The 9 Best Cycling Routes In Scotland

Imagine feeling the crisp Scottish air on your skin as you pedal down one of the country’s many picturesque cycling routes.

Whether you’re cycling through rolling hills, mysterious woodland, or a stunning coastal path – Scotland has a bit of everything. The country boasts a variety of routes and trails that are suitable for cyclists of all ability levels.

Let’s take a look at them in more detail – we’ve chosen the 9 best cycling routes in Scotland.

Table of contents

  1. Lerwick to Scalloway
  2. Devilla Forrest
  3. Coast and Castles North (Edinburgh to Aberdeen)
  4. Assynt Achiltubuie Circular, Highlands
  5. Isle of Arran
  6. Highland Perthshire Drovers Trail
  7. Go East Lothian - North Berwick to Dunbar
  8. John Muir Way
  9. Great Glen Way

1. Lerwick to Scalloway

Map: Click here
Distance: 10km

If you like to meander through lanes and roads and venture slightly off the beaten track, this route is for you. It isn't mapped out on a cycle network – rather, it's more of a path that has been developed over the years.

Running from Lerwick to Scalloway, this route is only 10km – an easy distance for most cyclists – but it's far enough to take you from East to West coast, through Shetland's modern-day principal town to its ancient capital.

One of the best aspects of this route is that both ends of it have a museum you can visit. The Shetland Museum and Archives in Lerwick and the Scalloway Museum capture the Shetland Islands’ story and offer fantastic history lessons to its visitors. As the route is small, you'll have plenty of time to visit both coastlines in one day.

2. Devilla Forrest

Map: Click here
Distance: Various routes

Devilla Forrest is an incredibly popular area that’s ideal for all kinds of cyclists.

Many paths in Devilla Forest are available to walkers, so it's a good idea to ride slower or make yourself known by using your bike bell to avoid any collisions.

The first part of the walk follows the Red Squirrel Trail, which starts in the main car park. This is the only waymarked trail in the forest, with information panels along the way providing information about the forest's history and wildlife.

Eventually, you'll reach Loch Bordie, the forest’s smallest loch. There are various signs in the area pointing you to different paths. Once you’ve passed 'The Pulpit Stone' and its information board on your left, the trail swings left, leading you into woodlands.

A few metres later, a dirt path to your right leaves the trail and heads west through the trees, offering you a stunning view of the loch. This path can become extremely muddy in wet weather. After about 500m, you reach another crossroads. Turn right and stay on this track as it winds around the northern end of Moor Loch. There are benches lined across the loch, which are perfect for a snack break on a sunny day.

There’s also the Red Squirrel Trail, where you can learn more about the animal, its habits and heritage along the way. The waymarked Red Squirrel Trail bends in a loop around a beautiful woodland loch overlooked by shaded picnic tables and benches.

3. Coast and Castles North (Edinburgh to Aberdeen)

Map: Click here
Distance: 277km

The Coast and Castles route begins in Edinburgh before crossing the Firth of Forth into Fife, where you can sample the countryside's stunning views.

The route then follows Scotland’s glorious east coast north, passing through fishing villages and historic sites and runs all the way up to Aberdeen.

The route is estimated to be around 277km long and contains sections that aren’t part of a cycle network. Therefore, it's best to follow the map provided beforehand, as signs may not be available to help at certain points.

Let’s break this route down step-by-step.

After starting off in Edinburgh, you’ll cross the Forth Road Bridge and head into Fife. At this point, you can either head towards Dunfermline and over the Cleish Hills, or follow Route 76 from Inverkeithing to Kirkcaldy and then Route 766 to Glenrothes. Shortly after, you can join Route one to St Andrews, the seaside town famous for its iconic golf courses, cathedral, and castle.

Both routes take you through Fife’s breathtaking countryside, quaint villages, and historical sites.

As you venture further north, you’ll cycle through Montrose, a town known for its beaches and wildlife.

Later in the route, when you get to Stonehaven, you’ll pass the great Dunnottar Castle, a ruined fortress that’s perched tenderly on the edge of the cliffs.

You'll end your trip in the ‘granite city’ of Aberdeen, home to a fantastic harbour and selection of beaches. If you're lucky, you may even spot a pod of dolphins on the coast.

4. Assynt Achiltibuie Circular - Highlands

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Map: Click here
Distance: 122.5km

The great Assynt Achiltibulie Circuit is not one for the faint-hearted. We'd advise against taking this route unless you’re an intermediate or advanced cyclist.

The Achiltibuie route is challenging and offers coastal scenery on various single track and A-class roads. You’ll start in Achiltibuie and cycle north towards Lochinver. Here, it's worth stopping into the Lochinver Larder to try one of its famous pies.

This route then follows on the coastal road to Drumbeg and Newton before joining the edge of Loch Assynt and Ardvreck Castle.

Once you reach Ledmore, continue on the open road and turn right after Drumrunie and back to Achiltibuie. On this route, you can expect lots of steep climbs and welcomed descends, as well as an abundance of other road users – by this, we mean sheep!

5. Isle of Arran – Northern Loop, Southern Loop, or the full Arran Circle Loop.

Map: Click here
Distance: Full loop – 88km

The Isle of Arran is situated a short distance from Glasgow. The island is within reach by car and public transport. You'll need to book ahead of time if you're using public transport as there’s limited space on the trains and ferry.

If you fancy a more daring journey, you can cycle the whole of the island. The full Arran circle will provide a strenuous day of cycling, as the whole trip takes around eight to nine hours to complete.

