Tour de Galloway day 6: Glenluce Loop

Route – Newton Stewart to Wigtown to Bladnoch to Luce Bay to Achenmalg to Glenluce to New Luce to Challoch to Newton Stewart. For route map click here.

See route on Strava.

  • Weather – bright but fairly cloudy, some sunshine, warm with a bit of a breeze.
  • Distance travelled – 50.86 miles
  • Riding time – 3 hours 32 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 29.5 mph
  • Average speed – 14.4 mph
  • Height climbed – 2035 feet

Dad and I have done a lot of evening cycle rides this year. Because it stays light till quite late at night in the summer in Scotland, it means you can actually manage to get a decent length of cycle in before bedtime. The longest evening ride we’ve ever done was on day 6 of our holiday in Galloway in July. Dad thought my planned route was a bit ambitious and was worried we’d have to cycle back in the dark, but after an early tea, we were on the road before 5:30pm as we began our race against the setting sun…

As with many of our Galloway routes, we began by heading down the quiet back road to Wigtown before scooting through the town centre and onto the A714 for the mile or so south west to Bladnoch. It was Galloway’s equivalent of “rush hour” so the A road was relatively busy with 3 or 4 cars having to overtake us along the way… We crossed the impressive bridge next to the distillery, over the River Bladnoch and then almost immediately, turned right off the “busy” road onto the B7005. A quieter road you could

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not imagine as we cycled generally west or south west through The Machars for an endless number of miles through peaceful countryside. There were very few settlements at all other than occasional farms and almost no signs of life apart from cows and sheep in the fields. It was nice but rather bleak as well and a bit of a plod as we were heading slightly uphill and straight into the rather strong wind all the way. Eventually we spotted the sea ahead and the road headed steeply downhill to Luce Bay.

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Luce Bay looked like it would be a lovely place to visit on a sunny day. There is an endless stoney beach there right next to the road and you could image that when the tide goes out, there would be miles of sand and mudflats to enjoy. Today, the wind was rather annoying so we didn’t stop this time and continued on along the A747, first along the coast and then uphill through Achenmalg which seems to be some sort of a holiday village. Soon after the village we turned left onto a narrow back road that took us straight back down to the coast again and an even prettier part of Luce Bay, before heading north for a couple of miles. At the junction we crossed over the busy A75 road to enter the town of Glenluce.

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Our journey then continued north through beautiful tree covered countryside, along a lovely smooth, deserted road. It was perfect cycling conditions and the trees even gave us shelter from the wind as we passed Glenluce Abbey along the way. The road steadily climbed uphill but we hardly noticed as the gradient was shallow for most of the time and we were really enjoying this part of the ride. Soon we arrived at a village called New Luce and it was here that Dad had to consult the map to make sure we didn’t miss the turning that would take us back to Newton Stewart. We almost did miss it actually as it was one of the most narrow roads we’ve been on and Dad was slightly concerned that it would turn out to be a dead end… Thankfully it wasn’t (though after a couple of miles we did see a dead end sign straight ahead at one point, resulting in Dad panicking for a minute before realising our road was just hidden from view as it turned round to the right!) and after a steady but easy climb up to the top of an open moor, we were rewarded with some amazing close up views of a massive wind farm. The turbines seemed to go on forever as we cycled along the smooth narrow road and it almost felt as though we were cycling along the top of the world for miles and miles and miles. It was probably one of the best roads I’ve ever cycled on and will definitely be going back there.

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After the wind farm, the road took us gradually downhill for quite some time, in and out of the trees with the low sun shining through the branches as we passed some small lochs on the right. After a while we came to a junction with the B7027 where we turned right and rode through the edge of the Galloway Forest for a while on one of the smoothest roads I’ve ever experienced. We saw evidence of lots of forestry operations going on and there were piles of logs everywhere, but at this time of night there was nobody working and we had the road and the forest to ourselves.

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Soon, we came to the A714 and sped the last few miles back down the hill to Newton Stewart. It was getting quite late (almost (9:30 pm) by the time we got back to our accommodation but it was light enough that we hadn’t even needed to put our lights on until the final couple of miles: we had beaten the setting sun with several minutes to spare! Our Glenluce loop had been an amazing circular route through hugely varied and picturesque landscapes with almost nobody else on the road. A highly recommended evening out!

Tour de Galloway day 5: Machars Meander

Route – Newton Stewart to Wigtown to Bladnoch to Kirkinner to Garlieston to Sorbie to Whauphill to Culmalzie to Newton Stewart. For route map click here.

See route on Strava.

