13 Best Cycling Routes in Scotland With Epic Views

For cycling Scotland is one of the best destinations on the planet.

I’ve spent lots of time exploring various parts of the nation, and I’ve spent lots of my life speeding around on bicycles. So it doesn’t take an absolute genius (like me) to work out that I’ve cycled through many parts of the place.

And in this guide, I’ve brought you some of my favorite rides, with a compilation of the 13 best cycling routes in Scotland.

I’ve covered multi-day jaunts, day rides, kid-friendly adventures, and everything in between. Whatever type of Scottish bike ride you’re looking for, it’s in here. Come join the fun!

Best cycling routes in Scotland

Best Multi-Day Bike Rides in Scotland

1. North Coast 500

The most famous road trip in Scotland, this ridiculously-beautiful loop is also possible as a bike ride.

Cyclists on the North Coast 500 route in Scotland

A circuit around the northern mainland of the nation, the North Coast 500 route cuts from Inverness to Applecross before hitting the western, northern, and eastern coasts. You’ll see better mountains and beaches than you’ve probably ever seen… and you’ll be surprised by how rural and remote this part of Scotland really is.

If you’re intending to do one long-distance bike ride in Scotland, make it this one—Scottish adventures really don’t get any better. I’ve done the North Coast 500 twice (both times by car, admittedly), but I’ll definitely be doing it again.

It’s a difficult ride, but it’s totally worth the challenge.

Pro Tip

When you’re cycling this one, be mindful and respectful of drivers, especially locals who are just trying to get on with their lives. Yeah, I love cycling, but some of the cyclists who tackle this one are obnoxiously selfish. Don’t take up the whole road, and don’t stop in the middle of a bend to catch a snap for your Instagram story.

  • Difficulty: Very difficult
  • Itinerary: Loop beginning and ending in Inverness (or Applecross)
  • Distance: 500 miles/800km
  • Time: 10-15 days
  • Highlights: The beaches, the mountains, the fishing villages, and tackling Scotland’s very best road trip by bike

2. The Caledonia Way

A scene on the Caledonian Canal in Scotland

Shorter than the North Coast 500, but almost as difficult, The Caledonia Way takes you from southwest Scotland, and cuts a diagonal path across the nation all the way to Inverness.

If you want to squeeze lots of diversity into a tough and challenging bike ride, this is a great option. You hit lovely coastal towns and villages (including Oban), you pass Ben Nevis and Fort William, you ride along Loch Ness, you cycle along the Caledonian Canal, and you finish in Scotland’s most underrated city.

A view of Ben Nevis in Scotland along the The Caledonia Way route

And best of all, you make your way from the lowlands to the Highlands, and see Scotland transform and change as you ride through it.

For beauty, famous sights, and cramming in lots of action and adventure, this one is absolutely brilliant. But be warned—across the entirety of the 234 miles (376km), you tackle a total ascent of around 5,500 meters (18,000 feet).

  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Itinerary: Linear route from Campbelltown to Inverness
  • Distance: 234 miles/376km
  • Time: 4-7 days
  • Highlights: Loch Ness, Ben Nevis, Fort William, Oban, the Caledonian Canal, and plenty more

3. Isle of Arran Circular

A Country Road Through the Isle of Arran

If you’re the type of person who likes feeling as if they’ve seen the entirety of a place, you’ll love this route. The ride runs around the whole perimeter of the Isle of Arran, off the west coast of Scotland.

Known as ‘Scotland in miniature,’ Arran is brimming with loads of brilliant stuff. You get mountains, beaches, fishing villages, charming settlements, excellent food, and lots of remote and rural stretches of alluring adventures. And the best way to see it all is by riding around the Isle of Arran Circular on the back of a bike.

On this route, there are very few Arran highlights you don’t see. But for most people, the best thing about the ride is all the under-the-radar stuff—you’ll ride past cliffs, coves, caves and shores that few tourists ever see. And on top of that, you’ll pass through every significant settlement!

Fisherman's Walk in Brodick, Isle of Arran in Scotland

Though you can of course start this loop from any part of the island, it makes sense to begin at Brodick, the biggest town on Arran (and home to the island’s main port).

