Bicycling Scotland's Highlands Coast to Coast Plus! the Isle of Skye
Our bicycle tour through Scotland offers a unique combination of wilderness, history and beautiful bike rides. Join us as we bicycle from the North Sea to the Atlantic Coast across the Highlands of Scotland. Pedal quiet roads that wind through ancient pine forests and across open hillsides with impressive views of the UK's highest mountain range. Crossing the east/west watershed of the River Spey, the scenery becomes increasingly more rugged and wild. The final section takes us onto the rarely visited Ardnamurchan Peninsula. This is one of our favorite places in Scotland and largely off the tourist map. The coast to coast portion of our journey ends at Ardnamurchan Point (the most westerly point on the UK mainland) where the historic lighthouse dominates the magnificent view across the Atlantic and the Hebridean Islands.
Our bicycle tour continues on the Isle of Skye, a short ferry ride away. This quintessential north Atlantic island is peopled with hearty souls, majestic landscapes and plenty of black-faced sheep. The Cuillin Hills, in the north-central part of the island, dominate the island's scenery. Ocean bays, inlets and glimmering lochs abound as we pedal scenic roads around the island. Join us for this spectacular bicycling journey.
***If this sounds great but you don't have time for the full 12 days, check out our Bicycling Scotland's Highlands Coast to Coast tour, which features the first 9 days of this itinerary.***View Day-by-Day ItineraryHide Day-by-Day Itinerary
Day 1: Rendezvous in Edinburgh and shuttle to Aberdeen
Highlights: Welcome to Scotland
We will rendezvous at 10AM in Edinburgh to shuttle to our starting point in Aberdeen. Come a few days early to explore the old historic town of Edinburgh, including the Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, Carlton Hill, and the underground walkways of the old medieval city. We'll shuttle to Aberdeen where we'll begin our bicycle journey across Scotland. Aberdeen is a classic North Sea industrial city famous for its bustling oil and gas industry as well as its fishing industry. We'll fit bikes late this afternoon before a special dinner tonight signals the beginning of our culinary exploration and bicycle adventure across Scotland.
Distance: Test ride. Meals: D
Lodging: Mary Culter House Hotel. The July 26th 2015 departure will be at the Mercure Aberdeen Ardoe House
Day 2: Bicycle Aberdeen to Ballater
Highlights: Bicycling on quiet lanes, visit small villages, salmon leaping
We depart Aberdeen this morning to make our way through quiet country lanes along the River Dee through the area known as Royal Deeside. Our route follows the old railway line used by Queen Victoria in the 19th century. We'll touch upon small Scottish villages like Banchory, where you might want to have a lunch break. We recommend stopping at the Bridge of Feugh, where salmon are often leaping up the falls as they migrate up the Water of Feugh to spawn. Continuing alongside tree-lined roads bordering the River Dee, we'll reach the friendly town of Ballater this evening.
Distance: 41 miles (66 km). Meals: B
Lodging: Glen Lui Hotel
Day 3: Loop ride from Ballater
Highlights: Royal Lochnagar Whisky distillery, small lanes in Scotland
We have a leisurely day today as we spend two nights in Ballater, so you can take a nice loop ride into the Scottish greens or spend time in town, perhaps taking lunch at the local cafe with the locals. We recommend riding out along the River Dee to the Royal Residence of Balmoral, where the royal family still resides occasionally (meaning the castle is not always open to the public). If the royal family is not around, you can visit the grounds and the impressive ballroom in the castle. Regardless of the royal presence, you can visit nearby Crathie church, where Queen Elizabeth attends church services during her stays in the Scottish highlands. We'll regroup this afternoon for lunch and a visit to the Royal Lochnagar whisky distillery--learn all there is to know about whisky.
Distance: 0-23 miles (0-37km). Meals: B, L
Lodging: Glen Lui Hotel
Day 4: Bicycle Ballater to Tomintoul
Highlights: Wildlife, Cairngorms National Park, Lecht Pass, Corgarff Castle
We'll leave the flats on the North Sea side today and climb straight up into the heart of the Cairngorms National Park today. Pedal through pine forests into a striking landscape of heather moorland. Wildlife abounds here (keep your eyes open for the famed red grouse, mountain hares and deer) as we climb high into the classic Scottish Highlands. Along the way, we'll pass the spectacular Corgarff Castle, stop in for a visit if you'd like before heading onto our biggest alpine-style climb of the trip -- the Lecht Pass. Anybody wanting to shuttle this short but testing climb is welcome to hop in the van. The views are superb as the road winds to the top. From the summit at 637 meters (2038'), enjoy a long downhill glide into Tomintoul, the highest village in the Highlands and the heart of serious Highland whisky (you know it's very serious when it is spelled without an "e"), distillery country. We'll split up and stay in small B&B's tonight, enjoying the best of Scottish hospitality. Please note: Because we are in small B&Bs not all rooms have a private bathroom.