  • Weather – dry, mainly sunny and quite warm with very little wind.
  • Bike type – road bike
  • Distance travelled – 34.59 miles
  • Riding time – 2 hours 22 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 27.7 mph
  • Average speed – 14.7 mph
  • Height climbed – 1257 feet

Because of the rubbish weather and dark evenings it has been really hard to get out cycling recently. However, this afternoon Dad and I finally managed to get out for our first cycle ride in 3 weeks. Unfortunately, it rained for most of the 3 hours we were out and it turned out to be a rather grim plod. Much less grim, however, was our summer holiday this July when the weather was lovely and it was light till late in the evening and we were able to go cycling everyday. On day 5 of our Tour de Galloway, after enjoying a nice day at the beach, we managed to get our bikes out after teatime to go for a meander through The Machars…

The Machars is the name of the peninsula to the south of Newton Stewart in Galloway and it is made up of a mainly quite flat rural landscape with picturesque little villages dotted around the coast. Our route began with a quick 6 mile blast down the minor road from Nether Barr to Wigtown which we’ve written about previously. After a short ride through the town centre we turned left onto the A714 road and sped down the slight slope at around 25 mph for the mile or so to the distillery at Bladnoch. The main road was fairly quiet but after crossing the impressive bridge over the River Bladnoch, we decided to turn left onto an even quieter back road which took us under an ancient,

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overgrown railway bridge and through the middle of nowhere for a couple of miles before looping back around to the main road again. It was kind of a pointless long cut but we like long cuts and if there’s a chance to avoid a main road, we usually take it! On the A road we went left and headed south for a while on the mostly flat, fast and smooth road, passing through a couple of small villages on the way. Shortly after Kirkinner, we turned left onto the B7004. This road is the longest, straightest road I’ve ever been on and was slightly downhill all the way to the coastal village of Garlieston so we raced the 4 miles there in no time at all. Or at least it would have been quick if Dad hadn’t kept stopping to take photos along the way. I suppose it was quite a scenic ride as we passed in and out of the trees on our way to the coast. We stopped at the harbour to enjoy the views over the mud flats of Garlieston Bay bathed in evening sunshine.

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After that we headed west along the B7004 again but soon turned off onto the B7052 and headed generally west again for a few miles through pretty much deserted but picturesque Machars countryside on a road that varied from amazingly smooth to terribly bumpy to anything in between. This seems to be typical of most of the roads in Galloway so it’s always wise to keep your eyes pealed so you can try to avoid the worst of the bumps and potholes…

When we reached the village of Sorbie, we turned right and headed north on the A746 for a short distance before turning back onto the B7052 again, heading generally north-west for many miles. We saw no traffic at all for what seemed like hours as we cycled through the sun-drenched countryside. In fact it seemed spookily quiet. It was as if everyone had stayed indoors to watch the England v Croatia semi-final of the World Cup which was being played that evening – when they could have been out cycling, enjoying the beautiful countryside and weather! Anyway, we eventually reached Culmalzie where we turned right briefly before heading more or less north again for a long time through a deserted landscape of endless cow fields with the Galloway hills far away in the distance.

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England were already 1-0 up by the time we came to a junction with the B733 road. Here we went right for half a mile before turning left onto a very narrow road that was covered in loose chippings. It wasn’t the nicest road to cycle on but it also took us up the only real hill of the day so it was actually a pleasant change from all the easy, flat roads we’d been on for the rest of the trip. We were heading north-east for the final few miles back to Nether Barr with the late evening sun starting to set. Unfortuanely, I realised that one of my tyres had a puncture so we had to stop and Dad spent an age changing the inner tube. By this time, Croatia had equalised so we took off back down a rather steep hill towards the junction with the A714 road again. Speeding down the rather bumpy narrow road we enjoyed amazing views of the Cairnsmore of Fleet hill straight ahead, towering above the otherwise fairly flat landscape. It looks like it would be a fine hill to climb one day and probably has brilliant views from the top.

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So, after a quick half mile on the main road back to our accomodation in the fading daylight, we had made it back in time to watch the extra time period of the England v Croatia match. Sadly for England, they experienced Scotland-like glorious failure as Croatia scored with 10 minutes to go to reach their first ever World Cup final…

Dad and I normally prefer slighty more challenging and hilly cycle routes but our easy meander through the Machars in the evening sunshine was very enjoyable and highly recommended.

Tour de Galloway day 4: Gatehouse of Fleet to Kirkcudbright

Route – Gatehouse of Fleet to Kirkcudbright to Borgue to Carrick Bay to Gatehouse of Fleet. For route map click here.

