Ayr to Dumfries and tasting defeat in the Forest of Galloway | Cycling John O’Groats to Lands End

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Having [literally] ridden my luck with the back wheel since Fort William, it was time to find a bike shop.

I should have been making an early start with 107 miles to do, but it couldn’t be helped. I wasn’t sure if I’d still be able to do it, but I would try.

The prognosis at the bike shop is straightforward. I am carrying too much weight.

I am now the proud owner of a really expensive high spec wheel with a thicker tyre, and the bike shop owner is the new owner of the contents of my wallet.

I got underway just after 10am and put in half a dozen quick miles down the coast.

The route then headed inland up an enormous hill, and I continued to make very slow progress up and down steep hills for the next 10 miles before I arrived at the foot of the ominously named Newton Stewart Hill Road.

Mountain would have been a better word to use.

It was at this point that the wind and rain hit, and for about an hour I cycled ever upwards onto open moorland, by which time it was coming in 40-50mph gusts.

The rain was seeping in through the edges of my waterproofs and it was starting to feel really remote.

I had another 82 miles of the route ahead of me and there had been no passing traffic for almost an hour, so it was with some trepidation that I entered the Forest of Galloway National Park.

I spent the next hour battling my way to the top of a mountain pass in driving rain and even stronger winds. By the time I got to the top I’d covered just 28 miles and it was 3pm.

The day was going seriously wrong.

The rain was still lashing down and I was soaked to the skin, but had no real option but to keep pushing ahead. I made better progress downhill and 45 minutes later I reached a small village where the route forked.

I had planned on turning left taking a route that went 70 miles through the heart of the National Park. Even being reasonably optimistic about the rate of progress it would be midnight before I reached Dumfries, and I was shivering with cold whenever I stopped.

As much as I hated to admit it, it couldn’t be done.

I had a further 100 miles to complete the next day, and my arrival in the Lakes in Friday evening was non-negotiable. I decided to head straight on and try and find another way of getting to Dumfries, although quite how I would do that I wasn’t sure.

A mile down the road a vision of loveliness appeared. A pub with a roaring fire. I stopped to warm myself up with a cup of tea and seek assistance.

The girl behind the bar told me I would be able to get a bus from Newton Stewart 10 miles down the road. Better still, it was downhill all the way.

I set off with renewed enthusiasm but just 4 miles down the road I pulled up short.

What the hell was that ahead of me, Scotch mist?

It was only a small hill, but by now I am quite close to the end of the Scottish bit, so I’ve got to get the joke in.

I arrived in Newton Stewart and found the bus stop, and the Stranraer to Dumfries bus would be calling by in 30 minutes.

I was told by the driver of another bus that there would be a 50:50 chance of getting my bike on, so it was an agonising wait. Thankfully when the coach appeared there were only a few passengers, so I was able to slide my bike into one of the luggage compartments underneath.

I don’t feel great about taking the bus for 51 miles, but I’d run out of other options and at least Dumfries was due East (and slightly North).

It certainly felt as though I’d cycled 100 miles when I arrived in Dumfries at 7.30pm that evening.

Bike computer stats:

Ride time: 6h 14m
Distance: 48.51 miles
Max speed: 28 mph
Ave speed: 7.7 mph

Continue reading …

Index

Preparation

Kitted out and ready to ride

Things you would rather not know about the Caledonian Sleeper to Inverness

20 miles with a bloke called Tim, and a slight change of plan

Day 1 – John O’Groats to Inverness

Day 2 – Ness to Nevis and my nemesis rears its head

Day 3 – Fort William to Tarbert with only one brake

Day 4 – Tarbert to Ayr and the battle of Arran

Day 5 – Ayr to Dumfries and tasting defeat in the Forest of Galloway

Day 6 – Dumfries to Windermere and thoughts on cycling earworms

Day 7 – Windermere to Liverpool and the birds-eye of the storm

Day 8 – Liverpool to Shrewsbury and the ferry across the Mersey

Day 9 – Shrewsbury to Gloucester with sun, showers and an injured Armadillo

Day 10 – Gloucester to Bristol and the day I spoke to soon

Day 11 – Bristol to Bath, a day of disused railway lines

Day 12 – Bath to Tiverton and the breakfast hostage

Day 13 – Tiverton to Lostwithiel and fatigue causes forgetfulness

Day 14 – Lostwithiel to Penzance, and the mining trail

Day 15 – Penzance to Lands End (and back again)

Learning to walk again

Ideas for cycling end to end, with the benefit of hindsight

Kit List

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