Cycling in Scotland travel guide

There are many ways to explore Scotland’s wildly beautiful landscapes: hiking them, cruising the lochs, islands and canals, leisurely touring by train… But for sheer satisfaction, cycling takes some beating. The joy of reaching a hilltop after an arduous climb and dismounting to take in the views, a free-wheeling descent to a deserted sandy beach, the camaraderie of a small group of riders cheering each other into the hotel every afternoon.
In a country where the right to roam is a given, cycling lets you make the most of that sense of freedom.
Ride coast to coast on the Great Glen Way, bash mountain trails in the Cairngorms National Park, embark on a modern classic with the North Coast 500, or enjoy a more leisurely approach with a sail-and-cycle tour of the Inner Hebrides aboard a traditional schooner. Wherever you go, cycling in Scotland fosters deeper connections with local communities, from the family-run hotels you stay in to the little cafés you stop at for a cup of tea and a breather along the way.

Read our Scotland cycling holidays travel guide for more.

Cycling in Scotland is…

as varied as the weather, crossing beaches, mountains, lochs and islands.

Cycling in Scotland isn't...

about speed or endurance, but basking in the scenery and camaraderie.

Is cycling in Scotland for you?

Go cycling in Scotland if…

… you want to take your own bike. Our holiday partners can often have it picked up from home and dropped off again afterwards. … you want a very low carbon holiday. Get up there easily by train, eat locally sourced and delicious produce, and pedal your way around for a truly eco-friendly adventure. … you love a sense of total freedom. While many trips are guided small group tours, others, such as mountain biking in the Cairngorms, take advantage of Scotland’s right to roam.

Don’t go cycling in Scotland if…

… you want year-round cycling. Early or late summer is your best bet not only for good weather, but fewer midges. … you want a test of endurance. Sure, there’s bound to be some big climbs involved, but these routes are designed to be savoured at a relaxed pace. … you’re strictly a fair-weather cyclist. Scotland, especially the northern reaches, is often damp even in summer. Embrace it, pack wet weather gear, and think of that hot toddy waiting for you.

What do cycling holidays in Scotland involve?

Number one: you can expect “a bit of weather”. As Gordon Steer from our partner World Expeditions puts it: “With cycling holidays, and Scotland in particular, you really do need to plan carefully for the weather. It’s true what they say about four seasons in one day, so waterproofs are essential even in summer. I think Scotland is overlooked by many people as a holiday destination, but when the sun is shining there are few better places to be on Earth.” Go prepared and the going will be a lot easier.

Scotland is a mountainous country, and although these holidays are suitable for any active, regular cyclist, a few weeks of preparation won’t go amiss. On long-distance point-to-point routes such as the Great Glen Way or the North Coast 500, you can expect to be in the saddle for around 6-7 hours each day, and to encounter a fair few challenging climbs. So a bit of practice beforehand to get the kinks out of your muscles and joints is advisable.

If you’re looking for low carbon holidays, it’s tough to beat cycling your way round a destination. And Scotland is brilliantly accessible by train instead of flying or driving. The overnight Caledonian Sleeper from London Euston is a very pleasant way to travel up to Inverness, Aviemore or Fort William. As for your bike, you can either bring it up with you, arrange with your holiday company for them to transport it up separately, or allow them to have a hire bike waiting for you on arrival. Plus, our responsible holiday partners take care to recommend wherever possible accommodations and restaurants that use locally sourced produce, cutting the food mileage and carbon footprint of your trip.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Scotland cycling or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Best time to go cycling in Scotland

Weather-wise, the best time for cycling in Scotland is late spring to early autumn. Beware summer’s midges, though – and traffic on the NC500.
In 2019, a survey found that Scots’ favourite word was dreich: grey, damp and miserable weather. However, don’t let fear of the dreich put you off cycling in Scotland. The weather here is nothing if not changeable, and between late spring and early autumn you can be reasonably confident you’ll enjoy pleasant temperatures and not too much rain. The North Coast 500 is best in May or September, dodging the worst of midge season and the crowds. The Cairngorms are lovely April-December and guides help you avoid the busiest routes. Summer is the best time for cycling in the Inner Hebrides.
Written by Rob Perkins
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