Golden beaches hug glistening lochs, ospreys circle above dense woodland, quiet life plays out in remote coastal villages, and stunning castles crown islands off the coast – there is no place in the world quite like Scotland.
This Collection presents the magnificent Caledonia Way. Over 9 stages, you cycle 220 miles (360 km) from Campbeltown on the Kintyre Peninsula to Inverness, the “capital” of the Highlands, completing this coast to coast challenge.
The Caledonia Way is one of Scotland’s classic scenic cycling routes. Expect stunning vistas as you explore the Kintyre Peninsula and follow the Great Glen fault line, passing some of Scotland’s most famous spots along the way. Loch Ness, the Caledonian Canal and Britain’s highest peak, Ben Nevis, lie en route.
Scotland is a haven for cycle touring. Secluded country lanes and cycle paths transport you to otherworldly nature brimming with lochs, ancient forests, abundant wildlife, and rugged hills. But, you should still be prepared to share some busier stretches with motorists, especially during the height of the tourist season.
This route is suitable for all novice bike tourers who are looking for a challenge and more experienced adventurers. There are a few big climbs to tackle and your legs need to power up a total of 2,066 feet (630 m) of elevation gain in one day.
If your fitness level will struggle, consider riding an e-bike. Guesthouses and campsites en route offer charging (sometimes at an additional fee), but be sure to plan ahead so you don’t run out of charge.
Known for its beauty and history, this area of Scotland is a popular wilderness escape. As such, you can often find accommodation even in the smallest of villages. However, the stretches in between populated areas can be long and remote so make sure you always carry enough food and water with you.
Although few and far between, the villages and towns that line the route are overflowing with charm. Marvel at rural Scottish life as you explore legendary towns such as Fort William, Spean Bridge and Fort Augustus.
As wild camping is legal in almost all of Scotland, I recommend packing your camping gear. Nothing quite beats waking up with the sun in your tent surrounded by beautiful nature (weather-permitting of course). Don’t forget to leave-no-trace and camp responsibly though, you can find advice on how to do that here: visitscotland.com/accommodation/caravan-camping/wild-camping
As is true in most of Scotland, spring and autumn are the best seasons to ride the Caledonia Way. In the height of summer, expect the nature spots to be crowded. Midges can also become a real pest, so pack insect repellent and nets, especially if you're camping. Whichever season you choose, pack your waterproofs as the weather can turn at any time of year.
The Caledonia Way follows the National Cycle Network 78 and is well-signposted the whole way. I recommend riding it from Campbeltown to Inverness as the inclines are much more gentle in this direction.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to reach the start of your adventure in Campbeltown, unless you drive. The closest train station is 100 miles (160 km) away in Oban. There are buses running from Glasgow but check ahead of time if they can take your bike. Flying is also an option, with two flights per week operating between Glasgow and Campbeltown airport.
The Caledonia Way features on many cyclists’ bucket lists for good reason. You’d be hard pushed to find a more stunning bike route, not just in the UK, but in the world.
For more inspiration, check out Adventure Syndicate's Lee Cragie's journey along the Caledonia Way here:
Wild and windswept landscapes await on your first day of adventure as you ride 16.1 miles (26 km) up the Kintyre Peninsula. Your journey begins in Campbeltown, a lovely town once labelled the “whisky capital of the world”. Back in the day, 32 distilleries produced whisky here, but just three remain open today. Stage 1 throws you into spectacular remote landscapes of rolling hills and crashing waves. The good news is you will still find plenty of shops and cafes along the way to keep you energised. A quiet back road takes you out of Campbeltown, past fields of sheep and wonderful ocean views. You climb gently a couple of times, but there are no major hills. After 4.6 miles (7.5 km), you reach Peninver, a small village with a fantastic beach where you can spot dolphins, porpoise and seals. You can pick up some snacks at the village shop here. Continue along the same road as it winds along the coast, passing lonely cottages and fields of golden crops and grazing animals. With the sea always close by, every turn brings a new delightful scene. At Ballochgair, you can visit the ancient Kildonan Dun ruins before rejoining the lane. Now, the views are hidden by dense forests as you ride by the magnificent Saddell Castle.A few short hills stand between you and the finish line in Carradale. Set amongst beautiful scenery, this coastal village is tucked away on a quiet corner of the Kintyre Peninsula. You’ll find everything you need here for a comfortable rest.
