Sunday, 28 August 2011

hand tinted hills

There are some routes that draw you back again and again. So it is with the loop that goes  round from Abington to Sanquhar, Mennock and back.

This circuit is a bit of a cyclesguff favourite and although relatively short offers varied and challenging terrain. We set off yesterday from Abington over the M74 and first left off the B7078 where the road rolls over to Crawfordjohn. Keeping to the conventional circuit we wasted no time at the turn toward Sanquhar and speeding down the valley made a good warm up for the return that is, inevitably, uphill. The Mennock Pass climb to Wanlockhead is much loved. Good enough to attract the attentions of the Tour of Britain, Drumlanrig Challenge and Simon Warren in his book ‘100 Greatest Cycling Climbs’. It divides into three sections. The first up to the cattle grid from Mennock rolls and bumps on what is not the best surface then beyond the grid settles to a 2-3% gradient that lulls you into a false sense of security. That’s what we would have been reminding ourselves were it not for purplest of distractions as the heather in full scented bloom made a heady assault on our senses.

insert Scottish themed song of your choice
At the third section beyond the small stone bridge normal service was resumed and the road ramps requiring engagement of bottom gear and dancing. Not Andy Stewart kind of dancing though, come to think of it, maybe just fading echoes of fiddles and reels as the purple heathers gave way to greens and browns. 
It is in Wanlockhead that the previously mentioned organisations and writers miss a wee something, for beyond a heavily secured gate lies the delight of Lowther Hill.

that's mare than wan lock!

Green Lowther                                               Lowther Hill*
The Radar Ride finished here* but is sadly no more

The route, dissected by the Southern Upland Way, offers a further 270m of climbing in 5km. With the addition of the best part of 10km and 300m climbing through the Mennock Pass it makes for a bit of a test. The road is private and in great condition though the sheep have deposited a few obstacles just to keep you on your toes. In the interests of completeness and a few more metres climbing we added the trundle over to Green Lowther.  The top affords great views over the south of Scotland and beyond to the Lake District and the pleasure of the Southern Uplands as they roll north and west. There was ample opportunity to appreciate the altitude from well above what is Scotland’s highest village. Perhaps too much, since we were treated to intimate views of a gathering storm heading directly for us. Our escape wasn’t quite quick enough and so engulfed in freezing rain and hail all the way to the bottom we then scrambled over the last hill out of Wanlockhead. With no time to appreciate the smooth new surface we splashed sprayed and slithered through Leadhills in blind hope that the water on the road wasn’t hiding anything sinister below.
Stiff with cold, soaking but puncturless, the direct route back to Abington was the choice to bring an eventful day to a close and find a much needed bowl of soup. 
                                                                                 Total 69km 1020m climb.

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