8 fantastic cycling routes in Shetland

Cycling is one of the finest ways to experience Shetland’s beauty including its glistening lochs, beautiful beaches and green rolling hills. It is also an excellent way to explore the islands at your own pace, and with miles of peaceful roads, great road surfaces, and mostly gentle climbs – cycling in Shetland is a joy.

There is a great variety of cycling routes available in Shetland, whether you are an experienced cyclist or just a beginner.

We spoke to Ivor Johnson, a member of the Shetland Triathlon Club, and he recommended some of his favourite cycling routes across the Shetland Isles. With the routes ranging in difficulty from very easy to hard, there is something for everyone to try regardless of their cycling ability.

We hope that we can give you some inspiration for a great cycling holiday in Shetland!

1. Baltasound to Norwick Beach (very easy)

Despite being the shortest of all the routes we are going to mention, this almost 9 mile out-and-back route takes in many great sites in Unst including Bobby’s Bus Shelter, the Skidbladner, Unst Boat Haven and the Unst Heritage Centre!

This route begins at Baltasound Hotel. Head north on Springpark Road and turn right at the junction onto the A968. Shortly after, at the corner junction on the right, you can find the iconic Bobby’s Bus Shelter. Continue following the A968 for 1.6 miles, there is a minor incline where you can take in beautiful views over the coastline.

Before turning right into Haroldswick you will see The Viking Unst Project, where visitors can explore the intriguing Skidbladner (a replica Viking Longship) and Viking Longhouse. There are many other lovely places worth a visit in Haroldswick such as the Victoria’s Vintage Tea Rooms, Unst Heritage Centre and the Unst Boat Haven.

The lovely Norwick Beach in Unst, Shetland
Norwick Beach in Unst, Shetland photo © Copyright Mike Pennington and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Once into the village of Haroldswick, take the first left onto the B9087 and follow until you reach the crossroads at the Unst Heritage Centre. Take a right and continue along this road for 1.5 miles past the Shetland Reel Saxa Ford Distillery and Shetland Space Centre and Spaceport on your right. Keep following the main road through the village of Norwick, which will lead you straight to the beautiful white sands of Norwick beach.

Once you are ready to leave, simply follow the same route to return to Baltasound!

2. Scalloway to Tingwall and back (very easy)

This scenic route is slightly longer than the previous route, spanning almost 14 miles, however it is mostly flat making it easier than others on this list!

This route begins in Shetland’s ancient capital of Scalloway at the Cornerstone Café on the Main Street. Head North out of Scalloway on the A970 and turn left onto the B9074. This road leads you through the valley with smooth sweeping roads next to rolling green fields and the stunning Asta and Tingwall Lochs to your right. Follow this road for 3.3 miles and continue straight ahead at the roundabout upon arrival into the village of Veensgarth.

The beautiful Tingwall Loch
Tingwall Loch photo © Copyright Julian Paren and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Shortly after, continue straight ahead at the crossroads which leads you through the picturesque village of Tingwall, past the community hall and primary school. At the corner junction, take a right onto the road signposted for Califf and Breiwick and head North-East on quieter roads along Dales Voe. This route is perfect to immerse yourself in the peaceful Shetland countryside. Follow this road to its end, before turning around and following the same route back to Scalloway.

3. Brae to Muckle Roe (easy)

This is a lovely 10-mile cycle that has a little bit more climbing, making it slightly more challenging than the first two routes. It leads to the beautiful island of Muckle Roe which is connected to the mainland via a bridge.

We recommend starting this route at the famous Frankie’s Fish and Chip Shop in Brae – the perfect place to grab a quick yet delicious bite to eat either before or after your cycle. Turn left onto the A970 and follow the road round to the left. After about 1 mile, turn left onto the road signposted Busta and Muckle Roe.

The beautiful scenery as seen from Muckle Roe
The beautiful scenery as seen from Muckle Roe photo © Copyright Oliver Dixon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

This road has a slight incline however you will be rewarded with breathtaking coastal scenery. After about 1.5 miles, you’ll reach the bridge which will take you across to the magnificent island of Muckle Roe. Continue along the main road which will leads you to the start of the Muckle Roe Lighthouse walk – the turning point for this route!

4. From Voe to Lunna (easy)

This is a bit of a secret route despite being extremely easy to follow; it covers 21 miles but doesn’t involve too much climbing!

This route starts just outside of the picturesque village of Voe. There is a handy carpark at the junction between A970 and B9071 – which is signposted to Whalsay (ferry), Vidlin and Lunna. Turn right out of the car park and it is an easy straight-ahead ride along the B9071 to Lunna – the mainland’s most easterly point by road!

On this road, you will pass through Laxo and its Ferry Terminal to Whalsay, The Cabin Museum (which is worth a visit!), the charming village of Vidlin and finally up to Lunna. This route follows nice sweeping, smooth and quiet roads past lovely old farm buildings and crofts.

5. The Cunningsburgh Loop (medium)

Although Lerwick would logically be the best starting point for most cycles, the steep climb out from Lerwick puts it firmly in at least the medium difficulty category. The ‘Cunningsburgh Loop’ is a popular route amongst local riders and is 23.7 miles long!

We recommend starting this route at Victoria Pier in Lerwick. Take a left and follow along the water’s edge onto Commerical Street past the famous DI Jimmy Perez’ house ‘The Lodberrie’ from the Shetland TV series. Continue straight ahead onto Twageos Road and take a right onto Gressy Loan. At the end of the road, take a right onto Knab Road before turning left onto Breiwick Road for beautiful coastal views.

At the end of the road, turn left onto South Road (A969) and continue straight ahead at the roundabout to join the A970. Shortly after on your right, you will see the alluring Broch of Clickimin – which makes for an interesting visit! Keep following the main road out of Lerwick, and from here it’s a straight southbound cycle heading towards Cunningsburgh.

