Distance: 241km / Elevation gain: +2530m
The Great Glen Way: Out and Back 8-day tour takes you on a journey across Scotland and back again, circumnavigating the entire Loch Ness shoreline before retracing your tyre marks back to Fort William. It is a traverse rich in both natural and man-made wonders, making it one of the most historically and geologically fascinating regions of the UK. While the last section is indeed the same route, cycling it in the opposite direction offers a new perspective on the terrain and views you missed on your initial pedal Northwards.
Starting in Fort William at the foot of Ben Nevis; Great Britain's highest peak, your adventure takes you in an almost perfectly North East line up the Great Glen fault. Once you reach the Highland Capital of Inverness, you switch back in the direction you came from, this time via the underrated South side of Loch Ness, enjoying a full circumnavigation of one of the worlds most famous lakes. You will cycle alongside the 60 mile Caledonian Canal and the engineering marvel; the Neptune Staircase lock system. Visit fortresses of old, including the remains of the once great Urquhart Castle. In between these landmarks lie miles upon miles of breathtaking scenery and an abundance of warm Scottish hospitality.
From tranquil canal side gravel paths to single track trails and forestry roads, you will experience everything from relaxing flat sections to your fair share of challenging hill climbs and exhilarating descents.
For a different paced version of this trip, you can opt for an e-bike or alternatively, check out our Great Glen Way: Out and Back 7 or 9-day tours instead!
Welcome to Fort William! Your adventure starts here. Fort William lies at the foot of Ben Nevis; the UK’s highest peak, and serves as our gateway into the Great Glen. A large supermarket and a main street full of outdoor shops should meet your every last minute shopping needs. If you’re keen on a hearty meal, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from in town, too. Don’t forget to pick up your trusty bike before you settle in for the evening!
Enjoy your rest and get ready for a stunning day of cycling tomorrow!
Distance: 44.3km / Elevation gain: +345m
Your first day of cycling is one of the flattest and acts as the perfect warm up ride. After leaving Fort William and the neighbouring Inverlochy, you set your intentions on the adventure ahead and point your front wheel due North East. Take a moment to appreciate the Neptune Staircase lock system – an engineering masterpiece, before pedaling your worries away along miles of tranquil canal side gravel paths. Ancient forests and stunning views over Loch Lochy await you next with ample lunch spots to choose from. Skirt the final hillside and descend into Invergarry – your home for the night. Enjoy a well earned meal and a good night’s sleep!
Distance: 48.3km / Elevation gain: +798m
Today’s section is one of the longest and hilliest of the route, but with it comes many rewards. A short pedal along the A82 brings you back into the woods and along the hillside above Loch Oich. Descending back to the water, you will follow the Caledonian Canal for several kilometres until you reach Fort Augustus and the shores of the famous Loch Ness. Why not tie up the bikes to explore the wee town and a grab bite to eat?
Undulating forest roads lead you to your next destination – Invermoriston. Another opportunity to rest the muscles and step off track to have a good look at Invermoriston falls and the stone circle nearby.
A big climb awaits, and soon after the choice to take the High or Low route on your next leg. We highly recommend opting for the Low route on the bike as the high section is best suited for those on foot. The biggest hills of the day are saved for the last half, so pace yourself and take as much rest as you need (this is where the Electric Mountain Bikes really come in handy!).
A final, speedy road and short woodland section bring you into Drumnadrochit and your home for the evening. A lovely place to spend the night, absorbing your accomplishments of the day.
Distance: 36.3km / Elevation gain: +493m
While significantly shorter than the first 2 days, plenty of challenging climbing awaits you in the first half of your ride, but what goes up must come down, and you will be treated to plenty of glorious downhill riding.
Be prepared to get off your bike and push up the technical hilly sections of the route if they prove too challenging, but there is great news in the form of cake, tea and coffee at the end of the hardest part. Do consider dropping into the wonderful Abrachian Forest campsite outdoor cafe on your way through – surprises await you!
The rest of the ride into the highland Capital involves a real treat in downhill cycling. Your final few kilometres through Inverness culminate in a visit to the foot of majestic Inverness castle. Enjoy your evening in the beautiful city before turning your bike around in the opposite direction.
Distance: 31.1km / Elevation gain: +160m
Your final two days take you along the glorious Southern side of Loch Ness, via a combination the South Loch Ness Trail and Route 78 of the UK’s National Cycle network. Be sure to absorb the views across the water – at the hills you cycled across over the last few days!
The route quietens down quickly once you are out of the city and with the majority of today’s cycling being on a good road surface, the miles fly by. Keep an eye out for squirrels darting across the path – they’re very common on this side of the lake! The trail sections of today’s ride are stunning and have a distinctly different feel to their northern counterparts.
Enjoy your night on the trail in Foyers; a small, peaceful community on the hillside overlooking the great lake.
Distance: 36.4km / Elevation gain: +414m
Once you are out of Foyers, you steadily start to climb to the highest point of the day. From here, prepare for arguably the most exhilarating descent of the entire trip into Fort Augustus – a real cyclist’s high!
You may wish to lunch here – perhaps trying out a new restaurant which you missed on the way through a few days ago.
Your final segment into Invergarry is on the same paths you used previously.
Distance: 44.4km / Elevation gain: +303m
For your final day you’ll be treated to far more forgiving terrain as you return to your starting point in Fort William. Remember those pristine canal side paths? A sense of fond familiarity coupled with relishing the views that you previously had your back to, make for a lovely end to a great feat – traversing an entire country twice in one sitting!
Roll back into Fort William with a newfound and intimate connection to one of Europe’s most beautiful Glens.
Your Great Glen Way: Out and Back tour ends here with memories that will last a lifetime!
includes & excludes
- 7 nights accommodation in charming B&Bs, Guesthouses and Hotels
- A hearty breakfast each morning
- Luggage Transfers from one accommodation to the next
- Detailed itinerary, GPX files and printable maps of your route
- Tips on local attractions, history & evening meals
- Flights and transfers to and from the trail heads
- Lunches & Dinners
- Bike rental (costs are added once you select your preferred bike type during the booking process)