Cycling Edinburgh - everything you need to know before you go! Back to top
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Cycling Edinburgh (and surrounds):
your ultimate guide

Why you should try cycling in Edinburgh 

Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and is well known for being beautiful and steeped in history. But get on two wheels and start cycling Edinburgh and the surrounding Lothians, and you’ll quickly find another side to this fantastic city and the greener, quieter areas.

In the city itself, disused railway lines have been turned into traffic-free shared bike paths so it’s possible to do a full loop of the city almost entirely off road.

Beyond Edinburgh’s cycle paths, the sign posted National Cycle Network takes you further afield to some of the best long distance cycle routes in Scotland. Edinburgh is also perfectly situated to reach some of the most underrated road cycling routes in Scotland including the quiet back roads of East Lothian.

Whether you want rolling hills, short-sharp climbs or flat coffee stop rides, Edinburgh and the Lothians have it all!


Fancy an Edinburgh cycling holiday?

With a base in Edinburgh, you’ll never be short of a new thing to do or see – bike related or not.

The city centre has the historical sights (who doesn’t want to see a castle on top of an extinct volcano?) and sounds you’d expect from an ancient capital, but it’s a short journey south to the Pentlands for a hill walk, west for an unbeatable view of the Forth Bridges with an ice cream or two, or east for the stunning sandy beaches and golf courses of East Lothian.

This guide contains details of Edinburgh cycling routes, accommodation and bike hire in Edinburgh to help you plan your trip. Enjoy!

Want information on cycling in Scotland more generally? Check out our Scotland guide for road cyclists.

Written by Helen Langridge

Stolen goat cycling clothing logo

Cycle routes in Edinburgh (and surrounds)

Edinburgh itself is relatively small for a capital, so it doesn’t take more than thirty minutes to get out into the countryside no matter which direction you go. That means there are loads of good options for cycling routes in and around Edinburgh.

If you want famous views, see our ‘City Cycling Edinburgh Highlights’ route or if you want to go for a challenging, punchy 100km then our ‘Lothian Loop’ will not disappoint. We’ve also included a family day out to the beach and back in our ‘Portobello Beach Visit’ route. 

To get further afield, there are a number of Sustrans National Cycle Network routes which pass through Edinburgh. The NCN1 take take you north to the top of Scotland or south into England if you’re really wanting long distance!

Alternatively, the NCN75 provides traffic-free riverside paths and quiet road options to ride the iconic Edinburgh to Glasgow route – it’s up to you whether you ride back or take the train! Both of these routes are signposted from the famous Edinburgh Meadows, just follow the blue signs.

East Lothian coastal route

75km, 544m of climbing, max grade 10.6%
Suggested GPX route

Road from Gullane to West Fenton

Cycling friendly sign in West Fenton

Longiddry Bay

Head east out of the city from Edinburgh Waverley Train Station to take in the coastal villages of East Lothian. It might be a lesser known corner of Scotland, but East Lothian is full of historical battle sites, manor houses, golf courses and rolling hills for a flat, fast ride out of Edinburgh.


Highlights:

  • The Innocent railway bike path is one of the best bike routes in Edinburgh and takes you from the city centre most of the way to Musselburgh. It gives a unique view of Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat from below so remember to look up after exiting the tunnel!
  • The beaches near Longniddry are a great place to stop for a view back towards Edinburgh itself. Arthur’s Seat will feel a long way away already.
  • The climb out of Drem is a challeging wee kick up with a false summit or two but an incredible view over to Fife if you can bear to stop and turn around.
  • Haddington town, previously a seat of the Kings of Scotland, is now a small but thriving market town with a variety of cafes to enjoy before heading back west to Edinburgh. We recommend ‘Falko’ on the High Street - exemplary coffee and cake plus handy bike racks just outside.

Tips:

  • The coastal road out to Gullane can get quite busy but the roads are wide in most places and it’s a mecca for day cyclists.
  • The descent into Haddington is mostly straight but does end with a swooping curve down to a double roundabout. Don’t get too carried away and overshoot the junction.

