Follow Wild Scotland
Facebook Blog Twitter Instagram
Bookmark and Share

Stay up to date with Wild Scotland and sign up for our Newsletter

Autumn can be the best time of the year to cycle in Scotland. There’s no midges and you certainly won’t find yourself pecking due to the heat. Here’s 20 of our favourite routes.

By Alex Burns, The Herald

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harris and Lewis, Hebridean Way – With their Caribbean-esque beaches (though admittedly un-Caribbean weather) the island of Harris and Lewis became the darling of Scottish holidaymakers over the summer. They also provide some of the most remote and other-worldly sections of the Hebridean Way, an 185-mile cycle route that can be tackled in full over several days. After boarding a ferry to Leverburgh, you set off along the ‘golden road’ on Harris’ west side, with a rocky backdrop and some steep hills to tackle. The climbs are rewarded though, with impressive views of Taransay and the odd seal fishing in the distance. The Temple Café in Northton is a great spot to have a coffee and a rest in some very relaxing surroundings. The route then leads along the west side of the island, where golden sands and sparkling waters await you as a reward for your hard work. You can then continue to Lewis, where you might be joined by golden eagles overhead as you journey through the rugged peatlands.

Lochwinnoch Loop Line, Renfrewshire – Almost entirely traffic-free, this tarmacked cycle path is perfect for families or less confident cyclists. It runs for 14 miles from Paisley Canal train station, along the NCR7 cycle route to the town of Johnstone, before heading south to Kilbirnie via Kilbarchan and Lochwinnoch.

It follows the route of the railway line which makes it mercifully flat, and apart from a 300 metre section at Elderslie the journey avoids cycling on the road completely. There’s artwork along the way – including the apt Bedrock Bike sculpture – as well as wildlife to spot at the Castle Semple Loch and the RSPB Lochwinnoch nature reserve. To get back where you started you don’t have to cycle the whole thing in reverse. Simply make it as far as Lochwinnoch train station, where you can get a direct train back to Paisley in just 13 minutes.

Loop of Great Cumbrae, North Ayrshire – Most of us will have attempted this route at least once during childhood. In the summer months it is almost a right of passage to board the ferry over from Largs, hire a bike in Millport and then attempt the 10 mile circumference of the Great Cumbrae island. The lack of traffic and flat terrain has always made it a popular choice for a journey on two wheels, but the tourism market tends to dry up considerably during the winter months. But what’s stopping you giving it a go even when the weather is chilly? Sailings from Largs run from 6am-8pm on Mondays to Saturdays under the winter timetable, and 8am-8pm on Sundays, with most of the bike hire shops remaining open.

Nevis Range Mountain Biking Trail, Torlundy, Fort William – Bored of cycling around the same old residential streets? At Nevis Range, you can mix things up by riding on mountainous forest trails with total freedom – and a considerable burst of adrenaline. They have an array of trails to suit anyone up from complete beginners and families, up to a trio of black-graded trails which will appeal to mountain biking pros or those who have a fair bit of bottle. There’s blue and red-graded trails too, to suit those who fall somewhere in between, with bike hire on offer if you don’t have a mountain bike of your own to bring along.

The Forth and Clyde Canal – The best part about the Forth and Clyde Canal is its flexibility. Ambitious cyclists can follow it right the way from Old Kilpatrick through Clydebank, Maryhill, Kirkintilloch and Kilsyth before reaching the iconic Falkirk Wheel and then continuing east to Linlithgow and Edinburgh beyond. Those who are feeling less energetic can tackle the canal in whichever smaller sections they prefer: with the route mercifully traffic-free, simple to follow and lacking any kind of steep gradients. Some of the best sections are from Stockingfield Junction to Auchinstarry (which features historic settlements and ancient Roman sites) and from Linlithgow to Ratho (which leads past some charming colourful houseboats as well as the Edinburgh Canal Centre).

Four Abbeys, Scottish Borders – Showcasing some of the best sites that the Borders has to offer, this circular route encompasses the four main abbeys of the region (Dryburgh, Kelso, Jedburgh and Melrose). Challenging but feasible to complete in a day, the route can also be tackled over two with an overnight stop in one of the towns. The scenic, well-marked route follows mainly quiet roads with some brief stretches on local A roads. There are two paths that can be followed: going via Scott’s View offers a great view and a hillier terrain, while the route by Newtown St Boswells is slightly easier (but not without steep climbs of its own).

