A Strathaven circular

GBC

Veteran
Location
Glasgow
Not having had a decent run for a while for one reason or another, but mostly the weather, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands on Saturday past when we were given the promise of blue skies, light winds, and a reasonable temperature. Plan A was to do a run that I had already completed, but in the reverse direction, and involved heading south on the A77 from my house on the south side of Glasgow, cut off onto the A719 and down through Moscow to Galston and thence along the A71 to Darvel where I would take the unclassified roads north to Eaglesham, and from there down through Busby and Netherlee to home.

Knowing how frequently the Scottish climate can leave you looking foolish, what to wear was the first consideration. I’d been out with the dog first thing and the temperature was still crisp, just under 3oC, but how much would it warm up as the day went on? In the event, I conceded that this would likely be the last opportunity this year for the shorts so out they came, coupled with a base layer and long sleeved top. I added the Merino wool zip top in my bag in case I needed it when I stopped – the run would be about forty miles, and I planned for a couple of ten minute breaks along the way. A bit light perhaps, but if you were to carry enough to cope with the full gamut of the Scottish weather, you’d probably want a trailer as well.

10.30am and I was off and it wasn’t too long before I was questioning the wisdom of my choice of clothing. The first five miles are a steady pull uphill but still I was feeling the cold. I kept going for a bit longer but by the time I’d got another five in, just after crossing under the M77, it was clear that once again, the day, though bright and sunny, was going to deceive. I pulled in, had a drink and put the wool zip top on. As I moved away again, it seemed that my top half was fine, not too hot, not too cold, but my knees were paying the price of my optimism and turning a violet shade of blue! Too late to turn back, but I was happy enough that it wouldn’t get any colder and I was pretty much acclimatised to it now. My mistake of the day had been made and everything would be as smooth as silk from now on in. Of course it will.

The A77 has a cycle lane all the way out of Glasgow, which, after Malletsheugh turns into a pretty decent cycle track, separated from the road, and which offers routes to Irvine and the coast or over the Eaglesham Moor towards East Kilbride as well as the more southerly one I was taking. Eaglesham Moor is home to Whitelee Windfarm, the largest in Europe, and love or hate the wind turbines you can’t fail to be moved by the sight. I may be a bit biased here as I find them both aesthetically beautiful and structurally impressive as well as being environmentally sound. Unusually perhaps, visitors are positively welcomed here and the 70 kilometres of roads within the farm can be used for walking, cycling etc., and can be followed by the traditional coffee and cake, or whatever else you fancy, in a reasonably priced and well-appointed and informative Visitor Centre. The road over the Moor is also a sight to behold for cyclists, as it has been superseded as a main route by a dual carriageway further to the north and now has cycle lanes on both sides of the road and a single lane down the middle for motorised traffic. I’d like to say that all motorists respect this arrangement, but maybe someday……….

Then it was time to leave the A77 and the cycle track and turn southeast onto the A719 and on through the small communities of Waterside and Moscow, where, apropos the weather, distant history lessons and an empty mind, I wondered to myself, just how cold Napoleon had really been. The road then drops steeply, past the turreted theme park at Louden Castle, to the first of the ‘Valley Towns’, Galston. The others, as you head east on the A71, are Newmilns and then Darvel, and in the late 19th and early 20th century they were the centre of a nascent Scottish lace making industry. The road along here shadows the River Irvine and is undulating but reasonable until you leave Newmilns, when it becomes a long, upward slog. I wasn’t disheartened though as Darvel was my mid-way point and I intended to stop there for ten or fifteen minutes for a breather and a bite to eat. The place I had chosen is at the western approach to the town and is a semi-circular monument enclosing two bench seats, which commemorates the life of Sir Alexander Morton who founded the aforementioned lace manufacturing in the area. It’s very sheltered there, as I knew from a previous stop, and it was only a minute or two before the woolly top was off and I was enjoying the early autumn sunshine, along with a jam doughnut and a banana.

Foolish enough to think that the day had warmed sufficient enough to make do with just the cycling top, I jumped back in the saddle and was disabused of the notion very quickly indeed and the warm clothing was back on again within a hundred yards. No sign yet of the day warming significantly. My intention was to turn off the main road just before leaving Darvel and head north, past the farm where Sir Alexander Fleming was born, and use the network of the unclassified roads of the hinterland for the first stage of the return leg. I knew from MemoryMap that the first part of the road was quite steep, rising 500 feet within the first two miles. It isn’t a steady rise though, more stepped with short but punishing inclines, and I hadn’t gone more than a couple of hundred yards when my legs turned to blancmange and I had to finish the first hill on foot, red-faced in more ways than one. I have cycled up steeper hills, but in retrospect, I probably didn’t manage my calorie intake that day as well as I should have, particularly at breakfast which at the weekend tends to be coffee and a couple of slices of toast. I can state quite categorically that it had nothing whatsoever to do with being 58 and overweight!!

