The National Cycle Network from Oban to Campbeltown offers adventurous cyclists the chance to explore Lorn, Knapdale and the spectacular Kintyre peninsula. Along the way, there are fantastic views of the islands of Jura and Arran, with pretty harbours, castles, abbeys and ancient stones to explore. An extensive network of forest trails provides further cycling opportunities in the area.
Don't forget that this is rural Scotland... we don't just say that this is a challenging route because of its length, but also because you'll be encountering some proper hills on-route. And there are limited options for accommodation, shops, and other amenities. We're assuming that readers will do some additional research and planning before setting out on a ride of this nature.
The route can be reached by train at Oban and Taynuilt, and the network of ferries that run to and from Kintyre offers opportunities for creating your own island-hopping tours.
This is part of the Caledonia Way, which links Campbeltown and Inverness.
Oban to Ford - 36 miles
Oban is currently on a short spur of National Route 78. To join the main section of route it is necessary to travel a few miles east of Oban.
The section between Oban and Ford is all on-road. Take the A816 heading south out of Oban and the left fork onto the Glencruitten Road. After two miles, turn right/south at Barranrioch on the main southbound Route 78 (turning left/north here you would join the main northbound Route 78 to Connel and Inverness).
Follow the minor road through lovely Glen Lonan to Taynuilt where there are places to have a pub lunch or cup of tea. The route then turns south-east and heads over Glen Nant to Kilchrenan. There are limited opportunities for food and drink here, so be prepared.
After that, the route runs parallel with Loch Awe for 18 miles to the small settlement of Ford. There are some steep stretches, but you are rewarded with some truly awe-inspiring views. For those wanting to practice their off-road skills, the surrounding forest trails allow you to test your mettle.
Ford to Ardrishaig - 15 miles
The section between Ford and Ardrishaig has a completely different character to the northern section. Those on road bikes (or wanting to stick to smoother surfaces) will want to take note of the comments at the foot of this page about options here.
After a short on-road section on the B840 and the A816, the route joins a traffic-free section past Carnasserie Castle and through the historic landscape of Kilmartin Glen, an area with numerous prehistoric monuments and the probable birth place of the Scottish Nation.
Visit the museum and café in Kilmartin to find out more. After passing Kilmartin, the route returns to a road, crossing the flat Mhoine Mhor and onto the Crinan Canal towpath.
Take a short excursion to the beautiful harbour village of Crinan for a refreshment break and great views of Loch Crinan. Retrace your steps back along the towpath and continue for a further six miles past Cairnbaan to Lochgilphead and the canal end at Ardrishaig.
Ardrishaig to Tarbert - 32 miles
For about three miles between Ardrishaig and Inverneill there are two route options. Turn right off the canal to follow a challenging off-road route through the forest overlooking Loch Fyne and then down to join the B8024.
Alternatively, carry straight on to the end of the canal and along the A83 before turning south-west on the B8024 to Kilberry.
This minor road follows the west coast of the Knapdale peninsula, with wonderful views over to the Isle of Jura, before turning north-east towards the port of Tarbert (ferries to Portavadie and Lochranza on Arran). Route 78 doesn’t actually go into Tarbert, but it’s a short diversion to the shops and cafes.
Tarbert to Cambeltown - 36 miles
The route initially follows the A83 to Kennacraig (ferries to Islay) and then the B8001 to Claonaig (ferry to Lochranza on Arran). There are five steep climbs as you follow the B842 along the east coast of the Kintyre peninsula to Carradale, but wonderful views over to the Isle of Arran are some compensation.
Again, it’s a short diversion into Carradale before continuing on the final (hilly) stretch to Campbeltown. Once called the whiskey capital of the world, Campbeltown now only has three working distilleries, but remains an active port, with plenty to see and do. From Campbeltown, there are ferries to Arran, Ardrossan and Troon in Scotland and Ballycastle in Northern Ireland.
Things to see and do
- Sound of Kerrera
- Glen Nant
- Inverliever Forest
- Loch Awe
- Crinan Canal
- Loch Gilp
- Knapdale Hills
- Loch Tarbet
- Kilbrannan Sound
- Campbeltown Loch
- Mccaig’s Tower
- Bonawe Furnace
- Carnassarie Castle
- Kilmory Castle
- Carradale Visitor Centre
- Campbeltown Heritage Centre
- Campbeltown Museum
- Kilmartin Museum
"Can I do it on a road bike?"
We're often asked this question about the Caledonia Way. It's difficult to answer well because different people have very different expectations (and bikes), and paths can change substantially over time. However, the following notes may help for this section of the route:
Between Inverneil and Ardrishaig, for about 3 miles/5km, there is a traffic-free option. Rough surfaces and steep gradients mean that it's clearly not suitable for use by road bike. There is a signed on-road route that avoids the section.
Between Ardrishaig and Bellanoch, for about 3 miles, the route follows the Crinan Canal towpath. This is a high quality but unsealed surface.
Between Kilmartin and Carnasserie Castle, the route uses some track which is clearly not suitable for use by road bike. The condition of this path varies, and wet weather can cause issues in places. We've recently received reports of an issue with mud from a nearby field after wet weather at one specific location (where it happens also to be necessary to dismount to open a gate). You may want to consider to use of the main road (A816) directly through Kilmartin instead of this traffic-free route (which passes to the west of the village).
We have taken all responsible steps to ensure that these routes are safe and achievable by people with a reasonable level of fitness. However, all outdoor activities involve a degree of risk. To the extent permitted by law, Sustrans accepts no responsibility for any accidents or injury resulting from following these routes. Walking and cycling routes change over time. Weather conditions may also affect path surfaces. Please use your own judgement when using the routes based upon the weather and the ability, experience and confidence levels of those in your group.
To make sure everyone gets the most out of their time by the water, please ensure that you follow the Towpath Code.