Rob Roy Loop, Stirlingshire – Robert Roy MacGregor was one of the most famous outlaws of Scottish history, a Robin Hood-style figure who became a folk hero immortalised in poetry and books. The Rob Roy Way, created in 2002, is an 80-mile footpath leading from Drymen to Pitlochry, following paths used by Rob Roy during his lifetime. For cyclists, there is the much shorter, eight mile loop that passes Rob Roy’s grave as it leads from Strathyre to Balquhidder and back again. This quiet, rural loop also offers views of Loch Voil, Ben Ledi, Creag an Tuiric and the Braes of Balquhidder. It will be popular with both kids and history buffs alike.

Kyle of Sutherland Loop, Dornoch – It’s become very popular to explore this corner of Scotland by car, as part of the North Coast 500. But why not see it in style by travelling on two wheels? The 35-mile Kyle of Sutherland loop twists and turns along single track roads from Dornoch to Edderton, Ardchronie, Bonar Bridge and Spinningdale. It will take a full day to do if you want to take time to stop and enjoy the views – a must – especially the ‘Million Dollar View’ above the Dornoch Firth. This is quite an arduous cycle and requires a fair bit of nerve while sharing the road with cars and lorries, so it’s not one for beginners or families.

Dock Park to Mabie Forest, Dumfries – The village of Keir Mill, in the heart of Dumfries and Galloway, was home to Kirkpatrick Macmillan, a blacksmith who is widely credited with the invention of the pedal driven bicycle. It is only fitting then, that the area has a variety of great cycle routes for the public to enjoy. One of the best is a ride from Dock Park to Mabie Forest via Cargenbridge: which offers varied terrains throughout its 11.5 miles of pleasant cycling. From Dock Park head for the Maxwelltown cycle path, which offers a run of traffic-free, flat cycling until it ends at Garroch Loaning. You will then have to cycle on the A711 towards Mabie Park Farm, which although reasonably quiet can see some cars swerving at the last minute to move into the passing places, so be sure to keep your wits about you. Once you get there you can stop before returning the way you came, or explore further into Mabie Forest.

Wild about Argyll Trail, Argyll and Bute – This varied, exciting trail runs for more than 650km past some of the best scenery in the west coast of Scotland. Evidently it’s a bit too much to tackle in a day, or even in a couple of days, but you can choose a section to try out initially and then perhaps attempt the full thing later on as part of an adventure holiday. It is best suited for gravel and mountain bikes but some stretches on quiet roads or cycle paths will suit road bikes too. The trail is a good option for this time of year, as the midges are largely gone and some of the wet and muddy sections are a little bit drier- though you can expect to still get dirty. Starting out in Helensburgh, the route takes in some of Argyll’s most stunning locations, including Cowal, Kintyre and Oban, with rivers, lochs and the sea ever-present along the way. Train stations in Helensburgh, Garelochhead, Arrochar and Tarbet, Taynuilt, Connel and Oban offer opportunities to split up the journey, while plenty of sites of interest (such as Puck’s Glen or the Allt Dearg Wind Farm) provide places to stop for a rest.

Glasgow to Balloch, via National Cycle Route 7 – There’s nothing worse than over-doing it on an ambitious cycle and then realising you have to do the whole thing in reverse to get home. Fortunately, the route from Glasgow to Balloch is peppered with train stations where you can stop off, rest your legs and rely on the train to bring you back to where you started. But if you do manage the whole full 20-mile route you will be rewarded with a great sense of satisfaction- as well as some lovely views of Loch Lomond. Start at the spectacular Riverside Musuem in Partick, or even earlier at Glasgow Green, and then follow the (largely traffic free) National Cycle Route 7 as it weaves alongside the River Clyde to Clydebank. From there, take the Forth and Clyde Canal as far as Dumbarton before heading north along the River Leven towards the lovely village of Balloch.

