Need advice on a bike tour of Scotland

Cycle-touring, Expeditions, Adventures, Major cycle routes NOT LeJoG (see other special board)
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Need advice on a bike tour of Scotland

Postby Radomir » 17 Nov 2014, 1:11pm

Warm greetings from cyclists of Russia!
In the late summer 2015 our group of 4 or 6 people would like to visit Scotland by bicycles.
Our bikes (my and my wife) are Author and Vortrieb touring (hybrid) 28". So, asphalt is the best for us but light off-road is no problem too.
Duration: ~ 3 weeks
Overnights: B&B, private houses... the cheaper the better, but without tents.
First time in Scotland and we would like to visit the most interesting historical and natural sites.
It is not so easy to find a ready track and we have now the following one: ... Leave=true

Could anybody make some recommendations for us? Where it is not necessary to go and see but what we have to visit exactly and it is out of the above track now. For example, I know Skye island is one of the best. How to change the track for Skye's visiting?

Thank you very much in advance. You can reply here or directly to my e-mail

NEWS (dated 30.11.2014)
I carefully studied all the offers. At the end of all I have made the following new projects:
1. Mainland with Inner Hebrides (the main project) ... Leave=true
2. Mainland with Outer Hebrides (in case of good weather without SW wind) ... Leave=true
3. Option 1 ... Leave=true
4. Option 2 ... Leave=true
5. Option 3 ... Leave=true
We can take alternatives 1, 2 or 3 in case of free time.
All tracks together are here ... Leave=true
Who can give any comments about the above?
Last edited by Radomir on 1 Dec 2014, 5:10pm, edited 9 times in total.

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Re: Need advice on a bike tour of Scotland

Postby mattsccm » 17 Nov 2014, 7:06pm

Most of those roads are very busy.
Look at a maps program on the web. Bing maps or Google maps. When you get to the UK look for the Ordnance Survey/OS maps. They show the roads and their status. If possible avoid red or green ones as they are the A class ones. In the west of Scotland they are good and not to busy. I you can try the yellow roads.
Skye is nice to visit

Norman H
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Re: Need advice on a bike tour of Scotland

Postby Norman H » 17 Nov 2014, 7:13pm

Welcome to the Forum.

If you want to visit Skye, consider the ferry from Oban to Mull. Mull itself is worth at least a days exploring. From Mull there are ferries to Lochaline or Kilchoan (Ardnamurchan). From either of these points you can make your way to Malaig and take the ferry to Skye.

Look at CalMac Hopscotch tickets.

If you leave Skye by the road bridge to the mainland (Kyleakin to Kyle of Lochalsh) you have a number of options for continuing your route. My personal choice would be to head for Plocton and continue up the west coast to Ullapool via Torridon and Gairloch. If you are feeling fit you could even include the Applecross peninusar via Bealach-na Bà (Google it)
An alternative route from Skye to Ullapol would be via Harris and Lewis (Ferry from Uig)

From Ullapool either cut across to Lairg to pick up your route or continue heading up the west coast to Durness ( You can visit Cape Wrath from here) and then across the top to Bettyhill.

There are some good Independent hostels in Scotland. I can send you some links when you have your route more firmly fixed.

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Re: Need advice on a bike tour of Scotland

Postby bogmyrtle » 17 Nov 2014, 8:40pm

You could easily fill three weeks island hopping on the beautiful west coast but I would also recommend you also try to get to Orkney mainland (the biggest island) where there are lots of important archaeological sites close together.

Also it is worth going to the museum at Lyness on the Island of Hoy

When are you going and what sort of distance do you want to cover in a day?
Last edited by bogmyrtle on 17 Nov 2014, 9:58pm, edited 1 time in total.
A bike does more miles to the banana than a Porsche.