See route on Strava.

  • Weather – fairly cloudy but bright and reasonably warm with light winds.
  • Bike type – road bike
  • Distance travelled – 25.29 miles
  • Riding time – 1 hour 54 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 31.1 mph
  • Average speed – 13.3 mph
  • Height climbed – 1290 feet

On day 4 of our summer holiday in Galloway, Dad and I were up reasonably early and drove the 20 miles or so to the picturesque little town of Gatehouse of Fleet. We parked on the appropriately named Fleet Street in the outskirts and set off on our bikes, cycling north-eastwards through the town centre for a short distance, crossing a bridge over the Water of Fleet before heading out of town on the B727 Old Military Road. Although it didn’t look it, our legs told us this road was suspiciously uphill as it turned the corner and took us back southwards with trees on both sides of the road. A mile or so later we turned left onto a very narrow country road which headed even more steeply uphill. The road had recently been covered with loose chippings so it wasn’t the most pleasant ride up the hill but we made it to the top soon enough. From there we could see the sea far way on the right – and that’s exactly where we were headed. But first we discovered we had some dangers to negociate on what should have been a lovely quiet road in the middle of nowhere. Tractors! And there was seemingly a constant stream of the massive

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farm vehicles carrying trailers full of silage to and from the farm at the top of the hill. This was extremely annoying as each time a tractor flew around a corner, we had to move quickly over and stop on the grass verge to avoid being flattened. I would say this was the busiest and most dangerous road I’ve ever cycled on and it came as a bit of a relief when we finally made it down the other side of the hill and came to a junction with what was seemingly now only the second busiest road in the region – the A75!

We actually only cycled on the main road for about 20 yards before turning off onto another minor road (this one very quiet thankfully) and headed mainly downhill on our way to the coast. Eventually we came to another main road, the A755. Here we turned left and sped down the hill for a mile or so to Kirkcudbright, crossing over the impressive old bridge as we entered the harbour town. Kirkcudbright is a lovely town with a brilliant fish and chip shop but it was too early for a fish cake supper so we turned around and headed back over the bridge again. Then we took the next left onto the B727

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and followed the signs for Cycle Route no.7 which took us right along the side of the River Dee estuary, giving us picturesque views back over the bay to Kirkcudbright. This road was quite windy and although there were no big hills, it was rather more up and down than you’d expect for a coastal road. It was also quite busy with traffic at times, though no tractors this time… After a while the road took us back inland and we reached a village called Borgue. There we turned left onto a much quieter, mostly single track road which seemed to take us mainly downhill as we headed back towards the coast again. The views over to the islands in the bay and the hills of Galloway far beyond

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were quite nice. Eventually we arrived at a junction and went left at the sign for the beach and cycled the last mile or so along a bumpy narrow road down to Carrick Bay where we stopped for a snack and to enjoy the views from the beach. Carrick Bay is one the nicest beaches I’ve been to. It’s quite a stony beach but there’s lots of sand when the tide goes out. In fact, when we were there earlier in the holiday, the tide was right out and we were able to walk through the shallow water and mud flats all the way over to one of the islands. There’s also loads of rock pools there and this is the only beach where we’ve ever seen live prawns swimming about in the pools. As Dad discovered though, they are impossible to catch! He did catch a tiny crab though…

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After the beach we headed back along to the junction and turned left onto the quiet road again. The road took us past many fields of cows and then we passed the Cream o’ Galloway visitor centre where we considered stopping for an ice cream but somehow or other, we managed to simply cycle past without filling our faces with a scoop or 2. Most unlike us… Soon enough we came to a long and straight section of narrow road with lots of long grass at the sides. There was a sign warning that the road was liable to flooding but thankfully, it was dry enough today and we didn’t have to do any swimming… Just before the road reached the busy A75 again, we turned left and followed the cycle route 7 signpost which took us off road onto a lovely smooth cycle path. It wasn’t smooth for long though as the path headed into the woods and turned into a rather less lovely

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rough, slightly overgrown forest path. We kept going anyway but it was really quite bumpy and not at all suitable for our road bikes. Thankfully, we made it back to Gatehouse of Fleet without crashing or having any punctures. Actually, it was lucky we took the bumpy route as it meant we cycled right through the very impressive Cally Palace Hotel and Golf Course before heading back through the town to the car, so it turned out to be a rather nice way to end a very nice circular route.

Tour de Galloway day 3 (time trial): Newton Stewart to Wigtown

Route out: Newton Stewart to Wigtown. For route map click here.

