Cycling through Scotland. After Norway, Scotland attracts us with its rugged nature, beautiful islands, beautiful beaches and wildlife. Cycling won’t be easy peasy, but we love a challenge!
The route and the adjustments
We consciously choose to cycle in the spring. May is apparently one of the driest months in Scotland….No, the main reason is that there are no midges in spring yet and we think that would be nice. As a result, it is occasionally quite cold, especially in the Hebrides.
We map out a route in which we at least visit the Outer Hebrides. Here you can follow the Hebridean Way, a route along 10 islands. We are also studying the website of European cyclists and purchasing the Scotland Round II route booklet. Finally we plan a route from Isle of Arran to Oban, from there the ferry to Barra (Outer Hebrides), following the Hebridean Way to Stornaway. There we take the ferry to Ullapool and then return to Oban. In total about 900 km.
In the end we adjusted the above route a number of times. Due to the fact that we immediately noticed that it was too ambitious a plan. Too far, too spicy and, given the weather conditions, not feasible for us. After the Isle of Arran, we chose to cycle to Logliphead and then follow route 78, the Caladonia Way, to Oban. We followed the Hebridean Way completely except for Lewis. We took the ferry in Tarbert to Uig (Isle of Skye) instead of Stornoway – Ullapool. On Skye we followed the route as described in Scotland Round II. After that we still wanted to go to Oban, but we took the train to Fort William and then followed route 78 (again) to Inverness. In total about 800 km.
Trains and Ferries
The starting point Arran is easily accessible by train, as well as the ending point Oban. Booking the trains is a challenge. There are several train companies and they all have their own websites, apps and reservation systems for the bicycles. That’s quite a puzzle!
The trains themselves are generally pleasant. Staff at the stations and on the trains are service-oriented and friendly. It is best to book tickets well in advance. Then they are cheaper. The LNER trains, from Newcastle to Edinburgh (and vice versa) have a very small space for the bicycles and you have to reserve these. Scotrail trains, such as between Edinburgh and Glasgow, do not require reservations. It depends on the type of train whether the bicycles have to hang or stand. In general, all bags have to be removed and it is useful to plan a lot of transfer time. You also have to book the bicycle places well in advance, because there are few places. But… we have adjusted our route several times and then you only book at the last minute.
Transport by ferries is efficient and pleasant. There is usually a place reserved for the bicycles. Staff are friendly. You only pay for yourself, the bicycles are included for free.
23/5 Let the holiday begin!
At this page you can read about all our adventures while exploring Scotland by bike. There are also links to all the places we stayed.
We leave at the end of the morning. We go by train to Haarlem. Cycling from the station (19 km) to the ferry terminal in IJmuiden. A beautiful ride through the Kennemerduinen. We can soon get on the boat. We have an inside cabin and enjoy ourselves in the bar with a nice view and nachos. After a good night we have breakfast on the boat.
In Newcastle we have to cycle quite a bit to the station, about 16 km. This takes longer than expected and we don’t catch our train. Fortunately we can rebook it. The LNER trains have super small spaces for the bicycles, which we have to hang them in. The Scotrail train in Edinburgh is finer in that regard. The journey is going well. Yet we just don’t make it to our connection in Glasgow (where we walk to the other station). Here we solve it by taking a train to Ardrossan. That way we can still take the ferry. It’s lovely weather! The cycling holiday can begin!
After an hour we arrive at the Isle of Arran. Here we cycle for fifteen minutes and then we arrive at Glenrosa. This is a semi wild camping spot in a valley. There is a toilet and running water, but there are no other facilities. There is an honesty box where you can make a contribution. It’s beautiful with views of the rugged peaks (Goat Fell, 874 meters), a babbling river, gorse bushes in bloom and pheasants and other fowl foraging.
We look for a place for our tent and enjoy the view and the peace and quiet.
25/4 A lot of sheep and lambs along the beautiful coast
The next morning we leave late. It was a cold night. We eat a nice breakfast with warm pancakes and enjoy this beautiful spot. But once everything is packed, we’ll be on our way. We drive to the south of the island. Immediately a big slope and then a few more. Phew, that’s not easy! We pass beautiful coastal villages.
