Fab Scottish cycle routes: The 5 ferries
A fellow cyclist, Andy Brawley, aka @Brawlski, who I met in the wonderful social media network world that is Twitter, suggests this imaginative, rewarding and scenic Scottish cycle route: The Five Ferries.
Summary of cycling: Total 71.4 miles
Brodick to Lochranza on the Isle of Arran: 14.9 miles.
Claonaig to Tarbet on the Kintyre Peninsula: 10.5 miles
Portavadie to Colintraive on the Cowal Peninsula: 19.2 miles.
Colintraive to Rothesay on the Isle of Bute: 8.3 miles
Wemyss Bay to Ardrossan, Ayrshire: 18.5 miles
The Five Ferries can be tackled either clockwise or anti-clockwise, but check the ferry times so that you know how fast you need to cycle each leg. If you don’t want to ride the
Wemyss Bay to Ardrossan leg then simply catch the train back to Glasgow.
We recommend you buy two Cal Mac Hopscotch tickets. Hopscotch 4 (£8-ish) and 5 (£10-ish) . The Cal Mac website has the timetables to plan your ferry crossings.
Route in detail:
This route has a great start thanks to a leisurely ferry ride from Ardrossan, on mainland Scotland, to Brodick on the Isle of Arran.
The first cycle of this expedition heads Brodick to Lochranza. At first, the coast road heads north and offers fairly easy cycling but then you hit a long hill starting from Sannox. There’s a fantastically rewarding descent into Lochranza.
Catch ferry from Lochranza to Claonaig on the Kintyre Peninsula.
Jump back on your bike to cycle from Claonaig to Tarbet. There is a small climb north-west out of Claonaig on narrow lanes but little traffic. You rejoin the main roads at Kennacraig and coast into Tarbert in a NNW direction for a spot of lunch.
Ferry from Tarbert over to Portavadie, on the Cowal Peninsula
The next cycle leg has it all: flats, climbs and descents. Portavadie is on the beautiful edge of Loch Fyne and this section of the ride heads north-east for Tighnabruaich on the other side of the peninsula. At the start you’ll face a big climb up to the view point at the Kyles of Bute for some truly stunning views. The descent is fast and then the route follows an undulating but generally flat road to Colintraive.
The next ferry is a 2 minute shot over to Rhubodach on the Isle of Bute (you can almost throw a stone over the water).
Cycle a gentle route from Rhubodach to Rothesay, taking in the views as you go. Don’t be fooled by the first bay that you come to as this is Port Bannatyne! Rothesay it still a bit away! In Rothesay, stop for refreshments before jumping on the ferry to Wemyss Bay.
Ferry from Rothesay to Wemyss Bay on the mainland.
The final leg of this 5 ferries cycle heads back to Ardrossan. It is a tough ride after the day’s exertions and on a busy coastal road. Why is it that the wind is always in your face when you are heading back home?
* Andy Brawley (aka @brawlski) is a Scotland-based engineer by day and a wannabe outdoors adventurer by night/in his spare time. He is married to Fiona and has three children. His cycling loves include his Focus Varadio expert triple road bike and Specialized FSR full-suspension MTB. He also enjoys spinning in the gym! His last big cycle adventure was in 2009, when he cycled from East Kilbride to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis. His parents in-law live there and he had always said he would!