Breakfast in Kilmarnock
2011 was the year I fully discovered the pleasures of Ayrshire. I had several very interesting forays into this area. The fun thing about these tours was that I discovered new tours while doing these tours. On my Galston bikeride (see Galston tour) some days previously, I did a small mistake which meant I bypassed most of the Strathaven to Kilmarnock valley. Although this was a highly enjoyable mistake to do, I felt a bit cheated. So I made plans to rectify this mistake. Hence, this tour was planned. I had not visited Kilmarnock since the pretty catastrophic bikeride from Hamilton last year (see the Strathaven tour) and I felt I wanted to pay this small town a visit again.
I set off on this pretty warm morning at 0445 on my way up the normally busy road to Busby again. A routine this by now. This time, I got a lot of red lights and I was starting to rename this road to “the redlight district”. Which off course means something else again. But the stop and start bikeriding was a bit annoying. After a 13 km ride up the hill, I arrived at the Busby crossroad and took off up some more hills towards Eaglesham. I took the underpass under the already busy A 726 road and was soon in Eaglesham again. I continued straight ahead and onto the narrow, very twisty single track roads towards Strathaven. These roads are excellent, bypassing the very nasty East Kilbride traffic machines. These roads are the keys to the roads south-east of Glasgow, no less. They are a bit tricky up and down though. But the tarmac is good and I have no complaints.
I continued past the Darvel crossroad and onto the East Kilbride – Strathaven. I guess I did a map reading error again by not taking the more gentle, direct cyclepath to Strathaven. My choice was the mainroad and that was not a smart choice. I ended up in some climbs up and down from Chapelton before I finally arrived in Strathaven. I slowed down on the rather busy small streets in this village while heading for the road towards Kilmarnock.
The A71 Strathaven to Kilmarnock road is one of the main roads linking the west and east of Scotland. Ayr and Edinburgh/Clyde valley. There was a substantial amount of trucks and heavy lorries here. The first part of this road is also very undulating with mostly some rather hard, but not steep climbs up from Strathaven. It was very hard cycling which took me up to a moor like landscape. It was not the most interesting cycling either and I made a mental note to use the Darvel backroads next time around.
Looking back towards the moors on the first part of this valley
It turned out that I was actually climbing up this moor (see picture above) and that it was the top of the Irvine valley. A valley I did not know anything about until then. I was looking out for the very pronounced volcanic plug Loudon Hill and I found it on the top of this moor. I was pretty glad to see it. The descent down from the moor was pretty gentle in the beginning and I stopped to take the photo below.
Looking down Irvine Valley with Darvel hidden in the middle and Loudon Hill to the right
The descent down past Priestland to Darvel was pretty good and a just reward for my hard work so far. I raced through Darvel and the twin town Newmilns towards Galston again. I passed the very flat Loudon Hill golf course and went through the Galston roundabout. This time through it and not up to Moscow. The road was flat for a while. But a climb broke up the easy bikeriding. It also presented me with a good overview back towards Loudon Hill and the upper Irvine Valley.
Looking back up the upper Irvine Valley towards Galston and Loudon Hill
The ride to Kilmarnock were surprisingly interesting. I took the small B 7073 road from Hurlford over to A HREF="http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/kilmarnock/kilmarnock/index.html"> Kilmarnock and arrived very satisfied at the High Street. I walked this street and found a Greggs bakery. I bought a chicken sandwich & bottle of Irn Bru and had a breakfast on one of the park benches in this street. A very enjoyable experience.
All good things has to pass and I was soon on my way up home again. The first part of the route took me up a small hill to Kilmaurs . I met two other cyclists here which were on their way to Loch Lomond and John O'Groats. They showed me their intended route and I gave them a far better suggestion. So we rode together over Stewarton and Dunlop over to Lugton. A very fast ride and we made good progress. I was surprised how good I was feeling. This normally hard ride to Lugton was almost effortless.
From Lugton, on my advice, we took the Gleniffer Braes road. I was OK until the last vertical hill where my legs cramped up and I stopped. Those two other guys continued towards the viewpoint on the mainroad while I had a small rest and then continued to the top of the hill where the main road went down to the left while I continued straight ahead over a local road I had heard a lot of good things about, but never tried before. This road is a big improvement on the main road. It does have a short vertical climb at the end though.
Loch Lomond (hidden) and Dumbarton from the Gleniffer country park
Paisley and parts of Glasgow from the Gleniffer country park
The views from this local road and the top of this hill was also better so this is a road I will follow instead of the main road from now on.
I continued down the vertical drop to Paisley and my home which I reached in good health after another very good bikeride.
Another excellent bikeride again in Ayrshire. The local roads over Eaglesham is excellent. The small mistake I did by not going directly on Strathaven on the bikeroad added some hills to the ride. The first part of the Strathaven to Kilmarnock road up to the moor was a bit too boring and hilly for my liking and will probably be bypassed on the repeats. But the ride down the Irvine Valley was surprisingly great. All in all a very good tour which I recommend.