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Re: Need advice on a bike tour of Scotland

Postby Radomir » 17 Nov 2014, 9:00pm

To: mattsccm
Really it is not my idea to use this way ... Leave=true
I know the above was done by 2 people from Spain with tandem. But idea is first. At the end of all I have to prepare a track of our trip and it must be done at home in advance. Frankly speaking I already have experiance of 14 trips by bycicle to Europe and I know exactly to search any roads on the spot - the loss of time. We can just change a little bit some directions during the way but the main track day by day must be prepared at home. That's why I ask advice here...

To: Norman H
Thanks a lot for your advice. I 'll write a track according to your recommendations and come back here again.
Some questions more:
1. Is first part of September OK for this way (islands and west coast) or we will get a lot of rains? (I am afraid of August with Festival in Edinburgh);
2. Have I to lay track on the roads or we can find there any cyclist's roads?
3. We will flight to Edinburgh. I think we have to visit in any case Inverness, Loch Ness and Fort William. What way is the best between the above? According to Spanish track?
4. What the most beautiful castles of Scotland do you suggest to visit?

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Re: Need advice on a bike tour of Scotland

Postby Radomir » 17 Nov 2014, 9:27pm

To: bogmyrtle
Thank you for advice about Orkney mainland and Island of Hoy.
When I go with my wife usually our daily run is 30-40 km in mountains and 60-70 km without relief.
Usually we start at 10 a.m. and begin to look for overnight ~ at 5-6 p.m.... with a stop about 1.5 hours for lunch in cafe...

Norman H
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Re: Need advice on a bike tour of Scotland

Postby Norman H » 17 Nov 2014, 11:06pm

The best time to visit Scotland in my view is May/June. Fewer midges, less busy and plenty of daylight. July and August are best avoided as this coincides with the busy school holidays and the midges are at their worst. September can be delightful but the weather is less predictable and there are fewer hours of daylight. The west coast does get more rain than the east side of the country but in my view the wind can me more of a problem. The outer islands in particular, can be very windy at any time. The good news is that the midges don't like the wind either.

For route planning, try this site.
It's run by a member of this forum and produces very cycle friendly routes.

If you are starting your tour in Edinburgh, and you particularly wish to visit Inverness and loch Ness, you could head to Inverness direct from Edinburgh and cycle the Great Glen in the opposite direction to the route that the Spanish tandemists took. The A82 between Inverness and Fort William is regarded by some as not suitable for cyclists. I've ridden it and It was fine but timing is everything. It can be very busy at times. The road from Inverness to Fort Augustus on the south side of Loch Ness is delightful.

From Fort William either head for Oban and from there take the ferry to Mull as per my original sugestion. Or head to Malaig and the ferry to Skye either directly on the A830 or cross over Loch Linneh on the Casmunagaul ferry and take the scenic route to Malaig via Strontian and Salen.

There is no shortage of castles in Scotland.

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Re: Need advice on a bike tour of Scotland

Postby LollyKat » 18 Nov 2014, 11:28am

Castles: there are lots of ruined castles - you can hardly avoid them. Caerlaverock, near Dumfries, is one of my favourites but is probably off your route. Castle Urquart by Loch Ness is IME worth a visit. So is Dunnottar in the north-east.

For inhabited or 'in use' castles, Eilan Donan in the north-west is probably the most well known, cropping up on calendars and shortbread tins. In the east are the tower houses like Crathes Castle, Castle Fraser and Craigievar. My favourite big castle is Stirling, which has a lot to offer the visitor and I think is a lot more interesting and better value than Edinburgh.

Really, you are spoiled for choice! Have a look at tourist info sites, Historic Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland to find more.

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Re: Need advice on a bike tour of Scotland

Postby Radomir » 18 Nov 2014, 4:41pm

To: LollyKat
Thanks for information about castels. It is interesting and I'll study the above.

To: Norman H
Thank you again for your new advice and web-site I did not know it before.

Today I have made the new track and you can find it here ... Leave=true
I understand we can't visit everywhere. But... what I have to exclude and what I have to add?

