Well, a bit of biggy for me… first time in ages I’ve had a couple of days riding… an overnight wild camp and 600 odd miles later, I’ve kicked the Easter ride off alreet! I’ll post some photos up later, but a brief synopsis would be Wed 13th 6am set off… on me Billy, as TT had to stay on at his work to cover CV19 absence.
Weather = Glum… low cloud with intermittent mizzle, but no heavy rain; I just never really had a clear visor until about 2pm.
I scurry up to Penrith lickety-split to join the Heartside Pass over to Alston… the grim weather meant that the top third of the pass was in white out cloud cover, so not as much fun as I’ve previously had on that awesome road… plus I’m a bit wary of the handling, fully laden on damp roads. I pop over to Brampton on a pleasant valley road following the South Tyne river flowing northwards, past great village names such as Slaggyford and Midgeholme. The Bramptom to Hexham road is not much to write home about, but again… the place names!!! My favourite being the sign-posted “Once Brewed” … looking back on the map, that may have been the nicer road to have taken, but it seems that in my direction, the sign would read “Twice Brewed”… WTF?
I stopped for a photo at Haydon Bridge for a leg stretch, which was pretty (the bridge, not the stretch).
Turning left for Acomb to avoid the A68, I spot a Roe Deer wandering in some parkland; the local fields of rapeseed also bringing some sunlight into my world… I haul onto Keilder forest and reservoir, made famous in my mind from the Lombard RAC rally (with Willy Woolard and some proper cars). Coming out the other end, at Deadwater… there is a spell of planetary alignment… No cars, no mizzle, pretty dry roads and some sweet twisties; my grin building and I exit touring mode to enjoy a really great riverside fling until I get to the T junction for the B6357 to Cleuch Head… an uphill valley road which was just made for bikes, I wanted to turn around and ride it again… Hell yeah! Settling the adrenals again after a proper squirting, I head for Hawick and then Selkirk. Here I enjoyed an early dinner in the nice little Court House Coffee shop… hearty chicken noodle soup with door stops, a pot of tea and an apple and cinnamon cake… good for @Octoberon’s list… the teapot was a little small, but I just asked for another jug of hot water which topped things up a treat, nae bother… end first leg
From Selkirk, I scoot down towards St. Mary’s Loch and I realised I hadn’t been to see the famous wheel, a canal barge lift of ingenious design… I was cross with myself about this, until later on, when with a little research I discovered I had been fooling myself… the wheel is in Falkirk, not Selkirk, numbnuts!
The Selkirk to Moffat road is another fabulous route, good riding with great borderland scenery. I mentioned St. Mary’s Loch, nestled in the rounded slopes, but a little further on… at the bottom of a bonny pass, is the Grey Mare’s tail; a lovely waterfall carving its way through the big landscape, so beloved of many geography field trips… I even took a little walk to get you lot a photo… don’t say I don’t do anything for you!
Hod reet at Moffat and head North again… brawping through great big rolling lumps of hillside, going past the Devil’s Beef Tub (spectacular) and over into the origins of the Tweed, a superb river valley ride, up to about Broughton, where I head on north to just past Skirling. Here, I turn westwards, cutting through Biggar, Coulter and Laminton, which is in the upper reaches of the Clyde. I avoid Abington Services, and head for Leadhills, another “must ride” motorbike pass… the drop down to Mennock is almost claustrophobic in it’s atmosphere, but what a ride!
Heading south on the A76 for a few miles, I then cross over the river Nith and into the pleasant grounds of Drumlanrig castle and down to Penpont… I’m starting to run low on fuel and I know I will need to ensure a decent campsite (I have a few in mind from scouring the area on google street view) but on my way toward Moniaive, I can’t resist going over a cute little bridge at Kirkland and on the tiny back road south of Cairn water. I join the A702 southwest to St John’s town of Dalry and top up with petrol, a net of kindling and a Twister Ice lolly… the sun has decided to join me for a little while, so it’s refreshing. The final riding of the day starts with an ordinary road south to New Galloway where I grab the more interesting A712 to Clatteringshaws Loch under the watchful gaze of some Red Kite. I stop briefly on the end of the Raider’s road forest drive, but I know from prior research that it’s closed at this time of year… but I promise myself to revisit when it’s open and find a camp along it’s path… but for now I head for my prime target and I’m glad to see the site is suitable and free. There is the spoor of other overnight participants, but nothing too offensive like I’ve found in the Lake District at times. I fail to understand why anyone would want to come to a place like this beauty spot, stay over night, and then leave it in any less of a nice condition from which they found it… just fugglin’ selfish turd-holes who need a lesson in respect! Anyhoo, I find a firm pitch between the excessive number of “fire-pits” and point South by South east, to get the best chance of a glorious sunrise over Clatteringshaws. The tent pitched and the bike unloaded, I address the fire pits and tidy up some of the surrounding area… I set up my home made wood stove in a pit and get a stew of diced carrot, turnip, potato and piquant chorizo on the boil. With my backup gas stove, I boil a pint of water for a re-hydration mug of tea. By the time I’ve had my brew, and had a good leg stretch around the area, the local farmer has driven by a couple of times, checking on his lambing progress and given me a wave of acknowledgement and the sky darkens to dusk. There are a few spots of heavier drizzle by the time my stew is stewed and I sit in the cover of my tent porch listening to the area change from diurnal to nocturnal living, watching the fire in my stove. I enjoy the meal and then I’m joined by my wife via videolink for an evening catch up. Just before turning in, I’m enjoying the last of the fire with a few pulls of whiskey from my hip flask… and the skys clear of clouds and despite the bright moonlight, you start to get the impression of how nice this area is for a “Dark Sky park”… no aurora though . End of day one, a last shake of the snake to alter my fluid balance one last time before bed and I’m gone…
