Lots of things came together to make this trip; my parents were heading to near Gatehouse of Fleet for a weeks holiday and I felt compelled to go visit them, I wanted to get an overnighter in to get back into the frame of carrying bags, my Jones was needing a good workout and best of all the weather forecast was looking stunning!
Also I was keen to scope
out an alternative to the Southern upland way that I had plotted after
my deathmarch infested epic of 2 years previous. The section of the SUW
between St. Johns town of Dalry and Moffat is bleedin' horrible so this
alternative misses out the misery and still includes some nice
So as per two years ago I abandoned the heap at Moffat
Friday evening and headed up the minor road west of the M74 into the
forest. The SUW was ignored and my route took me through Ae forest via
various forest tracks - all easy pedalling in the deepening gloom. I
departed Ae onto a back road that loops through the North Western corner
of the forest and out into the moors. Darkness had fell completely as I
turned off at Garroch farm into the hills. This is a fine route which
heads NW over a small pass to Kettleton Byre Bothy. It was pitch dark
but I managed to find the bothy on the second go. Just after I settled
in a local guy turned up (with firelighters) so we had a convivial
evening talking bikes - he had previously ran a bike shop and now worked
as a guide in the alpine bike parks and often wandered up to this bothy
for an overnight stay.
Kettleton Byre - small but perfectly formed...
next morning dawned crystal clear and cold. I descended down to
Durisdeer and after a few back roads started the crux of the day - The
Enterkin Pass. This climbs most of the way up Lowther hill - the highest
point on the SUW - however according to my Geograph.org.uk research
would hopefully be a considerably easier prospect than the gruesome SUW
route up the east flank.
At the top of the first climb and looking into the Enterkin burn. My destination is the notch between the hills on the horizon.
section through the valley bottom was a wee bit wet but was obviously
drying fast in the strengthening sun. I'd describe this section as
'Engaging' - a few challenges but mostly straightforward although I'd
probably give this route a miss in severe wet weather as it could be
pretty boggy. There followed a short steep climb out of the valley
bottom onto a steep side slope and a real goat track of a path climbing
steadily to the summit.
Looking back down the hard bit.
the final climb. With the right gearing or legs you'd probably get up
this but I was content to push. Amazing how nice hike-a-bike can be in
the sunshine. If you were to use this as part of a West to East SUW
route it would be an ace descent.
After a short descent down the
SUW into Leadhills it was a longish section of gravel road through
various bits of foresty. The SUW does two moor crossings missing out
this section but they are horrible.... This track spat me out onto a wee
road which takes you all the way into Sanquhar and lunch. This was
eaten sitting on a bench in the sun - I can't remember the last time I
did such a thing.... From Sanquhar I headed up another minor road which
ends at yet more forestry. There is a huge windfarm going up here plus
the required substation, some kind of Scottish Water Scheme and massive
Logging. Fortunately access is still permitted (just watch out for big
dump trucks) plus I was able to make use of the site toilet (cheers
guys!) for a bit of pre-climb weight loss..... I'd used this route on my
ride in 2015 but rather than rejoin the SUW and the grim climb over Ben
Brack this day I exited the forest by a much lower level ROW to Lorg. I
was unsure of this trail but it turned out to be fine, albeit somewhat
Polskeoch Bothy on the SUW just by the turn off to Lorg.
bothy seems to be getting used by bawbags as there was a fair bit of
rubbish about and the door was knackered. Strange as Kettleton byre was
clearly not getting any such attention despite being much closer to
civilisation. From Lorg to St. Johns Town of Dalry it was all road but
the SUW looks like a further bog trot so not really worth the effort. In
Dalry I enjoyed a pint in the Sun and then followed more wee roads up
into the main Galloway Forest Park. I said farewell to the SUW here but I
plan to do the whole lot this summer using this alternate.
north west where the SUW cuts through from Clatteringshaws to
Glentrool. This is a great route and features yet another Bothy at White
I turned south here along more forest roads past Loch Grannoch and down towards the water of fleet.
Water of Fleet Viaduct.
Thereafter was a steady road descent down to Gatehouse of Fleet and a few more miles to where my folks were staying.
A perfect end to a perfect day.
duties discharged, I set off on the Sunday for a leisurely trundle
along various back roads and the odd trail to Ae village. The cafe by
the bike trails provided a bacon roll and coffee to fuel the last climb
up through the forest on NCN 10 back over to Moffat. In future I'll give
this a miss as it takes you a long way round and involves a fair bit of
uneccessarry climbing. Fine if you like wind turbines but there is a
shorter, easier route via the Ae water which Joins NCN 10 a few k from
where it emerges from the forest.
My plan is to include this in a bike friendly version of the Southern Upland Way - more details when I ride it all.
Phil Clarke March 2017