Cycling in Falkirk has been on the rise in recent years, with focus on the John Muir Way bike trail that runs through Falkirk and the Helix bike path. Falkirk is also very well located for excellent road cycling further afield towards Edinburgh and Loch Lomond.
This guide is based on an interview with local cyclist, Suvi Loponen, who knows the area well.
She shares tips for everything from the best Falkirk cycle routes, to which cafes to visit and which local delicacies to try!
Falkirk’s cycle routes: an overview
Location of Falkirk
Falkirk is located about halfway between Glasgow and Edinburgh. It sits at the junction of two canals; Forth and Clyde and Union, and because of this ideal location, it used to house a lot of heavy industry and connect the east and west coast. The Falkirk region stretches from Carron Valley to Bo’ness and includes a lot of the Firth coastal line.
Falkirk’s location makes it a brilliant base for exploring the central belt of Scotland – you’re only a 20-minute train journey away from Glasgow and about 30 from Edinburgh. Stirling is only a stone’s throw away and it’s not far from the Trossachs.
Where to find different cycle routes in Falkirk
When it comes to cycling, I would say that Falkirk has it all. Despite being often overlooked when listing cycling destinations in Scotland, there is literally every kind of cycling available in Falkirk. You’re not far from big hills, but you also have the option for some easy pedalling.
The first touchpoint I had to cycling in the area was on the cycle path that goes all the way from Glasgow to Edinburgh. The towpath is very flat and easy to navigate (just keep the canal in sight and you’re good).
Once you have more experience and want to explore further, the Falkirk area has some decent, punchy hills and nice country lanes to ride on. In addition to the canals, John Muir Way also cuts through Falkirk and you could walk (and cycle) parts of it as you stay in the area.
There are also plenty of distances to cover, from short couple mile loops to proper all-day-long adventures. If you’re not an avid road cyclist, there are plenty of routes that are fully traffic-free – and if you’re not keen on any tarmac at all, there are the trails and parks. And for those who like proper off-road stuff, there are plenty of mountain biking and cyclocross and gravel riding opportunities.
If you have a family, you can take them to the pump track, or on some very easy pedals along the canal.
Must-do cycling climbs
The Three Kings Climb
This one is a relatively short, but punchy climb near a wedding hotspot Three Kings (hence the segment name). You get a nice lead-in and the gradient ramps up to 11%. Similar climbs exist in Bo’ness, I would recommend having a wee scroll of the area if you want to chase some cups and crowns.
Check out the Strava segment here.
Tak Ma Doon, Carron Valley
Technically only half of this climb is in Falkirk, but it is a must for anyone wanting to get a long climb in, as it is also one of the “official 100 climbs in Scotland”. You will ride through some of Carron Valley, which is a beautiful spot for riding all disciplines!
I would recommend riding it from the south, starting from Kilsyth, as the descent is much nicer this way – the south side of the climb is steeper which makes it also a little technical to descend and the tightest corners often have some gravel on them.
The Wynd – Bo’ness
This is a short but 660 metres climb out of town in Bo’ness. With an average gradient of 7.1%, and some segments being over 12%, this one is one to try with fresh legs! And if you still have some legs left, you can keep going on Linlithgow road for a good mile of more climbing.
Check out the Strava segment here.
My favourite climbs
I count Tak Ma Doon as my favourite “proper” climb in the area, but I am also partial to a wee punchy climb and there are so many in Falkirk (Bo’ness area I think even more!) so I cannot really pick one!
The Three Kings is an easy one to get to if you are staying in Falkirk centre, or start your ride from the Falkirk High Station.
Likewise the Wynd, in Bo’ness, which I’ve listed above, is lovely and once you’re in the area you can combine it with many other half-mile or so long, steep climbs.
Must-do cycling routes around Falkirk
Heart of Falkirk Trail
Distance: 16 km
Climbing: 400 m
The Heart of Falkirk Trail takes in some of Falkirk’s best attractions and tourist destinations close to the Kelpies. It starts at The Helix and travels by cycleway, towpath and woodland trail past The Kelpies, Rosebank Distillery, The Falkirk Wheel and Callendar Park.
John Muir Way: Kilsyth to Falkirk
Distance: 21 km
As mentioned, the John Muir bike trail goes through Falkirk.
This route takes in some of the best bits in Falkirk while following the John Muir Way.
Roman Falkirk and The Carron
Distance: 37 km
Climbing: 400 m
This route takes you around Falkirk’s heritage and history.
Falkirk Road Adventure
Distance: 118 km
Climbing: 896 m
This 118km route is one long day out or offers you an opportunity to split it into multiple shorter days. You can find a full description on Visit Falkirk’s website.
Falkirk Gravel Adventure
Distance: 129 km
Climbing: 898 m
If you’re into gravel, this 129km route takes in the best spots – and you have plenty of options to cut down or add to the route, and again, maybe do this route in stages over multiple days. You can find a full description on Visit Falkirk’s website.
My favourite routes
My favourite areas to ride are anywhere up on the hills, whether it’s south or south-east of Falkirk (the Braes), or the Carron Valley – these all offer some spectacular views and a different perspective to the town.
I also love Bo’ness at the height of summer, the waterfront is a very serene spot to sit and marvel at the great Firth.
