Road Cycling in Argyll & the Isles

Scotland's Cycle Coast

With meandering scenic single-track roads, long straight stretches of trunk road and plenty of challenging hills and bends, Argyll & the Isles is perfect for clocking up the kilometres by bike. We’re proud to be home to the Argyll stretch of The Caledonia Way, the Five Ferries Island Hopping trail and an infinite network of cycle paths and routes.

Journey through stunning forest landscapes, coastal roads, lochs, glens and heritage sites to experience road cycling at its best. The views are tremendous, the wildlife is abundant, and the routes are as demanding or relaxing as you choose.

For the adventurous, the long-distance sportive routes provide plenty of challenge and surprise. For those who want a more relaxed experience, there are lots of quiet roads with regular cake and coffee stops or even a wee distillery visit. Argyll is so renowned for its food and drink that you can follow a number of taste trails to make the most of our hospitality.

The new ScotRail Highland Explorer, specially designed to carry bikes, makes it easy to hop on and off along the scenic west coast between Helensburgh and Oban for a short outing, a big day out or a weekend cycling adventure.

Road biking is particularly well suited to e-bikes – bikes that come with battery-powered help. They’re available to hire and great for the hilly stretches!

Please note: Road cycling is not without risk. Featured locations and local businesses are featured for your information only. All activities are undertaken at your own risk.

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Main Road Cycling Routes in Argyll & the Isles

If you want to get our head down and cover the miles, here's a note of the main trunk roads

A82 Balloch to Tarbet*

A83 from Campbeltown to Tarbet on Loch Lomond side

A85 linking Tyndrum across to Oban

A816 weaving north from Lochgilphead to Oban

A828 from Connel up to Ballachulish with an optional link back to Tyndrum on the A82 through Glen Coe.

A815 linking down from the head of Loch Fyne to Dunoon with an optional spur down the A886 at Strachur to Colintraive

A844 circular route around the Isle of Bute

* Note – the A82 runs from Tarbet up to Ardlui and on to Crianlarich but is not recommended for road cycling due to the poor condition of the road surface and narrow width.

Explore Road Routes on Komoot
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Safety First When Cycling

Road cycling is a wonderful way to explore but it’s not without risk. Keep safe by following these safety tips.

  1. Keep your bike roadworthy – maintain it well and check it is in good working order before you set out.
  2. Check your lights are working and wear high-vis clothing.
  3. Carry essential tools and spares. Don’t forget your mobile phone and a charged power bank.
  4. When cycling, wear a helmet.
  5. Ride sensibly. Limit your speed and keep your distance.
  6. If new to the area start with a short trip, preferably on an official trail.
  7. Ride within your skill level and take your time. Consider your fitness levels, the terrain, weather forecast etc.
  8. Know your navigation. Plan your route and carry a map and compass or GPS.
  9. Be seen – you might not be on public roads all the time but you still need to be seen to be safe.
  10. Pack a basic first aid and survival kit. Think self-heating hand warmers, foil blanket, high-calorie foodstuffs, tick remover etc.
  11. Pack for all weathers. This is Scotland. Pack waterproofs and sun cream.
  12. Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return.
  13. Know how to summon help if you need it.
  14. Carry cash. In remote areas, you may need it for that well-earned coffee, cake or even a dram.
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The Five Ferries Island Hopping

For the ultimate in island hopping, try the five ferries route to take the contrasting landscapes of Arran, the Kintyre Peninsula, Portavadie and the Cowal Peninsula and Bute to finish back on the mainland in Wemyss Bay.

This epic route runs for 70 miles and will give you a memorable introduction to all that Argyll & the Isles has to offer; stunning scenery, beautiful beaches, magnificent wildlife and, of course, great food drink and hospitality.

If you fancy a challenge, with some careful planning and furious pedalling, it is possible to do it all in a day.

The Caledonia Way

The Argyll leg of The Caledonian Way is a spectacular bike ride taking in the landscapes of Kintyre, Kilmartin Glen and Oban & Lorn.

Many prefer to follow the route from south to north, starting in Campbeltown (via by the seasonal ferry from Ardrossan) or the West Coast Motors bus from Glasgow. It’s advisable to check ferry timetables and whether bikes are allowed on board before travelling as arrangements are subject to seasonal variations.

Running 120 miles from Campbeltown to Oban (National Cycle Route 78), the route can be ridden in one go or split up into smaller stretches. With beautiful coastal stretches and views across to the islands and sea lochs, you’ll see ancient castles, stone circles, and incredible wildlife. 

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The Caledonia Way Itineraries

Campbeltown to Tarbert

36 miles | Mostly quiet coastal single-track roads with a section on trunk road 

Highlights: The whisky distilleries in Campbeltown (Glen Scotia, Springbank and Glengyle), views across to the island of Arran from the coastal road, Davaar Island on the beautiful Mull of Kintyre peninsula, the ruins of Saddell Abbey and Beinn an Tuirc distillery.

Tarbert to Ardrishaig

32 miles | Mostly quiet coastal single-track roads

Highlights: The stunning Knapdale Peninsula, views towards the island of Jura, and the Kilberry carved stones. Divert from the route to explore the pretty town of Tarbert and its castle or catch a ferry to Portavadie to explore Argyll’s Secret Coast and the Cowal Peninsula.

See route >
Ardrishaig to Ford

15 miles | Mostly quiet single-track roads

Highlights: The Crinan Canal (known as Britain’s most beautiful shortcut), Kilmartin Glen – one of Scotland’s richest prehistoric landscapes with cairns, standing stones and stone circles, including Dunadd Fort, Carnasserie Castle and Kilmartin Museum.

