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Pedal the low highway: biking coast-to-coast throughout southern Scotland | Scotland holidays



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The weather-beaten curves of a battered stone wall information me out of Langholm, an idyllic outdated textile city tucked between the hills of the Esk valley, eight miles north of the English border.

As I pedal slowly round a steep nook, a lamb and her mom, grazing on the grassy fringes, scurry off up the highway. I recognize their present of religion in my biking skills, however on gradients of 9%, I wouldn’t have been capable of maintain their tempo even when they’d crawled off. I pause for a breather on the MacDiarmid Memorial, an enormous, steel sculpture of an open e book, embellished with photos from the work of the nice poet Hugh MacDiarmid, who was born in Langholm.


Scotland cycle

The paintings depicts thistles, trout, eagles and ploughs, whereas the inexperienced of the forests and farmland behind shine by the silhouettes etched out of the framework. “Scotland small? Our multiform, our infinite Scotland small?” MacDiarmid famously wrote.


It definitely doesn’t really feel small while you’re biking throughout it.

Memorial to Hugh MacDiarmid at Langholm.
Open e book … the memorial to Hugh MacDiarmid at Langholm. {Photograph}: Stuart Kenny

I’ve been on my bike for a couple of days at this level, using the Kirkpatrick C2C; south Scotland’s new coast-to-coast route, which runs 250 miles from Stranraer in Dumfries and Galloway on the west coast to Eyemouth within the Borders on the east. The waymarking will come subsequent 12 months, however the route is on-line now for skilled cyclists impressed to journey by the world’s first ever mixed UCI World Championship occasions, which began final week, and are at present being contested round Scotland.

“The bike is a part of our id and tradition right here,” says Paula Ward, of South of Scotland Enterprise, one in all numerous tourism our bodies concerned within the creation of the Kirkpatrick C2C. “The world is well-known for biking already, however this provides folks a pre-logged route you can obtain,” says Ward. “That makes it simple to come back right here to the south of Scotland to discover, having watched one thing just like the World Championships or the Tour of Britain.”

The route is called after Kirkpatrick Macmillan, the Dumfriesshire blacksmith broadly credited as having invented the primary pedal-driven bicycle within the 1830s. “It’s one in all our common truths,” says Ward. “The south of Scotland gave the world the bike.”

A break on the road out of Langholm.
A break on the highway out of Langholm. {Photograph}: Stuart Kenny

Dumfries and Galloway is usually referred to as Scotland’s forgotten nook, and after the decline of the textile business within the 80s, Langholm risked changing into Scotland’s forgotten city. The Langholm Initiative was arrange in 1994 to vary that, and in 2019, they led a neighborhood buyout of the native moorland. In the present day, the neighborhood owns 4,200 hectares (10,500 acres) of this chic countryside – and has reworked an outdated grouse moor into the Tarras Valley nature reserve.

The Kirkpatrick C2C cuts by the guts of the reserve, on a single-track highway looking to Solway Firth. The moorland is dotted with naturally regenerating birch, rowan and alder timber, spreading up the valley from the traditional forest, alongside the River Tarras. I cease to look at wild goats butt horns in conjunction with the highway, and spot a hen harrier gliding within the distance.

I had rolled out of Stranraer a couple of days earlier, after breakfast on the Fig & Olive cafe, the place the bogs are plastered with posters of basic climbs and a biking jersey is framed on the wall.

Big Water of Fleet viaduct near Gatehouse of Fleet.
Huge Water of Fleet viaduct close to Gatehouse of Fleet. {Photograph}: Larum Inventory/Alamy

There are two instructed itineraries for the route – a four-day “Challenger” journey or an eight-day “Explorer” choice, each masking the identical 250 miles. I go for a model of the latter, using a mean of 30 miles a day, with in a single day stays in Wigtown, Fort Douglas, Dumfries (the most important city on the route), Langholm, Hawick, Melrose and Coldstream earlier than reaching Eyemouth. The route combines sleepy B and C-roads and nationwide cycle routes to information you safely throughout the nation.

My first day stretched 32 miles previous ocean, forest and farmland to Wigtown, Scotland’s charming Nationwide Ebook City. There, I explored the nooks and crannies of The Bookshop, Scotland’s largest secondhand bookshop. I socialised at The Open Ebook, a not-for-profit which lets vacationers run a bookshop for every week, and met The Bookshop Band – people musicians Ben Please and Beth Porter – who write songs impressed by books and carry out them in bookshops. “It’s the neighborhood right here that makes it particular,” Please says. And, presumably, the 15 bookshops.


After an evening within the Booktown Bunkhouse, I descend from misty vistas of the salt marsh and mudflats of Wigtown Bay by farmland, to the River Cree and Newton Stewart. The route turns away from the coast, into the Galloway Hills, and I detour previous Creetown to see the Huge Water of Fleet Viaduct, a part of an outdated railway line featured in John Buchan’s The 39 Steps.

In the Tarras valley.
Within the wild Tarras valley. {Photograph}: Stuart Kenny

I quickly attain the pastel homes of Kirkcudbright, a harbour city with MacLellan’s Fort at its centre and a vibrant arts scene. It’s right here that trail-setter Pete Corson, who offered the backbone of the Kirkpatrick C2C route, runs biking tour operator Trailbrakes. “You come previous Barlocco Island, and it’s unspoiled and rolling,” he says, of the part of path on his doorstep. “You observe gorse bushes, and are available to a view down Kirkcudbright Bay, out to the isle of Little Ross.”

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