Distance: 24 miles (39 km). Meals: B, D
Lodging: Richmond Arms Hotel
Day 5: Bicycle Tomintoul to Newtonmore
Highlights: Cairngorms National Park, Strathspey Steam Railway, Loch an Eilean, BBQ lunch
Without a doubt, a favorite day of the trip featuring one of the best rides in Scotland as we pedal through the Cairngorms National Park skirting the mighty Cairngorms massif and losing altitude to return to greener lush country. Once off the Cairngorm plateau, you'll ride through an ancient Caledonian pine forest. This is the Rothiemurchus Estate, one of the land management systems in Scotland, where land is privately owned and managed (for private and public use) in "estates" that can possibly cover up to hundreds of square miles. Rothiemurchus is exemplary in its recreational use management for the public. This is regularly voted one of the most scenic spots in the UK and we'll also learn more about the area from one of the rangers. From Loch an Eilean, a quiet back road takes us along the River Spey to the village of Newtonmore, overlooked by the ancient Ruthven barracks. These 18th century barracks are well worth a visit before the final descent into the village. Feast on a BBQ lunch at Inverdruie House, a part of the Rothiemurchus estate.
Distance: 47 miles (76 km). Meals: B, L
Lodging: Craigerne Hotel
Day 6: Bicycle Newtonmore to Spean Bridge
Highlights: Bicycle along the River Spey and along the Loch Laggan
Following the River Spey towards its source today we push on towards the divide between the East and West Highlands and from here on we will be riding almost directly west all the way to the Atlantic. A fine day on good roads which run alongside the beautiful Loch Laggan and Creag Meagaidh National Nature Reserve. The final section takes us into Spean Bridge where you can visit the woolen mill and shop before heading past the WWII Commando Memorial to our forested lodge. We'll enjoy a special home-cooked meal this evening at our family run lodge.
Distance: 38 miles (61 km). Meals: B, D
Lodging: Old Pines Hotel
Day 7: Spean Bridge to Strontian
Highlights: Ferry across Loch Linnhe, Bicycle through Bonnie Prince Charlie country!
We pedal quiet roads along the Caledonian canal (built along the Great Glen geologic fault line that dramatically cuts through the Highlands and connects 4 lochs, or lakes, to create a 60 mile water way that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the North Sea) to reach Fort William, the capital of the West Highlands. With a quirky twist, we board a short passenger ferry to cross the deep and wide Loch Linnhe. Disembarking on the west side, we join the Ardnamurchan Peninsula for our final push to the Atlantic. The area is of great historic interest; this is where Bonnie Prince Charlie led the Jacobite Rebellion in 1745 against the British Crown. Enjoy the spectacular views, as we ride past the rocky ramparts of Garbh Bheinn ("The Rough Mountain"). Our destination is Strontian on the shores of Loch Sunart.
Distance: 39 miles (63 km). Meals: B, D
Lodging: Strontian Hotel
Day 8: Bicycle Strontian to Ardnamurchan Point
Highlights: Ardnamurchan Point and lighthouse
Our morning begins with a ride along the lovely Loch Sunart to the village of Salen. We'll have time for a coffee here (or an early ale!) for the ride west to "the point". Climbing and descending along the undulating road the views get better all the time with the Island of Mull and the Small Isles coming into range. The route actually follows the edge of an ancient volcano which adds another dimension to the ride. We'll continue through the town of Kilchoan and finally Ardnamurchan Point which is situated on the cliffs above the Atlantic Ocean with a magnificent vista of the mountainous west coast and Hebridean Islands. If you wish, climb the 152 steps of the lighthouse. We will be return to Strontian by vehicle for dinner.
Distance: 35 miles (56km). Meals: B, D
Lodging: Strontian Hotel
Day 9: Bicycle from Strontian to Mallaig; and over the sea to Skye
Highlights: Pedaling along the Hebridean Coast, smokehouse, the Isle of Skye
We pedal back to Salen this morning along the coast of Loch Sunart and then head north to Glenuig home to the small but famous MacDonald's Smokehouse. Pop in for picnic supplies or a taste of smoked cheese, salmon or trout (or coffee in the nearby lodge)and then keep pedaling along the shoreline overlooking the Inner Hebridean islands to Mallaig where we catch a short ferry to Armadale on the Isle of Skye where our cozy inn awaits. No worries about making the ferry as shuttling options are available for all or part of the ride. The high peaks of Cuillin Hills on the Isle of Skye which will be visible for parts of the ride today.
Distance: 49 miles (79 km). Meals: B, L, D
Lodging: Ardvasar Hotel
Day 10: Bicycle on Skye
Highlights: Armadale and the MacDonald Clan, towering Cuillin Hills, Talisker Whiskey Distillery
Have you ever met anyone called MacDonald? Well, we're in MacDonald territory here - the largest Clan in Scotland and in the world. The Clan Donald established itself on Skye in the 15th century, occupying castles at Armadale, and in Duntulm, at the north end of the island. The Clan's leaders were Lords of the Isles until the forfeiture of the Lordship in 1493, when the Scottish King took the title away. Our ride takes us to the feet of the Cuillin Hills; we enjoy the view of these magical peaks from the sea too, as we take a boat ride from Elgol, all around the mountains, and straight to the Talisker whisky distillery. We learn how to extract, bog-smoke, ferment, distill and age barley malt to produce a fine, amber colored whisky. A taste is a must before heading to our hotel in Portree.
