Get out of Glasgow! 4 cycle routes to inspire you | James Bonner
It's time to embrace the Scottish summer (whatever it serves up!) and get out on two wheels. Environmental researcher James Bonner reveals his four favourite cycles just outside Glasgow city.
May into June saw some gloriously sunny and warm weather on the west coast of Scotland, emphatically announcing that summer is here. Getting out on your bike can be a fantastic way to enjoy the weather, do a bit of physical activity, and also explore some new (or forgotten) places. The weather has, more recently, maybe not been quite as beautiful (such as is the vagaries of the Scottish summer). But are you ready to take advantage of the sun, and get your next vitamin D boost, for when it next comes out?
While my recent post on the blog described a few days exploring the Assynt region in the north-west Highlands, cycling trips in Scotland don’t all need to be extensive multi-day journeys far from the main towns and cities. The following are 4 routes radiating out from Glasgow in which you can experience some of the city’s urban nature and surrounding landscapes. There's one each heading north, south, east and west from the city centre, identified for their varying level of cycling ability required, and with some extra information on potential train links and other attractions en route.
This route, much of which is traffic free, quite flat and well signposted, is a great option for less confident cyclists, families, or if you are just out for a leisurely pedal. From the city centre's Glasgow Green park, it follows the meanders of the north bank of the River Clyde east past Rutherglen and Cambuslang. This is followed by a few on-road sections to Uddingston, which some users should be aware of. It has plenty places for a bite to eat and a juice, while Bothwell Castle is close by.
Difficulty: Easy (but can be made quite long)
This is another route that’s flat and has a number of traffic-free sections, taking you westwards along a mixture of cycle paths, roads and the Clyde canal towpath. From the city centre it follows the Clyde cycle path past the SECC exhibition centres and Riverside Museum towards Clydebank, where it joins the canal. Passing places such as Bowling and Dumbarton, you can continue on towards Balloch, a picturesque town situated on the south bank of Loch Lomond.
While it might be quite a long route for some, there’s definitely a great reward in the feeling that you have cycled from a city centre to an iconic natural landmark like Loch Lomond! This route also offers a number of ‘escape routes’ by train to return to Glasgow – Dalmuir, Bowling, Dumbarton and Balloch are just some of the stop-offs with a station.
Difficulty: Moderate (some climbing and with the option to lengthen your route)
This route involves quite a bit of climbing, but you are rewarded by some fantastic views of the city and towards the west coast, and one of the best pieces of ‘segregated cycleway’ infrastructure around the city (and probably the country). As a loop it can be done in either direction – I tend to cycle south from the city centre following Aikenhead Road and Carmunnock Road, climbing to the village of Carmunnock. Then to Thorntonhall and onto Eaglesham (which involves more climbing), and over the B764 road to the south west. The café at the huge Whitelees Wind Farm is a great stop point for coffee and cake before the road descends towards the junction with the A77.
Here a fully segregated 2-way cycle path, with a good surface, extends between Newton Mearns on the outskirts of Glasgow all the way south to Fenwick, and offers some of the best traffic free cycling around Glasgow for riders of all levels. Whether you turn south to Fenwick here, or return north back towards Glasgow, you are rewarded with a fantastic stretch of ‘stress-free’ cycling for a number of kilometres. An on-road cycle path (not segregated) continues on the gradual descent towards the city along the Ayr Road through Newton Mearns and Giffnock, and eventually through Shawlands and back to the city centre. While the A77 section offers great traffic free cycling, much of the route is on roads that can be quite busy, and suits a more confident cyclist.
Difficulty: More challenging (with some good climbing)
This is quite a demanding route to the north of the city, particularly because of the two pretty tough hills involved. However, it’s a really great challenge for cyclists who want to improve their hill climbing and stamina. From the city centre you can cycle north on a variety of routes, such as Bishopbriggs to Kirkintilloch, and then to either Lennoxtown (where the Crow Road hill begins) or Kilsyth (where the Tak-ma-doon climb starts). However, I actually like to avoid the built up Glasgow section of this route, and take the train from the city centre to either Lenzie or Croy, and begin my cycle from there. Going clockwise on this route is a bit easier – which, for me, would generally involve cycling north from Lenzie station to Milton of Campsie and onto Lennoxtown, and then ascend the Crow Road hill.
Then, when over the climb, turn right onto the B818 for a great long stretch of small undulating hills past the Carron Valley reservoir, before turning south at the Carron Bridge junction to ascend the Tak-ma-doon from the ‘easier’ side. An exhilarating descent to Kilsyth is then just a few kilometres from the station at Croy, where you can catch a train back to Glasgow. This is a pretty tough cycle, with around 600-700m climbing, but really rewarding; while the anticlockwise route (up the Tak-ma-doon from the south, and back via the Crow Road) is considered an even more testing challenge.
Useful tips and information:
The ‘East’ and ‘West’ routes described here are part of the National Cycle Network (NCN)- known as Route 75 and Route 7 respectively. Cycling and walking charity Sustrans are the ‘go to’ resource for information on the NCN, including on any diversions that are currently in place. There is, for example, currently a part diversion on Route 75- so please take note if cycling this route.
Connecting with trains offers tremendous opportunities to extend the range of places and routes you can go on your bike, as well as providing the reassurance that you can return quickly to the city if need be. However, you may come across issues related to the capacity for trains to carry your bike: the route taken, time you travel, and the number of people in your group can all affect this. I recommend reading Scotrail’s information on this.