Open road adventures: self-guided cycling
Inject energetic vibes into your life this summer and hop on your bike! Cycling has never been so popular around the west of Scotland and with CalMac you can explore our stunning destinations at your own pace on the open road. From small children to more advanced cyclists there are many routes and destinations to suit all capabilities. It's free and easy to travel on our ferries with your bicycle - staff will instruct you on how to board, where to store your bike and help you secure it if needed.
Tips for touring by bike
Ensure you plan your route carefully giving yourself plenty of time to reach each ferry terminal.
Plan your accommodation prior to your departure and book in advance.
There are plenty of pubs and cafés in the towns. However make sure you have appropriate supplies with you if your route is very rural.
Be prepared! The weather can quickly change so it is best to take clothing that can keep you cool or warm and dry. Sun block is also a must.
If you are going to use train network as part of your trip check to see if you need to book your bike on that particular service - find out more at www.scotrail.co.uk
Plan a route that you are capable of physically and logistically. CalMac connections with ScotRail offer lots of possibilities to create your own tour. National Cycle Network Maps are available from Sustrans www.sustrans.org.uk
Advice for beginner and intermediate cyclists
Find a route that suits you; start off simple with a low amount of miles for a day trip and build up to going away for a weekend or a week's touring by bike. Always be self-sufficient with a spare inner tube, puncture repair kit, the right clothing, food and water. Make sure your bike is serviced and that your saddle is the correct height for you which will save you a lot of energy.
Suggested cycle routes
Beginners and families:
Take the ferry from Largs to the island of Cumbrae; the isle has a 13-mile circular route on very quiet roads, ideal for beginners and families. Bikes and tandems can be hired on the island. Cycle to Millport for a spot of lunch or a paddle in the sea - there are many cafés and restaurants to stop off at for a refreshment.
Those who strive for a challenge:
The CalMac Five Ferries tour makes for quite a race against the timetable taking in the isles of Arran and Bute as well as the Kintyre and Cowal Peninsulas. The route can be cycled over one or two days as a horse shoe, ending at Wemyss Bay for a less strenuous ride or completed as a full circle arriving back at Ardrossan.
Take the train to Wemyss Bay then catch the ferry to Rothesay. From there, cycle to Rhubodach ferry and on to Colintraive for lunch at the hotel. You can return to Wemyss Bay by re-tracing your path. Or, if you're an experienced cyclist who likes a good climb and a fast descent, you can cycle from Colintraive to Dunoon, taking in spectacular views of the Kyles of Bute then board the Argyll Ferries sailing from Dunoon to Gourock.
The Hebridean Way (Mountain Bike) - Barra, South Uist, North Uist, Harris, Lewis
This route from Barra northwards to the Butt of Lewis makes for a fantastic mountain bike ride. Sail direct to Castlebay from Oban and set off on an unforgettable journey through some of the most dramatic and spectacular landscapes in the world. Estimates suggest around 1,000 cyclists travel the length of the Outer Hebrides each year, with more likely to follow suit as Sustrans are currently incorporating the Hebridean Way into the National Cycle Network.