Cunningsburgh Beach
Cunningsburgh Beach photo © Copyright Colin Smith and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

After about 6 miles, take a left onto the road signposted to Fladdabister. Here you can enjoy fast sweeping single track roads. At the end of the road, turn left to head towards the village of Aithsetter and eventually to the lovely Cunningsburgh Beach.

To return back to Lerwick, continue following along the road until you reach the junction. Simply take a right and follow the main road (A970) back to Lerwick.

6. The Kergord Loop (medium)

This 31 mile route is another popular one with fellow cyclists on a Sunday morning. It takes you through the region of Kergord – home to Shetland’s only substantial woodland.

The Kergord loop begins by taking you out of Lerwick via the more forgiving Old North Road. Once you reach the end of the road, at the junction, turn left onto the A970 and follow for about 1 mile, before turning left again to sweep down and south to Scalloway. After about 2.5 miles before heading into the village of Scalloway, turn right onto the B9074 and head north through the lovely Tingwall Valley. Turn left at the roundabout at the village of Veensgarth and turn left at the following junction to head onto the A971, past Tingwall Airport.

Bonhoga Gallery, Weisdale, Shetland
Bonhoga Gallery, Weisdale, Shetland photo © Copyright Charles Tait

Here you are faced with another long slow climb of Wormadale, and then a high-speed downhill sweep into Whiteness where you will pass a few shops and the jewelers. Enjoy the picturesque coastal views on your left before arriving into Weisdale. Turn right onto the B9075, and soon after on your left is the Bonhoga Art Gallery – a lovely place to stop for a coffee!

Continue following this road until you reach a junction and then take a right onto the A970. After about 4 miles, turn left for a detour off the main road through Laxafirth. Turn left at the junction at the head of Strand Loch and pass through the village of Tingwall. At the end of the road, turn left again to rejoin the A970, pass the Shetland Golf Club and follow the road back to Lerwick.

7. The Alps / Nesting Loop (hard)

This route is now into ‘big day out’ territory and is only suitable for those who are used to cycling long distances in one day as this route is 45 miles long!

We recommend starting this route out of Lerwick – however it is an enjoyable challenge wherever you start. Head North out of Lerwick via the Old North Road and turn left once you reach the junction onto the A970. Follow the road for 3.5 miles before taking a left onto the A971 signposted towards Walls, Sandness and Tingwall Airport.

Continue along this road sweeping through Whiteness, Weisdale and Tresta – there are some breathtaking scenery along this stretch road. Be sure to stop at the Scord of Weisdale viewpoint for the best views! Once you arrive at Bixter, take a right onto B9071 signposted towards Aith and Voe, there is a quite steep incline to tackle here.

Waterfront village of Voe
The waterfront village of Voe photo © Copyright Charles Tait

After around 3.5 miles, you will arrive into the village of Aith. Once you have passed through Aith, you will enter a region locally referred to as ‘The Alps’ (don’t worry – it is just an area full of rolling hills!). There is a compulsory stop point at the famous Cake Fridge in East Burrafirth for a tasty treat! Continue following the B9071 until you drop into the charming waterfront village of Voe. At the junction, turn right on the A970 before soon turning left to rejoin the B9071 heading east towards Laxo. 

After about 2 miles, turn right at the Laxo burn onto the B9075 enjoying the stunning views out to the North Sea. This section is a highly enjoyable cycle through beautiful coastal nesting, however there is the small challenge of climbing a radio mast hill in the middle. Follow this road to the junction before turning left to rejoin the A970. We recommend turning left after 3 miles for a small detour past Laxafirth to enjoy more peaceful roads back to Lerwick.

8. As Far North As North Goes (hard)

This route is for the most experienced cyclists, taking in over 85 miles! It takes you from Shetland’s Southernmost point at Sumburgh Head right through to its Northernmost isle of Unst. This route involves taking the inter-island ferry between the mainland and Yell, and from Yell to Unst

Beginning at Sumburgh Head, it is as simple as following the main road (A970) over 50 miles north to the Toft Ferry Terminal, where you can catch the ferry to Ulsta on the isle of Yell. Fortunately, just like with NorthLink Ferries, bikes are also free to take on board the inter-island ferries!

Upon arrival in Yell, follow the main road (A968) along the coastline and enjoy the beautiful sea views. This road will lead you straight to the Gutcher Ferry Terminal after almost 18 miles, where you can then hop on a ferry to Unst.

Skaw Beach on the isle of Unst, Shetland
Skaw Beach on the isle of Unst, Shetland photo © Copyright Charles Tait

After arriving in Unst, continuing following the A968 for 10.5 miles before turning right onto the B9087 signposted to Haroldswick and the Unst Heritage Centre. Continue along this road for almost 2 miles, passing the Unst Heritage Centre, Shetland Reel Saxa Ford Distillery and Saxa Ford Spaceport until you arrive in the village of Norwick. Turn left before heading into the village, where you will be met with a steady climb up the hillside until you are awarded with beautiful views over Norwick Beach. Turn left onto Holsens Road which will lead you to the village of Skaw – the most northerly settlement in the UK.

If you are looking for more cycling inspiration in Scotland’s Northern Isles, why not read our blog about 6 Fantastic Cycling Routes in Orkney?

Amy LeithBy Amy Leith
A marketing student born and raised in Aberdeen with an admiration of the Scottish isles, desire to travel and see the world, a superior taste in music, enjoys cooking and socialising with family and friends.

Pin it! 8 fantastic cycling routes in Shetland

Header image: Cycling is a great way to explore the Shetland Isles photo © Copyright Nick McCaffrey