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Across Scotland by canal and coastline — Cycling the John Muir Way

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Across Scotland by canal and coastline — Cycling the John Muir Way

Bike Touring Collection by Katherine Moore



2-3 h

/ day

129 mi

4,800 ft

4,775 ft

Welcome to the John Muir Way; a long distance walking and cycling route that spans the breadth of Scotland from Helensburgh on the west coast to Dunbar on the east. The trail totals 134 miles (216 km) from coast to coast, visiting the glorious Loch Lomond and through the city of Edinburgh’s historic heart before tracing the coastline to the finish.

It takes its name from the well regarded conservationist John Muir (1838-1914), who was born in Dunbar where the trail concludes. Muir later moved to North America and became a pivotal member responsible for securing the future of wilderness areas including Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. You’ll pass through numerous wildlife reserves on your ride, mostly marshland and coastal areas, so if you enjoy birdwatching, you’ll love this trip!

Certain parts of the official John Muir Way cycling route differ to the walking route via so-called braids. These detours function to avoid particularly hard parts of the trail that would be awkward with a bike and protect some parts of the path that are prone to erosion.

The John Muir Way is the perfect challenge for novice tourers, or experienced riders looking to take it a bit more leisurely. The way is well signed and is mostly flat or gently undulating, frequently passing through villages and towns where you can get supplies and places to stay.

Here we propose four stages of around 30 miles (48 km) a day which can be combined or further split as you wish. These should give you plenty of time to explore the many historic landmarks, attractions and nature reserves that line the route.

Each stage of the John Muir Way starts and finishes in towns and villages where you’ll find many options for overnight accommodation, as well as places to eat and drink. Of course you can choose to camp along the route also. If you choose to do this, make sure you are respectful of the environment and follow the Outdoor Access Code (outdooraccess-scotland.scot/).

The best time of year to ride the John Muir Way is likely to be in the summer months, although it might be best to avoid weekends if possible as there are many shared use paths that may become quite congested in the peak season. Springtime or autumn will no doubt give you some beautiful changing seasons, but make sure you pack your waterproofs and plenty of layers just in case!

A lot of the John Muir Way is on unpaved trails, so you’ll need a bike with wider tyres – typically 30mm or wider. A solid touring, cyclo-cross, adventure or gravel bike or a hybrid will be ideal. Alternatively a light-weight rigid or hardtail mountain bike would be fine, although a full suspension bike here would maybe be overkill!

Access to either end of the trail is easy, with both Helensburgh and Dunbar home to train stations that regularly link into the major connecting stations of Edinburgh and Glasgow. For more information on train travel in the region, visit scotrail.co.uk. It’s always worth checking if you can take your bike on the train before travelling, as these regulations may change.

For further information about the John Muir Way, visit johnmuirway.org/route or see our hiking Collection if you fancy exploring it on foot komoot.com/collection/892250/john-muir-way-stunning-coast-to-coast-across-the-heartland-of-scotland.

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The John Muir Way for cycling

128 mi

4,775 ft

4,750 ft

Last updated: November 10, 2021

Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Helensburgh to Lennoxtown — The John Muir Way

    30.9 mi
    9.4 mph
    1,575 ft
    1,375 ft
    Intermediate mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    Welcome to the Firth of Clyde, the west coast, and to Helensburgh! This is the starting point for your four stage adventure across the heart of Scotland. Today is a 32 mile (50 km) stretch which heads inland to the north of Glasgow, finishing in the little town of Lennoxtown.


    Start your route from the

    by Katherine Moore

  • 03:27
    34.7 mi
    10.1 mph
    1,150 ft
    1,325 ft
    Intermediate mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    The second stage is marginally longer than the first, covering 34.7 miles (55.8 km) from Lennoxtown to the coastal town of Bo’ness on the Firth of Forth. Most of today’s route is along the pretty Forth and Clyde Canal, so you’ll enjoy a great deal of the stage totally traffic-free.


    Firstly make your way

    by Katherine Moore

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  • 02:55
    24.6 mi
    8.5 mph
    1,175 ft
    950 ft
    Intermediate mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This third stage is perhaps the most scenic of them all, following along the southern shore of the Firth of Forth coastline before turning inland into the fascinating history of Scotland’s capital city. Ending in Edinburgh, this stage is a shorter 24.7 miles (39.7 km). You’ll be hoping for good weather

    by Katherine Moore

  • 03:38
    39.2 mi
    10.8 mph
    925 ft
    1,125 ft
    Intermediate mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The fourth and final stage of the John Muir Way by bike will take you from the vibrant character at the heart of Edinburgh city to the birthplace of John Muir himself, Dunbar. Covering 38.7 miles (62.3 km) it is the longest day by distance, reaching east to the North Sea and the craggy cliffs that couldn

    by Katherine Moore


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Collection Stats

  • Tours
  • Distance
    129 mi
  • Duration
    13:17 h
  • Elevation
    4,800 ft4,775 ft

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