Scotland’s cycle routes are some of the wildest and most beautiful in the UK. The landscapes are barren, dark clouds roll in over brooding lochs and mountains and you’ll certainly need to pack your winter cycling kit (yes, even in summer). It’s this very desolation and raw beauty that attracts us cyclists.
In this article we share some of the best cycling routes in Scotland to help give you a taste of what’s there and help you plan your Scottish cycling trip.
We’ve collated a mix of options, which take in some of the most scenic routes in Scotland: quiet roads, varying degrees of difficulty, length and types of terrain. Do these and you’ll be ticking off some of the most incredible cycling routes in the UK.
Time to start planning your next Scotland cycling holiday? Enjoy!
By Helen Langridge
Before launching into our pick of Scotland's best cycle routes, it's helpful to start by taking a quick look at a map of Scotland. This should help you orientate yourself, when looking at our routes below (which are broken up by region).
The Trossachs cycle routes
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is found just north of Glasgow and west of Stirling. You can find our introduction to the region here. Here are our pick of the best bike routes:
1. Callander to Loch Katrine with a ferry
Distance: 52km by bike
Elevation Gain: 684m
Start/Finish Town: Callander
A quiet day out with views of surrounding mountains plus a scenic ferry ride.
This is an example of one of Scotland’s easier cycle routes.
If you have young children with you, it’s perfectly possible (and recommended) to take the ferry out and back across the Loch because the north side of Loch Katrine is quite hilly.
You can find ferry details here.
2. Loch Katrine and Duke’s Pass
Elevation Gain: 1,113m
Start/Finish Town: Callander
A punchy loch side ride with a classic Scottish climb.
Duke’s Pass starts with beautiful wide, sweeping hairpins before becoming increasingly rugged towards the summit with ever changing gradients so you can’t settle into a rhythm. It’s a challenging kick up and an awe-inspiring descent with views over the Trossachs.
For anyone road cycling in Scotland, this loop is considered a classic. Loch Lomond’s website calls it the ‘Tour of the Trossachs’.
3. Glen Ogle, Lairig Nan Lunn and Ben Lawyers
Elevation Gain: 1,862m
Start/Finish Town: Callander
Tarmacked old railway trails, classic Scottish villages and quintessential switchback climbs around mountains.
Outbound you’ll ride over the Glen Ogle viaduct and you’ll get an unbelievable view of it from the main road on the way back.
Don’t worry, there’ll be no Harry Potter train coming up behind you on the viaduct, it’s all tarmacked over and suitable for all bike types.
Perthshire cycle routes
Perthshire is found east of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park and south of the Cairngorms National Park. It’s the transition between the central lowlands and the more mountainous areas. You can find our introduction to the region here. Here are our pick of the best bike routes:
4. Glen Quaich and Pitlochry
Elevation Gain: 1,679m
Start/Finish Town: Dunkeld
The most intimidating approach to a climb you’ll ever experience because it looks like a wall on the other side of the glen.
The foreboding “No through road to Kenmore in winter conditions” lets you know the nature of the road you’re about to experience when you turn right at Amulree.
The approach is sedate, undulating past Loch Freuchie until you see a wall of a road rising up and over the ridge. Every cyclist has uttered the words, “that can’t be it, can it?’ until the road starts to rise and there are no other options.
5. Etape Caledonia Route (in reverse)
Elevation Gain: 1,730m
Start/Finish Town: Pitlochry
A classic Scottish cycling route, taking in a tricky false-summit climb and undulating singletrack around Loch Rannoch.
We’ve reversed the traditional closed-road Etape Caledonia route, because taking on the Schiehallion road from the south is much harder, and that’s what we’re all after, right?!
Having the closed roads would be wonderful, but it’s a fairly quiet part of the world as it is, so if you can’t make the scheduled event then don’t worry – take it on yourself and enjoy one of the best cycle routes in central Scotland.
Aberdeenshire cycle routes
Aberdeenshire is Scotland’s most easterly region. It takes its name from the main city, Aberdeen and borders the Cairngorm National Park. You can find our introduction to the region here. Here are our pick of the best bike routes:
6. Cairn O’Mount Climb
Elevation gain: 1,451m
Start/Finish Town: Aberdeen
A mix of flat roads and one of the classic cycling climbs of Scotland.
East coast cycling routes can be quite flat, so how about throwing in this gem of a climb for a short, sharp challenge?
Cairn O’Mount climb is only 3.4km long but rises by 320m. It’ll soon be over, so try and enjoy it while you can.
Speyside and the Cairngorms cycle routes
Speyside extends west to Inverness, east towards Aberdeen. Here we include cycle routes for Speyside and the Cairngorms. You can find our introduction to the region here. Here are our pick of the best bike routes:
7. Aviemore to Kingussie Loop
Elevation gain: 419m
Start/Finish Town: Aviemore
A family-friendly meander between two pretty towns on a circular route.
While this route isn’t on bike paths, it is a pretty easy cycle route and family friendly as most of the traffic stays on the A9.
It’s one of the more flatter cycle routes in this part of Scotland, so if you’re wanting to try a child trailer out, this is probably a good option.
8. CairnGorm Ski Lift Loop
Elevation gain: 672m
Start/Finish Town: Aviemore
A cheeky summit-before-breakfast type of ride.
The road to the Cairm Gorm Ski Lift is a dead end, so this is the type of route which won’t extend by accident.
We’ve included a short warm down flat run south to Kingcraig for coffee, but this is optional if you’d rather get back for your porridge.
9. Speyside Distillery Loop
Elevation gain: 1,290m
Start/Finish Town: Grantown-on-Spey
A constantly undulating, but not too taxing, ride around some of the most famous distilleries in Speyside.