Lothian Loop

Key stats: 101km, 1297m of climbing, max gradient 12%
Suggested GPX route
Alternative without railway trail

Gladhouse Reservoir

View to Crichton Castle

Pencaitland Railway line

If you’re after a punchy, challenging ride taking in castle ruins, vistas of the Pentlands and the opportunity for a dip in a reservoir, then this ride is for you. Leaving Edinburgh Waverley Train Station and after a quick leg warmer up and around Arthur’s Seat, you’re out of the city quickly and onto one of many bike paths in the Lothians. There are some challenging climbs here, including a switchback through Roslin Glen, so be sure to save something in your legs towards the end.


Highlights:

  • The Pencaitland Railway bike path has a well compacted surface for smooth riding even with narrow road tyres. 
  • If you have time, a visit to Glenkinchie Distillery just off of the Pencaitland Railway is not one to miss! You don’t need to head to the Highlands to get great Scottish whisky.
  • The Humbie Hub in Humbie itself is our recommended café stop on this route. Providing an invaluable service to the local community, the Humbie Hub is made up of a shop, café, therapy room, holiday flat and more!
  • Gladhouse Reservoir is popular among wild swimmers and offers an opportunity to cool off if you’re lucky enough for a hot, sunny day.

Tips:

  • If there has been a storm in the preceding day or two, then the Pencaitland Railway path can become littered with twigs and leaves, and some riders on narrower road tyres may prefer an alternative route. If this is the case, then local roads down to Pencaitland town are recommended (see alternative GPS file).
  • There’s an external water tap at the Humbie Hub to refill your bidons and a bike maintenance station, which is free for all to use.

Easy/family cycling routes

Edinburgh’s railway bike paths make for fantastic family friendly routes around the city.

Venturing further afield can get much hillier or busier with on road routes necessary, but if you’re wanting a day at the beach with some smooth bike paths then the Portobello Beach Visit route makes for the perfect day out.

Portobello Beach Visit

Key stats: 24km, 175m of climbing
Suggested GPX route

Portobello beach

Edinburgh railway path

Arthur's Seat (see the next ride below!)

Utilising Edinburgh’s traffic-free cycle network, take a stress-free ride around the city and out to Portobello for some sand, sea and ice cream. All paths are fully tarmacked and in good condition so suitable for children of all ages and road bikes down to the skinniest tyre.


Highlights:

  • Ice cream and coffee (and more) make the golden sandy beach of Portobello promenade a haven for families.
  • Stop off in Leith for some independent cafes and restaurants to finish your ride. Mimi’s Bakehouse is our pick for cake or The King’s Walk for a heavier meal. Both can be found on Leith Shore.

Tips:

  • The further north up Portobello beach you venture, the quieter the beach becomes.
  • One of the few on-road sections of this route between the Meadows and joining onto the bike path west of Haymarket can get very busy. Walking your bike on the pavement is always an option, especially with young children.


City cycling Edinburgh highlights

Key stats: 28km, 351m of climbing
Suggested GPX route

Looking up the Royal Mile towards the castle

View from Carlton Hill

Water of Leith

This bike tour of Edinburgh has a lot of sightseeing opportunities to offer including Holyrood House, Arthur’s Seat, Calton Hill, Leith, Murrayfield Rugby Stadium, Grassmarket and more.

Highlights

  • If a loop of Arthur’s Seat isn’t for you, then you can skip this section and turn right up the Royal Mile when you reach Holyrood House to continue on with the rest of the city.
  • This route is predominantly on road until you reach the Water of Leith cycle path at Gorgie.
  • Being the capital of Scotland, the roads in Edinburgh are quite busy, but quieter times can include early morning, mid-afternoon and in the evening. The Queen’s Drive climb up and around Arthur’s Seat is closed to traffic every Saturday and Sunday.
  • Stop in Leith for some independent eateries including Mimi’s Bakehouse for some excellent cake and coffee.