However, a few more struggles, the height was gained, and I had recovered enough to enjoy the day cycling under blue skies on a traffic free road running through classical Scottish moorland with only the crows and the sheep for company. It was total contentment and I was at peace with the world - what could go wrong? Well I’ll tell you. With a good ten miles between me and Darvel, I thought I should be nearing Eaglesham, my next landmark, and was looking out for the windfarm to one side and the high-rises of East Kilbride on the other. Instead, I came to a junction with a main road which I quickly, and sickeningly, realised was the same A71 that I had left behind back at Darvel, and that I was about to arrive in Strathaven, the next town along. What had happened to my once infallible sense of direction? Is it a time limited faculty? I got the map out and found that although I’d memorised most of the directions, I’d completely missed a crucial left turn, so instead of heading northwards, my path had actually described an arc which was now heading south. Not wholly a disaster, but I had specifically planned to avoid Strathaven as the road heading north from there towards East Kilbride is a fast and busy single carriageway.

For some psychological reason I wasn’t keen on retracing my steps back to the junction I’d missed and when the map showed that if I headed north on the main road I could turn off at Chapelton, three miles or so away and eventually re-join my intended route, that became my Plan B. Another banana and a phone call home with a revised ETA and an embarrassing explanation, and I was back on my way. My misgivings about the road were well founded sadly, and of the thirty or forty cars that passed me before I reached Chapelton, only two, one of which was a Police car, gave me anything like the amount of road room which they should have. I would make special mention of the driver of the Police car who made a textbook overtake straight from the Patrol Driver’s Course, or whatever they call it these days, crossing the centre line completely to get past: bless him! Both were suitably rewarded with a ‘thumbs up’ from me, and, I’m sure, a tick in their book from Gabriel.

The turn off couldn’t come quickly enough and I saw that one of the cars that had just overtaken me had then pulled over and was half on the verge a short distance past the junction. I didn’t think too much of it, made the turn and was immediately into a stiff uphill which quickly had me out of the saddle. I hadn’t gone far when I heard a shout from behind, and saw, over my shoulder, the driver of the car standing on the road looking my way. It wasn’t clear that he was shouting at me so I continued working my way up, only for a renewed outbreak of frantic shouting and this time he had started to move towards me in a sort of Peter Kay ‘Dad’s run’, with his arms going like windmills. My first thought was that some emergency had arisen, a passenger taken ill or the car had broken down and he was late for his only daughter’s wedding, so I stopped, prepared to help if I could.

Despite the advanced years, I’ve only very recently gone clipless and in fact, this was my first serious run with cleats. It was also very nearly my first ‘off’ and I was well on my way from the vertical to the horizontal before I got my foot free. I recovered well, I think, put on an air of nonchalance, and hoped that he accepted that the normal way to dismount from a bicycle these days was to hop laterally across the road, dragging the bike with you. What was the emergency? “Am I going the right way for East Kilbride?” he said. I paused, remembered the many road signs that we had passed, pondered the vagaries of the human psyche, discarded the various cruel cuts that sprang to mind, and replied “Yes, yes it is pal, just go straight on for about four miles. You can’t miss it.” Well, it was a beautiful day, why spoil it.

I was into farming country now and there was an air of industry in the fields I passed as the farmers took full advantage of the good weather to catch up on their chores. The downside was negotiating the heavy deposits of mud on the road where the tractors entered and exited the fields, but the drivers of the tractors that I met, and there were a fair few, were without exception considerate, exchanged a nod or a wave, and gave me as much road room as they could. The common courtesy shown falls in with my general experience of both cycling in the countryside and hillwalking and it is something sorely missing from our cities. It was also a satisfying reminder, if any was needed, that in our time framed, 24/7 world, there are still those, the farmers and fishermen, who live and work according to the seasons and weather, rather than the calendar and clock.

At last, after a last short but testing hill up into Eaglesham it was a gently sloping five miles downhill, jarring through the southern suburbs of East Renfrewshire, and home.

