Cycling in Scotland enables you to take your time and experience truly being away from it all in some of the most remote areas in Europe. National Cycle Network (NCN) routes take you through many areas of natural beauty - from desolate moorland to vast forests, shimmering lochs to tranquil glens, tumultuous rivers to spectacular coastlines. They also pass castles, standing stones and historic settlements. And if you enjoy city life, the Network takes you into the centre of all Scotland's major cities.
There are approximately 2,371 miles (3,815 km) of National Cycle Network routes in Scotland, including 644 miles of traffic-free routes which use a mix of railway path, canal towpath, forest road, shared-use path, segregated cycle lanes and redetermined rural footways. The remainder of the Network is on road: where possible it uses lightly-used rural roads or quiet urban streets. Where there is no practical alternative, it may use or cross more major roads, but we strive to keep such sections to a minimum.
The NCN is not only about long-distance routes for tourists – Sustrans is extending it deeper into the heart of communities, where it is a key part of local urban route networks. Making short distance local journeys – to school, to college, to the shops, to work – doable on foot or by bike is vital for communities. 41% of the Scottish population now lives within a third of a mile of a National Cycle Network route.
In Scotland, the network is promoted and developed by Sustrans, in partnership with local and national roads and planning authorities, Transport Scotland, Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Canals, Scottish Natural Heritage, National Park Authorities, landowners and other bodies.
See where the Network goes on themap of the National Cycle Network in Scotland.
Signs and maps
To help keep you on the right track, we have a small signage team in Scotland who strive to keep the Network and other routes signed to a high standard – an endless task as things are always changing.
National Cycle Network route signs are blue with red number patches. Most signs are metal or wooden, but in some places plastic stickers are used.
Sustrans produces Challenge and Discover maps on the main NCN routes, plus a series of pocket maps showing cycle routes across the UK, all available from the online shop.
Our Get Cycling page is also full of tips on route planning, bike maintenance, bike security, cycling for women and cycle training.
Sharing the paths
Despite its name, the Network is not just for cyclists – it is also used by walkers, joggers, parents with buggies, wheel-chair and mobility buggy users, horse riders and all other non-motorised users!
There are simple rules to follow when using the Network, plus lots of other tips to help you Get Cycling. There's a code of conduct for cycling on shared-use paths and essential road safety for cyclists. Follow these to ensure that all users of the paths are treated with consideration and to help keep you safe.
Showing consideration to other types of path user is particularly important in Scotland as the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 gives all non-motorised users (including mobility scooters) statutory access rights to most land and inland water. This means that paths are for everyone to enjoy – there are no paths which are only for pedestrians, cyclists or horses. We all share the space which means we all need to behave responsibly so that everyone can enjoy these facilities. You can read our cycling code of conduct for shared paths. Find out all the details of Access Rights from Scottish Natural Heritage.
The National Cycle Network is a work in progress. Many sections are already of a very high standard and Sustrans works with local authorities and other partners to improve and develop the routes where necessary. Progress can be slow for a variety of reasons and Sustrans, as a charity, does not have any statutory powers.
Artworks and Interpretation
Sustrans commissions various artworks and interpretation projects along the National Cycle Network. You may have seen some of the hundreds of Millennium Mileposts dotted across the Network. As the name suggests, these mileposts were installed around the year 2000 to celebrate the National Cycle Network. In 2015 we embarked on a programme of refurbishing and repainting the mileposts in Scotland to ensure that they are safe, attractive and continue to raise awareness of the Network.
There is an ArtRoots fund which provides grants to communities for artistic and aesthetic improvements to the National Cycle Network. Find out more about the ArtRoots fund here.
We have over 350 volunteers in Scotland who help maintain the Network, performing tasks such as cutting back vegetation, litter picking, fixing signs and reporting defects. There are also opportunities to help with events, to learn about biodiversity, to lead rides and walks and much more. Find out about Volunteer opportunities.
Greener Greenways is a Biodiversity conservation project on walking and cycling routes owned or managed by Sustrans in several parts of the UK. Creating Corridors for Wildlife will tell you more about the project and Browse Greenways has details of all the Greener Greenways routes, including those in Scotland.
Reporting problems on the National Cycle Network
Sustrans is responsible for the routes on the land that it owns or manages. Where local authorities and other statutory bodies are responsible for land that the National Cycle Network crosses, we encourage them to use their powers (vested in them as part of Core Path legislatation and the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003) to keep the routes open, free from obstuction, signed and well-maintained.
National and local roads and planning authorities should consult Sustrans on any proposed alterations to the NCN (for example, temporary or permanent diversions by developers or infrastructure schemes that may impact on a route). Any diversions should be signed.
If the land is owned or managed by the local authority, report problems via www.fixmystreet.com.
If you know that the land is owned or managed by an organisation such as the Forestry Commission, the National Trust for Scotland, a National Park or a private landowner, please report the issue directly to them.
For issues on Sustrans owned or managed land, or if you don't know who manages the land, please email [email protected].
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