Route back: the same way but in reverse.

See route on Strava.

  • Weather – sunny and warm but rather windy.
  • Bike type – road bike
  • Distance travelled – 13.18 miles
  • Riding time – 50 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 28.0 mph
  • Average speed – 15.7 mph
  • Height climbed – 300 feet

Dad and I have been out cycling so much over the past couple of months that we haven’t had much time to write much on here, but now that the evenings are getting very dark, we are going to try and catch up with all the best cycle routes we’ve been on this summer. We will start by going back to our holiday in Galloway in July…

Day 3 of the Tour de Galloway was the time trial day. After a fun day out at the beach and also the Cream of Galloway adventure playground (where we ate lots of ice cream obviously) we only had a short time after tea when we could get out on our bikes. I decided to invite my little sister Isla along with us for a time trial race from our accomodation just south of Newton Stewart down the very quiet coast road to Wigtown about 6 miles away. This is part of cycle route no.73 and the road is extremely quiet, very narrow and mostly flat and with the strong wind at our backs we were able to race along at a good speed – my average speed was over 18mph on the way there amazingly, though Isla wasn’t quite so fast… The only hazzard we came across along the way was an annoyingly wide milk tanker that took up the whole width of the road which meant we had to move our bikes completely off the road and into the long grass at the side to avoid being squashed!

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The road follows close to the River Cree estuary and just outside Wigtown Dad thought he saw an osprey swooping down close to the water looking for fish. After 6 miles of near flat riding, the short but steep hill that takes you up into the town centre of Wigton is a bit of a shock but even Isla managed to cycle all the way up without getting stuck. We stopped there for a few minutes to have a drink before turning around and heading back the way we came.

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On the way back we were forced off the road once again by the same milk tanker heading back from the dairy farm with a full tank of milk this time. We were significantly slower on the way back as it was straight into the strengthening wind the whole way. At times, no matter how fast Isla pedalled, it seemed like she was going backwards! Eventually we made it back to the Nether Barr where we were feeling a bit peckish so we had a bowl of Aldi’s Special Flakes before getting the map out to plan the route for day 4 of the Tour de Galloway. So stay tuned for that – I promise it won’t take us another 2 months to write up the next chapter…!

Tour de Galloway day 2 (mountain stage): Glen Trool Forest and South Ayrshire Alps

Route – Newton Stewart to Glentrool to Straiton to Loch Trool to Glentrool to Newton Stewart. For route map click here.

See route on Strava.

  • Weather – Cloudy and cool to start with but hot and sunny after lunch. Not much wind.
  • Bike type – road bike
  • Distance travelled – 77.67 miles
  • Riding time – 5 hours 51 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 33.8 mph
  • Average speed – 13.3 mph
  • Height climbed – 4898 feet

On the second day of our summer holidays Dad and I were up nice and early and after a breakfast of Aldi’s version of Special K (surprisingly tasty and very cheap), we were out on our bikes before 9am. Before going to bed the night before, I had planned a very long route for us which turned out to be rather more hilly than expected. But I really like hills so we had a cracking day out in some of the most beautiful countryside in the south of Scotland.

To start with we took the cycle path alongside the River Cree into Newton Stewart where we saw a heron creeping around in the shallow water looking for its fishy breakfast. Then, after a brief spell on the main street and a quick cycle over the grand-looking bridge across the river, we turned left onto a minor road, following the Cycle Route no.7 sign – we were going to follow route 7 for most of the day. This quiet single track road soon took us out into the countryside, basically following the River Cree northwards, going in and out of the trees for quite a number of miles. This area is called Wood of Cree and looked like a nice place to go for a walk. Although it looked mainly flat, it actually felt very slightly uphill as we cycled along the deserted road. Eventually we came to a junction and turned right and here the landscape changed as we entered the Glen Trool

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Forest. Here the trees are mainly conifers and there’s lots of evidence of forestry operations (ie. trees being chopped down!) and signs warning to watch out for forestry lorries. It was Sunday though so we didn’t see any lorries at all, or even any cars as we had the lovely smooth, narrow road all to ourselves. Soon we reached Glentrool village but instead of turning left into the village, we went right, heading into some even more remote countryside of the Glen Trool Forest.

From this point on, the road starts to climb more noticably uphill, not enough to have to use any low gears but enough so that your legs really do start to complain – especially as it goes on like this for a long long time (10 miles or so I think). Sometimes the road was lined with spruce trees on both sides but sometimes we had great views over to the Galloway Hills on the right as we cycled along, in and out of the trees. This area has the most wild blueberries I’ve ever seen – and they were very tasty! At some point we passed 2 signs: one was warning that from this point on the road is only gritted during daylight hours; the other was warning that we were about to enter Ayrshire!

