If you ever visited Kitty’s Tearoom in New Galloway, you were sitting beneath a bit of Palnackie’s maritime history. The beautiful panelled ceiling was salvaged from a captain’s cabin in a boat broken up there. The harbour although marked as a working harbour, looks like a place where boats come to slowly turn to rust. It was the outlet port for Castle Douglas and a bustling port. It is a wonderful place to spend some time just sitting and waiting for The Willow Tree restaurant to open.
March had been dry. I had read that an ounce of dust in March was worth more than gold, and a spell of good weather was ahead. The usual lush green of Galloway even in the height of summer has now faded under the heat of the hottest and driest spell of weather since the summer of 76. It is time to head for the beach.
It is always worth having a short bike ride worked out and ready to go. The warm and light evenings mean that you can start a short ride after 7 and make the most of the day with this 7 mile out and back route to Horse Isles Bay. Closer parking is possible but can fill up with cars as it did even in April on the first beach Sunday of the Spring. Biking there is a great option.
Head away from the harbour along Port Road and take a left at the Glen Isle pub. Another left onto the minor road by the school and you are out into countryside and on one of the most beautiful roads in Galloway. Too narrow to enjoy driving a car with your foot hovering over the brake pedal, you can lift your eyes and take it all in from a bike.
You take a left, though turning right for a visit to Orchardton Tower would be a good plan B. You are heading towards Almorness House with some wonderful trees lining the road and the first views back to Screel Hill. The road ends and you need to lift your bike over the gate ahead. The track down to your left is a wonderful walk for another day and full of Bluebells recently.
The riding through Drummanoch woods is bumpy but not technical, walk if you need to. Stay with the obvious track until you come to your second gate. The road curves around to the right by some of the fine dry stone dykes, beautifully crafted from huge finger crushing rock. Often the local Herdwick sheep are here and will stand in your way staring out from under heavy grey fleeces.
The bay is ahead now and you drop down to it through a tight track. You are going to shout ” WOW ” when the view opens. Time this right and you will have one of the best beaches in the area all to yourself. Many prefer White Port which is a walk over the headland after hiding your bike, but I prefer this one.
Time to sit now and take in the view across the water to The Scottish Riviera coast of Kippford and Rockcliffe. Cheese sandwiches and a flask would make the moment even more perfect. The return journey takes the same route in reverse which is never a bad thing with so much to see and enjoy and will bring you up to 7 miles pedalled in total.
We packed so much into 2017 and yet we did not sleep in a tent or bivvy once. Not one night! Moving home down to Scotland’s south west in Galloway. A quiet, more remote area of outstanding beauty and peace and a lifestyle we love. Hundreds of miles of quiet roads, forest tracks and beautiful beaches.
We still try to bike at least 100 miles every week but I think we stop more than ever. People like to chat here, they tell you things if you stop, things you will never know if you race by.
We have a big list of things we want to do, but we ticked off one a couple of days ago. In Dumfries and Galloway there are two places to watch Starlings come together in their thousands to murmurate. A spectacular dance as the sun rises or sets. We caught this one at Mersehead Nature reserve, just along the coast from us. The 1 minute film shows how special being outside in nature is. Get on your bikes, sleep in tents, go for walks and get out and do stuff in 2018.
One moment you look and it is late September and the next time you glance at the calendar it is early December. Two weekends have already been lost to ice making it just too slippy for our skill levels on the bikes. That is not to say that there was no one out, we just do not feel lucky enough to stay upright.
Today we woke to the first snow of winter, so I guess we can put the fingerless gloves into deep storage till late March. That goes for the short sleeve jersey and short shorts. I had forgotten how to turn on the central heating, and had to look it up in the manual. Now every morning begins with bringing the house up to temperature after a night of freezing temperatures.
We have got used to mild winters. But there is a reason why Scotland is famed for its knitwear. So, out with the chunky knits and what a great idea vests are in combating that trouser shirt interface draught. Overboots, longfinger-deep winter gloves, and a buff are all in constant use now. Cross training is log splitting for the next 4 months.
I have told you about our new bicycle holiday company business. Well that involves spending hours at a computer at this stage. There are evenings following mysterious roads on Bing Maps ( I only recently found that the most wonderful maps in the world are on this – ordnance survey ).
In all the rush to get ourselves into companies online brochures for 2018, we did not get time to do our usual high production value Christmas cards. This has in previous years begun as early as June and in the post in the first week of December. We have got a card though.
It began when we took delivery of a stainless steel exhaust system for our van. I was outside cleaning a bike and the postman shouted down ‘ your silencer is here ‘. But how did he know? Well an exhaust system has a particular shape that no amount of package is ever going to hide. This became the story for the Christmas card.
So HAPPY CHRISTMAS, and get out and ride your bikes now and in the new year. We would love to see you here next year so add cycling in Scotland to your bucket list with Galloway Cycling Holidays. There, see how much marketing has become part of what we do.