The deep south of Galloway

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We planned to do this trip a couple of weeks ago, but the car had issues. Thank goodness it did, as the rearranged dates dropped on the most perfect April weather in the history of Galloway.

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Leaving it till 24 hours before we wanted to go meant a surprising shortage of places still free. We forgot that it was Easter weekend with the added pressure of the best weather forecast for a generation.

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The plan was to stay in the rather beautiful seaside town of Portpatrick and do two rides, one down the way and one up the way into the peninsula. The plan for both was to ride as close as possible to the sea by linking tracks, paths and roads.

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It worked on the map, even with the occasional use of a zoom in on the satellite photo to check if the route was really possible. The loops were put into the trusty Garmin 810 with the addition of the OS on our phones and the large scale paper version in the bags. Flapjacks were baked and the bikes loaded in the car.

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Off we went towards the Mull of Galloway. Travel is slow down there and the pace of life is like stepping back in time, the more so the further down you go. We live in Galloway, but it is like going abroad for a holiday it is that different.

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There are less trees more sky and much more coast and cliffs. You need to be happy with a strong breeze for most days of the year if you want to live there or have a passion for flying a kite. To ride a loop will involve a certain amount of Belgian Hills as cyclists call the wind in your face.

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We run a tour that bikes the 200 miles from the very end to the border of England – The Solway Coast 200. We run it in one direction for a very good reason. It is a stunning ride that you can book with us.

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After day one we were hungry. Portpatrick has many good places to eat, but a lack of planning meant that we booked nothing. Takeaway pizza and a can of coke shared with the seagulls. Just one night away and years since we last did anything but take a tent.

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Gardens & Gear

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The river Dee is as slow and lazy as summer, and now one of the garden water butts is empty. Not that long ago the Dee ran brown and as high as we have ever seen it. The first Cuckoo can not be far away and already the air above Carlingwark Loch is full of Sand Martins. The Summer bikes, all Ti carbon and bling have been fettled and ridden on hard long rides.4

I like to go light on these first summer rides. You take a gamble that 5’c is not too cold and will be warm enough not to need a coat. A gillet is perfect but a risk and there is no room for a proper camera. You can get this coin flip wrong.

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It feels strange to bring a clean bike home at the end of a long ride. Just a rag dragged along the chain and a sniff of lube and back in the shed. The potatoes went in a few weeks ago and again this year I worry they are all dead. Held back like the grass by the dry weeks.

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I use ridewithgps to plan routes. A cup of coffee and some music, possibly a map but certainly Bingmaps open and the ride plan begins. Portpatrick down at the remote end of Galloway looked like a great place to explore tracks and beaches. I plotted 2 looping routes and made some flapjacks. The gravel bikes are half way through being upgraded and this was the first ride to test what had been done.

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Then a neighbour came to the door asking if I had intended to park quite that close to his vehicle. The brakes had failed and our car had rolled back down the hill and kissed the front of his Land Rover. The trip was off whilst our car had some work done.

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I think in a fire I would rescue the gravel bikes first. I just love what we can do with them, the way they are like a horse but without the vets bills. I have made another batch of flapjacks and we are going exploring in the further reaches of Galloway.

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How ephemeral is Spring

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Spring can be ephemeral, a difficult thing to pin down. Last year it barely lasted two weeks before big coats and jumpers were thrown into the back of the cupboard and the car window de-icer put away. That was a tough winter last year.

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This winter has been kind and the first signs of spring came with snowdrops before New Year. We have got some long rides done and a lot of exploring of forest tracks and lochans that are tucked away in the hills. Not once have we reached into the back of the draw to find the fingerless gloves yet, but today is the first day of official Spring. Which is why the forecast for the next few days features snow or hail.

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The clocks have ‘ sprung back ‘ and the light nights make it feel a bit strange to still be lighting a fire in the evening. There will be no slowing in the light now until we hardly have enough dark for sleep. Hard to imagine that back in December.

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It is time again to start guiding cyclists around our Scottish playground. The quirky bits that you need to know. We love doing this and telling the odd story or two. Which is what we did for BBC Radio Scotland a couple of weeks ago when they came to find out what we are doing since we got back from cycling around the world. We took them on an eBike ride and introduced them to some of the wonderful characters that we work with.

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You can listen to the whole program by clicking HERE. Find out how the Belted Galloway cow got that belt, the story of Buittle Castle, how to make a massive willow horse for the Outlander filming and where to find the grave of he King of the Gypsies. All good stuff I hope you will agree. The Cherry Tree will soon burst into a cloud of pink blossom and the bulbs that are nearly through wil be a riot of colour in the front tubs by the road. Of course we have been saying this for weeks already – come on Spring!

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