Speyside Way, Aviemore – The Speyside Way runs for 65 miles, all the way from Buckie to Aviemore, but the sections from Fochabers to Ballindalloch and from Nethy Bridge to Aviemore are those most suitable for bikes. Arguably the prettiest part is the section that begins in the striking Rothiemurcus estate, following the Speyside Way to the postcard village of Boat of Garten. The journey itself is scenic enough, but when you reach the village it is worth a detour to admire the tranquil waters of the nearby Loch Garten -with its pineforest, wetlands full of wildlife and dramatic views of Ben Macdui (Britain’s second highest mountain). Less experienced cyclists may wish to stop there, but the Speyside path continues to Nethy Bridge for those who want a bit more of a challenge. Be careful though – if you venture too far along the route and reach Ballindalloch you may discover the hard way that the path can’t sustain bikes.

Loch Leven Heritage Trail, Kinross – This 13 mile, 21km trail around Loch Leven is traffic-free apart from a stretch of just 100 metres. While this makes it ideal for cycling, it is also popular with families, runners and those just out for a stroll, so be prepared to be patient and ring your bell when necessary to let people know you are approaching. There are different points at which you can begin your cycle but there’s also various cafes around the loch’s circumference, so you can take several pitstops if necessary to help you complete the whole thing. While you are cycling make sure to look out for pink-footed geese, waterfowl and ducks, as the loch attracts the largest concentration of them found anywhere in the UK. A great option for a day out with kids.

Mountain bike trails in Pollok Park, Glasgow – A carpet of autumnal leaves makes Pollok Park a real treat at this time of year. But rather than exploring its 361 acres by foot, why not do it in style via the excellent mountain bike trails within the park? Despite being close to the buzz of Shawlands, and indeed the city centre beyond, the trails on offer are as good as any that can be found in the countryside. There’s a variety of difficulty levels, too: the short and flat green circuit provides an ideal introduction to off-road cycling; the blue circuit offers steeper terrain with varied surfaces (with skill and concentration required); the red circuit offers constructed obstacles to give a real taste of mountain biking and the black requires significant skill -though higher thrills- and should not be attempted by inexperienced riders.

Applecross Peninsula Loop via Bealach na Bà, Wester Ross – The Bealach na Bà is one of the most famous roads in the country. But while most people will drive up its various twists and turns, tackling the road by bike offers one of the best bragging honours cyclists can get. Holding the title of the greatest ascent of any road in the UK, the hairpin bends and 7% gradient are exhausting, but highly rewarding for the views of Skye and beyond. By starting in Applecross and heading clockwise, via Fearnmore and Tornapress, you face a fair few tough climbs before you even reach the iconic Bealach na Bà. But by saving the big climb until last, a well-deserved drink in the famous beer garden of the Applecross Inn will taste that extra bit sweeter.

Five Ferries Challenge, Argyll and Bute – Hugely rewarding – but highly challenging – this route is suitable for competent cyclists only. As the name suggests it involves taking five ferries: Ardrossan to Brodick (Arran); Lochranza (Arran) to Claonaig (Kintyre); Tarbert (Kintyre) to Portavadie (Cowal); Colintraive (Cowal) to Rhubodach (Bute) and finally Rothesay (Bute) to Wemyss Bay; cycling between each of the various ferry terminals. If you reckon you can fit all that in within a day, and feel fit enough for 55 miles of cycling, then it is well worth the effort, with the option of raising some money for charity if you do it on a sponsored basis. CalMac even sells a ticket specifically for those doing the five ferries, priced at £14.70 per adult.

Newton Mearns to Fenwick, Ayrshire – One of the benefits of the lockdown-induced influx of cyclists on our roads is that there is now genuine pressure to improve the road infrastructure for bikes. So as more of our city streets are redeveloped to provide dedicated cycle lanes, they could use the road from Newton Mearns to the village of Fenwick as an example of what to aim for. An excellent two-way cycle lane is fully segregated and kerbed off from the road for a stretch of several miles, offering cyclists of all ages and abilities the chance to try out some more adventurous routes while feeling totally safe. When you reach Fenwick it’s a short journey to the beautiful Craufurdland Castle and Estate, which has its own popular café and coffee shop where you can stock up on some well-deserved cake.

Edinburgh to North Berwick – You might imagine that Scotland’s capital city isn’t particularly enjoyable to navigate on a bike. But with the roads currently quieter than usual, and Edinburgh boasting a surprising amount of cycle-paths and traffic-free trails, a ride from the city out to North Berwick is a lovely way to spend the day. You can start at Portobello beach, in the east of the city, or a bit further along at Musselburgh or Prestonpans if you don’t fancy doing the full 55 mile route. Once you make it as far as Aberlady you will be rewarded with some quiet rural roads with minimal traffic, before joining the B1347 all the way to North Berwick. From there, hop on the train back to where you started- or cycle back if you are feeling particularly fit.

