Scotland is an incredible place for cyclists. It’s full of tracks, trails and open countryside and, thanks to Scottish access laws, there’s no need to worry about whether a path is a bridleway.
If you’re planning to cycle a multi-day route, another benefit of the access laws is the ability to wild campon most unenclosed land (with the exception of East Loch Lomond).
Scotland covers a vast area (80,077km2) meaning there’s plenty of countryside to explore. So how do you know the best parts?
We at PeakCycling UKhave been on lots of Scottish cycling trips over the years and, between us, have come up with 10 of our favourite places to cycle in Scotland.
1. The Outer Hebrides
Type: Road, touring, bike packing
Located on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, the Outer Hebrides are an interconnected chain of islands with a quiet pace of life. Many of the roads have low levels of traffic, leaving you free to relax and enjoy the incredible views. A long-distance cycling route, The Hebridean Wayhas been established here, covering 185 miles (298km), 10 islands, 6 causeways and 2 ferries.
The Outer Hebrides are popular with cyclists, but accommodation and supermarkets are further apart than you might expect. If you’re looking to cycle the length of the islands, it’s a good idea to book onto a tour like PeakCycling UK’s Hebridean & Highland Adventure which has accommodation, food and return to the starting point sorted out for you.
2. The 7 Stanes
Type: Mountain biking
Spanning the south of Scotland, the 7 Stanes mountain biking centreshave a variety of graded routes to suit beginners through to expert riders. Located on Forestry & Land Scotland sites, each centre has its own feel.
One of our favourites is Glentress, near Peebles in the Tweed Valley. It has routes from green (easy) through to black (severe) and one of the best blue graded (moderate) trails we’ve ridden, with a fabulous swoopy section called ‘Berm Baby Berm’.
There are other trail centres dotted around Scotland which aren’t part of the 7 Stanes group. The Visit Scotlandwebsite will give you more information. It’s also worth checking what’s beyond the trail centres. The Tweed Valley, for example, has lots of natural trails and drovers’ roads to explore.
3. Mallaig to Tarbet via Loch Morar
Type: Mountain biking
Distance: 11 miles/18km (often technical)
For a ride with a real taste of adventure (and pressure), catch the train to Mallaig and then ride your bike to Morar before turning east to follow a track/pathalong the shores of Loch Morar to the tiny settlement of Tarbet. From here, you can catch the ferry back to Mallaig, but it needs pre-booking and only runs once a day.
The riding starts on tarmac and tracks, but then becomes quite technical in places. Despite the relatively short distance, this ride is no pushover – and if you miss the ferry, you’ll have to retrace your steps to get back home.
4. Loch Ossian circular
Type: Gravel/mountain biking
Distance: 9 miles/14.5km
If you want to get right into the heart of the mountains with the minimum of effort and have an amazing café at the start/finish, look no further than a circular ride around Loch Ossian.
The ride starts at Corrour (408m), only accessible by train or a 20 mile (32km) trek on foot/bike, so you’ll need to book your bike on the train. The station café (open end March to end October) is superb and also has B&B accommodation in an old signal box. The only other accommodation at Corrour is an SYHA hostel on the shores of Loch Ossian.
Riding around Loch Ossian is an enjoyable day out on wide, defined tracks with nothing too technical to trip you up.
5. The Trossachs
Type: Gravel biking, road
Speaking to the guys at Aberfoyle Bike Hire, they told us that there are approximately 450 miles (720km) of gravel tracks around the Aberfoyle area, meaning there’s something for everyone from beginners through to those wanting an epic adventure.
The Dukes Pass is a classic road climb between Aberfoyle and Callendar, with an off-road option available in Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. If you prefer to ride at an organised event, check the Dukes Weekenderwhich is a gravel event held every September.
6. Loch an Eilean
Type: Mountain biking
Distance: 8 miles/13km
We found that the forest tracks in the woods at Loch an Eilean are great for a bad weather option or a family/beginner day out. Located just outside the town of Aviemore, you can follow a gentle loop through the pine forests and around the loch.
The loch itself has a ruined castle on an island where ospreys now nest and fish in the loch.
A full route description and map can be found in Vertebrate Publishing’s guidebook: Scotland Mountain Biking, Wild Trails Vol 2
Type: Mountain biking (experienced)
Experienced mountain bikers looking for an epic day out will want to put Torridon on their list. There are literally miles of trails here, hidden away in remote glens.
Riding in Torridon is back to old school mountain biking on wilderness singletrack in a remote setting. Vertebrate Publishing have a 46km (28.5 miles) routein their guidebook which they describe as “tough and committing”. The estimated riding time is 6-8 hours which tells you something about the terrain!
This video with downhill mountain biker, Steve Peat, gives a sense of biking in Torridon.
8. Nevis Range, Fort William
Type: Mountain biking, downhill mountain biking
If you watch downhill mountain biking, you’ll know about Fort William. It’s an iconic track on the downhill circuit, which usually visits in June each year.
Outside that weekend, the track is open for any experienced downhill mountain biker to ride. The cable car takes you and your bike up the slopes of Aonach Mor to the start of the World Cup DH track, or to an alternative black graded trail. Both are for experienced mountain bikers only.
However, if you want something a little less technical, Nevis Rangehas some awesome blue and red graded trails in the lower forest.
9. City Living
Type: Road, mountain biking
Just outside Edinburgh are the Pentland Hills where you can find anything from a quick evening blast on your bike through to an all-day epic. The hills are criss-crossed with trails and, despite being less than an hour from Edinburgh, they have a remote mountain feel.
Alternatively, if you’re in Glasgow, you can cycle on a bike pathall the way from the city centre into the Loch Lomond area. Glasgow also has Mugdrock Park, which is great for family cycling and popular with mountain bikers wanting to go night riding.
10. Glen Affric
Type: Mountain biking
Distance: 11 miles/17.5km
Glen Affric is often described as one of the most beautiful and picturesque glens in Scotland. Located in the Highlands, south west of the village of Cannich, it’s reached via a minor public road and then on rough tracks and footpaths. The middle part of the Glen is a National Nature Reserve, wooded with Scots Pine and one of the last remnants of the original Caledonian Forest.
Visit Scotland website
The Outdoor Capital website
This list has been collated by the team at PeakCycling UK who, between them, have been visiting Scotland on cycling trips for many years. Find out more and get in touch via www.peakcyclinguk.com