Author: John McCracken
Perhaps one of the most frustrating things about describing great cycle routes from Darvel is that the first thing I have to do is describe leaving the place. Never the less this shows what a great hub for cycling the town is.
One of the most simple routes, yet picturesque and quiet, takes you to Strathaven and back almost off the A71 completely. Avoiding this busy stretch of winding road is a blessing as a cyclist. The route can be done either clock wise or anti-clockwise. I am describing the anti-clockwise route simply because the clockwise version involves climbing cemetery brae from the off. A tough climb at the best of times but especially right at the start of a ride.
From the town centre you head along the A71 through Priestland until you reach the brow of the hill. At this point I take a right turn where a small road takes you off the A71 and comes back out at Loudoun Hill. It does have a little climb but it is preferable to the A71. Joining the A71 for a very short section about 50 yards past the entrance to Loudoun Hill on the left there is a right turn which takes you onto a tiny road. The road itself is quiet, small and devoid of traffic with the exception of the odd farm vehicle. Following this lovely wee road you will eventually find yourself at a fork in the road just past the entrance to the Drumclog Moto Park where you face a choice.
On a dry day I would take the left option. It’s a small quiet backroad which rolls quietly to just outside Strathaven. On a wet day or if it’s been wet this road, which is used by farm vehicles can often be mucky and slippy. On all other days, as the route profile shows I go right up a short climb and come out at Dungavel. Taking a left you will find yourself on the road from Muirkirk to Strathaven. It is the busier of the two options but to be honest is never really busy. Following this road you will find your way to Strathaven. If the weather is good there are options to add Sandford into your journey.
Arriving in Strathaven you can head into the town centre for a coffee and cake at the café or if you’re not in the mood for stopping take a left up Lethame Road following signs for the airport.
Along this road there is an option to extend your journey over towards Auldhouse and back over the Ardochrigg Step (the rear entrance to the windfarm) which provides great views over Glasgow and the Campsies.
Eventually you will see the road for the airport marked as a dead end an the left turn you should take brings you to a T-junction where a right turn will have you on the back road all the way back to Darvel. Eventually you will cross a small bridge and just further on find yourself at the bottom of the Calder Water Climb. It is long but never steep and you will have plenty of sheep for company on your left and the turbines of Calder and Whitelee Windfarms on your right.
As the climb tops out you will descend round to the left past a farm. Scrub your speed at this point. There is often gravel loose on the road which can ruin a good day out. You should find yourself now at the back of Loudoun Hill and pretty soon you’ll come across another T-junction. You have 2 options at this point. Left or Straight on.
I choose straight on at this point as the road surface is better. Taking this option brings you out at a junction. Take a left and you will be on what’s known locally as “The 5 Mile” and a steep descent down towards Darvel so be careful.
The left choice at the aforementioned junction has a series of shallower descents but the road surface can often be mucky or in poor condition. I often take this option if I am doing the clockwise route.
Your last bit of the journey comes down Cemetery Brae. Again take this bit slowly with care. It is steep. It can also be slippy. I myself have come off once not going that fast and at the bottom of the hill you will be at the mercy of the A71 and back home in Darvel.
This is a great route that can be extended, adapted, reversed, explored and of course gives options for cake stops, a prerequisite for a good cycle!