Where to ride in Lanarkshire: 8 of the best road and mountain bike routes

It’s no secret, Scotland offers some of the best cycling in the world – and nowhere could this be truer than in Lanarkshire

A cycling opening a gate on a grave path

Ideally positioned between Glasgow, Edinburgh and Stirling, with minimal travel time from each of those cities, Lanarkshire is a treasure trove of accessible routes.

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From demanding road routes and flowy mountain bike singletrack to the bushy greenery of the Forth and Clyde Canal, and Clyde Walkway, here are a few of Lanarkshire’s highlights…

1. Ride to the highest hotel in Scotland

Pentland Hills
The beautiful Pentland Hills are home to a wide range of trails

Biggar is a pretty little market town in Lanarkshire that’s perfect for a coffee and cake pit-stop or as the starting point for a day in the saddle.

The trails of the Pentland Hills are an hour’s ride away, while further south there’s an abundance of quiet, rural roads that will take you to the dividing point of Lanarkshire, the Scottish Borders and Dumfries & Galloway, giving you all the hills of the territory.

For a big day out, make your destination the highest hotel in Scotland – the Hopeton Arms Hotel in the Lowther Hills.

A beautiful 100km ride will take you past Abington to Leadhills. After stopping for a pub lunch at the Hopeton Arms Hotel, you’ll climb up the Moffat Road and cruise back to Biggar via Tweedsmuir, going downhill all the way.

More information: The Hopetoun Arms

2. Cycle the Clyde Walkway to the Falls of Clyde

Falls of Clyde
Falls of Clyde © VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

The Clyde Walkway runs 40 miles from Partick in Glasgow to the beautiful Falls of Clyde near Lanark, but it’s not just the famous final destination that’s stunning.

You’ll head to Cambuslang from Glasgow Green before reaching the countryside where you’ll pass the 13th-century castle in Bothwell. Then it’s on to Strathclyde Country Park and the final stretch from Crossford to the Falls of Clyde Wildlife Reserve. If you don’t fancy taking on the full 40 miles, this last segment can be a good ride in itself.

Many parts of the trail can get very muddy, so you’ll want to fit a decent set of mud tyres. Keep an eye out for walkers, too.

More information: The Clyde Walkway

3. Hit the trails in Cathkin Braes

Moutain biker on the trail of Cathkin Braes
The Glasgow 2018 European Championships, Cathkin Braes

There have long been mountain bike trails on Cathkin Braes, but they got a serious upgrade for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Sitting pretty much on the edge of Glasgow, these fantastic trails draw riders from far and wide, both for the riding and the remarkable views.

The hills rise to over 200 metres in elevation, and the trails wind through ancient woodland. The jump line alone must be one of the most scenic routes in Scotland, as it looks out over all of Glasgow and to Ben Lomond beyond. Unsurprisingly, this spot is popular with walkers, too.

There’s a huge variety of routes on Cathkin Braes, with plenty of long blue and green runs, plus some short reds and a rock garden for those who fancy something a bit trickier.

More information: Cathkin Braes

4. Climb the road circuit from Strathaven to Drumclog

Strathaven Town Centre

The 12.7-mile route from Strathaven to Drumclog is a popular training circuit for riders in Lanarkshire due to a whole lot of it not being flat – and the fact it uses quiet back roads.

Riders rise and dip for six miles before facing a fierce one-and-a-half-mile climb to Dungavel, an ascent with gradients up to 7 per cent, which has previously featured in the Tour of Britain.

More information: Strathaven

5. Head to Carron Valley mountain bike trails

Two people holding their bikes and looking at a sunset in Carron Valley
Carron Valley © VisitLanarkshire

Carron Valley offers a little bit of everything for cyclists of all levels. Families can cycle the scenic Loch Shore gravel trail along the Carron Valley Reservoir, but keen mountain bikers will head straight to the singletrack.

Climb to the summit and you’ll be rewarded with a fantastic top to bottom forest red run (which is arguably more of a blue, with some red trail features that can be avoided).

Take the Eas Dubh (Gaelic for ‘black waterfall’) descent on a tight, loose gravel singletrack and try not to get too distracted by the waterfall itself, as you keep your speed through the switchbacks.

Ride down the aptly named Cannonball Run and finish on the terrific Runway, complete with jumps and berms. Then cap off the perfect morning by heading into nearby Kilsyth for lunch at the Scarecrow Bar and Grill.

More information: Carron Valley

6. Combine sedate canal riding with some fast time trialling

Canal and longboats
Cycle alongside the boats on the tranquil Forth and Clyde Canal © VisitLanarkshire

Running for 35 miles and crossing Cumbernauld and Kilsyth, the Forth and Clyde Canal mixes city life with secluded nature. Think leafy green forests, fields, bushes and the odd panoramic hill view, all next to canal boats and the water.

This is also a popular area for birdwatchers – keep an eye out for kingfishers and herons as you cycle.

For a great route that mixes scenery and some serious riding, combine a ride on the canal with a route in the Lanarkshire area where the Commonwealth Games time trial race took place in 2014.

Exit the canal at Kirkintilloch and pick up the time trial route as it passes Lenzie Loch. You’ll ride the hilly countryside roads around Moodiesburn and Croftfoot, then descend down into Glasgow.

More information: Forth and Clyde Canal

7. Climb Tak-Ma-Doon Road in Kilsyth

A cyclist with Silvanus, the Roman Head sculpture at Nethercroy
A cyclist with Silvanus, the Roman Head sculpture at Nethercroy © VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

Hopefully you like climbing because that’s pretty much all you’ll be doing if you take on the Tak-Ma-Doon, a short (2.7 miles) but infamously steep road cycling classic in Lanarkshire.

You’re going to kick up almost as soon as you leave Kilsyth and though the route soon levels out a little, it’s not long until you jolt back upwards again. The average gradient is 6.7 per cent, but there are several sections where you’ll be battling over 10 per cent, often closer to 15 per cent!

On a good day, it provides a rare viewpoint where you can see both Glasgow and Edinburgh, and once you’re at the top you’re only a short, gentle cycle from the Carron Valley Reservoir. And, if you’re a mountain biker, there’s plenty more around Kilsyth – look to the Croy Hill trails for a start.

More information: Kilsyth

8. Ride part of the John Muir Way

A man cycling along a canal, John Muir Way
Forth and Clyde Canal at Auchinstarry Marina © VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

The John Muir Way is a long-distance route running 134 miles coast-to-coast across lowland Scotland. A good chunk of it runs through Lanarkshire and covers much of the best of the area, including several of the routes and features already mentioned above.

The stretch from Loch Lomond to Croy, Kilsyth and beyond to Falkirk, is simply delightful. You’ll cycle along the leafy green surroundings of the canal and ride past the colourful riverboats at the Auchinstarry Marina, with rolling hills in the background.

You’ll then reach the Antonine Wall, originally built by the Romans in AD 142. A little detour will take you to the Nethercroy side of the wall, where a newly installed statue – an enormous, metal sculpture of a Roman head – has been installed, looking out across the Kelvin Valley. When you rejoin the John Muir Way, you’ll soon reach Rough Castle, the best-preserved part of the ancient wall.

This ride provides great variety in terms of scenery and trails, and it’s best ridden on a gravel or mountain bike.

More information: John Muir Way

Feeling inspired? Head to visitlanarkshire.com and VisitScotland’s cycling hub for more information on routes, tours and events.

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