At Kildonan we have lunch with a view of Pladda. After this a steep climb to get out of the village and then it goes up and down. I walk a few times, but most of the ‘coltjes’ manage to cycle.
The coastal road is beautiful, especially along the western side of Arran. A bit rougher, beautiful gale thorns in bloom and now and then the sun comes through!
At half past four we arrive at the small Bridgend campsite. We eat at a beautiful sunset and take a detour past an old dilapidated church and cemetery.
26/4 Seals and deer
It is quite cold at night, during the day it is wonderful spring weather. We take a shortcut and after a while we get back to the beautiful coastal road. We see seals! Nice! At Lochranza we eat a delicious sandwich. The first 100 kilometers are over! We take the ferry to Claonaig, on Kintyre (peninsula).
It’s a nice road. We see the first deer here. Once we get to the A83, the fun is over. The cars speed past us. At Tarbert (17 km) we book a pod with Gather. Here we take a breather. In the evening we decide to adjust the route to Oban, so that we have a little more time. Our plan was too ambitious.
27/4 The Caladonia Way
We first take a nice shortcut, but then follow the busy A83 from Tarbert to Lochgilphead. This is not pleasant to drive, the many trucks, the noise …. But at Ardrishaig we can follow cycle route 78. Along the beautiful and peaceful Crinan Canal. At the end a beautiful nature reserve (the largest peat bog in Europe), beautiful burial mounds at Kilmartin and a steep climb along Loch Awe.
We cycle a total of 65 kilometers. At Dalavich we can have a cold drink and then we look for a wild camping spot in the woods. We find a nice spot …. next to the hydroelectric power station, not so idyllic.
28/4 Staying in the saddle and Scottish Highlanders
After a damp and fresh night we have breakfast in the sun. Unfortunately, Joost has a flat tyre, so it has to be fixed first….this doesn’t work, so we remove the rear wheel and replace the tire. Then we cycle the second part of route 78 to Oban. Again tough with big hills, but the ascent is getting better and better, so I can stay in the saddle. We are surprised by a herd of Highlanders with many little ones. Very nice! The environment here is varied, beautiful nature reserves, highland hills. Of everything. In Oban we first go to the bicycle shop for new inner tubes, do some shopping and then decide to have a nice dinner in a huge pub near the harbor. We then cycle for another 15 minutes to the campsite where we rent a pod for the night.
29/4 Off we go, to the Outer Hebrides!
The next morning we have breakfast, clean up and cycle to Oban (about 40 km). We have a lovely quiet crossing to Castlebay (Barra) through the Sound of Mull. Lots of dolphins to see. Beautiful!!
Once at Barra, a tough bike ride to Vatersay (16 km). The official start of the Hebridean Way. Here we pitch our tent at the community hall with toilet/shower and honesty box (3 pounds for a tent). Perfectly arranged! We eat on the beautiful beach and take a walk.
30/4 It’s raining cats and dogs!
It rains! We had seen the weather forecast and knew this was coming…but it was disappointing. We shower and left at 8.15 after a quick breakfast. Before we get to Castlebay I’m already drowned. I don’t like the plan to camp wild on South Uist. There is a cold wind and I am really soaking wet. We have nowhere to hide and we have no range. We decide to stop in Castlebay and look for a place to sleep. That is disappointing. Finally able to arrange a B & B through the community hall. Here we are warmly welcomed by Liz! Superb! The next day we went to South Uist.
1/5 South Uist, flat and a bit dull…
After a delicious and cozy breakfast we cycle over beautiful Barra to the ferry to Eriskay (20 km). Nice trip (with seals). South Uist is somewhat flatter and less attractive. We have lunch at the beach which is very beautiful. In a very luxurious pod near Lochboisdale, we spent the night. We cycle to the Hallan round houses and the beach.