Tips:

Tips:

  • Calton Hill is remarkably close to the main hub of the city centre, but gives incredible views across both the city to the Pentlands and over to Fife. 
  • Get a taste of the Old Town cycling up the cobbled Royal Mile to the castle and back down to the Grassmarket which dates back to 1477 as a thriving market. 
  • The Water of Leith cycle path takes you through the picturesque Dean Village and down to Leith to get a sense of Edinburgh maritime history.
  • At the top of Candlemaker Row, stop to see the statue of Greyfriar’s Bobby – a loyal dog who guarded the grave of his owner for 14 years and is now an Edinburgh icon.

Cycling events in Edinburgh

While Edinburgh is famous for it’s comedy, drama, book and science festivals each year, it also holds the annual Edinburgh Festival of Cycling each June. It features a range of exciting events from storytelling to group rides and workshops; you’ll find something for the whole family.

Queen’s Drive – the road up the east side of Arthur’s Seat – is closed to motor vehicles each Saturday and Sunday. It makes for a much more pleasant ascent up the climb. For specific times and extra days of closure, see here.


Where to stay in Edinburgh (for cyclists)

Since we’re local, these recommendations are a guide but we haven’t stayed here ourselves. We’ve searched for the best bike-friendly places to stay in Edinburgh proper.

OUR CHOICE: The Knight Residence by Mansley

These serviced apartments not only have secure car parking to lock up your bike, they also have a washing machine, dryer and a fully-fitted kitchen to sate all your cycling-related needs pre and post ride!

You’ll be met with a welcome basket to get your self-catering holiday started, but the very central location in the Old Town has plenty of options for your dining requirements if you so wish.

What we like the look of
  • Incredible central location
  • Modern decor
  • Complimentary coffee
  • The privacy that comes with your own apartment is valuable
Things to know
  • There is a charge for access to the secure car park.
Conclusion

The perfect mix of a comfortable place to stay, a brilliant location for the city and secure storage for your bicycle while you’re exploring on foot.

OTHER HOTELS

Edinburgh is chock full of places to stay from Air BnBs to hostels, B&Bs to high-end hotels, but having somewhere to store your bike is a must and that can be tricky in such an old city. It’s always worth calling any accommodation before booking to see if they’re happy to have your bike in your room, whether their stairs are wide enough to carry your bike up or if they have somewhere secure to lock it up.

Here are a couple of alternatives which can accommodate bikes:

The Premier Inn
  • Simple and trustworthy chain
  • Bikes can be stored in your room
  • Reasonable prices

Casa Buzzo
  • Bike friendly
  • Family run bed and breakfast
  • A little further out of town but close to the railway paths


Bike hire in Edinburgh

Bike rental in Edinburgh is easy and possible to do online before you arrive in the city, giving you more time to get out an explore. Whilst we haven’t used these services ourselves, they all have a great reputation within the community.

  • 01312286633
  • A wide variety of bikes available from gravel to road to e-bike to mountain bike. Optional child seats, racks, panniers and lights can be added on. Everything is bookable online.
  • From £20 for a hybrid up to £67 for an e-bike but cost depends on bike type, number of days/weeks and any additions.
  • 07973940924
  • A bike tour company who also hire out their bikes. Hybrid, trekking and e-bikes available (no road bikes). Bookable by phone or email and bikes dropped off at your accommodation. Optional pannier bags for hire.
  • From £22 for the first 24 hours. Cost depends on bike type and number of days hire.

Bike shops in Edinburgh

If you bring your own bicycle to Edinburgh, there’s a huge selection of bike shops to get your spares or repairs while you’re here.

