The Stewartry, Nith Valley and Solway Coast Explorer Tour


GT1 - The Stewartry, Nith Valley and Solway Coast Explorer Tour

Dates – Thursday May 14th and Saturday August 8th 2015

Start – from Castle Douglas (pickup from Lockerbie station if desired)
Distance – From 20 to 33 miles (32 to 53 km) a day, with flexibility in agreement with those on the tour.
Grade – Moderate overall with occasional not too difficult hills.
Comments – A new and specially chosen tour route to include as much variety and interesting features as possible in 6 days, with Keir Mill, where the pedal cycle was invented and Annandale distillery probably the highlights

Price – £745 p.p. - around 953 E / 1190 USD / 1352 CAD assuming two sharing a room. (£925 / 1183 E / 1478 USD / 1680 CAD single)

Bicycle (extra) - £100 / 127E / 160 USD / 180 CAD.

Itinerary -
Arrival Day - Day 1 – Arrive to Castle Douglas.
Option for pickup from Lockerbie railway station – 1 hour from both Glasgow and Edinburgh).
Welcome meeting with cycles fit and tour overview provided.
If early arrival, we will take a short 'acclimatisation' cycle to visit Carlingwark Loch, Threave Castle, (ring the bell for the boatman to take us to the castle on the island) also osprey nest viewing platform, and the National Trust for Scotland’s Threave Garden on the way back into town where you can have a beer at our local brewery.
This short circuit can also been done on Day 1 or Day 2 if missed on arrival day.
Stay in Castle Douglas.

Day 2 – The Kirkcudbright Circuit
Distance – around 25 miles (40 km).
Grade – Moderate.
Terrain – Gradual rise then downhill to Kirkcudbright.
Summary – An ideal first day countryside circuit, partly on the National Cycle Route, with Kirkcudbright artists town the focal point and lunch spot.

Features:
Rhonehouse village
– picturesque village, site of the famous Kelton Fair. Ross Island – views of the island with lighthouse on one of the route options.
Kirkcudbright – the ‘county’ town has a museum, several art galleries and Maclellan’s Castle near the harbour where fishing boats land scallops, - with a good fish and chip shop nearby to sample them!
Option to visit Threave Castle and / or Garden on return to Castle Douglas if not visited on arrival day.
Stay in Castle Douglas.

Day 3 – Castle Douglas to Thornhill
Distance – 30 miles.
Grade – moderate with a few challenging parts.
Terrain – Quite countryside roads with some hills.
Summary – Some spectacular scenery today crossing two river valleys to the pleasant tree-lined streets of Thornhill in the Nith valley.
A guided tour is best to find the old smithy and headstone of Kirkpatrick Macmillan with ‘inventor of the pedal cycle’ inscribed in the nearby hidden cemetery.

Features:
Small villages – pass through several small villages, one with a  tea room / shop stop option.
Glenkiln Reservoir - a loch in a beautiful location with a hillside sculptures.
Cairn Water Valley – cross this scenic river valley.
Dunscore village – with hilltop church.
River Nith Valley – join the Kirkpatrick Macmillan Cycle Trail with views over this larger valley.
Keir Mill – small village with the nearby smithy where the first pedal cycle was invented in 1839. Also the cemetery where Kirkpatrick Macmillan, the inventor is buried.
Penpont – small village with tea room and Macmillan info.
Thornhill – picturesque small town with good tea rooms and restaurants. Stay in Thornhill.

Day 4 – Thornhill Circuit
Distance – from 16 miles with more miles options.
Grade – Moderate.
Terrain – Undulating and scenic routes. Flat back to Thornhill.
Summary – Two castles and a picturesque village. Spend hours at Drumlanrig Castle (castle tour etc) and easy return to Thornhill or continue cycling for those who want more miles.

Features:
Morton Castle – a 4th century ruined castle in spectacular scenery beside a loch and hills.
Durisdeer – cul de sac hamlet with 1699 church containing the fascinating Queensberry Marbles.
River Nith – river popular for fishing.
Drumlanrig Castle - a 1690 working castle owned by the Duke of Buccleuch. A castle tour of rooms with expensive paintings is popular. Kitchen tea room and other attractions. The gardens are also open to the public. Mountain biking and bike shop in the castle yard.
Stay in Thornhill again.

Day 5 – Thornhill to Dumfries
Distance – 20 miles with more miles options.
Grade – Moderate.
Terrain – Reasonably flat, or some hills, depending on route taken.
Summary –– Your guide will work out the best route, depending on the groups abilities. Option for two sub-groups to separate and meet around half-way. Basically cycle ‘downstream’ along the River Nith valley to Dumfries today.

Features:
Auldgirth village – with food pub and shop.
Dumfries – largest town in the region with several attractions including Robert Burns’s house, favourite howff, the Globe Inn, museum with camera obscura and the soon to be opened home of JM Barrie, where he was inspired to write Peter Pan. 
Stay in Dumfries.

Day 6 – Dumfries to Annan
Distance – 20 to 30 miles (32 to 48 km)
Grade – Easy / moderate.
Terrain – Flat most of the way.  
Summary – Initially follow the River Nith from Dumfries along the estuary to the sea then along the Solway Coast to Annan. Several attractions with the new Annandale whisky distillery the focal point at the end of the day.

Features:
Kingholm Quay – small port for Dumfries.
Glencaple – another small village by the River Nith estuary.
Caerlaverock Castle – unusual 13th century 3 cornered castle.
Caerlaverock Nature Reserve – tea room.
The Brow Well – a spot where Robert Burns bathed.
Ruthwell village – scenic village with museum of the world’s first savings bank.
Ruthwell Cross – an 8th century Anglo-Saxon cross in the local church.
Powfoot – village by the coast.
Annandale Distillery - The end of day highlight today, either by cycle or taxi from your hotel, is a visit to Annandale whisky distillery, with an exciting new visitor centre and whisky tasting!

Stay by the coast in a hotel with a golf course.

Day 7 – Annan to Lockerbie

Distance –30 miles (48 km)
Grade – Easy / moderate.
Terrain – Reasonably flat most of the way.  
Summary – Continue to near the border with England to visit Gretna Green then on via Robert the Bruce’s Cave to Lockerbie and the last nights hotel accommodation. 

Features:
Devil’s Porridge Exhibition – a recently completed visitor centre depicting a significant local wartime ammunitions factory and local history.
Gretna Green - the famous marriage centre (still several marriages held most days). Visit the famous blacksmiths shop and popular visitors attraction with Scotland themed shops.
King Robert the Bruce’s Cave - accessed by a walkway along a rock face, where he is reputed to have got inspiration from a spider!
Ecclefechan – small village with a museum to Robert Carlyle, famous writer and historian, and home of the tasty Ecclefechan tart, 

Day 8 – Departure day.
A few minutes taxi to Lockerbie railway station.

Other Information

Arrival / Departure

Airports: Glasgow, Glasgow Prestwick, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Manchester.

Train station: From all above train stations to Lockerbie (1 hour from both Glasgow and Edinburgh).

Arrival Transfer to Castle Douglas: included in cost - 45 mins.

Accommodation:
Selected tried and tested small hotels, guest houses and B&B’s, 3 star and 4 star (upgrades available on some nights).

Dinners – Not Included. Dinners either in your accommodation, if a hotel, or at a nearby food pub or restaurant.

Included Services
+ pickup from Lockerbie railway station
+ welcome meeting
+ 7 nights en suite accommodation
+ 7 breakfasts.
+ luggage transfer.
+ support service
+ advice given for city break stays after or before cycle tour if desired