Stuck in the sweaty, sticky city? Escape via bike. The National Cycle Network has some of the most scenic, traffic-free cycle routes through the Scottish countryside. The cycle paths largely follow train lines and other public transport routes making it easier to quit if you find yourself tired, lost, or with a broken bike. One of the main routes that goes through Glasgow is route 75, which stretches from Gourock to Edinburgh. Though the full route is not in itself a great cycle, it provides many smaller routes that are more enjoyable and easier on the legs. Here are some routes for those setting off from or to Glasgow this summer …
Starting anywhere on the Clyde and cycling west, this route is well signposted so it’s pretty hard to get lost. After a few minutes you’re out of the city and enjoying the fresh(er) air as you pass through Glasgow’s suburbs, (and areas laid waste by Thatcher’s ruinous economic policies concering the shipbuilding industry -Ed.). The cycle path is mostly very good with some sections closer to Balloch that are currently smoother than a teflon frying pan. Once you get to Balloch, Loch Lomond is minutes walk away and a perfect place for a picnic.
If you do come unprepared food-wise, Balloch has a great fish and chip shop: Palombo’s on the main road. The loch provides perfect swimming grounds on a hot day or for the fearless, there is always the option of jumping off the bridge into the canal in centre of Balloch. The town centre can be a little crowded on hot days with lobster-skinned day-trippers from Glasgow, so continuing up the loch to Balmaha is an option. It’s perfect for a barbeque, though camping in these areas was banned last year so plan at your own risk. Balmaha also easy to get to from Glasgow if you follow the beautiful country road leading to Drymen (A809) for about 22 miles north.
You can easily get to Edinburgh via cycle paths by going east on route 75 or taking the quieter routes long the A89, which only has local traffic. The cycle path route is around 60 miles but it is very flat, cycling along the road adds up to only about 50 miles. Although a fairly long cycle either way, you do have the option of the relaxing and scenic train ride on the way back. Make sure you’ve got your 16-25 railcard with you, which knocks about a third off of most journeys. Edinburgh is huge and has many attractions, as one would expect from Scotland’s capital city. One of my favourites is the Fudge Kitchen: they create delicious fudge on massive marble tables in front of you. With a variety of flavours to choose from it’s a good stop to make on your journey. If you do decide to buy a slice, you win a prize if it makes it all the way back to Glasgow without being eaten (I’m not kidding – email me for your free I-can-resist-delicious-fudge paper crown!).
Almondell and Calderwood Country Park
This fantastic park is just off the cycle route to Edinburgh. If you don’t mind a lengthy cycle, it’s 35 miles from Glasgow. Getting the train to Drumgelloch and cycling the rest of the way is an easier, more relaxed way of getting there. The cycle path basically starts at the end of the train platform and stretches for 25 miles to the park. Although a considerable length the terrain is pretty flat or downhill. What the park lacks in obvious attractions it more than makes up for in scenery. Take a few drinks, some food, and just relax in some of Scotland’s famously warm summer sun.
Head south-west from Glasgow, follow route 7 of the National Cycle Network. The route from Glasgow to Lochwinnoch and then further down to Ardrossan is pleasant, if a little hilly. As always it’s a scenic cycle through the scottish countryside. Lochwinnoch has a bird sanctuary which throughout the year hosts events aimed at getting visitors to reconnect with nature, if that’s your type of thing. Peace out man!
If you continue on down to Ardrossan from Lochwinnoch (or take the train from Glasgow Central), you find yourself at the beach with the ferry to Arran further down, at the dock. Ardrossan in itself is rather boring (sorry) unless you want to relax by the sea but the 40 minute ferry will take you to the Arran. The island is small and roughly 50 miles all round, making for a great day’s cycling. The north of the island is steep but absolutely beautiful and the road takes you right round the coast. Although you’ll find little but nature, Arran does have some choice local produce, like its famously good whisky and beer. Brodick, the main port town, has a small selection of shops and cafes and the Arran Brewery is near Brodick castle. Ormidale Hotel is great place to go and grab a drink, and if you’re hungry the Hooked And Cooked chip shop is an ideal way to achieve that island getaway vibe. Just add sunshine!