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The warning signs weren’t necessary though as Ayrshire turned out to be perfectly lovely and at this point the road really did start climbing much more steeply as it wound its way quickly up to the high point of the so called Nick of the Balloch climb at around 400m high. We stopped at the top for a blueberry feast before speeding down the north side of the Balloch as fast as we dared. There are crash barriers on the left side to protect you from a very steep drop if you were to lose control on one of the twisting corners, but thankfully we made it down the steep hill safely enough. We passed a large group of cyclists heading up the other way. It looks like it would be a very impressive, but hard, climb from that side so I think I will go back there another day to give it a go.

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After a very brief flat bit at the bottom of the Balloch, we immediatly began climbing up the next steep hill of the “Ayrshire Alps”. This hill is known as The Pilot for some unknown reason and it was quite a hard slog up to the top of the single track road but we did spot an ancient stone signpost which told us we were 10 miles from a place called Maybole and 24 miles from Newton Stewart. The descent down the other side of the hill gave us a grand view over the Ayrshire countryside and some wind farms in the distance and we enjoyed speeding down the hill into the valley below. Well, at least I enjoyed it – Dad was unfortunate enough to be stung on the elbow by a wasp whilst travelling at over 30 mph! At the bottom of the hill, the sun finally came out and we turned right onto a rather bumpy single track road for a few easy miles past fields of sheep and cows until we arrived at the village of Straiton where we decided to stop for lunch. It was our usual fare: crisps, oatcakes, salad, apples and (for Dad) cheapo Aldi chocolate.

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After lunch we cycled through Straiton (which seemed like a nice little place) and then turned right at the sign pointing to Newton Stewart and we began our long journey home. At first the road was quite flat with 2 lanes, though it wasn’t all that busy. The views of the valley and the hills in the distance were quite nice in the sunshine. After a while the road narrowed and began to climb upwards into the hills. It was long but quite a gradual climb which took us back into the Galloway Forest again. At one point we crossed a bridge over the oddly named River Stinchar and then the road began to climb

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ever more steepy until we finally reached the top – the highest point of the day at well over 400m. From there we had a great view over to the Balloch hill we’d cycled over a couple of hours before, as well as the road ahead, disappearing off down the hill in front of us. It looked like a fun and fast descent – and it was! Soon enough we were back onto the same road we had cycled up this morning. In this direction, heading south towards Glen Trool, it was really great fun. It was nearly all slightly downhill and smooth tarmac with hardly any traffic to be seen as we said goodbye to Ayrshire and sped back into Galloway. The fast fun seemed to go on for endless miles and with the sunshine and blue skies replacing this morning’s grey, low cloud, the views of the hills and the forest were much more impressive.

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It wasn’t long before we reached the sign welcoming us back to Glentrool village. But again, we avoided the village and turned left and decided to cycle the 4 miles or so right into the heart of the Glen Trool Forest and the stunning hills surrounding the picturesque Loch Trool. The road was fairly flat apart from a couple of short but very steep climbs right at the end, just before we got the end of the tarmac at the parking area for Bruce’s Stone. Bruce’s Stone is a monument that was errected to commemorate Robert the Bruce’s victory at the Battle of Glen Trool in 1307. The stone is just a big boulder with nothing historic about it so is not really worth looking at, despite all the tourists that flock there to get their picture taken. The views of the hills and the loch are grand though.

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We then cycled back along the narrow road and this time turned left and finally did go along the road through Glentrool Village and after a mile of two we came to the junction with the A714 road. It would have been a nice easy 5 or 6 mile ride downhill from here to Newton Stewart. But I was still feeling full of energy so after a brief time on the main road we turned right onto the narrowest, and possibly the nicest, road of the day. As usual it was suspiciously uphill but this was made up for by the increadible views behind us back to the hills of the Galloway Forest where we’d been only half an hour before. The

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road took us past Loch Ochiltree as we climbed up and around a small grassy hill. From the high point we had a lovely long and straight slightly downhill stretch which took us quickly to the junction with the B7027. Here we turned left onto the smoothest road in the world. It was such a pleasure to cycle on it as it took us through areas of the Galloway Forest that had recently been cut down. It was also mostly downhill and very fast and before long we came to another junction with the A714 once more. We could have been there much quicker if we hadn’t taken our long cut, but we’d have missed out on some of the best views of the day so I was glad we’d gone the long and hilly way. After that we turned right and sped down the hill for a mile or so to Newton Stewart where we stopped at the Co-op to buy ice lollies to try and cool ourselves down! Then it was only a half mile or so back to our accomodation at Nether Barr where we arrived just in time for tea (mushroom risotto) – so that was well timed. It had been a bit of an epic adventure through some beautiful countryside and definitely one of the highlights of our holiday in Dumfries and Galloway.

