Scotland! England’s brother to the north, full of winding roads, over 750 islands and historic sites. Frequently touted as an amazing place to explore, thousands of holidayers flock to the region to explore ancient castles and breathtaking countryside.
One of the best ways to experience Scotland is by bike. There’s so much ground to cover, biking is a great way to get a bit of exercise and explore some of the well-known and hidden gems of the country.
Sounds interesting? Hooked On Cycling has put together this guide to 11 of the best routes you should consider when exploring Scotland, including distances, terrain and the various landmarks you might encounter along the way.
Cycling & Mountain Biking In Scotland Routes
We’ve put together a great selection of routes for riders of all abilities, taking you to amazing destinations all across Scotland.
The Hebridean Way
One of the most popular cycle paths in Scotland is the Hebridean Way, which will take you on a journey across the beautiful islands of the Outer Hebrides, an Archipelago featuring prehistoric sites, white shell beaches and quaint towns.
The route will take you across 185 miles (297km) as you dash from the Southern tip of the Island of Vatersay all the way to the Butt of Lewis lighthouse in the north. This is a very popular route, so it is very well-marked, though you may want to veer off to visit some amazing historical sites and wildlife.
You’ll use two ferries and six causeways as you travel over the islands, and experience everything from rocky hills to picturesque meadows.
One of the highlights of Scotland is its capital city of Edinburgh, full of marvellous architecture, unique history and plenty of things to do. With its commitment to be carbon-free by 2030, a lot of consideration has been put into cycle routes in and around the city.
One example is The Edinburgh to the Forth Road Bridge route, an incredibly popular route that takes you 13 miles from the city centre to the Forth Road Bridge, the largest suspension bridge in Europe at the time it was built. Carry on and you can reach seaside towns such as North Queensferry.
If you fancy a long bike ride from Edinburgh, check out the Clydebank to Edinburgh route. It’s one of Scotland’s Great Trails and links together two of Scotland’s best cities. Along the way you’ll experience all of what makes Scotland great, such as nature reserves, lochs, parklands and rivers. It’s a great route for cyclists of all abilities and is around 64 miles long.
Lerwick to Scalloway
The route from Lerwick to Scalloway takes you from the east coast to the west, journeying from Shetland’s modern-day principal town to its ancient capital. This coast-to-coast road will give you great views of Gulberwick as you cross wild moorland until you arrive near Scalloway to see a panoramic view of the ruined castle and islands surrounding it.
Devilla is a hidden gem amongst the extensive woods in Scotland. While it may seem similar to many destinations, it features a lot of unique characters, with secretive lochs and amazing wildlife. There are plenty of routes to explore in the forest, from the typical roads to mountain biking experiences that will take you off the beaten path.
Loch Leven Heritage Trail
Loch Leven is Scotland’s largest lowland freshwater loch, a National Nature reserve that is a haven for wildlife, including one of the most important sites for waterfowl in Britain.
It attracts the largest number of ducks found anywhere else in the UK, so is always a great place to visit in autumn and winter when they migrate. The Loch Leven Heritage Trail is a circular path of 21 kilometres around the loch. It is barrier-free and fairly level, suitable for walkers and cyclists of all abilities.
The trail combines natural, historic and cultural heritage, providing a unique experience as you explore some of the most attractive sites in Scotland.
Montrose Basin is a nearly circular tidal basin in Angus on the east coast of Scotland. It is a local nature reserve as well as a Special Protection Area and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. This is due to the variety of habitats and wildlife present.
There are a few different cycle routes around the Montrose Basin. The 14.5-mile Ferryden Railway Viaduct to Montrose Basin Wildlife Centre Loop is an easy bike ride across mostly paved surfaces, taking you around the basin and out to the viaduct and back again. A slightly tougher 17.7-mile alternative will take you in a different direction but still experience the great sights of the Basin and the surrounding countryside.
Assynt Achiltibuie Circular, Highlands
Not for beginners, the Assynt Achiltibuie Circular cycle trail will take you on a long-distance ride across the Scottish Highlands, for a total of 112km. You’ll start in Achiltibuie and go through stunning mountains, gorgeous beaches and picturesque lochs.
It’s a challenging trail that will take you through the more rugged sights of Scotland, but the views you will experience will more than make up for it. This is a route that is recommended for mountain bikes.
Formartine and Buchan way, Aberdeenshire
Often touted as one of Scotland’s great trails, the Formartine and Buchan Way is a safe pathway perfect for walkers and cyclists alike. It’s 53 miles in length and is entirely off-road, but relatively flat so is not difficult. You’ll experience a varied landscape as you journey, including plenty of villages to stop in.
For those looking for a shorter ride, the Way can be divided into eleven separate, easy to manage sections. Tackle a few, or go all in and try the whole route, it’s up to you!
Isle of Bute
Bute is an island linked by ferry to the mainland. The isle is known for its beaches, rugged terrain and conifer plantations. It’s the perfect place for a cycling holiday, as you can expect quiet roads, coastal views and friendly local cafes to recharge in. You can cycle the 23 mile loop to take you all around the island, enjoying the beaches and countryside as you ride.
If you’re an advanced rider, take on the Serpentine, a gruelling hill climb that snakes upwards, containing no less than 14 hairpin bends. While it is less than half a mile length, it’s one of Scotland’s most challenging cycling routes. The world record is 1 minute 57 seconds, but for new riders it can take up to 10 minutes to complete.
Rothesay to Ettrick Bay is a great choice for a family of cyclists, taking you 10 miles across farmland to a sandy beach that is perfect for the kids to play in.
You may have guessed from the name, but the 4 Abbeys route links the four main abbeys in the Scottish Borders. It will take you 90 kilometres, stopping at the abbeys at Melrose, Dryburgh, Kelso and Jedburgh. You can experience the local history and towns located at and near the abbeys, with locals always happy to explain the deep lore of their home.
It’s a ride along mainly quiet roads, allowing you to take in the scenery. You can cycle past or stop to explore the historic interest points along the way.
Ayrshire Coast Cycleway
The Ayrshire Coast Cycleway is a 19 mile route around the Ayrshire coastline, taking in spectacular views across to the Isle of Arran. Along the way it passes through two Scottish WIldlife reserves, so you can experience a range of habitats.
The route takes you along the coastline between Irvine, Troon, Prestwick and Ayr, allowing you to stop off and explore these places along the way.
Self-Guided Cycling Tours In Scotland
Now that you’ve found out more about some of the great cycling routes that Scotland has to offer, you might be looking to book a holiday there. Whether you’re new to cycling and not sure where to start, or would just like a bit of structure, cycling tours from Hooked On Cycling are a great way to explore all that Scotland has to offer.
Our Scottish self-guided tours set you up with everything you need, including maps, routes, accommodation and details about the area. You can then cycle at your own pace, enjoying the scenery and the company as you discover what Scotland has to offer. We have a great selection of routes for riders of all experiences and ages, ranging from Scotland’s Family Lakes and Castles Cycle for beginners and families to Lochs Galore By Road Bike for experienced riders.
Our routes are enjoyed by thousands of riders each year, so call now on 01506 635399 to talk through any of our packages or find out more information. We don’t just offer tours in Scotland, but over 20 countries across Europe, so visit our website today to explore your next holiday.