This is a popular Scottish cycle route on the west coast islands and is often attempted in one day. It can be easily divided into shorter sections for a multi-day cycling trip.
The total distance is almost 72 miles on two islands, two peninsulas and using a CalMac island hopscotch ferry ticket.
Summary of the the cycle route
Brodick to Lochranza on the Isle of Arran: 14.9 miles.
Claonaig to Tarbert 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.
Five Ferries cycle 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 ride starts at Brodick and heads 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 rewarding descent into Lochranza.
Catch the ferry from Lochranza to Claonaig on the Kintyre Peninsula.
Jump back on your bike to cycle from Claonaig to Tarbert. 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. You could enjoy lunch here.
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 stunning views. The descent is fast and then the route follows an undulating but generally flat road to Colintraive.
The next ferry is only two minutes to Rhubodach on the Isle of Bute.
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 further 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 Five Ferries cycle heads back to Ardrossan. It is a tough ride after the day’s exertions and on a busy coastal road. You could cut this out by catching a train to Glasgow.