For the next instalment of our Great British Bike Rides series, we’re heading to the wide-open spaces and awe-inspiring landscapes on offer north of the border.
Scotland has a huge variety of cycling to offer, from lazy jaunts in vibrant cities to the challenge of some of the most remote riding in the British Isles. Here are our picks for three of the best bike rides for you to try, from the easy to the not so:
1 – Holyrood Park, Edinburgh
Holyrood Park, a short distance from Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile, makes a great spot to burn off the neeps and tatties from Sunday dinner.
The landscape of Holyrood Park is dominated by the craggy peak of Arthur’s Seat, the remains of a volcano (don’t worry, it’s not active), and being just a short walk or bike ride from the historic Royal Mile it makes for an ideal spot to get some fresh air if the crowds of tourists in the centre get a bit much. The park has a circular route all the way around, which on Sundays is closed to motor vehicles, making it perfect for family rides. There are bike-parking facilities at several locations (check out the clever designs outside the Scottish Parliament building on Horse Wynd), allowing you to tackle the 30-minute walk to the summit of Arthur’s Seat for spectacular views over the Scottish capital and across the Firth of Forth.
No bike ride is complete without a café stop, and for the ultimate treat visit the one at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Probably best to leave the champagne afternoon tea until after you’ve climbed the volcano though…
More information about visiting Holyrood Park, and cycling in other parts of the wonderful city of Edinburgh, can be found here.
2 – Glentress Blue route, Peebles.
The folk of the Scottish Borders region are blessed with some of the most varied mountain bike terrain in the country. From wide, flat trails suitable for beginners right up to vertigo-inducing white-knuckle rides for the experts, the Glentress trail centre close to the county town of Peebles has something for everyone.
The Glentress Blue Route offers approximately 80% of singletrack over its 16-kilometre length. Beginning from the Glentress Peel car park, a mile along the main A72 road from Peebles, the well-signed route is split into two parts. Once you’ve reached the Buzzards Nest rest-stop at the end of the lower loop, you can carry on to the upper loop – budget for between two to four hours to ride the entire circuit. Ideally suited to a hardtail mountain bike, any confident rider will find this route challenging enough to get the juices flowing. Bike hire is available at the trail centre HQ, located by the Peel car park, should you need it.
There are other rides around the Glentress trail centre to explore, though be careful not to let your confidence run away with you, some of the descents on the more technical red and black routes offer a serious challenge. The routes are well maintained and with warm showers and a bike cleaning point at the main car park Glentress is a true year-round destination. There are plenty of bike-friendly places to stay in Peebles, as well as in the smaller towns of Cardrona and Innerleithen a few minutes east of the trail centre.
More information on Glentress is available here.
3 – The Cape Wrath 100
For our hard ride, we’re heading north to a true wilderness. The Cape Wrath 100 is a challenge for even the most experienced cyclist – 100 miles in the lonely northwest tip of Britain.
We first became aware of this route thanks to Chris Sidwells’ fantastic book ‘Best 100 Mile Bike Routes’. Starting with a ferry ride across the Kyle of Durness from the small town of Keoldale, you’re in for one heck of a day in the saddle. And you’ll need to do it in a day, unless you’re happy to carry a tent with you – there aren’t many places to stay around these parts.
The first 22 miles of the route takes you out to Cape Wrath and back from the ferry crossing, where you’ll become part of the Cape Wrath Fellowship for completing one of the wildest rides in the UK. The road is much improved from the rocky track that greeted those first Fellowship riders in 1949, but be prepared for some gravel and loose rocks – this isn’t the ride for your pristine carbon machine, better suited to a sturdier gravel bike.
Back across on the ferry to Keoldale head southwest to begin the four-mile-long Meall na Moine climb. You can’t really go the wrong way here – there’s only one road, the A838. Turning southeast at Laxford Bridge and along the edge of Loch More you’ll begin the next ascent, that of the formidable Bealach nam Meirleach, or ‘Robber’s Pass’.
This is perhaps the most remote part of this lonely ride, the road a mix of hard-packed stone and muddy puddles. After the summit at 266 metres, descending past a number of mountain lochs, turn left and head north beside the Strathmore River as it winds its way to the sea. Returning to the A838 at the northern tip of Loch Hope, you loop around Loch Eriboll, hugging the rugged coastline all the way back to a very well-deserved cake at the Coco Mountain café in Durness.
More information on the lonely Cape Wrath 100 route is available here.
Keep an eye out for the next in our series on great British bike rides. Until then, why not check out our cycle insurance packages and get planning your cycling trip to Braveheart country.