Edinburgh has many safe and interesting cycling routes which can be enjoyed by all ages. From off-street paths, former railway lines and sea view esplanades, there are cycling routes to suit most abilities.
Let’s explore some of the city’s most popular trails.
At the foot of the Royal Mile, Holyrood Park offers spectacular cityscape views and a well surfaced road for cyclists.
You can follow the road west and then north from the roundabout at the Holyrood Park Road entrance passing Dynamic Earth, The Scottish Parliament and The Palace of Holyroodhouse. The route ends at St Margaret’s Loch which is an excellent spot to catch your breath (there are some steep hills) and feed the swans. Sundays are a popular day for cyclists in Edinburgh as the majority of roads within the park are closed to motor vehicles.
Cycling routes to the north of the city are made up from the many disused railway lines which once traversed the area running from Granton and Leith to Haymarket and the city centre. The majority of these paths have good surfaces, lighting and a gentle gradient.
The Water of Leith path is a picturesque spot for a gentle cycle. Let’s travel from here to the city centre. Starting at the Shore in Leith, follow the cycling route for approximately half a mile before joining Warriston Path. Continue your journey to Canonmills and then go through the Rodney Street Tunnel, a feat of Victorian engineering which lay derelict for decades before being re-opened in 2009. Enter into King George V Park and from here continue up Scotland and Dublin Street (it’s steep – you may want to get off and push!). Cross bustling Queen Street and then take a well-earned rest and some time out for a refreshment in St Andrew Square in the heart of Edinburgh.
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Leith and Portobello
Starting at the wide grasslands of Leith Links, take the cycle path along the north edge and across the modern bridge at Seafield Place. This popular cycle route has, in recent years, been upgraded and widened along a section of Seafield Road, making it suitable for shared use by pedestrians and cyclists leading on to the Portobello Promenade.
Roseburn and Blackhall
The Roseburn Path which links Edinburgh to the North of Scotland is one of the popular cycling routes in Edinburgh.
Connecting with the Telford Path it provides access to the High Street stores and Sainsbury’s supermarket at Craigleith and the nearby Western General Hospital. If you continue South it passes under Queensferry Road and along the residential Ravelston Dykes area before concluding at Haymarket Yards at Haymarket Station. Alternatively you can head North West at Craigleith junction and travel on to Davidson Mains. The path ends in Cramond Road South but why not explore the quieter residential roads of Barnton and Cramond Brig.
Silverknowes and Cramond
The esplanade at Silverknowes is wide and smooth with superb views over the Firth of Forth and a popular spot for cyclists, dog walkers and rollerbladers.
The esplanade can be quite busy in summer as many residents and visitors enjoy a stroll and an ice-cream as they walk along the esplanade to the old fishing village of Cramond with its pretty white-washed houses. Overlooking a picturesque harbour dotted with small, colourful sailing boats you can park your bike and sit in the local coffee shop and people watch whilst families with small children feed the swans and ducks. Many walkers will stride out to Cramond Island for a picnic or a spot of bird watching.
The Innocent Railway Path
Originally a horse-drawn tramway constructed in 1831, the Innocent Railway Path was used to transport agricultural produce and coal from the Lothian mines to St Leonards.
Nowadays, it is the longest cycle route in the south east of the capital and part of the UK-wide, National Cycle Network's Route 1 (NCN1). Starting at St. Leonard’s Tunnel in the East Parkside Estate off Holyrood Park Road you can enter the cool, but dimly tunnel, before exiting on to the majestic surroundings of Holyrood Park. This green cycle path travels on to Duddingston, Niddrie Mains and onwards to Brunstane.
The Union Canal
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Running south and west of the capital, The Union Canal is a popular choice for cyclists as it is flat and completely traffic free. You will, however, have to share this cycle path with anglers, dog walkers, runners and families out for a quiet stroll. Starting at the Lochrin Basin in Fountainbridge it travels all the way from the city to Ratho and beyond.
The Water of Leith
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Starting in Leith, this popular (and primarily a walkway) route stretches 12 miles to Balerno.
The initial riverside stage of The Water of Leith is probably best suited to walkers, albeit you can cycle, but once you reach Roseburn Place near Murrayfield cycling improves and the route continues across Balgreen and Gorgie Roads before ending at the Water of Leith Visitor Centre. The next section of this route is quite narrow and can be steep and difficult to navigate in places. As an alternative, you could take the Lanark Road and rejoin the route at Redhall Bank Road. A less taxing route is offered from here on towards Colinton and Balerno.
Below are links to some other Edinburgh cycling websites which may be of interest for further exploration.
Cycle to South Queensferry from Edinburgh on the John Muir Way
Innertube Map charts Edinburgh’s main off-street cycle routes.
Cycle Streets for Edinburgh lets you plan your route in the capital.
Cycling Edinburgh is a great site featuring organised bike rides in and around Edinburgh run by local cycling clubs, groups and individuals.
Edinburgh Bike Tours provide guided group cycling tours of Edinburgh’s highlights.
City Cycling Edinburgh Forum will keep you up to date with the latest cycling news, views and questions.
What's your favourite cycling route in Edinburgh? Share your images using #ForeverEdinburgh and #edinphoto.