2/5 Otters Edge
We leave late and cycle all day in a cold headwind. We have lunch at the beach and cycle along Howmore Chapel and Burial Place (middle ages, with a celtic cross; beautiful!). On Benbecula, after 73 km, we set up our tent at Otters Edge Campground. I had imagined more of this campsite (turns out to be a bare grass field) but we are warmly welcomed by Rosie. Have a nice chat with fellow cyclist Paul. Didn’t see an otter on the beach, but did see seals, eider ducks and again a redshank.
3/5 Beautiful North Uist and Berneray
Fresh night but up early. Hot shower. The wind has turned so that is favorable. We cross Benbecula straight, but on North Uist take the scenic way (west). Beautiful surroundings and quiet roads. Nice! A breath of fresh air. The last kilometers are very beautiful. i.a. ancient settlements from prehistoric times. We are on time at the ferry from Berneray to Harris. Enjoy a well-deserved hot chocolate.
During the crossing it starts to rain heavily. The last 15 km (from 82) to Horgabost are tough….arriving at the campsite in pouring rain.
4/5 Amazing beaches and Golden Road
This campsite is beautifully situated and luckily it clears up a bit the next morning. Beautiful white beaches with beautiful blue water. We have breakfast in the uninviting loft, where it is slightly warmer than outside 😉 Our walker from Oxford keeps us company. He has decided to go home …. We are still in doubt. The weather forecast is not too good and we are afraid that we will not enjoy the beautiful surroundings in the pouring rain. We decide to take the ferry from Tarbert to Uig – Isle of Skye. This also makes the way back to Oban shorter and easier to do.
Today we still enjoy Harris. After a very tough climb, we choose the Golden Road. A beautiful winding road with steep climbs, heavy rain showers but also a radiant sun. In total about 35 km of beautiful nature! When we go to Skye we have cycled about 455 km.
In Tarbert we enjoy a delicious hot lunch from a food truck. It is still exciting whether the ferry will go, but luckily it just sails phew. Lots of rain along the way. Once on Skye, you will notice how green it is. In Uig we set up our tent and eat outside for the first time without triple layers….
5/5 Allmost blown of the bike at Isle of Skye
We wake up to rain and wait to leave…. Once it’s dry we leave. We take the northern route (27 km). The last part is really standing on the pedals, there is so much wind. We are almost blown off the bike! In Staffin we rented a cottage for two nights. The stove is burning when we arrive…how wonderful! We enjoy the tranquility. We do the laundry and soon the whole house is full. Joost is playing with the wind and the tent…..
6/5 Resting day
We slept wonderfully. It’s raining, so we’ll stay indoors for a while. We consider the route and possible overnight places. At 2 o’clock there is a faint sun. Let’s go. We drive to Kilt Rock waterfall and then to Staffin Beach. That turns out to be a special place (dino footprints….) We clamber over the rocks, see a wheatear and a seal and enjoy lounging around. It’s like a holiday….
7/5 From the Old Man of Storr to a Skye beer
Today a tough stage to the western side of Skye. There is still a lot of wind and we will ascend about 1000 meters. The first part is very beautiful. We drive along the Trotternish Mountains with the striking Old Man of Storr. It is a busy road, many tourists who take it less seriously with giving space to cyclists. It’s hot, we can ride in shorts soon.
We have lunch in cozy Portree and then take the B885 back road. Here only the sheep accompany us. At Loch Harport we follow the Loch and then take the small road to Carbost and Portnalong. This last bit…. especially at the Talisker Distillery pooh!
The Skywalker Hostel is very nice. The Yedihut we booked here is a cute little hut, with all kinds of jokes. Despite the 68 km in the legs we go to the pub and drink Skyebier there. Then to the snack truck for a burger with fries. We go to bed early, it was a tough day.
8/5 Tough stage to Armadale
Even today a great distance is on the menu. It takes a long time to leave, because I am not fit. We wonder how far we should cycle and whether or not we should book a hotel in Maillaig…
At Carbost we pass the surprise of the day: the cake box, with all kinds of tasty cakes/fudge for half prices because it is from yesterday…. it tastes delicious. We continue cycling along the Cullins, with beautiful views, along the Loch and then on to Broadford. There we have lunch and decide to continue cycling to Armadale. There we take the ferry to Mallaig. Fortunately, there is still a ferry at 7 p.m. (if we don’t make it at 5:45 p.m.). No sooner said than done….well…I have stopped many times to catch my breath. This 74 km was one of the toughest stages! Very beautiful but also very spicy.
