Katherine Moore

Vast lochs, quaint canals, forest glades — Cycling the Great Glen Way

sdstrowes (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Vast lochs, quaint canals, forest glades — Cycling the Great Glen Way

Bike Touring Collection by Katherine Moore

3

Tours

10:58 h

75.2 mi

4,850 ft

Following a natural fault line that splits the Scottish Highlands in two, the Great Glen Way is a 75 mile (120 km) hiking and cycling trail that links Inverness in the north-east to Fort William in the south-west. Following along Loch Ness, Loch Oich and the wonderfully named Loch Lochy as well as the Caledonian Canal, you’ll never be far from water along the Great Glen Way. For a lot of the route, you’ll follow the National Cycle Network route 78, the Caledonian Way.

Mostly traffic-free, the Great Glen Way favours gravel tracks, towpaths and singletrack, and tends to stay at lower levels rather than head up into the beautiful surrounding hills and mountains. The most challenging part is near the start at the Inverness end as you head up into the forest above Loch Ness, although this does yield some incredible views of the water and sublime singletrack riding.

Here I’ve split the route into three stages of between 20 and 33.5 miles (32 to 54 km), climbing up to a maximum of 2,264 feet (690 m) per stage. This makes for a great long weekend adventure, but of course you could combine parts of the stages to complete it in two days, or even a single day if you’re experienced and up for a challenge! As the way is fairly easy for the most part, well-signposted, mostly traffic-free and there are villages en route, I’d say this would make a great trip for beginner tourers.

The Great Glen Way is also a fantastic choice for novice bikepackers and tourers as there is ample accommodation along the way. With guesthouses, hostels and hotels to choose from in Inverness, Drumnadrochit, Fort Augustus and Fort William, you can do the whole Tour without taking any camping kit (but make sure you book your overnight accommodation in advance). Or if you’d rather camp outside, you’ll find both campsites and fantastic wild camping spots along the route. You can camp where you like (within reason) thanks to the Scottish Right to Roam act (see more at scotways.com/faq/law-on-statutory-access-rights).

Choose the summer months to tackle the Great Glen Way for the best chances of sunshine and dry trails, though always make sure you pack the waterproofs too! It’s also well worth taking midge repellent and face nets if you plan on camping outside during these months when the midges can be at the most abundant.

The Great Glen Way is relatively easy-going, apart from a few short, sharp sections where you may need to get off and push your bike. Although wider tyres measuring 35mm plus are recommended, you can ride it on a touring, gravel, cyclo-cross, hybrid or mountain bike, whichever you prefer.

Transport to and from the start and end points in Inverness and Fort William is made simple thanks to the train stations in these places, both on main lines at either side of the country. You may need to make a reservation to take your bicycle on the train, so make sure you check this when you book your ticket. If you’re planning to do the Great Glen Way in reverse, you can take the overnight Caledonian Sleeper Train to Fort William from London Euston train station which is a truly marvellous experience!

If you also enjoy hiking, why not check out our five stage walking Collection for the Great Glen Way here: komoot.com/collection/890014/great-glen-way-an-epic-coast-to-coast-across-the-highlands-in-5-stages

On The Map

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
    Difficult
    02:48
    19.7 mi
    7.1 mph
    1,550 ft
    1,500 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Although the official start of the Great Glen Way is at Inverness Castle by the River Ness, here I’ve started from Inverness train station, where you’ll likely be disembarking. You’ll …

  • Difficult
    03:39
    22.0 mi
    6.0 mph
    2,275 ft
    2,300 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The second stage of the Great Glen Way contains the most climbing at 2,264 feet (690 m), although the distance of 22 miles (35.4 km) shouldn’t pose a problem and …

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  • Intermediate
    04:31
    33.5 mi
    7.4 mph
    1,025 ft
    1,050 ft
    Intermediate gravel ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The third and final stage of the Great Glen way is the longest, although much flatter than the previous stage. You’ll cover no less than 33.5 miles (53.9 km), although only climbing 1,050 feet (320 m), mostly along the towpath of the Caledonian Canal and then alongside Loch Oich and Loch Lochy, before rejoining the canal to finish in Fort William.

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    3
  • Distance
    75.2 mi
  • Duration
    10:58 h
  • Elevation
    4,850 ft
Katherine Moore

Vast lochs, quaint canals, forest glades — Cycling the Great Glen Way