We woke around 7am after a broken nights sleep. I never seem to sleep well the first night under canvass and last night was no exception. There’d been light rain over night but the day was dry and overcast.
Today’s plan was for a day ride round Hoy. We’d booked tickets by phoning Orkney ferries yesterday afternoon. No on-line booking but all the info and timetables can be found at www.orkneyferries.co.uk/
It was a short and picture postcard pretty journey to Hoy through the western approaches to Scapa Flow.
We landed at Linksness and cycled down the island to the light house at Ruff of Cantick.
We followed the main road which was single track all the way ! The route is undulating with no really steep gradients. No trees but the scenery was beautiful and the road was super quiet
We had our lunch at the Cantick lighthouse. If Carlsberg did lunch spots…
There was only one road down the island so a circular route was out and we were forced to retrace our route.
On the way back we stopped at the Longhope lifeboat disaster memorial
Our weather luck ran out with about 8 miles to go. It was light drizzle & not a full Scottish downpour which continued till we returned to Stromness.
Pasta for tea washed down with some Morgans Spiced and Coke 😋
The Inverness City Travelodge is super convenient for the station – only a two minute walk. For once getting on the train was zero hassle (apart from the poor design of bike rack)
Our journey starts in bright sunshine for the 4 hour journey up what will be part of our route home. A stress free and senic journey.
Only a short ride out of Thurso to the ferry terminal at Scrabster. The ferry was also stress free – we were allowed to board first and exit before all the cars. On route we passed the Old Man of Hoy
The Point of Ness camp site is our home for the next two nights. It’s only a mile out of Stromness so convenient after a days travelling.
It’s a dry evening so we cooked at the tent after a trip to Stromness COOP. Chic pea curry, rice & naan followed by tea & chocolate fingers 😋
After tea we went for a short cycle along the coastal path.
This walk took us past Point of Ness battery which is supposed to be one of the three best preserved in the uk. It looked very underwhelming to me but here’s a little info I found…
Orkney was the main base for the Royal Navy’s Fleet in both World Wars, and Ness Battery was a crucial part of the defences of the western approaches to Scapa Flow, one of the world’s finest anchorages.
In WWI Ness Battery was one of three batteries covering the Hoy Mouth from the north side. All were dismantled and the guns scrapped in the 1920s, but traces of the WWI battery are still to be seen today.
In WWII the site became a coast defence battery once more, armed with two 6-inch calibre guns. It housed a Fire Command, controlling all six batteries defending Hoy Sound.
The guns remained at Ness Battery until 1955, and the site was used by both Regular and Territorial Army units for training until 2001, when the site was sold by the Ministry of Defence to Orkney Islands Council, the present owner.
The campsite has a communal room with sofas, microwave, kettle and a telly. We sat in for an hour to charge phones and plan our trip to Hoy tomorrow. We can tell were quite far north now because when we came out for our first night under canvass (22:10) it was still very light !
Day one is the drive to Inverness. The plan is to stay overnight in Inverness and get the 7am train to Thurso and the ferry to Stromness for night one under canvass.
06:15am woke to the sound of rain. Not just a light summer shower but “biblical” rain and a small river running down the road. Not a good start…
09:30am more “biblical” rain around Lockerbie – I think we saw Noah’s Arc on the south bound carriageway ! After that the clouds seemed to lift & the drive to Inverness was pleasent with only sporadic “normal” rain…
After checking in to the Travelodge we went out to Gorthleck to see our friend Phil Mitchell for the evening. Good to catch up with Phil & we had a lovely meal at the Whitebridge hotel.
Not exactly an exciting cycle touring day but no disasters 🙂
We found the SW300 route from the following website https://sw3004.wixsite.com/southwest300 which is well worth a view. The guy who came up with this is a super athlete so there are planned routes for 2 to 6 days. The map below shows the SW300 route as defined on this site.
