Galloway is not itself at the moment, more Kansas than Kirkcudbright. The trees with their long roots are still green enough but every verge and field is bleached, sun-baked to an even cappuccino brown. It is the smell of honeysuckle and the shot of colour from Rosebay Willow that punctuate a ride. Time for a small adventure along the finest beaches in Galloway with the promise of ice cream to seal the deal.
Gatehouse of Fleet never quite made it as a rival to Glasgow and on a Sunday morning it is hard to imagine it ever tried. It’s a still and humid morning where going for a walk would be just slow enough to put you at the mercy of every biting insect. Riding a bike is just fast enough to keep you ahead of them and you have your own personal cooling breeze.
We follow National Bike Route 7 into the grounds of Cally Palace. If we had planned ahead, we could have booked a cream tea for our return and gone for the full Rock-Star treatment. Route 7 makes a turn and climb to the left and we go straight on under Oak and Sycamore shade.. You get your first glimpse of the coast and today the tide is far out. I have never seen cattle more happy to be near water or standing in it. Sheep have their heads down and are finding every bit of shade. Shearing has helped, but this is hard on them.
Through Sandgreen caravan park and out at the red telephone box and we take a right signed for Carrick. The track strings together some of the finest beaches in Galloway and already it is busy. That said, it would be mobbed were it almost anywhere else in the UK. It is the place to be today, catching all of the cooling breeze. I like the first bay with its view across Fleet Bay to Cairnharrow above the Cairnholy stones. Mid-summers sunrise came up over these just a few weeks ago.
At the far end of the track you are back on tarmac as you pass through the gate. There are subtle variations in stone dykes and these are some of the finest in Galloway. Turn left at the v, taking the sign for Gatehouse at Knockbrex. Soon the view to the hills above the town open up. We have a string of these beautiful hills along the coast. Rising from the sea they all look more impressive than their grid height would suggest. Any ride here will have views of Cairnsmore of Fleet, with Criffel and Screel dominating further along the coast.
We pull into The Cream of Galloway ice cream themed park. If you do not like the pressure of decision making, go for the rum and raisin or your head will spin and a queue form behind you. You can happily take the snobiest of ice cream connoisseurs here from anywhere in the world without disappointment. We chase the ice cream down the cone as it melts in the sun.
On we go, back on route 7 and heading for Gatehouse. We take a right turn and up on the low hill to our right is a ruined church. We usually ride by, but today go and explore. This is never a bad thing and like so many times we are glad we stopped. Girthon old parish church has quite a history. The grave of the gardener at Cally Palace is wonderful, with spade and fork motif. There is a grave of a surgeon in the East India Company and a burial of a Covenanter, Robert Ferguson, shot to death n the parish of Tongland, as it says. Worth a visit, that is for sure.
A red kite turns on the updraft with a flick of its tail. We drop down the hill and follow the path into Cally Woods and back to Gatehouse where Sunday roasts and scones are on offer. Just over 12 miles in total, but every pedal stroke worth it and no better way to pass a few hot hours in Galloway’s once in a lifetime summer.