Scottish Highlands Cycling - Top 5 Secret Routes

Posted By Tom Whittle

Upon taking a two-week venture around the Scottish highlands, I reached out to you all in the Mission community for any routes, tips, and/or treks you might have. One customer, who wishes to remain anonymous, sent these lesser-known / unique routes in and so, with permission, I’m sharing with everyone here. If you do some, send a pic with some Mission in hand please! I loved them. 

Route 1 

Strava

Distance: 123.39km

Elevation Gain: 989m

Ride Type: Road

This route comprises a third of the Loch Ness Etape, just in reverse, and would take in the sights of Loch Ness (including a view across to Urquhart Castle as you cycle some of the bank roads of the Loch itself). You would then come back on yourself and head back towards Inverness, passing by the Clava Cairns, Nairn Viaduct, and Culloden Battleground. These are all in quick succession and are the main reason the route is shorter at 123km. There’s an option to call it quits there and cruise back into Inverness for a pint (if it’s sunny) or head onwards to Cawdor which has a lovely castle and grounds. For the final stint, it’s again back on yourself to head towards the sights of Fort George before returning to Inverness.

There would also be the option to extend at the Loch Ness end and visit Fort Augustus, that way you could also enjoy the descent into the town but also the climb back out. The climb out of Fort Augustus is the main feature of the Loch Ness Etape. You can also just ride the Etape route though the downside of that is the traffic on the Northside of Loch Ness.

Route 2 

Strava

Distance: 114.73km

Elevation Gain: 2,299m

Ride Type: Road

The second route idea is a fairly standard one for most cycling holiday/visits as it takes in the classic scenes of the Bealach Na Ba climb. I’ve never had the privilege of riding this route myself by a number of my colleagues have and love it. Certainly, one to get the camera out on! As the routes are really rural it would be fairly challenging to reduce it at all but at 114km it is the shortest and if anything you might want to extend. There are options to amend the start and end location to places like Kyle of Lochalsh or Plockton. 

On a clear day however you will get a beautiful accompaniment of scenery looking over to Skye and Raasay and generally speaking the West coast as a whole.

Route 3

Strava

Distance: 265.27km

Elevation Gain: 2,400m

Ride Type: Road

A monster route idea for you but certainly an enjoyable one. This route is 90% scenery orientated with some really great roads to boot. I have done a similar route before with an office outing, just spaced over the course of two days, taking an overnighter in Durness. That was my first real outing on a road bike though so I’d like to think with the right conditions and company this sort of route wouldn’t be too much of an issue over the one day, even if it does take up the lions share of the day.

Route 4

Strava

Distance: 205.88km 

Elevation Gain: 2,555m

Ride Type: Road

This is another route akin to route two. The Lecht is a keen spot for riders looking for a little climb but also a lot of scenery. The route itself passes through skiing country which means you would get a good amount of downhill as a reward for the climbing. It’s what you could consider the true heart of the Highlands given its geographical location. Much like the others you could do an A-A return loop with this one or alter it to an A-B and head across to Aberdeen via Inverurie.

Route 5

Strava

Distance: 202.07km

Elevation Gain: 2,202m

Ride Type: Road

Probably one of the most common routes for the local cycling clubs and pro riders. Scottish Commonwealth cyclist Kyle Gordon is an old school friend and ex-college, who often rides this route (or a variation of) when he’s up north. The route itself is fairly easy-going until around 140km in when you get some real climbing in. Each route barring the first one are all roughly the same in relation to elevation gain, except they spread the climbing out a little more. The biggest draw of this one is probably Gruinard Bay as it’s a sight to be seen (even if the island sharing the name Gruinard was once dubbed Anthrax island). Really heavy on the scenery again but it does have some lesser-visited ruins etc along the way. This route can also be extended to head up to Ullapool for one of the country's best fish and chips...post-climb of course.