There are few things in life as pleasant as a cycle through the Scotland’s remarkable landscapes, be it along a canal towpath, around a winding island road, or through lush, pastoral countryside.
But perhaps the most satisfying moment is when you allow yourself a rest from the pedals, and take a few moments to enjoy the freshly packed lunch you’ve been carrying in your backpack. Food definitely tastes better when eaten outside, and even more so when you’ve traversed a few miles of tarmac or trail before tucking into tasty homemade bites.
Check out our suggestions for some great cycle routes across Scotland’s islands and mainland, with wonderful spots to picnic at along the way:
Route length: 25 miles | Difficulty: moderate/difficult
Follow this route for an invigorating cycle, part of which takes you along the Aberdeenshire coastline on a National Cycle Route. Work up an appetite and complete the route before picnicking at Dunnottar Castle, a breathtaking clifftop fortress.
Tasty tip: instead of packing a sweet treat, wander to Aunt Betty’s Ice Cream and pick up a couple of tasty scoops of fresh, homemade ice cream.
Route length: 12 miles | Difficulty: moderate
Idyllic Coll is perfect for a peaceful, leisurely cycle along the island’s main road. There are plenty of beautiful isolated beaches to stop and soothe your legs with a paddle at the shoreline, plus there’s a good chance you’ll spot rare and secretive corncrakes or pretty Eriskay ponies along the way.
Tasty tip: If you are sailing over, check out the shop on board the CalMac ferry and find tasty island produce, such as cheese, oatcakes and biscuits.
Route length: 5 miles | Difficulty: Easy
As well as linking the Scottish Border towns of Innerleithen and Peebles, this route also provides access to the mountain biking trails at Innerleithen and Glentress, ideal if you want to crank up the pace. It follows the River Tweed, so there are plenty of potential places to stop for a picnic on the banks of the river, including Peebles itself.
Tasty tip: Wash down your picnic lunch with a local beer or ale from Traquair House Brewery at Innerleithen.
Route length: 40 miles | Difficulty: difficult
Starting at Brodick, this route follows the north road which skirts Arran’s dramatic coast and is perfect for those cyclists who enjoy a testing pedal-powered challenge. Plan a break at Lochranza and tuck into your picnic on one of the benches near Lochranza Castle.
Tasty tip: As you leave Brodick, pop into the Isle of Arran Cheese Shop to pick up some local fromage and oven-baked oatties from Wooleys of Arran.
Route length: 17 miles | Difficulty: easy
Pedal along the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond for a pleasant afternoon’s cycling. The charming conservation village of Luss makes an excellent place for a stop. Find a spot along the sandy shoreline to sit on your blanket and replenish yourself with your feast, and drink in the views of the surrounding hills and mountains.
Tasty tip: Browse the food hall at Loch Lomond Shores at Balloch and pick up some delicious Scottish produce to take with you on your cycle.
Route distance: 32 miles | Difficulty: moderate
Follow the Union Canal towpath from the city of Edinburgh to the world’s first rotating boatlift, the Falkirk Wheel. The canal basin is a great spot to chow down on your packed lunch whilst watching this engineering wonder in action. If you’ve still got some energy, pedal another five miles along the Forth and Clyde Canal to see The Kelpies in The Helix.
Tasty tip: Give your picnic a continental twist. Before you set off, pick up some fresh bread and Mediterranean nibbles from long-established Edinburgh deli, Valvona & Crolla.
Route distance: 40 miles | Difficulty: moderate
Take in Orkney’s many archaeological wonders on two wheels. The route weaves past lochs and nature reserves and some wonderful historic attractions including the Ring of Brodgar, Stones of Stenness and Maeshowe Tomb. The island’s standing stone sites make particularly excellent places to scoff a delicious homemade sarnie.
Route distance: 22 miles | Difficulty: moderate
At the southern end of the Outer Hebrides lies Barra, a beautiful island where cyclists can explore by following the main road from Castlebay. Home to some beautiful, pristine beaches, the sands of Tangasdale make for a particularly splendid spot to enjoy some lunch. Sit and gaze out across the ocean and enjoy the sensation of the sea breeze against your skin while you refuel.
Tasty tip: visit local and wholefoods stockist Bùth Bharraigh in Castlebay before setting off and pack some yummy local delights in your rucksack.
That’s just a taste of Scotland’s scenic cycle routes. You can search for many more on the dedicated cycling pages on visitscotland.com.
If you’ve found a great picnic spot or cycle route in Scotland, then let us know! Share you experiences with us on social media using #brilliantmoments and #picnic.