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Itinerary: Loop beginning and ending in Brodick
  • Distance: 55 miles/89km
  • Time: 1-4 days
  • Highlights: Brodick, Lamlash, views of Goatfell, lots of hidden beaches, and some of Scotland’s best wildlife

4. Hebridean Way

A cyclist along the Hebridian Way route in Scotland

For a hugely remote and rural cycling experience, the Hebridean Way is great.

By far the most adventurous route on our list, this 184-mile (296km) epic runs the entire length of the Outer Hebrides, a bunch of islands off the west coast of Scotland.

Along the ride, you’ll cycle through some of the most tucked-away places in the entire nation—and because you’re cycling the length of a whole archipelago, you’ll need to hop on and off ferries en-route.

On the Hebridean Way, you cycle past challenging hills, barren moors, standing stones, medieval sites, and many parts of Scotland that few other people ever explore.

Callanish Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland

If you want the most exciting and under-the-radar bike ride on our list, you’ve found it.

  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Itinerary: Linear route from the bottom to the top of the Outer Hebrides
  • Distance: 184 miles/296km
  • Time: 4-7 days
  • Highlights: Remote beaches, tiny villages, the dark nights, the wildlife, seeing 10 different islands, and having a real adventure

5. Coast and Castles

The Northumberland Coastal Route
The Northumberland Coastal Route

Only the northern half of the Coast and Castles cycle route takes you through Scotland—the other part of the ride is situated in the very north of England.

But this is possibly my favorite bike ride on the planet, and I couldn’t put this guide together without recommending this route. You get quiet beaches, atmospheric cliffs, historic castles, and some of the most interesting, underrated and beautiful parts of this section of the world.

Taking riders from Newcastle to Edinburgh, the first half of this ride largely runs along the Northumberland coast from Newcastle to Berwick.

Once you’re in Berwick, the English border town, you’re almost in Scotland. And from here, you have a choice: you can either continue following the coast, or you can take the slightly-longer inland route beyond lots of abbeys and small hills.

Tantallon Castle and Bass Rock in East Lothian Scotland

No matter which way you ride, your finale takes you to Edinburgh, Scotland’s iconic capital.

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Itinerary: Linear route from Newcastle to Edinburgh
  • Distance: 170 miles/274km or 200 miles/322km, depending on which route you choose
  • Time: 3-5 days
  • Highlights: The beaches, the castles, the fishing villages, riding in an underrated part of the world, and the beautiful Edinburgh finale

Best One-Day Bike Rides in Scotland

6. Edinburgh to Glasgow

Edinburgh and Glasgow are closer to one another than most people realize.

And this day ride takes you between the two of them, through history, heritage, industry, and some surprisingly rural riding.

There are several ways to tackle the ride, but the best by far is following the National Cycle Network route 754, which is entirely traffic-free. For the majority of your ride, you’ll be zooming along the towpath of the Union Canal. You’ll pass the lovely towns of Broxburn, Linlithgow and Falkirk, you’ll get industrial insights, and you’ll enjoy sneaky peeks at lots of the area’s wildlife.

The Kelpies in Falkirk, Scotland

To get back to where you started, it’s best to jump on a train. In the UK, you can take bikes onto trains, but some providers make you book in advance. So make sure you check before you set off!

Pro Tip

If you live in either city (or you’re visiting either city), and you’re looking for an easy and accessible ride, you can simply cycle a short part of the route (before then turning back).

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Itinerary: Linear route from Edinburgh to Glasgow
  • Distance: 56 miles/90km
  • Time: 5-10 hours
  • Highlights: Edinburgh, Glasgow, lots of birds, a small few otters (if you’re lucky), and the ridiculously-lovely Union Canal

7. The Four Abbeys

Ruins of Dryburgh Abbey in Scotland

A brilliant ride through the Scottish borders, the Four Abbeys route unsurprisingly takes you to four abbeys (Dryburgh, Kelso, Jedburgh and Melrose). Running through the most beautiful parts of Scottish border territory, this loop is a great route.

Along with the four abbeys, you get great views of fields, farmland, and undulating hills, along with some challenging but doable climbs. For ticking off the Scottish borders, you won’t find any better routes than this.

You can start anywhere, but Jedburgh and Kelso make the most sense (though there’s also a train station at Tweedbank, next to Melrose).

Jedburgh Abbey in Scotland

Remember the inland section of the Coast and Castles, which we mentioned earlier? This route runs through a similar part of the nation—but because this is a loop, it’s a better option for seeing more of the area.