Cycling events in Falkirk
Falkirk is home to plenty of cycling races, specifically in mountain biking and cyclocross disciplines, but it also hosts annual events such as Pedal Falkirk and local road races. The best place to find these is the British Cycling website.
Where to stay in Falkirk
The Falkirk area has a range of different types of accommodation available.
There are options from generic hotel chains to glamping, cosy B&Bs or if you’re feeling adventurous, try wild camping. No matter where you stay you’ll have some good riding at your doorstep.
Again I would highly recommend checking out Visit Falkirk’s Cycling website as they have a whole list of places that are suitable for cyclists – the accommodation that has cycling facilities details it in the listing.
Bike rental and bike shops in Falkirk
There is no specific shop for road-bike hire in the area, so it’s best to bring your own.
Greenrig Cycles at Callendar Estate
Greenrig Cycles offer leisure and mountain bike hire, and servicing and are right at the doorstep of some great mountain bike trails. They also have a cafe!
Bike Library at Zetland Park
Bikes can also be hired here – you can hire bikes for a month at a time, although it may also be possible to hire them for the day subject to availability. There’s more information on their Facebook page.
Bike hire is available from OutdoorTrax, based at the Falkirk Wheel.
As for any cycling trip/ride, basic spares and tools are recommended in Falkirk. Carry a pump, tube and tyre levers as a minimum.
When to go
Falkirk enjoys the typical Scottish weather; it’s hard to tell when it’s summer and then it’s already over!
In general May to September are the best months for cycling.
Falkirk is southerly enough to not really suffer from midges, which are an issue higher up in the highlands.
If you are going to visit Falkirk for a leisurely cycle or with your family and plan to stay mostly on the canal paths, I would recommend visiting the area during weekdays or having an early start. The most popular tourist spots are the Falkirk Wheel and the Helix, which on a nice sunny day can get so busy it’s almost impossible to cycle near them.
The roads around Falkirk do require you to pay attention to occasional potholes and cracks, but they are nothing worse than in other areas of the country.
Assuming you avoid the busy main roads, you should be fine in terms of traffic. Road works might slow you down occasionally, but they are few and far between and sometimes you can pass them quicker as a cyclist.
Falkirk does have some very punchy climbs, but mostly it’s rolling terrain and you will be fine with basic road gearing – a compact chainset and 11-32 should get you through most of the climbs. For the steepest climbs you might have to walk no matter what number of teeth your cassette has (unless you have a motor on your bike!).
A lot of the routes do feature a climb or two and albeit these are usually not long, they can get steep, so an e-bike should definitely not be ruled out when choosing a bike for this area!
Cafe at Canada Wood, in Callendar Estate, is my favourite spot for a coffee and cake and they’re open 7 days a week. They offer indoor and outdoor seating, making it easy to keep an eye on your bike whilst enjoying the well-deserved treats.
Both Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies have coffee shops that also serve lunch. They are conveniently along the canal and most of the routes listed above.
Bo’ness and Falkirk town centres host a bunch of small cafes, both well-known chains and wee independent ones. The Corner Cafe on Kirk Wynd is my go-to spot when I am near the town centre – they serve a good range of sweet and savoury treats, and a good cappuccino and they have large windows and outdoor seating making it easy for you to watch your bike.
Ever more cafe recommendations for food and drink can be found here.
What to eat
As everywhere in Scotland, you can find traditional foods such as haggis, fish n chips and such in Falkirk as well. For your coffee ride stop, I would recommend trying an empire biscuit and as a savoury option, a morning roll (my favourite is one with either veggie haggis or tattie scone and fried egg).
The area does have a lot of options for restocking food and water so I would not be too worried about those unless you are planning to do only off-road rides.
Falkirk has a very friendly atmosphere and I would definitely recommend chatting to the locals, wherever you go – they don’t bite! Visit a local bike shop to ask for any ride recommendations (in addition to the ones I’ve listed) and group rides, and when looking for a bite to eat, don’t hesitate to ask for advice.
When it comes to public transport – Falkirk has an extensive bus network and two main train stations, both of which can get you to Glasgow, Edinburgh or Stirling (or even further away of course).
You can take bikes on the trains – Scotrail and LNER have a carriage where you can leave your bike. Find more information here.
Off the bike
It is worth reading into the history of Falkirk and visiting some of the places that were at the core of its success, such as the Carron Works. There are also some peculiar and visually beautiful places, such as the Dunmore Pineapple and Callendar House.
I also cannot leave Outlander out… Some of the series was filmed in Falkirk. So it’s definitely worth checking those locations out if you’re a fan. You can find itinerary ideas here.
Perhaps the most known places in Falkirk include the Kelpies, which are the world’s largest equine sculptures, and the Falkirk wheel, which is the world’s largest rotating boat lift. Both of these are along the same canal, making them ideal cycling-friendly attractions – but please do explore further because there’s much more to the town than just these two sometimes very tourist-packed spots.
Falkirk is home to many different attractions but just the town itself is worth a visit. Scottish people have a reputation as very friendly folk and Falkirk is no exception. Everywhere you go you will have someone chat with you and tell you what is nice to see in that particular area.
VisitFalkirk’s website is an amazing source of information covering literally everything from accommodation to restaurants, activities and attractions to events and I would highly recommend having a scroll through their resources.
A big thank you to Suvi for these extremely helpful insights to cycling in and around Falkirk!
Have you cycled in/around Falkirk?
Share your experiences and tips in the comments below!
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