Loch Fleet and the Cairnsmore - Easy riding in the southern Galloway Hills.

Another trip to the Galloway Hills provided the chance to go to the southern section at Cairnsmore of Fleet and explore the tracks that lead north to the waters at Clatteringshaws. Part of the ride was to explore the 'disused railway' marked on the map that held the promise of an intersting ride.
The line runs through some fantastic countryside and used to bring travellers to Portpatrick and later to Stranraer for the ferries to Ireland.
Sadly the railway is long gone and much of the old track has been reclaimed by the farms along the route. In many places the old route is visible but cannot be considered as complete. The huge viaduct at Cairnsmore is closed to the public because of dangerous falling masonry. It would have made a fantastic cycle route!

The jagged outline of the Cairnsmore outcrop

Still, there are miles of forest trails to make up for the railway!

With a promise of rain I still wanted to ride into the hills even if the trip was going to be abandoned early, as it happened the rain kept off all day, the sun even shone for a few moments too.

Loch Fleet, mentioned at the start of this report had not been the original destination, I had planned simply to ride North from the little visitors centre at Cairnsmore where there is parking for a few cars. The aim was to have a cup of tea at the Clatteringshaws cafe and then enjoy a long down hill ride back.

After riding under the impressive railway viaduct which spans the Fleet the trail heads straight into the forest. There is a single pole barrier which is often locked. Once past the barrier take the first right and you are heading north through the undulating and gently climbing landscape.

Taking a rest near Loch Grannoch. The Merrick can be seen in the distance.

In places the forest is all that can be seen. The trail leads away into the distance with thick forest planting on either side. A GPS is often useful to keep track as everywhere looks like everywhere else. You can't really get lost hear just stick to the foreatry track, keep going and you will eventually hit tarmac.
The rain had stayed away, the sun was shining and I had the place to myself. Evidence of large clearances by the forestry workers could be seen but no one was working today, the forest was silent.

After stopping at Loch Grannoch for a breather and to admire the view I pedalled northward towards Clatteringshaws. I was getting a little fed up of the way the forest planting closed in around the track so it was a case of out with the map and see what else there was of interest.

If I reversed the route, and enjoyed some high speed freewheeling too, a track leading away to the east looked interesting.
Another track led north to a small loch called Loch Fleet, it was just one of those choices that riding alone lets you make without any discussions. Looks good - lest go.

More climbing as the track leads steadily upwards, on the map (OS Outdoor Leisure 32 - Galloway Forest Park) Loch Fleet is at 330 metres, it felt more but who am I to argue with the OS.

The forest trails are undulating as they climb steadily up towards the turning which leads to the tiny loch. The trail to the loch is overgrown and little travelled, as you near Loch Fleet the material is quite sandy and does not offer a lot of grip, take care.

Loch Fleet is not the busiest place in Scotland. You could find yourself all alone up there. The only regular visitors will be scientists who come to inspect the weather monitoring equipment. A small stream runs out of Loch Fleet and makes it way to join other streams to become the Little Water of Fleet.
This point is the end of the track so once again a reverse ride is in order. More high speed downhill stuff on dodgy surfaces. The ride back to the car is an easy one and I managed to just miss the rain. Back at the Cairnsmore visitor centre a shepherd was clipping some of the spectacular looking black faced sheep which graze the land.

All in all a good days ride, not a circular route which is what I would have prefered but worthy of the effort.

A huge pile of timber ready for the wagons.
Looking north from Loch Fleet to the Fell of Fleet
A small stream gently flows to start the Little waters of Fleet
Time for a last cup of coffee before riding under the old railway viaduct and back to the car.