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Great bike rides: The Five Ferries Route

Written by Fiona

October 24 2016

There are some bike rides in Scotland that have become legendary. The Five Ferries Route is one of them. The route makes use of Calmac ferries and totals almost 72 miles.

Summary of the Five Ferries Route

1 Ferry from Adrossan to Brodick on the Isle of Arran.

Ride Brodick to Lochranza on the Isle of Arran: 14.9 miles.

2 Ferry Lochranza to Claonaig on the the Kintyre Peninsula

Claonaig to Tarbert on the Kintyre Peninsula: 10.5 miles

3 Ferry from Tarbert to Portavadie on the Cowal Peninsula

Portavadie to Colintraive on the Cowal Peninsula: 19.2 miles.

4 Ferry from Colintraive to Rhubodach on the Isle of Bute.

Rhobadach to Rothesay on the Isle of Bute: 8.3 miles

5 Ferry Rothesay to Wmyss Bay on mainland.

Wemyss Bay to Ardrossan, Ayrshire: 18.5 miles

day-trip-five-ferries-00-map

Five Ferries route in detail

The Five Ferries can be tackled either clockwise or anti-clockwise, but you should check the Calmac 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.

It’s recommended that you buy two Cal Mac Hopscotch tickets. Ask Calmac for details.

This route has a great start thanks to a leisurely ferry ride from Ardrossan, on the Scottish mainland Scotland, to Brodick on the Isle of Arran.

The first cycle leg heads from Brodick to Lochranza. At first, the coast road goes north and offers fairly easy cycling but then you hit a long hill starting from Sannox. There’s a rewarding descent into Lochranza.

Catch 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 for a spot of lunch.

Ferry from Tarbert over to Portavadie, on the Cowal Peninsula

Looking down over the Kyles of Bute.
Looking down over the Kyles of Bute.

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 two-minute journey 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 still a ride away.

Ferry from Rothesay to Wemyss Bay on the mainland.

The final leg of this Five Ferries cycle heads back to Ardrossan. It can feel like a tough ride after the day’s exertions and on a busy coastal road.

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