One of our favourite activities as a family is cycling; it’s great exercise, great fun, and also gives Brody a chance to get some off lead run time. However finding the right cycle routes for the whole family can be tricky – they need to be off road, or at least pretty quiet; interesting for all of us, and without too many hills to tire out little legs.
We’ve had a few disasters (we prefer to frame as ‘adventures’) where we’ve picked entirely unsuitable routes which have nearly put the kids off cycling with Mum and Dad for life (think 13 mile hilly round trips, burn crossings and lost trainers). Thankfully, however, on our many campervan travels we’ve also found a few Scottish cycling breaks that tick all the right boxes. So here’s a round up of the best:
The Highland town of Grantown-on-Spey, near Aviemore, makes a great base for family cycling. The town provides access to the ‘Dava Way’, a 24 mile walking and cycling route following the old Highland railway line linking the towns of Grantown-on-Spey and Forres. We use the trail for a 10km out-and-back trip through farmland and pretty woods before the route joins a minor road for a short distance. If you’re feeling more adventurous you could certainly carry on!
For those of you who enjoy a bit of ‘proper’ mountain biking, about 30 minutes away from Grantown you’ll find the Glenlivet Mountain Bike Trails; fun packed tracks set amidst the stunning countryside and woodlands of the Glenlivet Estate. We stick to the 9km Blue Trail aimed at novice and intermediate bikers when we visit – GB and the boys absolutely love it, but if I am being honest I always feel I could do with a Green (beginners) trail and a mouthguard. In the spirit of Team Family I am happy to walk my bike over some of the more thrilling thrills and spills of the route and catch up with the rest of my gang at the finish line later. And while watching ten year olds zoom past as they skilfully manoeuvre their way over rollers and bumps can be embarrassing, there is always the cheery Coffee Still cafe at the end of the route to help me recover with an insta-friendly cycling latte before the next adventure.
This next adventure could well be a trip to Aviemore, again, only about half an hour’s drive from Grantown, where a great range of family cycling opportunities are available, our favourite of which is the route round Loch an Eilein about 5 minutes away from the town. Set in the vast Rothiemurchus forest, this 7km, mainly flat route, is an absolute gem with scenery to die for (watch out for the ruined castle on your way round). This is also a popular walking route, however, so take your best manners, a bell and a picnic to guarantee a great day out.
WHERE TO STAY: We stay at the Grantown-on-Spey Caravan Park, a lovely, well maintained site with direct access to the Dava Way.
Linlithgow, a pretty, historic town within striking distance of both Edinburgh and Glasgow, is another fantastic family cycling base. Take a ride along the Union Canal, which has the dual advantage of being both scenic and at the same time completely flat. Just remember that canal paths can be narrow, wet and uneven, so dismount and walk your bikes at bridges, crossings etc., and keep those little ones safe.
Not far from Linlithgow are some fantastic bike trails at Beecraigs Country Park, a superb countryside retreat offering 900 acres of open space and (to my delight) – green cycling trails (yay!). Set in woodland and open countryside, the park also has lots of other family friendly attractions, including a deer herd, an adventure playground, and if you’re really lucky, a visiting ice cream van.
WHERE TO STAY: We stay at Beecraig’s own dedicated caravan and camp site. The ideal place to explore everything the park has to offer and only a five minute drive from Linlithgow itself.
Last but by no means least on our round up of top Scottish cycling breaks is Blair Atholl, a lovely little village in the heart of Highland Perthshire. The Atholl Estate welcomes cyclists on their many roads and tracks, and there are a range of trails available for all sorts of abilities (pick up a leaflet from the Estate’s Ranger Service or at the Blair Castle Caravan Park). Why not make a day of it and enjoy the view of Blair Castle as you ride out to see the Falls of Bruar on a 9 mile round trip. You’ll be rewarded with lovely views and plenty of wildlife spotting opportunities along the way.
WHERE TO STAY: We stay at the Blair Castle Caravan Park, a top notch site which provides direct access to the Atholl Estate’s huge network of walking and cycling trails. Watch out for the friendly Highland cattle at the main entrance!
I hope this post has given you some inspiration for your next family cycling break in Scotland. Please do let me know if you have any of your own favourite cycling holiday tips to share!