The Scottish Islands

The best Scottish island is..........

  • Arran

    Votes: 3 60.0%
  • Islay

    Votes: 1 20.0%
  • Coll & Tiree

    Votes: 1 20.0%
  • Mull

    Votes: 2 40.0%
  • Skye

    Votes: 1 20.0%
  • Barra and Uists

    Votes: 1 20.0%
  • Harris and Lewis

    Votes: 2 40.0%
  • Orkney

    Votes: 1 20.0%
  • Shetland

    Votes: 1 20.0%
  • Others

    Votes: 1 20.0%

  • Total voters


Which Scottish islands provides the best cycling ?

The best cycling in Scotland and the best scenery can be found in the islands. The car traffic is also not bad on these islands due to the need of ferries and their increasing capacity problems. Yes, the ferry operator CalMac is the victim of their own success.
The ferry costs is also very low with a bike and when using multi-journey tickets like their Hopscotch tickets.
In short, the Scottish islands is the biking heaven.

A short presentation of the candidates is probably the best introduction to the theme.

1. Arran. If taken clockwise, the first twenty miles is very hilly. The west coast past Blackwaterfoot to Lochranza is pretty flat, although with some pretty steep hills. The hill after Lochranza is steep. The east coast is flat.
The String Road from Blackwaterfoot to Brodick is steep with a vertical drop down to Brodick. Arran is in my view a brilliant island and a first rate cycle and nature heaven.

2. Islay. The ferry journeys to and from Islay is alone worth the effort. Islay is flat without any big hills. The almost 10 miles flat dead straight road between Bowmore and Port Ellen is an attraction. The scenery is brilliant throughout with a minimum effort on the bike.

3. Coll and Tiree. Two small islands which seems to have some good roads. These islands are popular among families with small children. I have no more informations.

4. Mull (Isle Of Mull). A beautiful island with medium sized hills and a lot of fantastic scenery. The roads are a blend of single tracks and good roads. The northern loop (B8074) over Calgary and Dervaig to Tobermory offers brilliant cycling.

5. Skye (Isle Of Skye). The full circuit t/r Kyle Of Lochalsh over Dunvegan (A863), Uig and around Trotternish back to Portree is 150 miles long........ and very hilly. The scenery is probably the best in Scotland. Skye is the hardest and most hilly island in Scotland.

6. Barra & The Uists (South, North & the Bernareys). In short; the southern half of the Western Isles. I am going there in four weeks time and I am counting down the days and hours. But from what I have seen, the islands seems flat and well worth the tour. The scenery is fantastic. The roads pretty good.

7. Harris & Lewis. Ditto there. The roads are good. There is a couple of big hills on Harris and the rest is pretty flat. The scenery seems fantastic. Stornoway (where I have been) is alone worth the tour. Please note that all shops are closed on Sundays.

8. Orkneys. I have never been there. But the scenery seems fantastic and the roads good.

9. Shetland. Same as Orkneys. The cycling seems good. But the islands, served by some ferries, seems remote. This must be the ultimate adventure cycling destination in the Europe.

10. Others. Jura has some good mountain biking and one good road. Ditto for the small isles outside Mallaig.

Which is your favorite Scottish island ?

I have not cast my vote yet because I cannot make up my mind.
I've only been to Arran, so currently its my biased favourite but its wonderful. IIRC We went left from Brodick and did a circuit of the South of the Island coming back over the String Road. We then done a similar circuit of the north half of the island coming back over the String Road again. I'm a terrible descender but on the String the second time I hit 47.6mph; If I can do that folk can do 60mph there :-) The other thing I liked about Arran, life was just far more relaxed.


Legendary Member
Shetland is fantastic for cycling !

It is, as you suggest, remote. But that means few people on the road. Those that are on the road are particularly courteous.

Plus points :

Stunning, spectacular and dramatic views
The roads are really excellent
Very quiet roads
Superb loos on every island and very well looked after. On Burra Island, you'll find that in the loos, the flowers are changed on an almost daily basis.
Friendly locals and very considerate drivers

Minus points:

Not enough cafes
The windiest place anywhere !

Shetland is not really 'setup' for tourists, but for me, that adds to the charm of the place.

My Mum and her family are from Shetland, so I'm very biased about the place.

Go there !!!


I've cycled on all of them except for Arran and Coll/Tiree
Islay for a week last October, including a day trip to the end of the public highway on Jura.
2 weeks in the Shetlands in 2007.
a 2 week circular tour (Oban - Barra - Butt of Lewis - Skye - Ardnamurchan - Mull - Oban) 2005?
a week on the Orkneys ages ago (1994?)
I've also visited Harris/Lewis & Skye as part of a mainly mainland tour.

What the weather is like during your visit will have a major bearing on your opinion. If you get low cloud, rain and wind, any of them will be miserable places. Good weather and most of them can be great.

I'm voting Shetlands, 'cos I like to do wildlife.
Pubrunner forgot to mention the famous Unst bus shelter, complete with sofa, TV etc (a pity their illicit power supply for it got cut off ;) )
It's not that difficult to get to: train to Aberdeen, catch the overnight ferry (£26.50 each way, iirc)


Senior Member
I lived on Rousay in the Orkneys for around a year in my teens, and Burray for around 6 months I think(connected to the Orkney mainland by a causeway). I cycled around them a lot even with my arm in plaster!:wacko: The scenery on Rousay is good, but the island is pretty small (though not the smallest Orkney island), so not a lot of places to go. Also, I think there may only be one shop, Marion's. And no supermarket. But wild birds often get blown of course onto Rousay, when we were there, we saw a merlin. I remember seeing an owl flying in front of the schoolbus, that would have been around 7.25am - we had to get up early to get the bus, ferry and coach to school, and unfortunately for us, they even managed to get the ferry out in really bad weather when we thought we'd get a day off!


Über Member
So far I've been to Mull and Skye last year and Harris, Lewis and Uist this year. I'd vote for them all!
Mull and Iona are the most picture postcard pretty. Skye I found a bit more geared for the tourist industry, Harris is like another planet, parts of Lewis are incredibly dramatic, Uist is mostly water with fantastic beaches. They're all great, all different, I can't vote, I just know I want to see more of them. The Western Isles are the least populated I've been to, if you want to get away from it all, they would be my first choice.


Cycling in Scotland
Auld Reekie
dudi said:
I've put Islay - I've not been, but I had a bottle of Islay single malt and it was magnificent!
Which one??


West of Scotland
Been to most of them except Shetland and Islay.
Tough decision trying to vote.

My favourites are -
1. harris and lewis, scenery is fantastic
2. barra
3. orkney
4. mull
5. skye, couldnt find a flat road anywhere :blush:
6. arran (local so not as much of an adventure :biggrin:)



I am doing this tour in 4 weeks time myself. That Barra wildcamp site; how far from the ferry-to-Eriskay terminal is it ? Is it marked or did you find it by accident ? I will probably choose that wild camp spot myself.
The Orkneys were terrifically windy when I was there and judging from the angle of the few trees, it's not a rare event.

Arran and Mull are my favourite islands. If I had to choose I'd say Arran, having just come back from there. Incidentally the B road from Brodick is now shut for 6-8 weeks due to re-surfacing and drainage works.
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