Total length now ~ 1420 km. It is too much for us and I am looking for a way to cut it till ~ 1000 km. Where? May be to take a train between Edinburgh and Dalwhinnie, for example? Could you please suggest any web-site where I can see timetable and tickets?
Is it better to run this track clockwise or counterclockwise?

Concerning to month of our trip.... It is the problem now to make the right choice because...
It is not so easy (and not cheap) to get English visas now but I hope about positive result. English Embassy issues multiple visas for Russian people usually for 6 month. We have never been in United Kingdom and we have idea to visit next year your country twice: Scotland by bycicles and London only for sightseeings.
More of that... next year we will visit South France by bycicles (Provence, 3 weeks too) and all recommend to go there in June (open Mont Ventoux, lavanda etc.). So, according to your advices we have May and September only (no July and no August). What month is better? Several offices of tourism in France convinced us to go in June, such as in May can still be cold and even snow in gorges. Cold and snow in Provence (the most warm region in France)!!! But what about Scotland in first part of May? And what is the best (mote or less) time to visit London in accordance with the above?

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Re: Need advice on a bike tour of Scotland

Postby RJS » 18 Nov 2014, 6:27pm

Hi Radomir,
I don't know Scotland very well, but on one trip we used the train to Kyle Of Lochalsh, you can take it from Inverness, or somewhere along the line. Any help?
Cheers, Rob.

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Re: Need advice on a bike tour of Scotland

Postby 22camels » 18 Nov 2014, 6:49pm

I haven't been to Provence but I expect that the kind of cold and snow you get there in May will be far more pleasant than the sort of weather you're likely to encounter at least for a few days in Scotland even in the best month (June? July?) - it can be great but it can also feel like winter even then in the sense of wet and windy and not so warm (though probably not snow). If I were doing a trip like this I would be happy to go to Provence any time of year but Scotland, if I wanted to maximise my chances of decent weather, it would be in the summer only and optimally June/July/August, but even so I would be prepared for lots of rain and wind. Basically weather in the British Isles and especially Scotland is far more unpredictable than on the continent. As for London, it's good to visit anytime.

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Re: Need advice on a bike tour of Scotland

Postby rfryer » 18 Nov 2014, 6:54pm

Regarding time of year, May would be my month of choice in Scotland - nothing's guaranteed in terms of weather (except unpredictability) but May gives you good odds.

I've taken a quick look at your proposed route, and have a few suggestions you might consider.

The B869 to Lochinver is a wonderful road, very scenic. It also has some very steep sections! I've never ridden it, but I will next time I'm up that way.

I see you've included Applecross and the Bealach Na Ba. A great choice!

If you've got the time, and the legs, I'd skip the Skye bridge. Assuming you're coming from the north, I'd instead visit Eilean Donan, then go to Sheil Bridge, turn right on the C1223 to Glenelg, then take the Kylerhea ferry.

For the north of Skye section, I'd be tempted to do a truncated loop of the north-east peninsular, cutting on the across the C1225. I'd then return to Portree and cross to the west coast via the B885 (unless you're particularly keen to see Dunvegan Castle). The subsequent section heading South down the west coast should give great views of the Cuillin ridge.

I don't believe that the section on Skye heading south from Sligahan to Loch Coruisk is practical as a cycle route, unless you're much braver then I am! I'd just head back along the main road. The road from Broadford to Elgol is very nice, but it isn't a through route!

If you're not in a rush for the Mallaig ferry, a detour on the south of Skye via Ord and Tarskavaig is a nice road (and my local training loop).

Back on the mainland, are you aware that your route south from Glenfinnan is along a rough track down the side of the loch, followed by a seriously steep climb over to Strontian. It's rideable on a hybrid, but if you prefer a nice road route the A861 via Glenuig is also good riding.

The ride back via Glencoe is stunning scenery, but a fast road and you might view it as cycle unfriendly. A more pleasant option would be to head west along Ardnamurchan, take the ferry from Kilchoan to Tobermory, spend some time on Mull, get the ferry to Oban, then get the train to wherever you like!

