‘It’s all about freedom and adventure’: Top 5 cycling routes in Scotland | Travel
It’s not just rolling hills or rugged coastlines that make Scotland a cyclist’s paradise. world cyclist Markus Stitz. “It’s the permissions that let you explore it all.”
Bikepacking is the evolution of bike touring that includes a multi-day trip with everything you need to spend the night on your bike. Scotland’s Access Rights Turning 20 this yearmake wild camping legal and so boom bikepacking.
Few know Scottish B roads and forest trails better than Stitz, who, after becoming the first person to circumnavigate the world on a single speed bike in 2016, returned to his longtime home in Edinburgh to found Cycling Scotland. “It’s all about freedom and adventure,” he says.
In his new book Cycling ScotlandStitz is planning 20 wild adventures. Here he selects five of the best cycling routes in Scotland.
Ayrshire Alps, coast and castles
This 81.6 mile long loop in the southwest of Scotland passes through the UNESCO Biosphere Galloway and South Ayrshire. “Ayrshire is green hills,” says Stitz. “This landscape is very different from some of the more remote, rugged, intimate landscapes of Scotland.”
The route starts and ends at Ayr railway station (about an hour’s train ride from Glasgow), the route follows a minor road to Alloway, Robert Burns’ birthplace, then continues into hills and moorland before returning across the west coast. It offers far-reaching views of the Atlantic, including Ailsa Craig, a seabird sanctuary, and the Mull of Kintyre. The trail also passes Culzeen Castle, Robert Adam’s 18th-century masterpiece that perches dramatically on the edge of a cliff, and the coastal village of Dunur featured in Outlander before reaching Ayr.
“This route is just as important for people as it is for riding,” he adds. “It’s a very authentic place, with lots of great cafes and some parts are just breathtakingly beautiful. To extend your route, simply head further south to Galloway Forest Park, where hundreds of miles of gravel trails await.”
John Muir Way Bicycle Route
The John Muir Road stretches 134 miles coast to coast through central Scotland, from Helensburgh on the west coast to Dunbar in the east. The latter is home to the eponymous John Muir, an American-immigrant conservationist best known as the father of national parks.
“This is a great route for those new to bikepacking,” Stitz says. “The various sections of the route are easily accessible by public transport, so it can be broken down into stages.”
The route blends cultural history with natural beauty from the outset, passing Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s house on the hill as he leaves Helensburgh, and heading up Goak Hill for views of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Campsie Fells sits in the backdrop of the Glengoyne Distillery on the stretch it shares with the West Highland Way and the route passes the Falkirk Wheel, the world’s only rotating boat lift, and the 19th century Avon Aqueduct before heading into Edinburgh city center and along the east coast to Dunbar. .
Highland Perthshire Drover Trail
Scotland has a long history of moving cattle from the highlands to the lowlands for sale in market centers. “It was not an easy job to drive cattle through remote mountain passes, but they could also pass through some beautiful places,” says Stitz. “There is something similar in bikepacking. If you ride off-road, it can be tough, but you get big rewards.”
This 205-mile loop from the Victorian tourist town of Pitlochry follows ancient gravel roads, first heading north to the Cairngorms National Park, then turning into the lush valley of Glen Tilt before heading to the shores of Loch Tay and moorland near Ben. Chonzie.
“You go through the pass, down into Comrie and head towards Criff, and you really understand where the Highlands end and the Lowlands begin,” he adds. From Criff the path returns to Pitlochry through Dunkeld and Craigwyn Forest.
The trail is also great for whiskey lovers, passing both Edradour, the smallest distillery in Scotland, and Glenturret, which claims to be the oldest in the country.