Tour de Galloway day 1: Newton Stewart to Wigtown Loop

Route – Newton Stewart to Wigtown to Challoch to Newton Stewart. For route map click here.

See route on Strava.

  • Weather – Sunny at first, then clouding over. Warm with light winds.
  • Bike Type – Road bike
  • Distance travelled – 23.27 miles
  • Riding time – 1 hour 31 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 27.7 mph
  • Average speed – 15.3 mph
  • Height climbed – 832 feet

For our summer holidays this year we went to Dumfries and Galloway in the south-west of Scotland. We stayed in very nice self-catering accomodation at Nether Barr just outside the town of Newton Stewart and since the weather forecast looked good for the whole week, we decided to bring our bikes. There’s lots of other things to do in Dumfries and Galloway apart from riding a bike (going to the beach was my favourite activity!) but I was still determined to make sure I got out cycling everyday of the holidays, even if just for a short ride. Dad came up with the suggestion that since the Tour de France had just started, we should have our very own “Tour de Galloway”, so after tea on our first evening we headed rode off into the sunshine to begin the first stage of the Tour…

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National Cycle Route no.73 goes right past Nether Barr so we followed that south all the way to Wigtown. At first you have a choice of the A714 road or a shared use path. The path looked a bit gravelly is places and the road seemed fairly quiet so we chose that for the first half mile or so. We then turned left onto a very narrow, virtually traffic-free road which took us down very close to the River Cree estuary and then the Sound of Fleet. Along the way we enjoyed great views of the impressive looking hill called Cairnsmore of Fleet on the other side of the water, as well as a view of the higher mountains in the Galloway Forest Park behind us. The road was very straight and almost completely flat so we were able to go very fast along here. However, the surface varied from nice and smooth to very bumpy with grass growing down the middle of the road. This was pretty typical of most of the roads we cycled on in the area – they were either brilliant or horrendous, with nothing in between! Anyway, after 5 or 6 flat miles we came to our first hill of the day, a rather steep but short climb which took us up into the town of Wigtown.

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Wigtown is famous for being Scotland’s book town. There’s loads of nice book shops here – even all the cafes sell books too – but they were all closed for the day so we just cycled through the town centre and then out into the countryside again on the B733 road. This road was very quiet, was mainly quite flat with just a few short ups and downs and took us past countless fields of cows (there seem to be cows everywhere down here!). After a while, we came to a sign for Newton Stewart and followed it, turning right onto a very narrow back road which took us through some rather remote land (and more cow fields), climbing relatively high up at first and then gradually descending down the other side of the small hill. The views to the hills in the north were very nice as we sped down the hill. This road had been covered in loose chippings not to long ago so although it wasn’t bumpy, it wasn’t really the nicest road to cycle on with a road bike.

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Before too long we reached a junction with the busiest main road in the area, the A75. We could have turned right and taken the main road a mile or so back to our accomodation. But we like a long cut so we crossed straight over onto what Google Maps says is an old military road. The road surface was certainly old and worn out with very poorly filled in pot holes all along the way. The line of grass along the middle was at times wider than the remaining tarmac! This road was long and straight and totally flat (apart from the bumps…) and it seemed like the road to nowhere as there’s no places along the way, just trees and fields and millions of rabbits. At one point we began to wonder if the road would ever end. Eventually it did though and we turned right onto the B7027, speeding down the hill for the short distance until we joined the A714 once more. This road took us mostly downhill the last mile or so to Newton Stewart. It was especially fast just as we entered the town and speed sensor warned us that we were going 30 mph. Then we had an unexpectedly steep hill to climb through the town centre before heading back out of the town. At the outskirts we had to cross the roundabout on the A75 road which we could have passed through much earlier if we hadn’t taken the long, wacky, bumpy back road. A long, wacky, bumpy back road way is always much more enjoyable than a mile of a busy road though – don’t you agree?

