Glasgow is not exactly the greatest place to get around by bike. The steep roads, the complete absence of cycle paths and, especially in the city centre, the abundance of buses that almost kill you every time they pull away from a bus stop doesn’t make for a tranquil bike ride. Around Glasgow, however, the National Cycle Network provides scenic, traffic-free paths through the Scottish countryside. There are many amazing places that can easily be reached within a day, so get your bike (or hire one) and let’s go explore!
I woke up on a sunny Sunday morning once with no plans for the day and decided to cycle to the Kelpies. I’d seen so many pictures of those two majestic horses that I wanted to see them in real life. But the thought of following the Firth & Clyde canal, which runs from just north of the city centre, past Firhill and Murano, all the way North-East to Firth of Forth, was definitely tempting too. The route is terribly easy: it’s flat, I never had to look at a map, and the only people you’re sharing the path with are a few other cyclists and people going for a walk. With the gorgeous canal always on your right side, you pass through quaint towns while seeing rolling hills in the distance. It’s quiet and there’s so much space, so much air to breath. Being tired after a 50 km-ride (30 miles), I took the train back from Falkirk High to Glasgow. Because – you go Scotland – you can take your bike along for free on the train!
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Oh the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond. Just over 30 km (20 miles) away from Glasgow! This route is very well signposted, so if you start anywhere near the Clyde it’s pretty hard to get lost. One you arrive in the town of Balloch, Loch Lomond is just minutes away. You can either spend the day there, picnicking, breathing in the fresh air, listening to the sound of the waves and perhaps even going for a brave swim; or you can extend your trip to Balmaha to experience some forest scenery as well.
It’s quite a long ride, following cycle paths going east on route 75 – 96 km or 60 miles – or taking the quieter routes along the A89, which adds up to about 80 km or 50 miles. However, the route is flat and takes you all the way East through magnificent Scottish countryside. And it’s obviously always an option to stay the night in our enchanting capital city or take a late train back to Glasgow.
Heading south-west from Glasgow, following route 7 of the National Cycle Network for 30 km or 20 miles will lead you to Lochwinnoch. Lochwinnoch is a village close to two lochs and woodland, which provides enough options for taking in some more magnificent Scottish nature. You could hike from the Castle Semple Visitor Centre and climb to a viewpoint giving superb views over Castle Semple Loch and Barr Loch. You could also extend your trip for another 30 km or 20 miles to Ardrossan, to breath in some salty Firth of Clyde-air while sitting on the beach.
If you indeed continue down to Ardrossan, or take the train from Glasgow Central, you’ll be able to take a 40 minute ferry to Arran. A small island, roughly 80 km or 50 miles all round, it makes a great destination for a day’s cycling. You’ll be able to follow the road all along the coast, experiencing the absolutely beautiful nature as well as the small towns with the occasional shop, café or hotel to grab a drink. If you’re tired of your bike, ascending on the comparatively easy climb of Goatfell mountain is definitely a recommendation. Dramatic granite ridges, extraordinary view all way round; you’ll feel on top of the world.