With seascapes, layered hills and stunning wilderness in abundance, Stage 2 continues your magical journey along the Kintyre Peninsula. Today you cover 24.8 miles (40 km) from Carradale to Tarbert. The route is rarely flat during this stage as it follows wavy hills along the seafront, climbing 1,640 feet (500 m) in total. You also won’t find many shops so bring enough food and drink with you. You can stock up in Carradale. From Carradale, backtrack slightly to rejoin the B842 as it follows Carradale Water and descends to the sea at Grogport beach. The next 3.9 miles (6.3 km) are a gorgeous ride along the coast. In between the luscious flora and fauna which lines the road, you catch glimpses of the glistening waters as you head up and down the curvy landscape. At Claonaig, head inland along a secluded lane flanked by ferns and wirey trees. The Kintyre Peninsula is equally as beautiful away from the sea, surrounded by evergreen forests, sleepy farmland, and wild rivers. From the top of the final climb, you can marvel at West Loch Tarbert on the horizon as you descend to meet it. Follow the edge of the waters for the final, relatively-flat miles of stage 2. Nestled on the loch, Tarbert marks the end of your ride. Surrounded by hills, this stunning village has a 14th-century harbour and wonderful seafood. With great tourist infrastructure, you’d be hard pushed to find a more lovely place to stay.
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Watch Ospreys swoop above glistening lochs on stage 3 as you cycle 28 miles (45.2 km) from Tarbert to Ford. Setting off from the fishing village of Tarbert, you start with the biggest climb of the day. With only 885.8 feet (270 m) of climbing spread out over the day, it’s an easy challenge to conquer. Head north and follow the coast for the first 12.4 miles (20 km). Although the road has two lanes, you won’t encounter much traffic as this part of Scotland is quite remote. At first, the view of the sea is shrouded by trees, but it soon opens up to reveal fantastic views over the water and land behind. There are a few hotels on the way where you can stop to refill your water bottles or grab a bite to eat. Ardrishaig, a pretty coastal village, is the first populated place en route. Here, you can explore the beginning of the Crinan Canal, as well as two pretty piers and a lighthouse on the seafront. The village also has plenty of excellent restaurants such as the award-winning Allt-Na-Craig House. Ride along the canal towpath and into Lochgilphead, a thriving 18th-century town on the banks of Loch Gilb with some handy food shops. Continue along the flat towpath as it skirts around Moine Mhor nature reserve and join a completely straight road which cuts through grassland, backdropped by mysterious hills. Various historical sites are worth visiting here, such as the Temple Wood Stone Circle and Carnasserie Castle.A gentle climb brings you to Loch Ederline and on to your final destination, Ford. The small village has a few B&Bs to rest your legs for the night, or you could always wild camp by the loch.
With vast lochs and tumbling waterfalls, water will always be near as you continue to explore beautiful Scottish scenery today, riding 26.6 miles (42.9 km) from Ford to Taynuilt. The scenes leaving Ford are lovely, with natures green hues on full display. In the distance, you see gentle hills which you meet many times throughout the day; you have 2,066 feet (630 m) of climbing in stage 4.After a few minutes riding along a quiet lane, you reach the banks of the spectacular Lake Awe – prepare to be awestruck (no pun intended). Continue to trace the water's edge for 10 miles (16 km), enjoying the wonderful landscapes as you ride. You can marvel at the views from the top of a few climbs here, too. The first town you reach is the village of Dalavich, which means “meadows of the River Avich” in Gaelic. The village has a long history in forestry and timber operations and you can visit the old stables dating back to the 19th century. There’s also a cafe, shop, and post office. Next, take a small detour to explore the cascading Falls of Avich and Loch Avich, before crossing the river and heading into the surrounding forests. You meet Loch Awe again after a few miles and head inland, surrounded by beautiful nature the whole way. The route runs parallel to the River Nant as it flows towards Taynuilt, your final stop. Before the arrival of the railway at the end of the 19th century, the village hosted travellers for centuries. Today you can enjoy this long-standing tradition of hospitality in one of the guest houses and inns in the village.
Regal castles overlooking sprawling lochs and stunning nature await as you cycle from Taynuilt to Appin on stage 5. After a quick detour to visit the Bonawe Iron Furnace, head west along the A85. This section towards Connel is more prone to traffic, especially in summer. If you are uncomfortable sharing the road, you can always hop on the train to skip it.Connel, which means “rough waters” in Gaelic, is an attractive village on Loch Etive with great local amenities. Here, you cross the stunning Connel Bridge over the Falls of Lora and pass Oban Airport.A cycle path now takes you along Loch Creran, where you can marvel at white sandy beaches, far away from any traffic. Ride over Creagan Bridge and pass through Creagan village, which has a pub if you are looking for a pitstop. Continue along the peaceful traffic-free path into Appin village which has a few comfortable accommodation options. You could also consider riding to Port Appin, arguably one of the most beautiful villages in the area, a short detour away.