So after one last little sprint south along the A714, we arrived back at Nether Barr. Our first impressions of Galloway is that it’s a lot less hilly than Midlothian and the Borders but it was still a very pleasant, extremely quiet and scenic place to place to cycle. Once the bikes were packed away, I immediately got out my map to start planning the route for day 2 of the Tour de Galloway…

Grand Tour of Southern Scotland: Hawick to Langholm

Route out – Hawick to Newcastleton to Langholm. For route map click here.

Route back – Langholm to Harelaw to Newcastleton to Saughtree to Hawick. For route map click here.

See route on Strava.

  • Weather – Sunny with light winds and reasonably warm.
  • Bike type – road bike
  • Distance travelled – 71.06 miles
  • Riding time – 5 hours 55 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 30.6 mph
  • Average speed – 12.0 mph
  • Height climbed – 5245 feet

The weather was looking good last Saturday so I decided we should make the most of it and go on what I reckoned would be one of our longest and probably our hardest route to date. And it certainly was – but it was also probably the most enjoyable we been on!

Dad and I were up early to pack the bikes onto the back of the car and after breakfast we were off on the road, heading south for Hawick, one of the larger towns in the Scottish Borders, about an hour’s drive from home. After parking the car, we headed south out of town along the B6399, signposted for Newcastleton 20 miles away. This is one of the most brilliant cycling roads you can imagine: very little in the way of traffic (even fewer bikes oddly – or more accurately, none at all), stunning scenery, long steep uphills and even longer gradual downhills. The road starts off easy enough and is very flat for the first few miles, following a river and passing some pig farms on the way to Stobs Castle. You can’t actually see the castle from the road so we didn’t stop and soon came to the first steep hill of the day. It’s quite a short hill but the view back to where we’d come from was very nice. After that, there’s another fairly flat section for a mile or so before a long, winding gradual (and fun) descent, passing an impressive old viaduct in the distance. The viaduct was originally used by trains on the old Waverley Line but sadly, the track has long since gone so we saw no trains today. Well, not quite yet anyway…

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Soon the road begins to climb quite gradually and after a while the amazing views of the valley ahead really open up and you can see the road ahead as it seems to climb rather steeply up a massive hill. As we approached, it looked like a very hard climb but it turned out to be nowhere near as steep as it looked (maybe 5% gradient or so). It did last for a good few miles though and climbed up past 400m so it certainly couldn’t be classed as easy… From the top you then get what can only be described as the most fun and fast 10 mile downhill section through deserted Borders countryside, following a river through the valley (narrow at first then wide open) all the way to the village of Newcastleton, the first real sign of civilisation since Hawick. The gradient is fairly slight so there’s nothing too fast and scary to deal with but there’s a lot of corners and the road is quite narrow in places so you still have to be careful at times. Near the start of the descent we passed something you don’t normally see in the middle of nowhere – some old trains and carriages just off the side of the road. This was the Whitrope Heritage Centre and if you like railways, it’s worth a visit. We cycled past these trains in the opposite direction once before so for us it wasn’t a surprise this time to come across the old railway in the middle of nowhere. It was still worth interrupting our 10 mile descent to get a photo of the trains though…!

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When we reached Newcastleton Dad suggested stopping for an early lunch but I was still feeling energetic and decided to keep going. I was excited about the next bit because it would take in another of the 100 best cycling climbs in Scotland according to my favourite new book by Simon Warren. Rated as 6/10 for difficulty, the Tinnis Hill climb starts right in the village (turn right off the main road and follow the sign for “public conveniences” as there is no sign for Langholm if you are heading south) and immediately the narrow, smooth road becomes very steep (gear 1 or 2 steep!) and has quite a few corners. It passes what must be a very scenic and hilly golf course on the way up and the views back down towards the east and north are simply stunning as you cycle up. Dad couldn’t keep up with me as I raced ahead and after a quite a long time of relentless climbing, the gradient eased and the road became dead straight for ages as we cycled at a really fast speed across the top of Langholm Moor. Eventually, we turned a

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corner and the road steepened once again for a final push to the top of Tinnis Hill. From here we got a nice view right over to the South-West of Scotland and probably as far as North-West England too. We could also see the narrow road ahead looking like it would be fun as it headed steeply back down the other side of hill. And it certainly was a lot of fun, quite bendy and fast and in almost no time we reached the bottom – or as it turned out, it wasn’t the bottom at all. As we crossed a bridge, the sign said 6 miles to Newcastleton in one direction and 4 miles to Langholm in the other, so there was still quite a bit to go. And we could see the road ahead would be taking us up yet another steep hill on the way. I didn’t mind though as the views all around were amazing and although it was another long climb, it wasn’t quite as steep as it looked and before too long we were speeding down another brilliant fast descent, into the town of Langholm. Watch out near the end of the downhill section where it becomes very steep and there’s a really tight bend to cycle round just before you reach the town at the junction with the main A7 road. I imagine that in the rain, snow or strong winds, the Langholm Moor road would have been a bleak, horrible experience but on a nice sunny day like today, the 10 miles over the hills from Newcastleton to Langholm might possibly be the most fun you can have on a road bike!

