SCOTLAND offers excellent cycling trails for families, but knowing which ones work and why is half the battle. 

On the routes outlined below the distances are manageable, the terrain reasonably flat and smooth, and it’s preferable if a cycle path is off road.

Plus, it helps to choose trails with great attractions and foodie pitstops along the way. Plan a flurry of pedal power this summer.

Deeside Way

The glorious Deeside Way runs  41 miles from Aberdeen out to Ballater, starting at the green and lush Duthie Park with its renowned David Welch Winter Gardens.

The former railway line is beautifully flat and scenic. The route is easy to break up into manageable chunks, and the Aboyne to Ballater stretch  (11 miles) is recommended as it’s off road with lots to see and do.  Cycle through bright yellow gorse and silver birch, take in views of the River Dee, and grab a photo opportunity at the famed Cambus o’ May suspension bridge.

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Tuck into lunch at the Cambus o’ May Cheese Company, before carrying on to Ballater. It’s home to an information centre, cafe, restaurant and a luxurious replica railway carriage used by Queen Victoria.

Stay at the elegant but welcoming Darroch Learg Hotel, Ballater.

Isle of Cumbrae

This tiny island, a 10-minute ferry ride from Largs, is synonymous with cycling. The challenge is to pedal its 10-mile circumference.

While the route follows rural roads, the island’s minimal traffic and ease of pulling over and overtaking make this cycle feel relatively safe. 

Look out for Cumbrae’s famed Crocodile Rock, enjoy the island’s wild solitude at its rocky northern headland, drop by the tiny Roberston aquarium, then head into the bustle of Millport for refreshments and one of Britain’s smallest cathedrals.

Stay at Brisbane House Hotel, Largs, two minutes from the ferry terminal, overlooking the Firth of Clyde.

Castle Semple Loch to Kilbarchan

The loch-side path is part of National Cycle Route 7.

It’s roughly five miles each way and makes the most of the disused railway line between Kilbirnie and Paisley.  Start at the Castle Semple Loch Visitor Centre where visitors can have lunch or grab an ice cream.

Watersports are hugely popular here, bring your own gear or classes are available too.  Once the cycle’s underway, en route you’ll see a Collegiate Church, a huge bike sculpture and an 18th century folly/temple on Kenmure Hill.

Cut up small side streets to the village of Kilbarchan, which is home to the National Trust for Scotland’s weaver’s cottage where visitors learn about the area’s thriving textile industry.

Have a unique glamping experience at the space age Mid Auchengowan Dome.

Bo'Ness to Blackness Castle

Pedal a manageable five mile section (roughly ten miles return) of the John Muir Way from the small Falkirk town of Bo’Ness, with its steam railway, railway museum, Kinneil House, motor museum and Art Deco cinema, to the imposing Blackness Castle. 

This path is excellent for families as it’s off road, and hugs the water, offering great vistas of the Firth of Forth and Forth Road Bridges.

The castle is a rewarding end destination, and youngsters revel  in the tales of woe and misfortune of this former prison. 

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The castle and village of Blackness welcome cyclists — in fact, parking is so limited that Historic Scotland offers a 25% discount for those who arrive car-free! Stay at the modern Richmond Park Hotel in Bo’ness.

Chatelherault Country Park to Strathclyde Country Park

This trail meanders roughly three miles along Avon Water in Lanarkshire. The starting point of Chatelherault was built in 1732  as a hunting lodge for the Dukes of Hamilton.

It now offers a visitor centre, 500 acres of countryside and woodland to explore, an adventure playground, café and picnic facilities.  Meanwhile, Strathclyde Country Park offers a host of water sports and has a playground too. The kids will be exhausted!

Stay at Crossbasket Castle, near East Kilbride. Its Michel Roux Jr restaurant offers an excellent children’s menu and the castle’s ample grounds are ideal for  little legs to explore 

Falkirk Canal

This canal path offers notably flat, easy family cycling between two of Scotland’s most iconic attractions — the Falkirk Wheel and the stunning Kelpies.  Admire canal boats as you cycle, and pick wild blackberries en route in early autumn. Helix Park is another great stop for all ages, with its water fountains and epic playgrounds.

Stay at Macdonald Inchyra hotel. Its pool makes this a rewarding overnight for kids after a day’s cycling. 

Isle of Arran

Cycle between the island’s  capital of Brodick to the  National Trust for Scotland’s Brodick Castle. The route is  a mix of cycle paths and quiet island roads.

At the castle, beautiful gardens with mesmerising sea views  engage adults, while the vast Isle Be Wild playgrounds reward junior pedallers. 

En route, cyclists pass the Arran Heritage Museum, Rosaburn Brook where visitors can feed the ducks, and the Home Farm that houses Arran Cheeses, Arran Aromatics and Arran Coffee for a spot of  retail therapy.

Stay at the notably child friendly Auchrannie Resort, home to two swimming pools, three restaurants and a three-tier soft play centre.