The Best Road Cycling Routes Near Fort William - Outdoors Magic

Outdoors Gear, Equipment, News, Reviews, Forums, Walking Routes and More at



The Best Road Cycling Routes Near Fort William

Get ready for some hard climbs, huge descents, and holy-cow views from the hilly land of Lochaber

This is part of our series in collaboration with Komoot, the route planning app for runners, bikers, and long-distance hikers. We enlisted the help of Mark Clark, an expert in all things cycling in Lochaber, one of the most stunning regions for road cycling in the Scottish Highlands. Mark began his outdoor career as a bike racer, though these days you’ll find him at the helm of Alba Mountainbike, a dedicated team of cycle guides and coaches based in Fort William. They offer guided tours around the area for groups of any skill level, private coaching sessions, and even training courses to earn qualifications up to the Level 2 Mountain Bike Leadership Award.

Take it away, Mark:

The Best Road Cycling Routes near Fort William

  1. Loch Leven Loop
  2. Commando Classic
  3. Road to the Isles and Back
  4. Loch Shiel Gravel
  5. Ardnamurchan Epic

Loch Leven Loop

Difficulty: Intermediate
Length: 31.5km
Elevation: 330m

Well you might hear some of the locals say, the best part about Kinloch is the town of ‘Leven’. I’m not convinced. The best part for me is the loch. Loch Leven and Kinlochleven are nestled between two mountain ranges, Glencoe to the south and the Nevis Range to the North. You can just imagine the high sides of mountains throughout the length of the glen; running flat and calm along the valley floor is Loch Leven.

My favourite time to see the loch is autumn, the colours you get from the trees are amplified by the reflections in the loch, but then again summer is great too for the seafood. On the north shore is a restaurant selling locally caught seafood for your picking. Make sure to book – it’s summer remember! Anyhow, this ride is equally satisfying, best starting from the west of the loch and run as a loop in either direction. Strategically Kinlochleven will be the halfway point, so ideally located for a pitstop if you so wish.

Commando Classic

Difficulty: Intermediate
Length: 34.8km
Elevation: 320m

Fort William was once known for the production of the infamous and extremely hardy “Commandos.” They stepped foot off the train and made their way for the lands of Achnacarry Estate and Castle. It’s a way to go to reach the Estate but it’s made a lot harder when you have to march in full gear and run one of the hardest assault courses there was. Not to worry though, the Commandos have since left and all that awaits you is a fantastically meandering thin strip of tar that makes its way up and round by the castle and the Commando Memorial.

This is one of my main training routes in the winter but why not treat yourself and do it in the summer, I hear it’s more fun. I would suggest riding it clockwise, this takes you past all the croft lands and you climb to the highpoint of the day after looping round the castle where the Commandos used to do their basic training in the 1940s. After you’ve admired the valleys leading to Ben Nevis from the memorial viewpoint, spin on down into Spean Bridge, a great place to refuel before conquering the last quarter of the ride.

Road to the Isles and Back

Difficulty: Difficult
Length: 134km
Elevation: 1170m

Heading out west from Fort William you’ll encounter quite a ride. The Road to the Isles is more than a road, it was and still is a lifeline for all the folks out on the Western Isles. The route once saw a thriving fishing industry powered by an under-appreciated rail service that used to transport masses of herring (or “kippers”) from the bays in the west to tables as far as the Scottish central belt. Leaving the suburbs of Fort William you start to get a taste for what’s to come, pass Loch Eil’s beautiful banks and start to carve your way through the mountains to Glenfinnan, the home to the Harry Potter bridge and the Jacobite rising. Perfect time to pop into the visitor centre for some snacks and a possible sighting of the Hogwarts Express.

Leaving the beautiful sights of Loch Shiel behind, you climb out of the glen towards and onto the next. Once you reach the heights of Loch Eil you descend down to Loch Ailort and catch the first glimpse of the west coast. Just before you pass through Arisaig with all its white beaches and on towards Mallaig, you’ll pedal up though an ancient oak woodland, growth stunted by the rough winds of the west. Now, it’s only right to head to the fishing town of Mallaig for a Fish Supper, either to refuel for the route back or fill up before grabbing a train home. I know what I would choose.

Loch Shiel Gravel

Difficulty: Difficult
Length: 101km
Elevation: 860m

Start the day early and catch the ferry from the Fort William shore front. It’s all happening midweek at 8am on a 20 person MAX ferry: fishing, commuting, and kids making their way to school across the water. Once you reach the other side, start the ride by heading south on the banks of Loch Linnhe. Passing by old crofters houses and native forests you make your way to the Corran straits where the flow of the sea loch quickens. Leaving the coast behind, a climb awaits and its stings. Once up high, you roll on down through the glen towards Strontian, the village where the element Strontium was discovered in 1790.

To reach Loch Shiel, make your way up to the high mines where, in waiting, you’ll find another monster climb. This is when the granny gear might get engaged. With heavy legs and a fast descent into the remote smattering of houses called Polloch, you finally reach the gravel of Glen Shiel. When the gravel ends in Glenfinnan it’s time to retrace your steps back along the Road to the Isles and back to Fort William town. Make sure to take scheduled stops in Ardgour, Strontian and Glenfinnan for refuelling.


Ardnamurchan Epic

Difficulty: Difficult
Length: 156km
Elevation: 1320m

This one’s a handful. Well, more like a leg full. Taking the same initial start to the ride as the Loch Shiel Gravel ride, when you break from the Corran straits the ride takes an altogether longer path. Taking the longer option past Argour brings you to Kingairloch and a long and winding route up into the mountains. Passing Loch Uisge (meaning Loch Water – strange, a loch made from water!) you finally reach the top of the climb and shoot down a racy descent to the familiar sight of Strontian. Further west from the village, make your way round Loch Sunart’s beautiful basin and on to the Forests of Salen.

Passing Acharacle village, you’ll stumble upon the Seven Men of Moidart monument, a memorial to the seven brave men who campaigned with the Jacobian Prince Charlie himself. Climbing away from Moidart you pass Glenuig, and roughly halfway round, time for a pub visit! The Glenuig Inn is highly recommended for a lunch break you wont regret. With a full belly it’s time to head inward along Loch Ailort and past the spooky old Commando Mansion. Once you reach the busy road, it’s time again to retrace your way back to Fort William.

Komoot: Your Route to Adventure

Komoot is an app that lets you find, plan, and share adventures with the easy route planner. Driven by a desire to explore, and powered by the outdoor community’s recommendations, it’s komoot’s mission to inspire great adventures making them accessible to all.

New to komoot? For a free regional bundle (worth £8.99) simply follow this link to and create your free account today.

In association with
Newsletter Terms & Conditions

Please enter your email so we can keep you updated with news, features and the latest offers. If you are not interested you can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell your data and you'll only get messages from us and our partners whose products and services we think you'll enjoy.

Read our full Privacy Policy as well as Terms & Conditions.