“Spectacular views of the Scottish Highlands and Lochs, some of the most beautiful scenery in Britain.”
— Tim Swinburn
Open throughout the year. The High Route trails can be closed due to bad weather; all trails can be affected by maintenance activity.
The Great Glen is a natural feature - a geological fault line between Fort William and Inverness. The area encompasses some of the best known landmarks in Scotland including Ben Nevis, Loch Ness, and Urquhart Castle.
This route is comprised of an amazing variety of trails, mind-blowing views, terrific food and drink! It could be ridden in a day at a fast pace and without luggage, but it's better to take time and enjoy the panoramic views of Loch Ness, Loch Oich, Loch Lochy and the Scottish Highlands.
We rode the route over three days, staying in B&B accommodations. Wild camping is allowed in the Highlands, so you can camp or bivy in the woods along the way.
There are options along the trail to follow the Low Route or the High Route. We followed the High Route options to get above the treeline and have 360-degree views; this is more footpath than cycle trail, and involves some pushing on steep or rough sections - but definitely worth it.
We rode east to west, which is into the prevailing wind, because we thought the route looked better that way and it was easier for us to drive to Inverness than Fort Augustus. We did suffer with headwinds in exposed areas, but still preferred that direction. It would probably be quicker, and easier on the legs, to ride from Fort William to Inverness.
Need to Know
It is hilly! A mountain bike is ideal, but a hybrid or rugged road bike would be ok with high volume, grippy tires and low gears. The High Route paths are steep, narrow and loose-surfaced, but well worth the effort.
Weather here can change quickly, so carry good waterproofs and warm clothes (it rains here regularly, and can be windy). In warm, calm weather there are likely to be problems with midges; they are less of a problem in early Spring and late Autumn.
We enjoyed great food and drink at Abriachan Eco Cafe, Loch Ness Clayworks, Cafe Eighty 2, and The Moorings.
For our trip, we left our car in Inverness and used the 'bike-taxi' from an Inverness-based company 'Ticket to Ride' to carry us and our bikes from Fort William back to Inverness after the ride. Very effective, and well priced. They also offer baggage transfer, if you're prepared to pay to ride lighter.
Day 1: Inverness to Drumnadrochit (24 miles, 1,956 feet climbing)
Climb for a few miles on steep paths up from River Ness in Inverness to Glen View, for the first high-level views of Inverness and the Scottish Highlands. Continue on singletrack through ancient woods and mossy dry-stone walls, then onto a quiet graveled lane over moorland which is exposed and tough if there's a prevailing headwind.
Mile 12: Turn off the road to Abriachan Eco Cafe for big cakes and strong coffee.
Carry on down the path towards Loch Laide, managed by the Abriachan Woodland Trust.
Mile 13: Follow the boardwalks over moss and water to birdwatching hides by the lake. Continue climbing on forestry tracks through the woods.
Mile 16/17: Amazing views of Loch Ness through the trees. This is a place to savor! Continue on gravel forestry roads and then a switchbacking singletrack descent through the woods, crossing several streams.
Mile 21: Cafe Eighty 2 in Drumnadrochit for homemade soup, toasted sandwiches and a fantastic selection of cakes. Continue two miles on cycle path to Urquhart Castle, one of Scotland's largest castles. Open throughout the year, although opening hours vary; entrance fees charged.
Day 2: Drumnadrochit to Fort Augustus (21 miles, 2,727 feet climbing)
Climb for a couple of miles up from Drumnadrochit through the woods, then take a quiet single lane road.
Mile 3.5: Follow signs off the road to Loch Ness Clayworks and Cafe for cakes and drinks. Don't return to the road, but follow waymarks for the path winding through the woods, then more gravel forestry tracks. There are a few gates to open and close, but no stiles.
Mile 6.5: Choose whether to follow the Low Route or High Route. There's a board which describes the sights and route for each option, with distance and elevation for each. Note that the Low Route still involves climbing! We chose the High Route, which quickly turns into a footpath and gets much steeper. If you're carrying luggage you'll need to push in places, especially over a short rock garden.
Mile 7.2: The panoramic viewpoint! Take care, the descent is graveled, twisty and steep in places, with rain gullies.
Mile 8.5: The Troll Bridge, apparently inhabited by trolls. Climb through woods, then open moorland.
Mile 9: Great Glen Way circular wooden 'picture-frame' sculpture. The terrific fast trail down to Invermoriston. The path to the Waterfalls is behind the toilets, in the large visitor car park. Take a look at the ruined old bridge that crossed the river. Quiet lane then paths climbing through the woods, then forestry tracks with good loch views.
Mile 16.5: Head up rather than down to take the High Route, which is a scenic footpath for Alt Na Criche. Here, there are beautiful forest trails, with a wonderful pine needle carpeted descent at Mile 17.5 towards Fort Augustus. Head through the town to the Loch Ness viewpoint at the entrance to the Caledonian Canal. There are a variety of cafes, a chip shop, and pubs. We enjoyed the food at The Moorings.
Day 3: (Fort Augustus to Fort William ( 32 miles, 1,017 feet climbing)
Riding beside the canal for a few miles, racing the ferry and watching activity at the locks.
Mile 4.8: Cullochy Lock.
Mile 5.2: Viewpoint for Bridge of Oich, an old suspension bridge.
Mile 9.5: Ride through the rail yard of old Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway. Gravel trails through the woods.
Mile 11.2: Laggan Locks, cross the river to the north side of Loch Lochy. Undulating unpaved tracks beside the loch.
Mile 14: Beach and small camping area with a toilet.
Mile 18.8: Picnic area in the woods and a beach.
Mile 22: The trail now heads beside the Caledonian Canal.
Mile 25: Glen Loy Aqueduct (the river Loy passes under the Caledonian Canal).
Mile 27: Sheangain Aqueduct.
Mile 29 Neptune's Staircase, a long flight of locks. Take care of traffic crossing the busy A830 road.
Mile 30.5: Visit Old Inverlochy Castle on the left after crossing a bridge over River Lochy. Visit Old Fort ruins in Fort Williams, across the dual carriageway from Morrisons supermarket and train station.
History & Background
The Great Glen Way was opened in 2002.