Predictably, I need to wake up for urinary duties in the wee small hours, the ground is very heavy with dew and a ghostly glow of moonlit fog is bright enough to not need a torch… it’s pretty quiet, but there is some owl noise in the trees across the water (I’m guessing). Back to bed for a couple more hours, but the old fart’s “nursing back” tells me it’s had enough of lying about and around 05:45 I start my day with a comedic, broken robot manoeuvre, just to get out of the tent… not dignified! The scene outside is a total low-cloud white out… I can barely see my bike from the tent, and any exterior surface is coated in heavy water droplets. I had sent my co-ordinates to TT last night, who has generously agreed to set off at first light and haul up the motorway to join me asap for a day’s riding… what a star bloke! So after a brew and a walk about, I set too… knocking the camp down. I’m packed and ready for 8am when he arrives, the low cloud is lifting now and we can see the dam wall on the other side of the lake. Due to his early start in the cool, moist morning, we decided to go find a cafe for breakfast and warm him up a bit.
We’re a little early for New Galloway when we arrive there and so truck onto Castle Douglas. We get parking directly outside the Scottish Pantry and so head in for a lovely breakfast fry up and mug of tea (I’d go again, @Octoberon.
Once filled up and chatted out, we’re onto the serious matter for the day and start riding again. The weather is still the mizzly-visor filler, but not really enough to call it drizzle, we do have brighter patches later on and a period of sunshine which makes the layers I’ve needed most of the day excessive.
We head SW toward Kirkcudbright (not pronounced how its spelt) on the lovely B727, which is a right laugh and must be a scratcher’s paradise when dry. TT’s the better rider of the two of us and I let him lead. We’ve known each other for the majority of our lives now and I know if he gets any distance from me, he’ll back off until I’m safe in his mirrors and we’ll go on again. This means there’s no pressure for me to exceed my comfort zone on a fully laden bike on patchy, wet and unfamiliar roads and we can both enjoy ourselves.
Out of Kirkcudbright, we follow the shoreline a while on pleasant and quiet backroads before cutting back NW towards Gatehouse of Fleet. We hit the A75 Stranraer express route here and head west. This is Hyabusa territory really, but we do our best and hit the monster corners at Cardoness Castle nicely between traffic… great stuff! We haul ass all the way to Newton Stewart and enter the Galloway forest park again, but from the south this time and then turn right at Glentrool village. We continue northwards on great singletrack roads which demand full concentration, as it swaps perfect road surface for third world pot-holes and everything in between… the longer travel suspension of our bikes I suspect are a bonus here, though his being a Moto Guzzi 20 years younger than mine, it does look great swooping through the bends. We stop to relax the grin muscles and have a leg break at Stinchar Bridge where some beautiful peaty waterfall pools grace the end of another (closed) forest drive, which would have taken us to Loch Doon (but not of the CV19 variety)
Respite over, we continue north on twisties all the way to the village of Straiton, where we ironically turn right
over the high moorland ride to Dalmellington. I can feel myself tiring from the second day of high concentration riding, and so decline going directly east, and head for Moniaive on mixed levels of road surface repair, still fun roads but you need your wits about you. At Moniaive I can feel my flow has gone and the tiredness creeping up on me. We turn the taps down to cruising speed and take a pleasant ride to Dumfries. Here we fuel up on Starbucks, a duplo espresso and a large strawberry and cream shake are shock tactics for my body and work as planned. We head south and west on the costal B725 and B724 to Annan to avoid the dreariest parts of the A75 and we’re rewarded with more great borderland roads. But the motorway haul from Annan to J36 of the M6 is the hardest ride of the day… buttsore from 500 miles of riding, the drag is not inspiring but a necessary fast solution to get me back to the local roads before my energy spike drops. There’s a small scale culture shock to contend with too… traffic! There has been very little riding interference from other road users, but now the roads are full and there’s just a few too many with a dubious skills/speed ratio for my liking… the Kendal turn off can’t come soon enough, and as we scoot home along the A590, we’re even greeted with some pleasant sunshine.
At home I have enough time to unload and wash the bike down (I know I won’t do it later) before my lovely wife calls me in for tea and a pint of Hobgoblin gold!
Sorry, did I say a brief synopsis???