In the rain: ferry to Mallaig and train to Fort William
Long story short, we barely make it to the ferry! In Mallaig we sleep in the most expensive (but also the least) hotel and the next morning, after a bad breakfast, we take the train to Fort William. We have adjusted our plan again due to the weather forecast. Ten kilometers outside Fort William we have booked an apartment. The weather is terrible on the road (trains are hopelessly delayed after our ride), a shame because the area is also very beautiful here.
10/5 We’re back on the beautiful Caledonia Way
Today we start route no 78 along the Caledonian canal. What appears to be an easy route on paper is not a ‘walk in the park’ in practice. It starts quietly along the canal, but as soon as we arrive at the Lochs the route goes into the forest and we also go up a lot. In addition, we encounter quite a few obstacles. It is therefore a varied route. The weather also changes, the rain suit is on all day and the rain suit is off…
We arrive late in Fort Augustus, where we sleep in the Loch Ness Guesthouse. A lovely room, with use of a pleasant lounge and kitchen.
11/5 The highlands and the lochs
We sleep well and start the day with a nice breakfast in the kitchen. The weather is changeable, just like yesterday. We decide to continue on the cycle route. That means a lot of climbing, into the highlands! It is a beautiful route, very varied but also long. Especially the last part, for Inverness. The entire cycle route goes along the B852 so it is also a through road. This also means passing traffic here and there.
After shopping at the Tesco, we plunge into the traffic of Inverness. We go to the bridge over Beauty Firth/Moray Firth. There appears to be a diversion here … what and how is not clear. We appear to be on the other side of the four-lane highway….Finally crossed the road and drove over the bridge. We are broken! But the route continues cheerfully …. In Munlochy we have a nice hotel. Here we want to rest for a day. Were it not for the fact that in the evening Joost realizes that we do have tickets for the train, but no bicycle reservations yet….. They don’t seem to be there anymore. Do we have to take the train tomorrow?
12/5 Edinburgh, here we come!
We slept badly and woke up early. Not happy. Are dreading going over that aweful bridge again and don’t want to leave here yet. After another phone call with Scotrail we have received our bike reservations. We drive via a shorter route to the bridge and are at the station in an hour … it was not that bad. The train journey to Edinburgh goes well and when we have arrived we cycle through the center to our B + B. This turns out to be a very nice and nice boutique hotel. We had already booked the last night here and are glad we now have an extra day. In the evening we go to the pub in Haymarket.
13/5 Enjoying the Botanical Garden and the National Museum
After a delicious breakfast with a view of Dean Village, we set off. We walk via the Leith River to the beautiful Botanical Garden. Then by bus to the center to visit the National Museum.
The National Museum is located in a beautiful building. It has a beautiful natural history section with many fun and interactive assignments. We’re having a great time. The view from the seventh floor over the city is also worth seeing. We also take a look at the design and industrial department. There is too much to see! Via the Greyfriar cemetery and Victoria Street we walk past the castle to George Street and the surrounding area. We go back to the hotel, freshen up and then head back to Haymarket. Here we drink a beer at the Irish Pub and eat delicious pizza at Pomo Pizzeria. Great choice!
14/5 Going home
The next morning we again enjoy a delicious breakfast with ‘eggs Benedict’. We drive via a detour past Holyrood Palace to the station. The train journey is going well. Cycling in Newcastle is again a challenge (what a lively bustle in the Saturday center!), but we make it to the ferry. On the ferry we can be found in the observatory a lot, but we don’t see any sea creatures. Once we have arrived in IJmuiden it takes a very long time before we can get off the boat due to the customs issues. So we catch a train later. The weather is beautiful here…. We can look back on an intensive but wonderful journey!