A zip file containing the KML or GPX file can be downloaded from the links below:
Well it’s circular so you can start where you want but if you’re travelling from the south then Dumfries is the first (and easiest) place you come to from the motorway. We were travelling from Cumbria so this worked well for us.
We parked in the rail station car park (postcode DG1 1NF). There is parking each side of the train line, we found it best to park in the area shown on the map below.
It has cameras so probably as safe as anywhere. There is a housing estate where you could park for free on the route out of Dumfries but you’d have to be careful not to upset the locals. If you’re cheeky you could get away with parking at the entrance to the station as shown below…
Being circular you’ll probably get a head wind at some point so no real advantage either way. We chose to go anti-clockwise. For us, starting from Dumfries for us this was a good way to go as it got what I think is the hardest day out the way with fresh legs. The loop out to Elvanfoot and back is beautiful but a lot of ascent when carrying a tent !
If you’re an endurance cyclist with an arse of leather and pistons for legs then 24 hours is the target. For mere mortals like me it takes significantly longer, and I want it to take longer. For us the point of doing this cycle was to see the Dumfries and Galloway area. You can’t really do this when you’re arse up, head down going as fast as you can !
So for the point of this blog I’m going to assume the reader is a mere mortal who wants to see the area too. So do it over a week or longer & you give yourself time to see this beautiful area.
Day 1: Dumfries to Sanquhar
The route that loops out from Carronbridge round to Mennock via Elvanfoot is great and importantly has very light traffic. The same cannot be said for the route from Thornhill to Carronbridge which runs along the A76.
We changed the route to quieter roads that avoid the busy A76 section. Our detour is shown in blue.
The advantage of this route is its safer and takes in beautiful Drumlanrig Castle shown below.
Day 2: Sanquhar to Girvan
Day two was a pleasant route on mostly quiet roads. The exception to this is a section on the busy A76 from just after Kirkconnel to New Cumnock. There’s no easy way round this but we did come up with a detour that reduced it by half. Its an easy detour & is shown below – the yellow arrow shows the original route and the blue shows our detour…
Now the only downside of our route was staying in Girvan – its a hole with only four redeeming features:
The views of Ailsa Craig – especially when the sun is shining
Grazianos Chip shop – quality and great portions
Auld Acquaintance Restaurant – the owner and his wife are lovely and the food is great.
The Electric Brae visual illusion
It’s ok for a night, especially when the weathers good but don’t get too excited !
Day 3 Girvan to The Mull of Galloway
Leaving Girvan there’s a busy section to Barhill. From Barhill over to Glenluce Abby is a great road with little traffic – you’ll really enjoy this section. The roads called the Forest Road and goes to Glenwhilly and New Luce. A slight warning the road is over high fell land with not much up there so take supplies. The route towards the Mull of Galloway is ok but busier.
Day 4 – Mull of Galloway towards Wigtown
You’re on an A road, the A747 down towards the Isle of Whithorn. Don’t worry we found this to be a quiet and beautiful cycle. If you could plan your journey an overnight in Isle of Whithorn would be recommended.
Day 5 – Wigtown to Kirkcudbright
We found a few navigational challenges on this day, namely the Wigtown to Creetown section and out of Gatehouse of Fleet to the quiet roads below the A75. The Wigtown to Creetown was our own fault so we’ll skip that…
The official route follows the B727 (old military road) out of Gatehouse of Fleet. This is a narrow and busy road so we found a diversion through the Cally Palace Hotel and Golf Course. The picture shows our route in red and the proper route in yellow. You can see where we got a short distance out of Gatehouse before turning round to find a quieter route. Please note that the blue dotted line marks where the route is “off road” on rough track. If its wet & you’re on a fragile bike with skinny road tyres this may not be the route for you. We did it on Dawes tourers with Schwalbe Marathon 34mm tyres & it was fine.
