bicycle Hebrides and HebShuttle to travel back to Barra and catch the ferry back to Oben.
- When to visit: Late April to early September is the best time to visit if you’re cycling.
- Where to stay: The distance you want to bike each day will largely determine where you should stay—wild camping is available on each beautiful island, along with b&bs and a few hotels. Talbert is a lovely place to stay, and even has some hotels where you can stay in a castle!
- What else to do there: Make sure to build some time into your itinerary for other adventures too—surfing, visiting monuments and ruins, and, of course, stopping in cozy towns for a slice of cake.
Aberdeen, on the north coast of Scotland, is the perfect destination to blend cycling with other sightseeing. In Aberdeen, you’ll find plenty of parks and gardens, museums, castles, good food and whisky.
One of the best day-trip cycle routes through Aberdeen is to start in the city center, then follow the Aberdeen Harbor up to the seafront, around the Donmouth Local Nature Preserve and then follow the main road back down to Aberdeen. This circular route lets you explore the city and get great views along the way!
- How to get there: You can take a direct train from either Glasgow or Edinburgh, about 2.5 hours.
- When to visit: May and June are typically the best months to visit, with long summer days, warming weather, infrequent (for Scotland) rain, and just ahead of the peak summer travel season.
- Where to stay: Stay in the City Centre to be in the heart of all the action, in Old Aberdeen for beautiful architecture and a youthful feel, or Footdee (pronounced “Fittie,” FYI) for a slice of local life.
- What else to do there: Aberdeen has plenty of castles for you to live out all your Princess Diaries fantasies, so make time for a few tours, especially if your cycle route doesn’t pass by them. Or hike Ben Macdui, the second-highest peak in Scotland!
What To Know About Bike Tourism In Scotland
Bike tourism in Scotland is growing in popularity—with rolling hills, stunning and varied scenery, and lots of tourism that caters to cyclists, it’s a great place for a biking adventure!
Not to mention, there’s a range of difficulty for cycling routes in Scotland. In general, coastal and city routes tend to be canal towpaths or on a minor road, and inland routes have steep climbs and more off-road portions.
Plus, many of the locals are cyclists themselves—if you’re looking for great places to stay along your cycling route, check out warmshowers.org. It’s a great resource for finding local homestays for cyclists visiting Scotland.
Transporting Your Bike With You In Scotland
Scotland is very cycle-friendly, so you shouldn’t encounter many obstacles toting your bike with you wherever you go.
For example, there’s designated bicycle storage on all ScotRail trains. Bringing bikes on the trains is free (score!). On longer, more popular routes, you may have to make a reservation in advance for your bike.
Most ferries operating within Scotland also allow for free bicycle transportation—be sure to double check your ferry operator and route for specific details.
Tips For Cycling In Scotland
Scotland cycle routes are plenty safe, due in part to their popularity and the friendly locals. But keeping in mind local weather conditions (apt to change quickly) and peak travel seasons can help make for happy riding.
If you’re planning to wild camp, familiarize yourself with Scotland’s Outdoor Access Code so you can know (and observe!) local regulations and responsibilities. Be a responsible traveler!
- Bring midge repellent for summer visits. Midges are tiny biting gnats that can give travelers and locals alike an unwelcome and itchy rash. Wear repellant and protective gear if you’re visiting during late spring or summer. Avon Skin So Soft and Smidge are the leading repellants recommended by locals.
- Be prepared for rain and wind. Pack waterproof outer layers as well as waterproof bags or covers for your gear, even if you’re visiting in the summer. If you’re on the West Coast, traveling on your route from north to south will help avoid difficult headwinds.
- Plan in advance. If traveling during peak seasons (late spring to early fall), book rail and ferries in advance if possible, especially if bike reservations are required on your route. Bike holds can fill up—and so can passenger seats!—so best to get a head start if you can.
- Take the back roads. If you want quiet roads, avoid roads that begin with letter A with a single or double digit following, i.e. A82. These are often busy main roads with no hard shoulder and have quite a bit of road traffic.
Join Our Scotland Hiking Tour For Women
Want an adventure filled with good food, new friends and tons of hiking with spectacular, unspoiled scenery? Join our Scotland Adventure Tour for women for all of the Scottish delight, with no planning required.
Rachel is a hiker, traveler, writer and adventurer. Whether she’s home in New England or halfway across the world, she’s probably just looking for her next mountain to climb. If she’s not traveling or hiking, you can probably find her sketching, taking long walks around town, reading on the porch or perfecting a new recipe.
Favorite outdoor adventure: solo-hiking through the Dolomites in Italy!
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