Castles rising from inlets surrounded by glistening lochs, roads winding through hills and water, and villages shadowed by misty mountains – stage 6 has the potential to become your best day on a bike ever. Setting off from Appin, today you ride 27.9 miles (45 km) to the famous town of Fort William. Your day begins along the shores of Loch Linnhe; look out for the magnificent Castle Stalker towering amongst the water. The route heads up and down small hills as you trace the loch for 8.3 miles (13.4 km) before turning inland and arriving in Duror, a remote coastal village steeped in history. Continue along a cycle path, passing Kentallen Bay and meeting Loch Linnhe once more. Glorious scenes will accompany you as you ride along the loch and into Glenachulish, a small village with an excellent golf course. Here, take the bridge into North Ballachulish and head south-westwards up the coast, passing Inchree and Corran villages. The remainder of stage 6 takes you further along the water’s edge, passing tranquil beaches, small villages and the occasional pub. This area truly makes for dreamy cycling. You can put your feet up and relax when you reach the end of stage 6 in Fort William. Often referred to as the “Outdoor Capital of the UK”, Fort William is surrounded by the West Highlands and just a stone’s throw from Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis. It's also known for its quality MTB trails, being the only UK stop on the Downhill World Cup's calendar. You’ll find everything you need here for a pleasant stay.
Lochs, wild landscapes and lovely towns and villages define stage 7 of the Caledonia Way.This stage takes you 25.1 miles (40.5 km) from Fort William to Laggan, stopping at incredible sites along the way.First off, make a small detour to visit the Caledonian Canal after which this route was named, before joining a cycleway that juts off from the River Lochy. The cycleway takes you through green countryside and into Spean Bridge, a scenic town often referred to as the “Crossroads to the Highlands.” There are some great lunch spots here to stop for a rest. Cross the River Spean and head southwards and slightly uphill, passing the Commando Memorial just outside the village.Next, ride along the road through thick evergreens backdropped by layered hills. Before long, you will reach Loch Lochy, part of the Caledonian Canal, where stunning views over water await once more. You cycle along the lake for the rest of stage 7, arriving in Laggan at the far end of the loch. This small village has limited accommodation options, but you can find a comfortable night’s rest in the hostel.
Stage 8 takes you along the picturesque Caledonian Canal and up the biggest climb of your adventure – spectacular views are guaranteed! From Laggan, you cycle 24.6 miles (39.7 km) to Foyers, climbing 1,770 feet (540 m) in total. The route begins along a cycle path which traces the Caledonian Canal and Loch Oich for 10.5 miles (17km) to Fort Augustus. You can enjoy this stretch of nature far away from cars, although bear in mind that the path is very popular with cyclists, especially during summer. Fort Augustus is a bustling and well-known town with a wide range of food and drink options to refuel before your upcoming climb. From the town, take General Wade’s Military Road as it snakes up into the hills. This road used to be one of the most important roads in Scotland, allowing troops to move easily across the Highlands. Loch Tarff marks the halfway point as you ascend to the highest point of the Caledonian Way at 1,246 feet (380 m).
Your effort is rewarded with spectacular views at the top, overlooking layered hills and glistening lochs. On the descent, cross the River Foyers at Whitebridge village and follow its waters loosely as it winds into Foyers, the final stop of stage 8. The village has a range of accommodation options as well as places to tuck into dinner, preparing you for your final ride the next day.
Your final day of adventure leads 26 miles (42 km) along Scotland’s most famous loch, Loch Ness, and into the magical city of Inverness. From Foyers, take a secluded lane running parallel to the magnificent Loch Ness. Known for its monster, Loch Ness attracts thousands of visitors each year for its beauty and legend. Pass the Clan Fraser Cemetery and ride into Inverfarigaig, a small hamlet with a few holiday lets. Here, head up the serpentine road through ancient woodland. It’s hard going here as you climb up to 1,049 feet (320 m), but the beautiful woodland distracts from your burning thighs. As you near the top, the trees open up to reveal vast grasslands and forest-covered hills. Next, an exhilarating descent brings you back to Loch Ness. Continue along the road as it traces the banks of the loch and leads into Dores, where you will find a pub for a well-deserved pitstop. The remainder of the route is more-or-less flat as you ride through the countryside and into Inverness, a wonderful city steeped in history. It is well worth setting aside some time to explore Inverness which is often overlooked in comparison to Edinburgh or Glasgow. The picturesque city has everything from ancient castles to buzzing cycling cafes to keep you entertained. Inverness is well-connected by rail, making it easy to return home from your wild and wonderful adventure. For more information on trains, visit: thetrainline.com/stations/inverness