In Langholm, we did have our first stop of the day (after 30 miles amazingly) and ate lunch at the river side: crab, oatcakes, carrot sticks and crisps. After that we cycled along the A7 through the town for a bit. Dad spotted a nice baker and suggested that we should stop for something to eat – so we stuffed ourselves with a second lunch of very tasty sausage rolls… Then we got going again and just outside of town we turned left onto the

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B6318. There was a sign saying Road Ahead Closed but we decided to ignore this and press on as the alternative route would be a long ride down the busy A7. As it turned out, the road was half blocked by a pile of earth, possibly from a landslide, but there was enough room to cycle past safely enough, though no cars could have got through. That probably explains why the road was so quiet. We cycled for about 6 miles on the B6318, and there were very few flat bits and lots of short, steep hills to go up and down. After our double lunch, we found this section to be a bit of a long slog and despite all the massive hills elsewhere in this route, this was easily the hardest part of the day. We were glad to finally reach Harelaw, where we turned left onto the B6357 right next to the Scotland-England border.

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From here we basically cycled alongside the river the Liddel Water northwards for the next 20 miles or so, never going more than a couple of miles from the English border the whole time. This road was fairly quiet and relatively flat, though it felt as though it was very slightly uphill most of the time. It was on this road that after about 45 miles of cycling, we finally passed our first cyclist of the day. This is quite remarkable considering the perfect cycling weather today and also the quiet, scenic roads that are perfect for cycling. For some reason, maybe because it is quite remote and far away from any main city, this area seems to be much less popular for cycling than other parts of the Borders, such as around Peebles and Melrose. Well, that’s their loss, and it would seem that this area of the Southern Borders shall remain our secret cycling heaven. Or at least it will till thousands of people read this blog of course…! After passing through Newcastleton once more (and we did see a sign pointing to Langholm in this direction) we soon came to a fork in the road: left to go the quick way back to Hawick or right to stay on the B6357 and head for Bonchester Bridge and the much longer way back to Hawick. We chose the long way of course…

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After quite a few miles of easy but slightly uphill riding through the quiet countryside, we eventually came to Saughtree Station (sadly not a train station any more…) and it was here that the road really started to climb. This is another really hard, long climb and is also featured in my Cycling Climbs of Scotland book which rates it as 4/10 for difficulty. It has quite a few sharpish corners on the way up into the Wauchope Forest and as you head upwards, you also get fine views across to the Kielder Forest a mile or 2 away across the border in England. After a short while we reached what appeared to be the top of the hill and the road started to head downhill again so we really picked up some speed. Then after rounding another bend we discovered that yet again we had been fooled, and there was another long and steep hill to go as the road climbed close to 400m once again. It didn’t seem too hard though and with great views on the right across to the Cheviot Hills, it was a very pleasant climb. Then came another very long and fast and fun descent down through the trees for a few miles. Watch out for a really bad pothole on the way down though, exactly on the part of the road most cyclists would be travelling on. Luckily Dad is really good at spotting potholes so we were able to avoid it.

A couple of miles before the B road reaches Bonchester Bridge, we turned left onto a very narrow back road. The junction is not easy to spot because of the Beech trees but it’s just before you reach a white house. The narrow road goes very steeply downhill so be careful here. You then need to turn left at the junction, then another quick left and then a quick right onto a very quiet single track road which takes you up another long and steep hill in the middle of nowhere (not as challenging as some of the other hills today but still a hard climb, especially when you’ve already done over 60 miles!). The views of the countryside all around were lovely and Dad stopped for quite a few photos on this

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section. After a while we came to a junction with another minor road right at the top of the hill at over 300m high. We turned right in the direction of Bonchester Bridge for a few hundred yards before turning left onto the road back to Hawick, the A6088. This road was extremely quiet for an A road and the best thing about it was that the 5 miles back to Hawick were almost entirely downhill and we free-wheeled almost all the way back to the town. As we cycled into the town centre Dad spotted a chip shop, and since it was nearly 5pm we stopped to fill our faces with fishcakes and scampi suppers. It was the prefect way to end our magnificent, epic, and extremely hilly grand tour of southern Scotland.