Galloway. Tips for Traveling by Bicycle
Galloway is an often overlooked part of Scotland. It’s a lower part, and a more benign part, particularly so for cycling, but it’s no less beautiful than the rest. This ride is typical Galloway; you visit estuaries, cross rivers and see the sea, but most of it is in Galloway’s beautiful forested hills, with an occasional glimpse of a craggy mountain to remind you that this is Scotland.
Castle Douglas, named for the Earls of Douglas but a town since Roman times, is the best place to start. It nestles in the lumpy countryside just behind the Galloway coast. The route heads north, following Ure Water almost to its source, where lumpy becomes hilly.
You climb over the brilliantly named Green Top of Drunwhirn and descend to New Galloway. Famous for the Kite Trail, referring to the elegant, fork-tailed birds of prey you see circling overhead, New Galloway is also the home of the Scottish Alternative Games, held in August each year. Sports include hurling the curling stone, tractor pulling and snail racing. There’s a buskers’ bandstand, too.
They ought to put a cycling hill climb in the programme, because a long one faces you straight out of town, over the side of Cairnsmore to Clatteringshaws Loch. This was created by damming the River Dee and is part of a broader hydro-electric scheme. It looks incredible, a lonely lake in the middle of a huge forest. The forest undulates into the distance, with just an occasional bare top peeking out above the 300-metre contour.
You’re now on the Queen’s Drive, a stretch of the A712 named to commemorate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. It leads to Newton Stewart, where you change direction to follow the River Cree downstream almost to Creetown, where another longish climb begins.
This climbs a valley carved by Moneypool Burn, where there is also a disused railway line, up to Gatehouse Station. From here you drop down into the Fleet valley and follow it to Gatehouse of Fleet. You’re in a lumpy part again, where chains of similar-sized oval hills line up perpendicular to the coast. This is the north side of the Solway Firth, and you can see the mountains of Cumbria over the water, if it’s not raining. On very fine days you can even see the Isle of Man.
A quick loop around the edge of Wigtown Bay, with the Islands of Fleet just offshore, takes you to Kirkcudbright, a town famous for associations with several Scottish artists and as one of the locations for the 1973 horror film The Wicker Man. The artists came for the gentle light and the gentle weather, brought to Galloway by the Gulf Stream. It’s so gentle that palm trees grow here, especially further west.
The scenery changes again as you climb inland, away from town, and into an area of low mountains that forms the western edge of Dalbeattie Forest. You plunge down towards Orchardton Bay, just catching a glimpse of the sea, then ride up the Urr estuary to the Haugh of Urr before taking the military road back to Castle Douglas.
Take the road north to Old Bridge of Urr and turn left onto the B794 to cross the A712 and continue north. Turn left at the T-junction, cross Urr Water, and turn right then left for the A712. There, turn right to New Galloway and continue to Newton Stewart.
Turn left onto the A75 just before entering the town and turn left at the Creetown sign. Take the second left in Creetown and climb to Gatehouse Station, then turn right onto the B796. Turn left in Gatehouse of Fleet and follow the B727 south-east, cross the A75 and join the A755. Take the first right and the next right to Knockbrex, then follow this road to Borgue and join the B727 to Kirkcudbright.
Turn right onto the A755, then pick up the B727 in Kirkcudbright and follow this until its junction with the B736. Turn right, cross the A711 and follow this road in its loop back to cross the A711 again, then continue north to the junction with the A745.
Turn right to Dalbeattie and then as you enter town turn left onto the B794. Turn left in the Haugh of Urr, cross the Urr and follow this road back to Castle Douglas.
Galloway. Start + Finish: Castle Douglas
Galloway. Getting There: Castle Douglas is 57 miles west of Carlisle on the A75. There’s no rail line, but there is a rail link to Dumfries from Glasgow and Carlisle, and Dumfries is just 15 miles away with bus links.
Galloway. Bike Shop: Castle Douglas Cycles on Church Street
Galloway. Cafe: Design Cafe on King Street
Galloway. Local Delicacy: Smoked seafood
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