If you are looking for something new to try I can highly recommend this walking and cycling route, it is just a couple of hours from Edinburgh with great scenery and some lovely spots to stop for a picnic.
I really enjoying waking and hiking and have often travelled to areas around Callander to do various walking routes. However I was recently convinced to hang up my walking boots for the weekend and try out mountain biking instead. We made the journey from Edinburgh to Loch Venachar, near Callander, and spent the afternoon zipping around the Loch Venachar trail.
We hired bikes from Wheels cycling centre which is close to the loch, they have lots of parking available and you can hire bikes for around £15/4hours (http://scottish-cycling.com/index.html). The staff were really helpful and knowledgeable about the area and also fitted our bikes properly before we set off. They have a great selection of bikes for adults and children (including e-bikes) and can kit you out with everything you’ll need including helmets.
The route has two distinct halves with the south side of the loch being mostly minor roads and forestry track which follows along the lochside and the second half passes by the Glen Finglas Visitors Centre before climbing steeply onto the Great Trossachs Path. This part of the route is undulating mountain biking trail with excellent views across the water towards the Menteith Hills.
The route is easy/moderate for cycling and as a beginner to mountain biking I did find the uphill sections on the north side of the loch challenging but certainly not impossible! I will admit that I fell off my bike at one point, landing in a rather prickly gorse bush – not my finest moment! But I picked myself up, removed some jaggy bits from my arms and legs, adjusted my helmet and I was back on the bike and peddling along happily in no time.
As a keen walker I would say this route would be very achievable, although the uphill sections would certainly get the heart pumping! There is a good review of the route here https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/lochlomond/venachar-circuit.shtml for those who are more comfortable on two feet than two wheels.
The Loch Venacher circuit is about 12 miles if you take the circuit from the Wheels bike hire shop. It took us about 3 hours to complete, which included a stop for lunch. I would also recommend stopping in Callander, we often stop here on our way home from walking adventures in the area for some food and a cuppa – the pies from Mhor Bread on the Main Street are fantastic and stuffed full of fillings, well earned after a tough afternoon of cycling or walking.
You can find useful information and a map of the route (and other cycling routes in the area) here – http://www.lochlomond-trossachs.org/things-to-do/cycling/cycling-routes/loch-venachar-circuit/