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Planning a cycle tour in Scotland

There are some fabulous places to cycle in Scotland and I thought I’d share some hints and tips on planning a cycle tour.   

Cycle friendly routes

You can search for recognised routes on the Sustrans website - everything from long distance rides to easier, family-friendly rides – plus its online map.  But you don’t need to be restricted to recognised routes.  Given low population densities most rural roads are relatively quiet.  As well as car-free cycle paths minor roads and even main roads (‘A roads’) away from larger towns are relatively cycle friendly.

Cycle friendly accommodation

The main options are hotels, B&Bs, hostels, campsites, wild camping and free local hospitality.  The VisitScotland website is a good place to start, particularly for hotels and B&Bs.  There’s a good network of around 70 youth hostels and also many independent hostels.

Campsites can vary in quality with the most basic (sometimes the best!) sometimes offering just a small wash room and an honesty box for payment.  Good websites include ScottishCamping.com, www.campsites-uk.co.uk and www.pitchup.com.

Scottish land access legislation allows wild camping.  However, this ‘right’ comes with ‘responsibilities’ – see the Scottish Outdoor Access Code – and so if you want to camp wild it’s important you adopt the ‘leave no trace’ principles and follow advice on lighting fires. Another free option is the Warm Showers network, where local hosts give travellers either a bed, couch or place to camp.

Taking a bike on a train

All trains have a small number of racks for bikes (look for the bike sign on carriage doors).  Information on making reservations is available on the Scotrail website.  Since most trains only have 2 or 3 bike spaces it’s advisable to make reservations as soon as you can.  Further tips here

Resources

OS maps cover the UK at various scales.  Good online resources include PlotaRoute and Cycle Streets, plus Google Maps.  My personal favourite is ViewRanger, whose app allows maps to be downloaded to your smartphone and used offline.

Cycling UK’s discussion forum is the best place for advice from other cyclists while both Lonely Planet and Cicerone publish good cycling guides.  On my blog you can also read more about my Land’s End to John O’ Groats and Mull/Ardnamurchan cycling trips.

Rush hour in the north of Scotland !

Exploring Scotland's wild places by foot, bike and camper van

WildaboutScotland blog | Twitter

Comments

  • VisitScotlandJulieVisitScotlandJulie Member, Moderator, VisitScotland Staff
    Some great information here @Ewan. Thanks for taking the time to share it with us. Where is that beach in your middle photo? It looks lovely there.
  • EwanEwan Member ✭✭✭
    Hi @VisitScotlandJulie, it's just near Bettyhill on the North coast, a lovely, deserted location.

    Exploring Scotland's wild places by foot, bike and camper van

    WildaboutScotland blog | Twitter

  • argyllgirlargyllgirl Member ✭✭
    Great stuff!  We do a lot of day long cycle tours.  Lots of great cycle paths.  We mainly cycle in our county of Argyll but have also done the 75 route to Glasgow.  

    Last summer we rented a cottage in Oban for a week and did day trips with Oban as our base.  We cycled to the Isle of Seil, on the Isle of Mull, Isle of LIsmore, Isle of Tiree, etc. 
  • Bruce_BoogieBruce_Boogie Member ✭✭
    Don't forget the Kevlar reinforced tyres, more cycling time and less sitting at the roadside with a wheel off and the puncture repair kit in action.
    Bruce Boogie
    www.boogiebopboys.co.uk
    Playing the music that created teenagers
  • EwanEwan Member ✭✭✭
    Hi @Bruce_Boogie, yes I'm a big convert to Tannus solid tyres.  No maintenance required and lighter than the equivalent tyre/inner tube/repair kit/pump/spare inner tube combination.  I've done a review of them them on my blog.

    Exploring Scotland's wild places by foot, bike and camper van

    WildaboutScotland blog | Twitter

  • argyllgirlargyllgirl Member ✭✭
    I'm going to look at the reinforced tyres.  The weight doesn't matter.  Our bikes are very heavy anyway, but they are E bikes so can get up the steepest hills with little sweat. 
  • CapucineCapucine Member
    Hi, interesting and helpfull. You mentionne warm shower, does it really work in Scotland? I can't find any host for Scotland in the warm shower site. Can't search with the country and cities. Thanks
  • [Deleted User][Deleted User] ✭✭✭✭
    [Deleted Content]
  • EwanEwan Member ✭✭✭
    @Capucine I've not used Warm Showers and didn't realise there aren't any members in Scotland.  Oh well ... there are lots of other bike-friendly accommodation options such as hostels, B&Bs and campsites in any case.

    Exploring Scotland's wild places by foot, bike and camper van

    WildaboutScotland blog | Twitter

  • CapucineCapucine Member
    @Ewan, thanks...it won't stop me from going to Scotland :)
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