Green Circular, Dundee – The Green Circular has been a popular cycle route in Dundee for 25 years, but it has recently been upgraded with some resurfacing at the Riverside Nature Park and Trottick Ponds as greener travel becomes a political priority. The 26 mile circular route skirts around the circumference of the city while avoiding the busy centre itself: leading from Invergowrie along the waterfront to Monifieth, where it cuts north up towards Arbroath Road and then Baldovie Road before weaving through Drumgeith Park and Finlathen Park. From there, head towards Trottick Ponds and then Templeton Woods to take you to Camperdown Park to finish. A free map of the route is available online or from cycle shops across the city, which also includes additional suggestions for routes around the outskirts of the city.

Wild about Argyll Trail, Argyll and Bute – This varied, exciting trail runs for more than 650km past some of the best scenery in the west coast of Scotland. Evidently it’s a bit too much to tackle in a day, or even in a couple of days, but you can choose a section to try out initially and then perhaps attempt the full thing later on as part of an adventure holiday. It is best suited for gravel and mountain bikes but some stretches on quiet roads or cycle paths will suit road bikes too.

The trail is a good option for this time of year, as the midges are largely gone and some of the wet and muddy sections are a little bit drier- though you can expect to still get dirty. Starting out in Helensburgh, the route takes in some of Argyll’s most stunning locations, including Cowal, Kintyre and Oban, with rivers, lochs and the sea ever-present along the way.

Train stations in Helensburgh, Garelochhead, Arrochar and Tarbet, Taynuilt, Connel and Oban offer opportunities to split up the journey, while plenty of sites of interest (such as Puck’s Glen or the Allt Dearg Wind Farm) provide places to stop for a rest.

Glasgow to Balloch, via National Cycle Route 7 – There’s nothing worse than over-doing it on an ambitious cycle and then realising you have to do the whole thing in reverse to get home. Fortunately, the route from Glasgow to Balloch is peppered with train stations where you can stop off, rest your legs and rely on the train to bring you back to where you started. But if you do manage the whole full 20-mile route you will be rewarded with a great sense of satisfaction- as well as some lovely views of Loch Lomond.

Start at the spectacular Riverside Museum in Partick, or even earlier at Glasgow Green, and then follow the (largely traffic free) National Cycle Route 7 as it weaves alongside the River Clyde to Clydebank. From there, take the Forth and Clyde Canal as far as Dumbarton before heading north along the River Leven towards the lovely village of Balloch.

Speyside Way, Aviemore – The Speyside Way runs for 65 miles, all the way from Buckie to Aviemore, but the sections from Fochabers to Ballindalloch and from Nethy Bridge to Aviemore are those most suitable for bikes. Arguably the prettiest part is the section that begins in the striking Rothiemurcus estate, following the Speyside Way to the postcard village of Boat of Garten. The journey itself is scenic enough, but when you reach the village it is worth a detour to admire the tranquil waters of the nearby Loch Garten -with its pineforest, wetlands full of wildlife and dramatic views of Ben Macdui (Britain’s second highest mountain).

Less experienced cyclists may wish to stop there, but the Speyside path continues to Nethy Bridge for those who want a bit more of a challenge. Be careful though- if you venture too far along the route and reach Ballindalloch you may discover the hard way that the path can’t sustain bikes.

Loch Leven Heritage Trail, Kinross – This 13 mile, 21km trail around Loch Leven is traffic-free apart from a stretch of just 100 metres. While this makes it ideal for cycling, it is also popular with families, runners and those just out for a stroll, so be prepared to be patient and ring your bell when necessary to let people know you are approaching.

There are different points at which you can begin your cycle but there’s also various cafes around the loch’s circumference, so you can take several pitstops if necessary to help you complete the whole thing.

While you are cycling make sure to look out for pink-footed geese, waterfowl and ducks, as the loch attracts the largest concentration of them found anywhere in the UK. A great option for a day out with kids.