Distance: 31 miles (50 km).Meals: B
Lodging: Marmalade Hotel
Day 11: Explore Skye
Highlights: Old Man of Storr, high cliffs overhanging the ocean, Skye Museum of Island Life, Portree
The opportunity for activities on Skye are numerous. Depending upon the season, our tour leaders will plan the day for the group to afford the best way to experience more of Skye. Perhaps cycling along the rugged basaltic coastal cliffs of the northern finger of Skye with dramatic views of the ocean; or a hike to the Man of Storr, a 165 ft. tall hanging monolith that challenges all the laws of physics; or a visit to Kilt Rock Waterfall to enjoy the wilderness of the island; or a visit of the Skye Museum of Island Life where you can learn how Skye inhabitants have survived in this ruggedly beautiful and harsh environment. Be prepared for any of them and to have one more opportunity to see the black-headed sheep and the Highland cows. Final farewell dinner together in Portree, the island's capital.
Distance: 0-51 miles (0-82 km). Meals: B, D
Lodging: Marmalade Hotel
Day 12: The end of our bicycling journey
Highlights: Shuttle back to Edinburgh
We'll shuttle back to Edinburgh this morning after breakfast, departing around 9:00AM and arriving at a approximately 4:00 - 5:00 PM.
HighlightsCairngorms National Park, Isle of Skye, Cuillin Hills, Skye Museum of Island Life, Ardnamurchan Point, Ancient Castles and Monuments, Quiet Roads, Private Distillery Tour and Tasting, PortreeKeep in Mind: We work hard to maintain consistency across all of our tours, but some trips have unique differences. Here are some things to keep in mind about this tour.
Includes12 days, 11 nights lodging; Use of a 27-30 spd aluminum road or hybrid bike; 11 breakfasts, 7 dinners, 4 lunches; 2 to 3 tour leaders; ferry to the Isle of Skye; shuttles to Aberdeen and back to Edinburgh; visits and special events listed in itinerary
CountriesUnited Kingdom UK
Arrive/DepartGlasgow Airport (GLA) or Edinburgh Airport (EDI) / Glasgow or Edinburgh
Total Distance304-378 miles (492-612 km)
Daily DistanceAverage per day 30-37 miles
Rating301-401 Rolling hills along lakes and rivers on most days with more significant climbs on Days 4 & 8. The Isle of Skye has steeper hills and it can be windy.
TermsTerms & Conditions
Dates Price Private Room Charge Notes
* We are happy to match solo travelers who would like to share a room with someone of the same gender. If no match exists, due to hotel pricing, we will charge 50% of the private room charge. This charge will be collected at the time of the final payment. If a roommate assignment is available it will be refunded at the conclusion of the tour.
Following the Sun: A Bicycle Pilgrimage from...
ExperiencePlus! traveler Phillip Singer reviews John Hanson Mitchell's book.
Meals on Your Bicycle Tour
Information on how meals work on ExperiencePlus! Bicycle tours
Recipe: Neep and Tatties
A delicious recipe featuring potatoes and rutabagas.
Scotland Trip Planner
Read up on country customs, transportation information, culinary specialites, and more!
The Highlands of Scotland Plus! the Isle of Skye
An overview and slide show of the trip.
How well do you know the history of Edinburgh's castle? Rick Steves gives us a brief synopsis in this video.
- Following the Sun: A Bicycle Pilgrimage from...
We had a fantastic time and consider it one of the best vacations we have ever taken.Ned M., Sautee Nacoochee, GA
Friendly people, beautiful scenery, cloudy skies, awesome riding on challenging hills and rural roads.Rich H., Cheyenne, WY
Challenging cycling in a stunningly lovely country steeped in history - a history that was truly brought alive by the tour guides. This was my 9th trip with ExperiencePlus! and although all have been wonderfully memorable, this one is among my favorites.Diane C., Gabriola Island, BC Canada
Absolutely wonderful and amazing. The scenery was fantastic, the guides were exceptional and the overall experience gave us a great appreciation and understanding of a wonderful country!Suzanne S., Wiesbaden, Germany
We had the trip of a lifetime! Since there are no more lifetimes, we need more trips!Ned M., Sautee Nacoochee, GA
ExperiencePlus! tours are the highlight of my summer. The guides, the guests, the food the biking and the area all add to a first rate experience. I will gladly continue to support the company in the future.MIke T., West Caldwell, NJ
This was one of the best tours we have experienced. Great biking, fantastic scenery. Lots of Scotish history and customs.Carolyn & Harold M., Centerville, UT
The people were all extremely friendly, the scenery was spectacular, and the guides were a lot of fun.Jim and Vicki W., Boulder, CO
This was the best trip ever. Of course I always say that!Stu W., Boulder, CO
This was my 10th EexperiencePlus! tour and by far the best.Tim M., Anacortes, WA