This detour wasn’t quick but it was a very pleasant and traffic free route. When we hit road again just before Girthon we tracked south to the coast via Knockbrex and Ingleston before joining the proper route at Borgue. This again was a really beautiful and quiet route
Day 6 – Kirkcudbright to Dumfries
Our last day we deviated from the official route significantly. We did this for two reasons. The first reason was that we needed the quickest route to Dumfries before a storm came in later in the day. The second reason was that we’d cycled this part of the route before and found it busy – I don’t like wet and busy…
Our route is shown in red and the official route in yellow. Having done both now we think the red route using the B727 to be the nicest.
If you’re reading this you’re probably planning your own trip. I hope some of this helps but I’m sure you’ll enjoy it 🙂
Great night’s sleep & a really good breakfast at the Selkirk Arms. When I say the owner’s into cycling I mean in a BIG way. Even the breakfast menu had a suggested ride for the day…
The forecast for today was grim with a downpour around 1pm.
With this in mind we altered our route to a more direct one we’d done before that would be on quieter roads. The thought of wet roads, spray and big trucks did not appeal. One advantage of the poor weather was that we’d have a mega tail wind for the second time this holiday.
We set off about 9am and immediately benefited from the tail wind which blew us up the hills out of Kirkcudbright.
We followed Sustrans route 7 and made great time only stopping in Castle Douglas to see if we could find the gallery that Helen exhibits in. We did but only had time for a photo…
As we left Castle Douglas the drizzle started. It felt like we were racing the rain but with a great tail wind.
Lady luck was with us and we got back to the car in Dumfries just as the heavy rains started. Here’s our route…
As we were packing the bikes into the car I noticed that my dynamo hub was leaking grease – anyone have experience of this ?
We woke to a cold but dry day. Breakfast was a new culinary low even for us.
It was such a cullinary low that we had to stop in Wigtown for a decent breakfast. Wigtown is the bookshop capital of Scotland.
This is what Wikipedia has to say about Wigtown…
Today Wigtown is known as Scotland’s “book town” and is thus compared to Hay-on-Wye in Wales. However, in contrast to Hay-on-Wye, Wigtown’s status as a book town was planned, in order to regenerate a very depressed town (the main employers, the creamery and distillery, having closed in the 1990s), although the distillery (Bladnoch) has now re-opened and is distilling its own malt whisky. There was a national search in Scotland for a candidate town. The Wigtown Book Festival was first held in 1999 and has grown to be the second largest book festival in Scotland.
From Wigtown we had an easy cycle on quiet roads to Newton Stewart where we had some navigational fun avoiding the A75 death road. We eventually followed the Sustrans 7 cycle route to Creetown.
We refuelled with an egg sandwich and jelly babies at Creetowns only shop before a long section of wilderness to Gatehouse of Fleet.
Despite the hilly start the route to Gatehouse was great with one long section shut to motorised traffic for road works.
At Gatehouse we deviated from the SW300 route in favour of quieter roads mostly following the Sustrans route 7 again.
This took us down towards the coast and a view of the Islands of Fleet that Edna had recommended. A beautiful area well worth a visit.
The next stop was Borgue for Jelly Babies and then Kirkcudbright where we’re treating ourselves to a night in the Selkirk Arms.
The Selkirk Arms is great. We were met by a guy who said the staff are all cycling mad. They were really helpful, gave us route info and even carried our bags to the room – I must have looked fucked !
Here’s us dressed for dinner in the clothes we slept in last night…
I think we’ll be back here for a weekend cycling sometime soon 👍
Awoke from our first night under canvas to a beautiful sunrise…
What the picture didn’t show was that it was a really cold morning and blowing a gale. Coffee and an army veg breakfast got us going & we were on the road by 9am.
Today’s story is about the tail wind we had for most of the day. Never in all my years cycling have I had such wind assistance ~25mph tail wind all the way to Isle of Whithorn. We flew… One of the many Strava segments shows us averaging over 17mph fully laden with tents etc… and that was without trying !