Mountain bike trails in Pollok Park, Glasgow – A carpet of autumnal leaves makes Pollok Park a real treat at this time of year. But rather than exploring its 361 acres by foot, why not do it in style via the excellent mountain bike trails within the park? Despite being close to the buzz of Shawlands, and indeed the city centre beyond, the trails on offer are as good as any that can be found in the countryside.

There’s a variety of difficulty levels, too: the short and flat green circuit provides an ideal introduction to off-road cycling; the blue circuit offers steeper terrain with varied surfaces (with skill and concentration required); the red circuit offers constructed obstacles to give a real taste of mountain biking and the black requires significant skill -though higher thrills- and should not be attempted by inexperienced riders.

Newton Mearns to Fenwick, Ayrshire – One of the benefits of the lockdown-induced influx of cyclists on our roads is that there is now genuine pressure to improve the road infrastructure for bikes. So as more of our city streets are redeveloped to provide dedicated cycle lanes, they could use the road from Newton Mearns to the village of Fenwick as an example of what to aim for.

An excellent two-way cycle lane is fully segregated and kerbed off from the road for a stretch of several miles, offering cyclists of all ages and abilities the chance to try out some more adventurous routes while feeling totally safe.

When you reach Fenwick it’s a short journey to the beautiful Craufurdland Castle and Estate, which has its own popular café and coffee shop where you can stock up on some well-deserved cake.

Edinburgh to North Berwick – You might imagine that Scotland’s capital city isn’t particularly enjoyable to navigate on a bike. But with the roads currently quieter than usual, and Edinburgh boasting a surprising amount of cycle-paths and traffic-free trails, a ride from the city out to North Berwick is a lovely way to spend the day.

You can start at Portobello beach, in the east of the city, or a bit further along at Musselburgh or Prestonpans if you don’t fancy doing the full 55 mile route.

Once you make it as far as Aberlady you will be rewarded with some quiet rural roads with minimal traffic, before joining the B1347 all the way to North Berwick.

From there, hop on the train back to where you started- or cycle back if you are feeling particularly fit.

Green Circular, Dundee – The Green Circular has been a popular cycle route in Dundee for 25 years, but it has recently been upgraded with some resurfacing at the Riverside Nature Park and Trottick Ponds as greener travel becomes a political priority.

The 26 mile circular route skirts around the circumference of the city while avoiding the busy centre itself: leading from Invergowrie along the waterfront to Monifieth, where it cuts north up towards Arbroath Road and then Baldovie Road before weaving through Drumgeith Park and Finlathen Park. From there, head towards Trottick Ponds and then Templeton Woods to take you to Camperdown Park to finish.

A free map of the route is available online or from cycle shops across the city, which also includes additional suggestions for routes around the outskirts of the city.

Applecross Peninsula Loop via Bealach na Bà, Wester Ross – The Bealach na Bà is one of the most famous roads in the country. But while most people will drive up its various twists and turns, tackling the road by bike offers one of the best bragging honours cyclists can get.

Holding the title of the greatest ascent of any road in the UK, the hairpin bends and 7% gradient are exhausting, but highly rewarding for the views of Skye and beyond. By starting in Applecross and heading clockwise, via Fearnmore and Tornapress, you face a fair few tough climbs before you even reach the iconic Bealach na Bà.

But by saving the big climb until last, a well-deserved drink in the famous beer garden of the Applecross Inn will taste that extra bit sweeter.

Five Ferries Challenge, Argyll and Bute – Hugely rewarding -but highly challenging- this route is suitable for competent cyclists only. As the name suggests it involves taking five ferries: Ardrossan to Brodick (Arran); Lochranza (Arran) to Claonaig (Kintyre); Tarbert (Kintyre) to Portavadie (Cowal); Colintraive (Cowal) to Rhubodach (Bute) and finally Rothesay (Bute) to Wemyss Bay; cycling between each of the various ferry terminals.

If you reckon you can fit all that in within a day, and feel fit enough for 55 miles of cycling, then it is well worth the effort, with the option of raising some money for charity if you do it on a sponsored basis. CalMac even sells a ticket specifically for those doing the five ferries, priced at £14.70 per adult.

https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/18832239.20-scotlands-favourite-autumn-cycle-routes/?fbclid=IwAR11ZiNEucmhaKcClc6islNuXtw4rNqRplYF4ifl4w1W_vcuEXPXR0801TQ

View All News Items