Over the hills to Galston and back
2011 was the year I fully discovered the pleasures of Ayrshire. I had several very interesting forays into this area. One of them was the Eaglesham Moor tour (see the tour). While cycling through Eaglesham to the crossroad, I noticed a signpost for a cycle road to Strathaven. I completed the Eaglesham Moor tour and returned home where I took a look at Google Maps & Earth. Indeed, there is some small backroads bypassing the rather iffy East Kilbride motorways. This was just the type of bikeride I was looking for.
The morning were pretty cold when I set off at around 0515 in an attempt to beat the rush traffic at the busy road towards Busby..... three days after doing exactly the same on the Eaglesham Moor bikeride. I knew my way now and fell into a steady rhythm up the 13 km to Busby where I left the busy main road and went up the road towards Eaglesham again. The road went into a steady climb. I crossed one roundabout, but chose to take the bike and pedestrian underpass under the already busy A726 road. The last bit up to Eaglesham and the hill overlooking this village was pretty vertical past an old tree. I was soon at the crossroad where I went straight ahead this time.
Looking towards the hills from a viewpoint just outside Eaglesham
This was the beginning of what turned out to be around 30 km of pretty hard cycling on narrow single track roads. It started with a drop down to a valley from Eaglesham and continued in and out of farm yards, past farm fields and bemused farm animals. It was a full on ride with strong smells, tricky bends, steep hills and vertical drops. All on tarmac with variable quality. The roads were mostly good so no problem. But it was hard bike riding with disasters awaiting around every corner.
There was a lot of twists and turns and I had to keep looking out for the Ardochrig Road which I had scouted on Google Earth early the morning at home. A sign post saying “weak bridge – 3 miles” was the one I was looking for. I found it after some pretty feisty bikeriding where I was even overtaken by a young lady on a racing bike. I guess these roads are popular due to being great fun.
I turned off the road to Strathaven (and promised myself to complete that road the week after) and onto the rather vertical hillroad called Ardochrig Road. The first part was gentle. The final climb to the top was vertical though. I stopped to take a photo (nice to have a camera as an excuse).
Towards Glasgow from (near) the top of the Ardochrig Road
The road actually topped out on 301 meters above sea level, which is 3 meters higher than Eaglesham Moor. Hence, a new personal record this year and to my knowledge the highest road in the Glasgow southern hills rim from Strathaven to Paisley. I wish it was Eaglesham Moor though because the climb up Ardochrig Road was not that interesting. A small twenty meters long flat plateau followed before the road went down the other side again. I reached a reasonable good viewpoint further down and found the valley below obscured in clouds. So I continued a bit more and found another viewpoint more to my liking and with less clouds around.
Looking over the valley to the mountain pass between Strathaven and Muirkirk
I continued down again through a forest and over this weak bridge. After some more descents, I came to a crossroad I did not know about. It was outside my print out map too. To the right, it said Darvel 7. So seven miles to Darvel, a place I was going. The road straight ahead looked like a farm road so I was evaluating my options. I took the Darvel road. In hindsight, I was meant to take the road straight ahead which would had lead me nice and gentle down to the main road. But the dice was thrown and it lead me up another hill climb towards a new moor and past a new farm again with some interesting smells, rabbits flying everywhere and a pheasant also took off in full flight.
I finally got to a viewpoint where I got an overlook over the valley.
Looking down the valley towards Darvel. Note the road. 30 km on them...
I thought I was finished with the small single track roads. But no.... 7 km of more up and down twisty road followed and that under a blazing hot sun. The last bit of these 7 km was almost a vertical drop down to the valley below. A fun bikeride, but tiring due to all the concentration involved. The single track road finally ended a few hundred meters before entering Darvel. A short break followed before I took the small hill over to it's twin town Newmilns which seemed to be an ex industrial town. It had that ambience. Both Darvel and Newmilns are situated in the bottom of a narrow valley, an almost canyon like valley. Very scenic. I continued down towards Galston.A big roundabout before Galston announced the road up to Moscow and where I was going. So no visit to Galston for me and neither any photos. I get the impression I did not miss out on much.
The road up from this roundabout was vertical up to some farmfields.
My bike and parts of Galston in the background
I took a small break here to consume some food and drink.The road continue to climb steady up past some farmfields. I reached the highest point here where I got a better viewpoint
Looking towards Kilmarnock, Troon and Isle Of Arran in the background
I soon went through Moscow, where I spent the best part of one minute before the road climbed up again towards the crossroad at Waterside where I followed the signpost to Fenwick. Some sloppy mapreading that morning at home meant I arrived on the road below Fenwick through a vertical drop which became a vertical climb when climbing up again to Fenwick.
I took a ten minutes long break in Fenwick, munching through a KitKat and drinking some energy drinks at 25 pence a box. Before Fenwick, my tempo was very good. It increased pretty good after Fenwick so it goes without saying that I am now interested in purchasing more of these cans. The weather was perfect for cycling with a small breeze from the south. I continued through the roundabout after Fenwick and over the hill to Stewarton where I was back on my old friend Kilmarnock to Lugton road. I know this road very well now. Both from three days previously and other bikerides. The views was as always stunning and I decided to lenghten the tour with ten kilometers or so. I raced through Dunlop and over to Lugton.
I took the road towards Beith here and passed the easier route up Gleniffer Braes. The road over to Beith was a new experience for me and not that interesting either. It was a bit undulating up and down with a lot of twists and corners. But my tempo was pretty high and I soon reached Gateside and the road bypassing Beith. There was a lot of traffic on this road, this being one of the main roads between the Ayrshire coastline and the Glasgow area. I noticed the Paisley 10 miles signboard before I continued up this road to a viewpoint just outside Beith.
Looking down at the valley floor, the lochs and Lochwinnoch
What I did not know was the substantial drop in height on this road. A 100 meters drop in a matter of a few kilometers. My tempo was pretty good until the road became grid locked due to a que. Roadworks ahead. I waited in a que before I sneaked over to the closed lane and cycled on that lane. I came to the end of that, waited until the traffic had subsided and cycled as fast as I could, on an empty road, to the Howwood crossroad where I said goodbye to the main road and continued up the old road to Johnstone, Elderslie and Paisley. A stop at a grocery shop in Paisley and stocking up on some food followed before I was home again.
Another brilliant bikeride again. A long one and the 30 km on single track roads was a bit too long. But I explored the excellent single tracks maze between Eaglesham and Strathaven and liked what I saw. That is most definate an area I will visit again and that at the earliest possibility. This was a great bikeride with many highlights. Mostly the fun bike riding, but the views are also excellent. It is a highly recommended bikeride.