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Itinerary: Loop usually beginning and ending in Kelso or Jedburgh
  • Distance: 55 miles/89km
  • Time: 5-9 hours
  • Highlights: The four abbeys, the pretty towns (especially Melrose), and seeing all the best bits of the Scottish borders

8. Lerwick to Scalloway

Lerwick, Shetland Islands in Scotland

If you’re looking for short but adventurous (and really beautiful!) cycle route, this is a great choice.

A 6-mile (10km) journey between two coastlines on Shetland, you get views of hills, fields, farmland, and barren moors. And as you approach Scalloway, there are some great panoramas of the place.

I reckon this road gives you the best possible views of the village—from here, Scalloway is super photogenic.

Scalloway Harbour, Shetlend Islands in Scotland

You also get a museum at both ends of the route, perfect if you want to learn more about Shetland!

Because it’s short and relatively easy, this ride is a great option if you’re traveling with kids… or if you don’t want too much of a challenge.

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Itinerary: Linear route from Lerwick to Scalloway
  • Distance: 6 miles/10km
  • Time: One hour or less
  • Highlights: Two settlements, two museums, and a short but pretty ride

9. Loch Rannoch Circular

Loch Rannoch in Scotland

This ride takes you in a big loop around the shores of Loch Rannoch, one of the nation’s most underrated lochs.

Sitting between Glencoe and Pitlochry, this freshwater loch is a top spot for hikers, cyclists and fishers.

If you want to explore the loch and its surroundings in their entirety, head to Rannoch, on the far west of the B846 road (for some reason, the place even has its own train station, perfect if you don’t have access to a car).

From here, head east along to the loch, then skirt the entire loch in a big loop, before returning back to where you started. At 34 miles (54km), it’s a relatively long jaunt, but it’s mostly flat and easy.

Though you’re largely following the shores of one loch, this route is surprisingly diverse. You hit woods, forests, beaches, and wildlife (including pine martens and squirrels, if you’re lucky). And along the way, you get great views of mountains, hills, and Loch Rannoch itself. I massively recommend this one.

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Itinerary: Loop beginning and ending at Rannoch train station
  • Distance: 34 miles/54km
  • Time: 3-5 hours
  • Highlights: Hidden beaches, pine forests, views of distant mountains, and all the varied panoramas of Loch Rannoch itself

10. The Helix Path

Falkirk Wheel in Scotland

Made for families and inexperienced cyclists, this lovely loop is a pretty but simple ride (although it can be very muddy after rain, so I wouldn’t recommend attempting it on a road bike).

Also known as the HArTT route, this circular ride around Falkirk takes in many of the area’s most impressive sites, and across some surprisingly-lovely countryside. You’ll see Helix Park, the Falkirk Wheel, the mega-famous Kelpies (statues of some horses, in case you’re not familiar), the Forth and Clyde canal, and much more.

The Kelpies, Falkirk, Scotland
The Kelpies

You’ll also pass through some residential areas, and encounter lots of opportunities for snacking and slurping.

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Itinerary: Loop beginning and ending at the Kelpies
  • Distance: 17.5 miles/28km
  • Time: 2-3 hours
  • Highlights: Helix Park, the Forth and Clyde Canal, the Falkirk Wheel, the Kelpies, and lots more famous (and not-famous!) Falkirk sights

11. Ballater to Aboyne

Cairngorms National Park in Scotland

The first part of the Deeside Way (a multi-use walking and cycling path which, in its entirety, runs from Ballater to Aberdeen), this is another great choice for families… and people seeking a simple ride.

But although it’s simple, it’s still pretty beautiful, carrying you through an easterly section of the Cairngorms National Park (the biggest national park in the UK!). You’ll ride past forests, picnic spots, Deeside Gliding Club airfield, Cambus O’ May Cheese Creamery, and lots of fields and farmland.

It measures in at 11 miles (18km), but there’s only 154 meters (505 feet) of total ascent—so it’s an easy ride, even for little legs.

Some of the ground is uneven and muddy, so don’t attempt this route on anything less than a hybrid.

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Itinerary: Linear route from Ballater to Aboyne
  • Distance: 11 miles/18km
  • Time: 1-2 hours
  • Highlights: Gentle riding, lesser-known parts of the Cairngorms, cute forests, and Deeside Gliding Club airfield

12. Eyemouth to Cockburnspath

St. Abb's Head lighthouse in Berwickshire, Scotland

Remember the Coast and Castles I mentioned earlier? This is the prettiest part of the whole ride (well, the prettiest part of the coastal version of the ride).

