Discover the gravel roads in and around Glasgow – from the wind farms to the West Highland Way
The gravel got big everywhere and the UK is known for its variety. It’s not so much about riding on smooth, compact dusty roads here, but instead the gravel often encompasses all that is…well, not tarmac. And to mount that, you don’t always have to travel far.
The following collection of routes has been designed with local and visiting gravel riders in mind, and presents you with spectacular and interesting bits around Scotland’s ‘Dear Green Place’, better known as Glasgow.
I hope this collection of routes will inspire you to see the region beyond its tarred roads and realize that you don’t always have to travel to more distant places like Aberfoyle to enjoy pristine gravel. Be prepared for the graveyard crossings, gates, fence jumps and steep hills you may prefer to climb – these routes are sure to have you feeling excited for the new places you can discover by turning away from familiar roads.
And to note, even if Scotland benefits from the Right to move, which means you have the legal right to ride almost anywhere, always respect the landowners. If someone tells you they don’t want you on their land, it’s probably a better idea to find another solution than to argue.
1. The Whitelee Windfarm Mega Loop
Starting things off with perhaps the best gravel around Glasgow – Whitelee Windfarm.
A wind farm may seem like a strange place to ride a bike at first, but once you’ve been there once, you want more. And there are actually many more as this area has 130km of trails that you can explore under the blast of wind turbine blades. It takes a bit of tarmac driving to get to Whitelee, but this mega loop takes you into small lanes and as much off-road surface as possible – and you can easily cut sections or make two or even three separate rides , depending on your distance preference.
Komoot routes-1 whitelee.jpg, by Suvi loponen
Most of this route is in Whitelee Windfarm, which is a great place to cycle all year round. In addition to Whitelee, this long loop takes you over smaller gravel paths and fields, and the southeast part of this route offers the first coffee break option, the Heron Café and Farm Shop. After Heron you will be on gravel for quite a while before the wind farm visitor center but you can cut the distance by not doing the loops I added – although they are quite fun to do.
For a second coffee break, Whitelee has a nice reception center which houses an exhibition of the wind farm (which happens to be the largest in the UK!) and a café with excellent empire biscuits. It’s worth checking the opening hours before you visit – the place is usually closed in the winter months and you don’t want to walk in the door and only realize that your hope for a good cup of hot coffee won’t come true… The visitor center also has parking and even electric car charging stations, if you only want to go a shorter distance.
The last third of the route uses more urban paths which can be more frequented by walkers and dogs. I really recommend these routes to avoid the roads – they can make you feel like you’re a long way from Scotland’s biggest city.
2. Kilpatrick Hills
The Kilpatrick Hills are a must-see gravel destination on the north side of the River Clyde. If you want to avoid too much tarmac driving, you can also jump on a train to Kilpatrick station, although at the time of writing this service requires you to change trains twice… But the journey to the hills isn’t bad at all as you can take a bike path with no traffic most of the way.
Komoot routes-6 Kilpatrick hills.jpg, by Suvi loponen
Because Kilpatrick Hills is such a popular hiking destination, it’s a good idea to plan your hike for a time when it’s not half Glasgow. The busiest place is near the start of the gravel section, up to Humphrey Road, which is a three kilometer long climb with an average gradient of around 8%. It’s a nice enough job at first, but towards the end you’ll wish you had some proper granny gear on your bike. However, you will quickly forget the pain you felt while admiring the breathtaking view at the top – the reason so many people climb this hill.
Komoot-5 Roads Kilpatrik Hills .jpg, by Suvi loponen
After the climb and the view, you’ll do a gravel loop (optional) over the hills, before heading east to connect to John Muir Way and finally West Highland Way and back to town. In case you want to take a train to Glasgow, Milngavie has a train station. Alternatively, you can walk along the canal to the city center.
3. Small trails on the south side
This loop may be more exciting for locals than visitors, but if you’re looking for a technical education, it’s a good (rather) short loop to do. Starting at Cathcart station in South Glasgow, this route takes you first through Linn Park and through a graveyard, before launching you over technical singletrack and a punchy and often slippery climb. Once you’ve conquered all of that, you’re in for a treat through Coulter’s Wood (there are a few gates to go through on your way) and finally, Cathkin Braes.
Komoot routes-2 Cathkin Braes .jpg, by Suvi loponen
Cathkin hosted the 2014 Commonwealth Games and has trails for everyone. For gravel runners, it may be safer to stick with the blue loop, which is included in this route. It includes Glasgow’s highest point, a must-see spot for a photo stop before heading back down the hills. Repeat the loop as many times as you want, then return the same way you came.
Komoot routes-3 Cathkin Braes.jpg, by Suvi loponen
4. Northside Gravel – West Highland Way and John Muir Way
This route is one for great views but not super fast paced as there are lots of gates and especially during summer break hikers on the paths. After arriving in Milngavie along the canal path, you will join the official West Highland Way route, which eventually takes you to Fort William if you feel like doing the full 100 mile route. Although cycling is perfectly fine, it is primarily a hiking route, so bear that in mind when passing people – and you may prefer to do this route outside of school holidays.
WHW Gravel-gate.jpg, by Suvi loponen
The route begins in George Square in central Glasgow, from where you will head towards Milngavie and the starting point of the West Highland Way. If you’re short on time, you can take the train to Milngavie, so you won’t have to drive so much on the tarmac.
You will soon be on superb gravel paths, retracing Allander Water. Be sure to stick to the route as WHW signage will direct you to different paths. About halfway through the route you come to Killearn, a pretty village with a few coffee stop options. My recommendation is the kitchen window. They do amazing cakes and lunch and the view of the hills from their outside terrace is absolutely stunning (and you can keep an eye on your bike easily too).
From Killearn the road climbs to some grassy fields in the Campsies, then follows a relatively smooth gravel path the rest of the way. But a word of warning here – this side of the road is full of gates so if you hate stops and starts it’s not ideal for you – but I guarantee the views are great…
On the way back to George Square, the road passes through Mugdock Country Park and descends to Milngavie, where you will join the cycle paths back to Glasgow.
5. The Seven Lochs and Canal Loop
Credit for this route goes to Smartertravelgla – and I’m including it because it’s a great introductory gravel route, with very little elevation and plenty of stations along the route for easy transportation and bailout options.
It takes canal paths that are too rough for road bikes, then enters Drumpellier National Park and Seven Lochs Wetland Park, which offer cooling options. Beginning with a finish in Speirs Warf, near the town centre, this route makes for a great easy day out that you can also do with the family.
Although this is the flattest of routes, all of the routes above are also easily tailored to your skill and fitness level. Build them in multiple sections, or do it all at once, it’s up to you. But I hope you’ll discover lots of new, unique and green places along the way!