Ford to Oban

36 miles | Quiet single-track roads with steep stretches

Highlights: Awe-inspiring scenery and panoramic views across Loch Awe (after those steep stretches!), Glen Lonan and the buzzing coastal town of Oban – Scotland’s Seafood Capital. Divert off the route for some off-road trails in the forest around Loch Awe, or hop on a ferry at Oban to explore the islands of Kerrera, Lismore and Mull or extend your trip to start the Hebridean Way on Barra in the Outer Hebrides.

Oban to Fort William

49 miles | Traffic-free path with some sections on minor roads, largely flat

Highlights: Much of the path follows the former railway line which ran from Connel to the slate quarries near Ballachulish. Great views hugging the coast for much of the way and stunning views of Mull, Lismore, Castle Stalker and Loch Linnhe.

Mull Sportive Loop
Oban Sportive Loop
Kilberry Sportive Loop
Dunoon Sportive Loop
Helenburgh Sportive Loop
Mull Sportive Loop

The Mull Annual Sportive takes place in June every year. It hosts two loops, both starting and finishing in Tobermory. The long one is 87 miles and the shorter one is 43 miles. The routes are well signposted with few junctions.

See route(s) >

Find out more about Mull & Iona >

Oban Sportive Loop

The Oban Sportive takes place in May every year. It offers two loops across open roads with flatter sections and testing climbs.

The Loch Awe course is 87 miles around Scotland’s longest Loch, Loch Awe, and passes under the shadow of Ben Cruachan, the “Hollow Mountain”.

The Loch Avich Course is 56 miles and is generally regarded as one of the hardest sportive courses with repetitive short steep climbs. It’s hard but you can cycle it at leisure for an easier ride.

See route(s) >

Find out more about Oban >

Kilberry Sportive Loop

Taking place in Knapdale in August every year, this is an open road event targeted at all levels of cyclist. 40 miles in length the loop starts and finishes in the pretty village of Tarbert. With an elevation gain of 2,500ft, it offers incredible views of the Paps of Jura.

See event Facebook Page >

Find out more about Kintyre >

Dunoon Sportive Loop

Also known as the Return to Life Sportive, this loop offers two routes of either 94 miles or 65 miles. The loop takes in coastal roads, sea lochs and inland climbs. There’s usually only a few cars on the roads and the scenery is stunning!

See route >

Find out more about Dunoon & Cowal >

Helensburgh Sportive Loop

A 50-mile road cycle with stunning views of the River Clyde, Gare Loch and Loch Long.

See route >

Find out more about Helensburgh and Loch Lomond >

Other Cycle Paths
The Kintyre 66 Loop
Dunoon to Portavadie
Bute Loop
West Loch Lomond Cycle Path
National Cycle Network 78
The Kintyre 66 Loop

The Kintyre 66 is primarily a driving route which follows a 66-mile loop around Kintyre on the A83 and B842 public roads, with 6 spurs allowing you to venture even further. As some of it follows the busy A83 trunk road it is best suited to experienced road cyclists. It’s a great way to explore Kintyre’s unique coastal character and enjoy the open vistas across to Gigha, Ireland and Arran!

See route >

Dunoon to Portavadie

This 29-mile road route gives a great taste of Argyll’s Secret Coast and its lush forest landscape. Starting in the seaside town of Dunoon, it takes in incredible views including the viewpoint over the Kyles of Bute. There are some hills and single-track roads requiring effort and care, and cyclists are advised to pull over to let local traffic pass.

See route >

Bute Loop

This 23-mile loop takes you around the beautiful Island of Bute and is cited by VisitScotland as one of the best cycling routes in Scotland. You can take your bike across on the ferry or hire a bike on the island.

West Loch Lomond Cycle Path

This lovely level 17-mile linear route starts at the VisitScotland Centre in Balloch. It takes in the conservation village of Luss, lochside beaches and incredible views across Loch Lomond to Ben Lomond. It has good signage, plenty of picnic spots and a couple of villages where you can grab coffee and cake. Once you reach Tarbet, hop on the Highland Explorer home!

See route >

National Cycle Network 78

The National Cycle Network routes include sections on some of the routes outlined here and run through some of Scotland's most spectacular west coast landscapes. The Network is ideal for planning a cycling day trip or longer adventure linking to other parts of Scotland.

See routes >

Connect with other road bikers in Argyll

North Argyll Cycle Club - a small cycle club based in the Oban area that arranges group rides in the Oban area.

Bute Wheelers Cycling Club - Bute Wheelers Cycling Club is based on the small Isle of Bute off the beautiful West Coast of Scotland.

Share your road cycling

We love to see people road biking in Argyll and the Isles. Share your photos with us on social media and inspire others by tagging us @wildaboutargyll.

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Road Cycling FAQs

Can I hire road bikes in Argyll & the Isles?

There are a number of places to hire road bikes and e-bikes in Argyll and the Isles for the day or as part of a longer break in the area. We recommend you book well in advance at peak periods.

What equipment do I need?

The Oban Sportive takes place in May every year. It offers two loops For a short trip on a planned route, you just need a road bike, helmet, high vis clothing, map and compass / GPS and plenty of water. For a longer trip, it woul be useful to have a basic bicycle repair and first aid kit, sun cream and a waterproof jacket (it is unpredictable in Scotland!), insect repellent and plenty to eat and drink. Always carry cash to make the most of the cake stall honesty boxes and other places where cards are not accepted.

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Explore all the places to visit in Argyll & the Isles

3700km of coastline, 23 inhabited islands, major towns and villages are all waiting for you.

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