Edinburgh is one of Europe’s oldest, most beautiful cities and has so much to offer. So, what better way to explore Scotland’s capital and its surrounding areas than on a bike? From views of the Firth of Forth estuary to canal towpaths and countryside lanes, you can experience everything Edinburgh has to offer on your bike.
Bike Life Edinburgh places high importance on getting people to travel on their bike, in a bid to make Edinburgh carbon-free by 2030. With that in mind, we bring you the best cycle routes Edinburgh has to offer.
Edinburgh to the Forth Road Bridge
Distance: 13.1 miles
Total ascent: 326m
This is a popular route for cyclists and undoubtedly one of the best cycle routes in Edinburgh. You start at Haymarket Station in the city centre, then head west onto Roseburn Path towards Silverknowes (as you’ll see in the map above). The route varies between cycle lanes, railway trails and residential areas before you end up in North Queensferry.
You cross the iconic Forth Road Bridge, which was the largest suspension bridge in Europe at the time it was built in 1964. Here, you’ll experience breath-taking views of the Firth of Forth estuary and overlook the distinguished Forth Rail Bridge, Britain’s first-ever steel bridge.
If you’re feeling up to it, you can turn around and head back towards Edinburgh city centre. Or, if you fancy a bite to eat, head to the seaside village of North Queensferry and get the train back to Edinburgh from there. Trains usually run every 30 minutes, so there’s no need to worry about timings.
Overall, this is quite a hilly route but nothing too strenuous, which makes for a pleasant ride.
Union Canal (Edinburgh to Falkirk)
Distance: 31.9 miles
Total ascent: 177m
This route takes you from the centre of Edinburgh to the town of Falkirk, where you can see the Falkirk Wheel – the world’s only rotating boat lift. From Edinburgh, you make your way along the Union Canal path, which follows the National Cycle Network Route 754 and makes for serene waterside cycling.
You’ll feel at one with the countryside, thanks to the beautiful landscapes and amazing bridges and aqueducts. You pass the Muiravonside Country Park, where you’ll have views of the River Avon. You also go through Linlithgow, home to the impressive Linlithgow Palace where Mary Queen of Scots was born.
Alternatively, you could go to Beecraigs Country Park, which features excellent cycling trails if you want to make your ride even longer. The route continues to the Falkirk Wheel, the world’s only rotating boat lift and Scotland’s most exceptional piece of 21st-century engineering. You might even be lucky enough to see it in action!
As this cycle route is mostly canal towpath, it’s nearly entirely traffic-free, very flat for the most part and well-signed. In short, it’s ideal for cruising.
Once you arrive at Falkirk, why not go and see the 30-metre tall Kelpies, the world’s largest pair of equine sculptures?
Distance: 5 miles
Total ascent: 75m
This cycleway isn’t in Edinburgh per se, but it’s less than 10 miles from the city centre. It runs from East Lothian to Midlothian and is ideal for those looking for a short, easy-going, smooth ride.
You start in the coastal town of Musselburgh, five miles from Edinburgh city centre, and ride southeast through the village of Whitecraig. You’ll see plenty of greenery and wildlife along the way, not to mention the spectacular views of the Firth of Forth.
Once you arrive at Dalkeith on the River Esk, we recommend you head to Dalkeith Country Park, where there’s a stunning cycle route called the ‘Estate Cycle’.
It’s worth noting that, if you live in the centre of Edinburgh, you can start from there and take the National Route 1 path from there to Musselburgh.
Also, if on another occasion you want a long-distance challenge (to put it mildly), cycling Route 1 goes from Dover to the northeast of Scotland. We’ve got a feeling this could push you to your limits.
Clydebank to Edinburgh
Distance: 63.6 miles
Total ascent: 656m
This route across Scotland isn’t as straightforward to follow as the others, but it’s every bit as beautiful. It’s actually one of Scotland’s Great Trails and links two of Scotland’s greatest cities, making it popular with cyclists and walkers alike.
When cycling from Clydebank to Edinburgh, you’ll experience some of the most awe-inspiring beauty Scotland has to offer. You’ll see nature reserves, rivers, aqueducts and miles of parkland – and the best part is, this route is traffic-free.
You can start at whichever end of the route you’d like – this is a perfect route for cyclists of all abilities – or you can pick it up from anywhere along the route. However, Sustrans suggests you travel in the direction of Clydebank to Edinburgh, as the prevailing wind comes from the South West.
The path follows the Forth, Clyde and Union canals from Bowling to Edinburgh and is completely off-road. You start on Route 7 at Bowling and pass through Clydebank to Glasgow. Next, you hop onto Route 754 to Slateford. From here, you join Route 75, which takes you to the centre of Edinburgh.
Along the route, you’ll see the Avon Aqueduct, the second largest aqueduct in Britain and the largest in Scotland. You’ll also see the Falkirk Wheel which, as we explained above, is a must-see.
Edinburgh to Dunbar
Distance: 31 miles
Total ascent: 240m
This route takes you east from Edinburgh to the town of Dunbar on the stunning East Lothian coast.
You start on Route 1 to Musselburgh. After you’ve crossed Musselburgh railway station and the River Esk, you continue onto Route 76 and follow this the rest of the way.
This takes you along the scenic coast on quiet roads, but you can still expect cars. Make sure you take the time to stop and appreciate Edinburgh’s beautiful skyline.
Continue on Route 76 past Longniddry station and through the small town of Haddington. At this point, you’ll know you’re about 12 miles down, or just about halfway. Continue under the A1 and into Dunbar centre.
You could take a visit to John Muir Country Park, a beautiful nature reserve named after the conservationist who was born there. Alternatively, enjoy a lovely meal or relax with a drink, but only if you’re getting the train back.
If you’re looking for an even longer ride, you can continue on the Route 76 all the way to Berwick-upon-Tweed – you’ll definitely deserve a tipple after that.
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It covers you if you badly injure yourself, or if your bike is damaged or stolen. – whether you’re out riding or at home. Get an instant online quote and make sure you stay safe whilst enjoying Edinburgh’s best cycle routes.