Whilst we don’t advise that you drink at the distilleries and ride your bike, this route will certainly give you an understanding of how important whisky production is to this area of Scotland!
10. High Roads in the Cairngorms
Elevation gain: 2,266m
Start/Finish Town: Take the train from Aviemore to Pitlochry to start the ride, unless you wish to add on another 60km. This ride finishes in Aviemore.
Ticking off two of the top four highest paved roads in Britain in one day.
Put your climbing legs on for this long ride over the Cairnwell Pass and the Lecht for a classically hilly route through the Cairngorms. Fingers crossed for a tailwind.
The Scottish Highlands and Islands cycle routes
The Highlands is loosely defined, but here we take it as everywhere west of a line travelling from Oban to Pitlochry to Inverness. You can find our introduction to the region here. Here are our pick of the best bike routes:
11. Portree to Raasay (Isle of Skye/Raasay)
Elevation Gain: 1,277m
Start/Finish town: Portree, Isle of Skye
Unbridled remoteness on two Scottish islands.
The Islands of Skye and Raasay are so close to each other, the ferry ride only takes 25 minutes. But once on Raasay you’re thrust into remoteness you wouldn’t have thought possible for the Inner Hebrides.
The roads are well kept and quiet with the possibility of mountain biking or hiking further north to the Taigh Thormoid Dhuibh Bothy for an overnight stay if you take your camping equipment.
12. Quiet Inverness Loop
Elevation Gain: 804m
Start/Finish Town: Inverness
A quick cycle route in Inverness taking you to impressive views of Loch Ness avoiding the main roads.
A circular route of Loch Ness is possible, but the northern side is filled with traffic and would make for an unpleasant journey.
Instead, head out of Inverness following this route and enjoy peaceful serenity taking in stunning views of this famous loch.
13. Skye loop with Quiraing
Elevation Gain: 1,779m
Start/Finish town: Portree, Isle of Skye
One of the best cycling routes on Skye taking in that famous climb to get some incredible photos if the weather holds out.
We’d recommend going to Skye at the start or end of peak season to avoid the ever-increasing traffic on the narrow roads of Skye. While the council figure out what to do, ride this route in late April/early May or late September for a more pleasant time up and over this long climb which tops out at 20.3% right before the summit.
14. The Five Ferries Route
Distance: 124km by bike
Elevation Gain: 1,756m
Start/Finish Town: Wemyss Bay (train station for Glasgow)
A unique, challenging ride taking in the Clyde Coast, Isle of Arran, Kintyre Peninsula, Cowal Peninsula and the Isle of Bute
This tricky but rewarding route incorporates some cycling routes in Ayrshire but is predominantly giving you a glimpse into the peninsulas and islands around the Firth of Clyde.
If it’s not already a challenge enough to get around the loop in a day (!), you can even add in some more kilometres if you’re feeling bold by spending longer on each peninsula.
Note: if you're looking for something a bit easier, take a look at the Isle of Arran circular ride.
15. Applecross Peninsula, Bealach Na Ba and Torridon
Elevation Gain: 2,253m
Start/Finish Town: Achnasheen Train Station
One of the longest and most challenging cycling climbs in the UK, plus the Applecross peninsula (not to be underestimated).
This is an exceptionally scenic route that takes in what is probably the most famous cycling climb in Scotland, Bealach Na Ba. It has a huge elevation change of 626m in one climb and hits 15.6% gradient near to the top. It’s unrelenting and an absolute Scottish classic that all roadies should attempt.
Once you’re down the other side into Applecross, don’t think you’re in for an easy ride back to the train station – the Applecross peninsula is constantly up and down. There’s no respite until you’re back on the train to Inverness. In better news, the scenery is out of this world.
Longer distance cycle routes in Scotland
Looking for a route that will take you coast to coast, across Scotland or around it? We’ve got some ideas that might inspire you!
16. Scottish Coast to Coast cycle route
Elevation gain: 1,773m
Start/Finish Town: Start in Annan and finish in Edinburgh (South Queensferry)
If you fancy crying coast to coast in Scotland, this signposted route was created by the same founders as the English coast to coast route. It is intended to be ridden as a decent weekend’s adventure.
You’ll not have a problem refuelling as towns are regular and of good size, but you’ll get the benefit of some really quiet railway path sections as well as the occasional short stretch on busier roads.
While cycling across Scotland you’ll pass through some very quiet southern Scotland farm roads with the long drag of the ‘Granites’ climbs north of Innerleithen and finish in the capital city for a well-deserved view of the Forth Road Bridges.
17. Hebridean Way cycle route
Elevation gain: 2,570m
Start/Finish Town: Castlebay to the Butt of Lewis lighthouse
This self guided route takes in the Outer Hebrides, which sit way out west of Scotland and still have 50 uninhabited islands. You start this route via a ferry from Oban, which can be reached by train from Glasgow.
The Hebridean Way was was launched as a cycling route by the Scottish world record holder, Mark Beaumont, in 2016 and covers 185 miles and 10 islands.
This is one to be savoured. We’d suggest visiting as many off shoots, hidden beaches and local coffee stops as possible. West Scotland has some of the best beaches in the world – you’ll think you’re in the Caribbean until you dip your toe in and realise the water is freezing!
18. Scotland North Coast 500 cycle route
Elevation gain: 9,965m
Start/finish Town: you can choose
This is one of the most famous cycling routes in Scotland. It allows you to cycle around Scotland’s Highlands on a signposted route.
We’ve got an in-depth Q&A on it here.
Planning a Scotland cycling trip?
We’ve got loads of information that can help!
If you fancy cycling the length of the country, our in-depth article on cycling Land's End to John O'Groats might come in handy.
Have you cycled in Scotland? Let us know your favourite Scotland cycling routes in the comments below!
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