We must be getting slightly fitted because we overtook two other cycle tourists who were B&Bing ie. had minimal luggage. 😊
The route today had us on quiet roads with some stunning scenery. The sun even came out for a while…
After the Isle of Whithorn the wind wasn’t with us anymore but it wasn’t against us either which was what we’d feared – we thought there had to be a penance for 30 miles of tailwind !
We called through Garlieston to get our evening meal and saw this…
Desasters: 1 …one big one – we forgot to buy some booze for the evening meal 😭
The day started well because we couldn’t hear rain on the windows 🙂 After showering in our plastic shower cubicle we went down to see what breakfast had been left out for us.
We found an old Tupperware box with four slices of bread, a half eaten block of cheese, some plastic ham and a tomato. Say no more…
By the time we’d packed and were ready to go the landlady surfaced to say goodbye. It seemed we were the only guests in what we christened Faulty Towers.
We left town on the busy A77 but the route soon turned off onto the slightly quieter A714. We followed the A714 to Barhill where we stopped for some food in a small convenience store / cafe. The owner was ex-services from Essex. We chatted with him about our route and about the lack of shops where we were going. There wasn’t much in his shop but we brought food for the evening.
The route from Barhill was much quieter over high fell land (so a fair bit of ascent). A really pretty route but was slightly spoiled by rain.
The route gently decended to Glenluce Abby where we had some lunch in light drizzle. From the Abby it was a quick run to the coast.
We then followed the coast road round to Ardwell where we were going to pitch the tent and then ride to the tip of Mull of Galloway without luggage.
This plan went to rat shit. We pitched the tent, had a brew and then we were both too tired to continue riding. Just CBA…
The campsite is right on the beach. It was windy so we used a boat for shelter.
Showers then food. Now when i said the shop didn’t have much in we ended up with Sarah having Uncle Bens rice and a tin of mackerel and I had a Pot Noodle and a cold steak pie. But after 40 hilly miles it tasted great.
Pudding was an army “boil in the bag” chocolate pudding. They look like shit (literally) but taste great.
The only thing we forgot was some booze. A nice bottle of red would have washed that lot down nicely…
Disasters: whole day really…. well apart from the evening meal that was very pleasant…
Lazy start today. Like the Tour de France we’re having a rest day. The forecast is miserable so we thought a day off was called for.
Though in true Sarah style a rest day actually means a 20ish mile cycle to electric brae which is an optical illusion on the A719 not far from Trumps golf course. Funnily she didn’t fancy my suggestion of an all day session 🤔🍺🍺🍺
Breakfast was ok but the landlady couldn’t half talk… (again got her life story – starting to see a pattern here…) By the time we’d finished breakfast and kitted up in waterproofs it was about 11am. We set off in drizzle towards the A77, our road to the electric brae.
We quickly found the A77 miserable with heavy fast traffic. After one near miss with a van and trailer we got off and walked up the grass verge to the first road off the A77. Hearing locked wheels skidding behind you and then seeing a trailer snaking as it passes you is no fun !
We then used a back road to get to Turnbury and cycled passed Trumps golf course. I was going to get Sazz to video me standing at the sign pointing at “Trump” and making a “wanker” gesture with my other hand. I didn’t because there was a large man in a kilt guarding the entrance. If he was one of Trumps boys I might be mistaken for a black man & shot in the back. What devision and hatred that man has created. Grrr rant over
After Trump we stopped for lunch at Maidens and looked at our route. The only way to electric brae was down another A road – even Sarah didn’t fancy it ! We devised a quieter route home on quiet country lanes. A more pleasent journey home… We tried for a selfie but the rain had other ideas…
Having not made it to electric brae I’ve copied a little bit of info from Wikipedia…
Electic Brae:Though the road appears to be running uphill, a suitably free-running vehicle will slowly move off from a standstill. It was widely believed that vehicles were being propelled uphill by a mysterious magnetic force, but the road’s apparently uphill slope is an optical illusion. This runs the quarter mile from the bend overlooking Croy railway viaduct in the west to the wooded Craigencroy Glen to the east. Whilst there is this slope of 1 in 86 upwards from the bend to the Glen, the configuration of the land on either side of the road provides an optical illusion making it look as if the slope is going the other way. Therefore, a stationary car on the road with the brakes off will appear to move slowly uphill.
