Migratory birds fly above a loch and its surrounding green hills, wooden boats bob merrily in their historic harbour as they have for hundreds of years; the North Sea laps at the shingle beach of a peaceful bay with the smell of smoked fish mingling with the salty sea air; regal castles that tell of times gone overlook wide fields and dramatic cliffs. The Coast and Castles North cycle route takes you through centuries of history and varied coastal landscapes as you ride from Edinburgh to Aberdeen.
This adventure is a continuation of the popular Coast & Castles South route from Newcastle to Edinburgh. I’ve split the 184-mile (297 km) journey into 7 stages, allowing you plenty of time to stop off at the sights along the way. However, you can also combine the stages to complete your trip in fewer days. The official route is 172 miles (277 km) but there are a few small worthy detours included which are noted in the individual stage descriptions.
Your journey takes you from the cobbled streets and spires of the Scottish capital and across the historic region of the Kingdom of Fife to finish in Aberdeen. Along the way, you discover iconic towns, cities, and landmarks. The UNESCO World Heritage Forth Bridge, the world-famous golf courses of St Andrews, the V&A Museum in Dundee, and of course, countless castles lie en route.
A variety of scenery awaits too, from evergreen forests to golden beaches and patchwork farmland to rugged coastline. You explore nature reserves both inland and along the coast where wildlife and plant life thrive. Look out for ospreys and migratory birds as you cycle around Loch Leven, one of Europe’s most important bird habitats and Scotland’s largest lowland loch. Along the coast, you may spot dolphins and seals too.
Thanks to the relatively forgiving gradients, this route is suitable for all levels of cyclists. However, whilst the route follows quiet lanes and traffic-free paths for the most part, there are some unavoidable sections along busier B and A roads which may not be suitable for nervous cyclists or children.
You can consider riding any bike, but bear in mind that thicker tread is helpful on some of the unpaved trails. Although taking your road bike is possible, you could end up pushing through the mud at times, especially after rain. The majority of the route is paved, but some of the lanes are a bit bumpy – watch out for potholes.
To keep your cyclists’ hunger at bay, a pitstop in a cafe, restaurant, or pub is never far away. Some of the small fishing villages are renowned for their smoked haddock and ‘Sea Pie’ (it’s actually steak). It never hurts to keep your panniers well stocked with snacks though.
Each stage ends in a village or town where you can find accommodation. However, it is recommended to book in advance, especially in the small fishing villages where beds are limited.
This route is easy to reach by train from across the UK as both Edinburgh and Aberdeen have two of the biggest stations in Scotland (just don’t forget to reserve a space for your bike too). You are never far from a train connection on this route, making it easy to only complete individual stages or to shorten your journey.
If you are interested in the Coast and Castles South route, you can find more information, here: komoot.com/collection/888044/coast-and-castles-cycle-in-the-footsteps-of-legends-and-kings
Ready to get going? Create and customize your own version of this adventure using the full Tour below as a template.
Last updated: December 20, 2021
From the winding cobbled streets of the Scottish capital, your first day takes you 32.5 miles (52.4 km) to Kinross on the banks of the spectacular Loch Leven. Iconic bridges, great coffee stops, and plenty of wide open countryside are the order of the day.
Known for its annual arts festival and steeped…
On stage 2, you awake in the sleepy village of Kinross on the banks of Scotland’s largest lowland loch, Loch Leven. You can take your time exploring the wonderful nature and history here as today is mostly downhill.
The first stretch takes you to the water’s edge where you join a singletrack around the…
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Stage 3 is a rural adventure from Freuchie to St Andrews. Patchwork farmland, yellow gorse bushes, and wide views frame your ride to the coast.
Take the main road out of the town centre and cross over the railway tracks. One of the most challenging climbs of the day greets you on the outskirts of the…
From quiet forests to colourful heaths, sandy beaches, and bustling city seafronts, this 24.8-mile (40 km) journey takes you through a variety of coastal landscapes between St Andrews and Dundee.
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With magical bays, crashing waves, diverse wildlife, and quaint coastal villages, Stage 5 is once again defined by the ever-changing Scottish coastline. Today you ride 32.4 miles (52.3 km) from Dundee to Montrose, continuing northwards.
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Your penultimate stage along the Coast & Castles North route is once again defined by dramatic coastlines and historic castles, true to its name. With 1,476 feet (450 m) of ascent spread across 31.4 miles (50.6 km), this is one of the more challenging legs of your adventure.
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Your final day is a 27-mile (43.6 km) ride from Stonehaven to Aberdeen, where your journey concludes.
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