Top 5 Lothian Cycle Routes

As we move towards summer with the promise of some better weather (don’t laugh at the back there) I thought it might be time to dust off a few of the best cycle routes around the Lothians.

For each route I have included a link to a more detailed description together with a map and profile (featured on the VisitScotland, Edinburgh Bicycle or Citycycling websites). Castles and Beaches 1. Best Castles and Beaches

Combining historic castles with a trip to the seaside highlights one of the pleasures of cycling – the ability to get between very different places under your own steam, enjoying it all the way.

A circular route of 33 miles which begins and ends in Longniddry, there are visits to East Linton and North Berwick, and minor detours could take in Tantallon Castle and Dirleton if the fancy took you.

The last few miles back to Longniddry along the B1377 is a bit of a featureless slog (especially if there’s a headwind), and despite being a B Road it can get quite busy, so it might not be the best route to take very young children. But for older children (and adults) the chance to play on the beach and in old castles will prove a winner!

Falkirk Wheel 2. Best Completely Flat

“We live in Scotland,” I hear you cry, “there are NO flat bits.” Well thanks to the a group of engineers in 1822 that’s not strictly true. The Union Canal provides an excellent relaxed and easy route from Edinburgh to Falkirk (or vice versa) passing through much of West
Lothian.The going in some places is rough-ish track, so a wide-tyred bike is probably the best bet (though I have ridden it on a road bike, it’s not the most comfortable for this route), and the nature of the route makes it ideal as a family route with the promise of the Falkirk Wheel for the kids at the end. Once at Falkirk you can retrace the 30 odd miles, or head into Falkirk itself to get the train back.

The path can get quite busy with walkers and other cyclists so remember to always slow down and be courteous as you make your way.

Bathgate Hills 3. Best Views

It might only be just over 300m high, but Cairnpapple Hill gives some of the best views in the Lothians, extending on a good day all the way out to North Berwick in the east, and Glasgow in the west.

Of course, being a hill this isn’t the easiest of rides, but the scenery is fantastic, and gives the perfect excuse to stop and, erm, admire it. Most of the ride is on tarmac, and so a road bike would be perfectly suited, although if you take the route through Beecraigs Country Park (definitely worthwhile) a mountain bike becomes a bit more necessary.

Starting and ending in historic Linlithgow the ride is around 10 miles long so suitable for anyone.

Edinburgh overview 4. Best Urban

Edinburgh might not be a huge city, but in this 15 mile circuit it manages to pack in history, countryside and enough climbing to satisfy anyone. With the well-known Princes Street as a starting point it’s worth noting that while a lot of the ride takes place on converted disused railway lines, there is a lot of city street riding and so is generally for confident cyclists.

And climbing both Arthur’s Seat, the Royal Mile and Calton Hill it’s also for the reasonably fit!

But it’s all worth it as on the way you pass the famous castle, the infamous parliament, a regal ship and relaxing botanic gardens. You can take all day to this route, stopping at the various landmarks, and really make a touristy day of it.

Pentlands5. Best Long Mountain Bike

37 miles isn’t necessarily a long distance, and with a lot of this route being easy-going it would be a long afternoon’s ride. But right in the middle of this circular route (if starting in Edinburgh) you get to ride across the Pentlands.

This means climbing (and plenty of it); rough surfaces; and excellent views over the whole of the Lothians. Before getting to the Pentlands the route follows the Water of Leith
to Balerno, and afterwards takes old railway lines from Auchendinny to Dalkeith and beyond, so other than the big lump in the middle you should be able to make good going, and any one of the four sections making up this route could be a good ride on its own.

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Anthony Robson Anthony is the editor of online cycling magazine Enjoying most forms of cycling he does his daily work commute by bike, mountain bikes at the weekend, and fills other spare time renovating old bikes. Anthony is 30 and lives with his girlfriend Mel in Edinburgh, where he also works, but enjoys getting out of the city, especially by bike, but also in his pride and joy, a fun red Mini. At last check Anthony had three bikes (mountain bike, road bike, fixed wheel commuter), but this number is expected to increase with the addition of a garage to the household.

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