There are hundreds of gravity hills around the world. The explanation often given for the phenomenon is that of a visual illusion, similar to the well-known Ames room, in which balls can appear to roll against gravity
We were greeted by out talkative landlady the moment we returned. She offered to dry our wet gear. Very nice of her but, as we discovered later this was because there was no heating on in the hotel !
We asked about an earlier breakfast as we wanted to be on the road early tomorrow. I thought she’d say “oh what time do you want breakfast – no problem” instead she said she’d leave something out as she doesn’t get up till 8:30… As compensation she did knock a whole tenna off the bill !
Now if you don’t know Girvan its no exaggeration to say it’s a little run down. This didn’t fill us with hope for fine dining but TripAdvisor did list a couple of options that weren’t chippies or takeaways.
We fancied the Auld Aquaintance Fusion Bistro & a booking was made. It was a small place run by a husband and wife couple. They made us very welcome but I did have to go down the road to the CostCutter to get some booze. They were eager to please and the curries we ordered were freshly made to our liking. Now I like to think of myself as a bit of an onion bhaji connoisseur and these hit the spot. So worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Girvan.
We’re now in bed hoping that the rain and howling wind stops before tomorrow else we may be getting the train home…
Disasters: 0 (actually there was one but Sarah says no one will want to read about it 🤢🌲💩)
After a hard ride it can be a lottery on getting a good night’s sleep. Last night wasn’t great. Exercise, food and a couple of beers – you’d think it was a recipe for a brilliant night’s sleep but it doesn’t always work that way – anyone understand why ???
Waking early allowed time for planning. All forecasts say heavy rain tomorrow so we decided to hotel in Grivan for the next two nights. This would allow us to spend the rainy day in Girvan. We booked the Westcliffe Hotel over the phone.
We went for breakfast at 7:30am, and what a breakfast it was ! Porridge followed by a full Scottish – eggs, beans, mushrooms, fried bread, haggis, 4 rashes of bacon and 4 sausages ! Lovely breakfast but she could talk – we didn’t get out of breakfast till 9am having heard her entire family history and quite a bit about sheep !
The route from Sanquhar was lovely quiet roads until the section on the A76 which was no fun. We put a detour in as soon as we could just to get off it. Our detour took us the rest of the way to New Crummock where we stopped at a shop for water.
From New Cumnock we followed a quiet but hilly route towards the coast and were blessed with sunshine again. We stopped at a pub in Straiton for a refreshing pint in the Black Bull beer garden.
From Straiton it was only 14 miles to Grivan where we easily found our hotel. We showered and went for a walk around the harbour and seafront in the sunshine.
Fish and chips from Grazianos were massive.
While eating we watched the sun set behind the island of Ailsa Craig.
A little bit of info on AilsaCraig….
Aisle Craig is an island 10 miles west of Grivan. It is 4 km (2.5 mi) in circumference and rises to a height of 340 m (1,120 ft).
Likened by many to a giant currant bun on account of its near-vertical sides and rounded peak, Ailsa Craig (meaning “Fairy Rock” in Gaelic) is a place of history, folklore and legend. It’s also known as Paddy’s Milestone because it lies almost halfway between Belfast and Glasgow, occupying a lonely spot 10 miles to the west of the town of Girvan in the Firth of Clyde that once made it a haven for smugglers who stashed silk, spirits, tobacco and other contraband in the deep caves on its western fringes.