Once you arrive in the town of Brodick, you'll need to pick your route. Luckily, there are clear signs to make this easy for you.

For either the Northern Loop or Southern Loop, follow the 'string road' sign. The 'string road' cuts the island in half and runs through a glen between the northern and southern parts of the island. The island's western side is known to be gentler than the eastern side, and you can either head north or south depending on the route you'd like to take. Both routes contain incredible coastal scenery, with plenty of opportunities to take a break.

Although many of Arran's roads are hilly, the coast road from Machrie to the north of the island leading up to Lochranza is relatively flat and quiet, making it an easy and enjoyable cycling route. While you're there, you should catch the Lochranza ferry with your bike and cycle down to Skipness Seafood Cabin which is open in the summer months.

6. Highland Perthshire Drovers Trail

Map: Click here
Distance: 331km

This new 331km route gives you the chance to experience the rich history and beauty of Highland Perthshire. It's recommended to cycle this route anti-clockwise, but, realistically, your starting point can be anywhere along the route seeing as it’s so long.

This route is perfect for the more seasoned cyclist looking to up their game from daily rides to a whole trip.

The Highland Perthshire Drovers Trail is a circular multi-day bike-packing route that’ll take you through various Scottish landscapes and small market towns and villages.

Starting and finishing in Pitlochry, the route offers a whole host of experiences, such as the Cairngorms National Park, home to Scotland’s largest river, the Tay.

Secondly, you can visit Scotland's smallest and oldest distillery - Glenturret, home to some of the Highlands’ finest whiskey. Also along the route is the last surviving oak tree from the wood that inspired Shakespeare's Macbeth.

The bike-packing route is part of a network of routes spanning the area. If you're looking to extend your route or even shorten it, there are plenty of opportunities along the way.

7. Go East Lothian – North Berwick to Dunbar

Map: Click here
Distance: 63km

Only a short distance from Edinburgh, the 63km of the Go East Lothian Trail is perfect for bike-packing or even long day rides. The route is suitable for both gravel road bikes and mountain bikes, and it can be ridden in all seasons.

This specific trail starts or finishes at the harbour in North Berwick or Dunbar. The route is reachable by public transport, with train stations and busses available.

The Go East Lothian Trail features the stunning coastline between North Berwick and Dunbar, passing along seaside towns such as Seacliff, Yellowcraig, and Belhaven.

The journey from North Berwick takes you past Preston Mill and the small but scenic village of East Linton. With plenty of stops along the way, the Go East Lothian trail joins part of the John Muir way – which we’ll explore in more detail below.

In rainy weather, this area can become muddy when wet. At this point, you can take a small detour to the National Museum of Flight and re-join the Go East Lothian Trail at Kingston. The route continues south to Craigmoor Wood, one of the scenic sections of the route.

A notable tourist destination in Dunbar is The Dunbear, a newly installed sculpture by Andy Scott. It sits at the edge of town, just a short detour from the route.

Overall, the route from North Berwick to Dunbar can be completed within a day, even including stop-off points. The trail highlights some of southeast Scotland’s prettiest villages.

8. John Muir Way

Map: Click here
Distance: 215km

The John Muir Way is another route that’s not for the faint-hearted.

If you're prepared to finish the whole route, it may take you a couple of days to complete. It runs 215km through the Central Belt of Scotland and can be cycled in both directions. For those who want to shorten the route, there are several train stations along the route to hop off the trail. This makes the John Muir Way one of Scotland’s most flexible long-distance routes.

There are cycling 'braids' in some places, and these tend to provide smoother options than the main route, which can be steep and host uneven terrain. The braids are more suited to touring bikes with panniers.

In terms of views, the John Muir Way doesn’t disappoint. It offers gorgeous views over the Trossachs and Loch Lomond from Gauk Hill and near Burncrooks Reservoir. Furthermore, it takes cyclists past some wonderful examples of Scottish country houses like Callendar, Kinneil, Dalmeny, and Hopetown House.

Indeed, the beaches and cliffs along this journey offer some of the most stunning views in not just Scotland but the whole of the United Kingdom.

9. Great Glen Way

Map: Click here
Distance: 125km

A mountain bike is recommended for this route as the towpaths can be rough and rocky.

Starting or ending in Fort William in the shadow of Britain’s biggest mountain Ben Nevis, the route follows sections of Thomas Telford’s Caledonian Canal before reaching Inverness, the capital of the Highlands.

Fort Augustus is level and on towpaths or tracks, though the stonier ones make for hard work. It’s important to take extra care on fast road crossings at Banavie by Fort William and the A82 at South Laggan and Aberchalder.

Fort Augustus is a very attractive spot to spend the night, as this route will take a few days to complete. From there, this Sustrans National Route 78 has a steep climb above the southern bank of Loch Ness. It's worth the effort, though, as soon the minor road leads through pleasant moorland with only a minor incline. The setting is generally quiet, but be alert to fast-moving cars.

A grand descent leads down to follow the powerful River Ness on cycle paths into Inverness, where the castle marks the journey's end.

Specialist cycling insurance from Cycleplan

Now you know exactly where to ride your bike in Scotland, make sure you’re safe when you do so.

Our specialist cycling insurance means you’ll be covered if you sustain a serious injury, while your bike and accessories will be covered against damage, theft, or loss.

Click the link above to find out more about our cycling insurance, or get an instant online quote and see what we can do for you.

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