Measuring in at only 13 miles (21km), it’s difficult to articulate how many beautiful panoramas can be squeezed into such a short ride (yes, I know that’s my job, but I’m terrible at my job).

Along the way, you get some of the best coastal views I’ve ever seen, featuring cliffs, beaches, winding roads, wind farms, caravan parks, and some of the best descents I’ve ever enjoyed.

You’ll want to stop for photographs every three seconds.

And as a lovely bonus, you start in Eyemouth, one of the cutest and most endearing seaside towns in the whole of Scotland.

Pettico Wick Bay at St. Abb's Head near Eyemouth, Scotland

If you’re looking for a short but beautiful coastal bike ride in Scotland, you honestly won’t find much better than this. Rides this accessible aren’t usually this incredible.

Though it’s not a particularly long ride, it’s pretty challenging, with some steep ascents and descents. So if you’re doing this one with kids, make sure they’re experienced and confident (especially riding on roads). If they’re not, this will be too much for them.

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Itinerary: Linear route from Eyemouth to Cockburnspath
  • Distance: 13 miles/21km
  • Time: 1-3 hours
  • Highlights: Eyemouth, hidden beaches, winding roads, and some of the best coastal views you’ve ever seen

13. The Tall Ship to Cambuslang (in and Around Central Glasgow)

Clyde Hiking Circuit near New Lanark in Scotland

Part of the Clyde Walkway (a much-longer walking and cycling path measuring in at 40miles/65 km, between Partick and New Lanark), this is a great route for families and beginners.

A nice combination of rural and urban, it crams a surprising number of sights into its canalside confines. You’ll see some hyper-modern architecture, Finnieston Crane, the People’s Palace, the Winter Gardens, several bridges, and loads of lovely riverside views. For the entirety of the ride, you’re cycling along the banks of the Clyde, so it’s crammed with lovely panoramas.

This is a lovely route. It’s pretty and easy to follow, and it’s a good option if you’re looking for a flat and accessible city center ride with few challenges and plenty of conveniences.

Pro Tip

Lots of people (unsurprisingly) walk the Clyde Walkway. So cycle slowly, and look out for pedestrians.

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Itinerary: Linear route from The Tall Ship to Cambuslang
  • Distance: 9 miles/14.5km
  • Time: 1-2 hours
  • Highlights: Glasgow, the Tall Ship, beautiful architecture, great riverside views, and a surprising amount of wildlife

Pro Tips for Biking in Scotland

  • If you’re cycling in summer, make sure you carry a good midge spray like this one, and take as many midge-deterring precautions as you possibly can. Midges are horrendously annoying—and if you’ve ever before experienced them, you’ll know I’m not exaggerating. If you’re not convinced then you absolutely have to read my guide about midges in Scotland and what to do about them.
  • Thanks to Scotland’s incredible ‘Right to Roam’ act, wild camping is completely legal in pretty much all of Scotland. So if you like combining cycling and camping, Scotland is genuinely one of the best locations on the planet. Just make sure to get a good tent suitable for Scotland weather.
  • If you’re riding on single-track roads, don’t assume drivers will always be driving slowly. Some drivers (both locals and tourists) whizz around these roads at an unnecessarily-speedy pace… so be wary!
  • If you’re on one of our remote routes, plan properly. Most people don’t realize just how remote the remote parts of Scotland are. But don’t be surprised if some days, on some of the rural routes, you see very few people. So take lots of supplies, food and water.
  • For planning cycling routes in the UK, your best resource is the official Sustrans website. Sustrans planned and devised the UK-wide National Cycle Network, a massive number of cycling trails throughout the region. Here’s a helpful map of them all.

Before You Go

There they are—the 13 best cycling routes in Scotland!

If you want to know anything else about cycling in the UK, ride on over to our guides on the best cycling routes in Edinburgh, the best cycling routes in England, the best bike rides in Newcastle, cycling in Kielder, and the best bike rides in London.

And if you want to know anything else about outdoor adventures in Scotland, check out our articles on the Rob Roy Way, the West Highland Way, and the nation’s most beautiful coastal walks.

Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you next time!

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