  • The Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative is the most well known bike shop in the area and also has shops in Aberdeen, Leeds and Newcastle. It was founded in Edinburgh in 1977 and still serves the bike community with bikes, accessories and repairs from its two outlets.
  • Bruntsfield: EH9 1DU
    0131 228 3565

  • Bonnington/Canonmills: EH7 4EA
    0131 557 2801
  • Alpine Bikes is the outdoor store Tiso’s bike subsidiary and has a good selection of bikes, accessories and service/repair options.
  • Stockbridge: EH3 5AX
    0131 225 3286
  • The Bike Station is Edinburgh’s charity recycling donated bikes. You can buy second hand bikes and components, plus brand new accessories all at affordable prices. Proceeds from sale go towards getting people cycling across Scotland. They also do some minor repairs.
  • Mayfield: EH9 1UU
    0131 668 1967

View from Calton Hill

Cyclist looking over gate east lothians near edinburgh

Riding in East Lothian

Leith Shore


When to go

Edinburgh is host to at least 11 festivals every year, but during August the Edinburgh Fringe Festival causes the population to more than double. The roads are a constant traffic jam so while cycling is definitely the best way to get around, you might struggle to find a place to stay.

“If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes” is also a well-worn phrase up here in Scotland. During winter you are at risk of ice and snow on the roads so the best cycling months are May and September when the accommodation is quieter and the weather is still producing some stunning days of sunshine and fine temperatures.


Tips and articles

Tips for cycling in and around Edinburgh

Bring your layers. We’re fairly far north up here in Scotland and it can get chilly. That said, we can also get temperatures over 20 degrees and you’ll want to be able to remove some layers when that sun comes out. Pack your arm and leg warmers along with your cap and sunglasses.

Be aware of the tram lines in the city centre! The new Edinburgh tram runs from the airport in the west of the city to the top of Leith Walk in the centre and is currently being extended further. While bike lanes have been painted to encourage you to cross at a right angle, sometimes you may be running parallel with a tram line – be sure to stay safe.

Cycling in the countryside around Edinburgh and the Lothians can get quite rural. While you’re never too far from a village, amenities can be sparse. However, phone signal is always excellent and if one village doesn’t have a shop or cafe, the next one probably will.

To see a piece of famous cycling history, head to the Museum of Scotland and their ‘Sporting Scotland’ gallery. There you’ll find Graeme Obree’s bicycle ‘Old Faithful’ on whom he broke the Hour World Record in 1993. 

While you’re walking (or cycling) around Edinburgh centre, don’t forget to visit Chris Hoy’s two gold postboxes, painted after his incredible gold medal wins during the 2012 London Olympics. They’re on Hanover Street and Hunter Square plus his golden hand prints outside the City Chambers. 

There are several active cycling clubs in Edinburgh some of whom focus on racing and others meet for a social ride. Portovelo cycling club is recommended for an easy going, friendly club who meet at the southern end of the promenade in Portobello. An intermediate ride (their slowest with a no-drop policy) is at an average of 14mph and aims for an 80km route. For a women’s-only cycling club just outside of Edinburgh in Dalkeith, then we recommend Hervelo who offer a variety of sociable rides to a range of abilities.

Cycle maps of Edinburgh

Google does a good job in showing the bike paths in Edinburgh but for those who love a hard copy, the Lothian Cycle Campaign Spokes produce great Edinburgh cycle path maps. You can buy yours here.


Good to know

With over 200 cafes, 200 pubs and more than 2,000 restaurants, you’ll not be spoilt for choice for somewhere to eat and drink during your stay. Avoid the chains, and go local for the best gastronomic experience of this wonderful global city.

Edinburgh Castle is a classic attraction to visit but further down the Royal Mile, there are some even jucier bits of history to be experienced. The Real Mary King’s Close takes you underneath the streets to a once inhabited close. With a reputation for hauntings, it’s a fantastic and lesser known part of the city taking you deep into Edinburgh’s history.



How to get to Edinburgh

Nearest airports:

  • Edinburgh Aiport: 8 miles
  • Glasgow Airport: 55 miles

Nearest train stations:

  • Edinburgh Waverley
  • Edinburgh Haymarket

Nearest towns:

  • Glasgow: 50 miles
  • Stirling: 40 miles
  • Dundee: 63 miles

What's Next

Want a broader overview and ideas for other parts of Scotland that are also great for cycling? Check out our road cyclist's guide to cycling Scotland.

Interested in other UK cycling destinations? Head to our UK cycling page here which has links to loads of articles on other UK destinations.

You might also be interested in our pick of the best regions of the UK for a cycling holiday and the best UK sportives.


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