The statistics are a distance of 50 miles with a total ascent of some 3,200 feet, but they pale into insignificance when compared with the sheer joy of the being out on the bike on such a glorious day and in such wonderful countryside. My only regret is that I didn’t think to stuff a camera in the bag, but hey, roll on the next one!

Strathaven circular.png
 
If the ride was as good as the read, then you will have had a great time! :smile:

I look forward to your next ride!
 

Seamab

Senior Member
Location
Dollar
Great writing! I was brought up in East Kilbride. As a nipper we'd roll Easter eggs up on the Eaglesham moors - before Windfarms and roads with cycle lanes! Not been up that way in donkeys years.

Give us a shout (on Informal rides) next time you plan doing this if you fancy some company (need to be a Sat am start for me).

A couple of years back i cycled some of those backroads from Hamilton - Auldhouse - EK and was surprised how rural it felt. After all EK has gobbled up a lot of greenbelt over the years.
 
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Mo1959

Legendary Member
Really enjoyed reading that, thanks.........and I concur that, in general, the road users in the country do seem to be more respectful and give you a bit more room and consideration.
 
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OP
GBC

GBC

Veteran
Location
Glasgow
Many thanks for the kind remarks guys, much appreciated.

Seamab, I've put a note in the 'Scotland/ Renfrewshire' thread that I'd be up for a ride some time in October, so hopefully I'll meet you and some of the others then. Incidentally, I was up your way the following day, Sunday, as I do a lot of hill-walking in the Ochils. We did Silver Glen to Ben Ever, Ben Cleuch and Ben Buck, then over to Craighorn and down Alva Glen. A cracking day again, warm and sunny on the lower levels, but absolutely baltic on the tops - we ended up raking around in the bottom of the sack looking for any spare clothing we might have missed. But again, a great day.
 

Pat "5mph"

A kilogrammicaly challenged woman
Moderator
Location
Glasgow
Great ride report! Imagine that guy in a car stopping a cyclist for directions :laugh:
Riding out of Glasgow from my bit it's the same: a couple of miles, sheep and horses galore.
 
Good write up, of familiar roads.
But from Strathaven you didn't need to take the main road to Chapelton, you can get onto the back roads directly from Strathaven. The roads marked in blue are Sustrans cycle routes.
SC20120929-235319.jpg
 

Seamab

Senior Member
Location
Dollar
At what point does the old A77 out of Glasgow have a cycle lane? It looks like one could avoid the A71 all together looking at the map. Might give it a shot sometime soon.

Is/was Galston, Newmilns, Darvel not Graeme Obree's home patch? Sounded like he hated it right enough from his book.
 
OP
GBC

GBC

Veteran
Location
Glasgow
At what point does the old A77 out of Glasgow have a cycle lane? It looks like one could avoid the A71 all together looking at the map. Might give it a shot sometime soon.

Is/was Galston, Newmilns, Darvel not Graeme Obree's home patch? Sounded like he hated it right enough from his book.
There's cycle lane as part of the A77 from Shawlands south to Malletsheugh, apart from the stretch going through Giffnock. From Malletsheugh down to about Kilmarnock, it's a separate cycle track running parallel to the road - basically they cordoned of a part of the old road, and re-positioned the centre line.

I see what you mean about missing the A71; are you talking of turning off about 2 km south of Moscow to head east? If so then yes, it looks promising. Most of the roads down at that end seemed to be in good condition, but when you get nearer Eaglesham they can be bit iffy.

I'm not sure about Graeme Obree - I thought he was from the coast in the Saltcoats area, but I don't really know to be honest.
 

Seamab

Senior Member
Location
Dollar
There's cycle lane as part of the A77 from Shawlands south to Malletsheugh, apart from the stretch going through Giffnock. From Malletsheugh down to about Kilmarnock, it's a separate cycle track running parallel to the road - basically they cordoned of a part of the old road, and re-positioned the centre line.

I see what you mean about missing the A71; are you talking of turning off about 2 km south of Moscow to head east? If so then yes, it looks promising. Most of the roads down at that end seemed to be in good condition, but when you get nearer Eaglesham they can be bit iffy.
Cheers for that GBC. Yes i was thinking of the minor road just south of Moscow before Loudon Castle. If you bear left at each junction from then on (excepting no through roads) you should end up in Eaglesham.
I would be cycling out from the city centre which is why i was wondering about the A77 cycle lane. Early in the morning it would be fine. Shawlands to city centre may not be so good later on the return journey though.
 
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