Hope that helps.

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Re: Need advice on a bike tour of Scotland

Postby rfryer » 18 Nov 2014, 7:25pm

One thing to consider is whether you definitely want to do your entire journey by bike. That's rewarding in itself, and I'd not discourage it. However, if you are just looking for good cycling on quieter roads, I'd skip some of the long, busy sections (ie everything away from the west coast) and replace them with visits to Orkney, the outer Hebrides (especially Harris and Barra), and maybe Islay for some distillery tours.

Norman H
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Re: Need advice on a bike tour of Scotland

Postby Norman H » 18 Nov 2014, 9:41pm

Apologies for delay in replying but there's rather a lot to digest. I'll deal with the route in sections in anticlockwise direction, as you've plotted it.

Edinburgh to Fort William and Great Glen

I'm not familiar with this route to Fort William and so I can't comment in detail. It's a route, in part, taken by a lot of End to Enders (Land's End to John-O-Groats) perhaps someone else may comment. You are obviously keen to cycle the Great Glen but unless you need to visit FW for accommodation or shopping, I would give the town a miss and start at Spean Bridge. I see you are using the Great Glen Way. This is off road and I'm not sure if the surface is suitable for the bikes you have. Once again others may have more experience than me. I cycled the A82 and I didn't have a problem although I did it on a Sunday morning and started early. The B862 from Fort Augustus is excellent as I said before.

Inverness to Durness

Looks fine. There are one or two unnecessary diversions notably at Alness (No need to enter the town) and at Ardgay where your route appears to go via the YH at Culrain, which I believe is now closed, and uses the footbridge over the railway at Invershin to regain the main road.. Stay on the main road, A836 to Lairg. Incidentally your route goes past the Crask Inn. “The Crask” is, I believe, up for sale but you should aim to spend the night there if you can. Especially if you like whisky!

Durness to Ullapool

Looks fine. Incidentally If you are pushed for time there is a daily bus service between Durness and Inverness that stops at Ullapool. If you give them 24hs notice they will hitch up a bike trailer.
It's summer only Service No804

Ullapool to Skye

If you can, use the A832 via Poolewe and Gairloch to Kinlochewe. It's known as the Destitution Road. One of several in Scotland built by victims of the famine. It's a great ride and will be less busy than the alternative. Bealach-Na-Bà is a must if you have the time. There are YH at Ullapool, Gairloch. and Torridon.


The off road route along Glen Sligachan will not be possible on your bikes.

Malaig to Edinburgh

The off road section alongside Loch Shiel just after Glenfinnan I do not think is doable on road bikes. Either use the A862 alongside Loch Eil or A861 via Glen Uig and Salen.The A82 through Glen Coe and across Rannoch Moor is not very cycle friendly also you are planning on using the West Highland Way which is primarily a walking route and parts of which would be quite hard on a bike. The off road section between Lix Tol and Callender along GlenOgle aand Stathyre is OK I think.

You will need to make your own decisions as to what to leave out . You could certainly use the train to get out of Edinburgh. As you say Dalwhinnie or Pitlochrie would save a day or two.. I think if I were you I would be tempted to end my tour at Oban, perhaps going via Mull, and use the train to return to Edinburgh.

Here is Scotrail site.

East coast trains are recommended for booking as they allow you to make bike reservations on line.

With regards to the best time. Bear in mind what I said previously. If you have total freedom of choice then I would choose June.

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Peter Molog
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Re: Need advice on a bike tour of Scotland

Postby Peter Molog » 19 Nov 2014, 7:40am

For more inspiration day-to-day reports of my tours in Scotland.


Text is in Dutch, but it is mostly maps and pictures.

In case you use a GPS, this is a good (free) map. It is mostly updated once or twice a year.

Have fun.

Please, excuse my English. I'm Dutch.