The Muirkirk over Uddington tour
2011 was the year I fully discovered the pleasures of Ayrshire. This is an area south of my abode. I normally goes north or west on my bike rides. Mostly crossing River Clyde and up and around the Campsie Hills. I had paid some rare visits to Ayrshire before and never rated the rides there. I had obviously been on the wrong roads, as I have now found out. But with the help of Google Maps & Earth, I started to investigate the small roads and country lanes in Ayrshire...... which there is plenty of. An illness has meant that long and multi-daytours is of the menu this year too. So Ayrshire it is then.
The tour from Lanark to Paisley again became a very interesting prospect after I had a look at the valley from Uddington to Muirkirk in Google Earth. Just my type of cycling, I thought. The one way ticket to Lanark is not expensive either and I always wanted to explore the road from Strathaven to Paisley. This route therefore hit the top of my wishlist.
I went for the Paisley Gilmour train station early in the morning to first catch the train to Glasgow and then the train to Lanark. The train to Glasgow was a ten minutes ride. After an half an hour stop over in Glasgow, I got the one hour long train to Lanark. I reached Lanark at around 0800 in the morning and set off down the valley towards Hynford Bridge. This is a small bridge, regulated by traffic lights. Which is a joke really because this is a main road and this very old and small bridge should had been replaced by a modern bridge ages ago. Only in Scotland......
I had been here back in 2006 (see the Wanlockhead tour) and the hills over to Uddington had caused me some problems back then. Not this time though. I found the hills pretty congenial with the exception from the first steep hill just after the bridge. The views though was impressive so those were the only issues I had with this road. The traffic was pretty heavy though with a lot of HGVs.
The landscape north-west from the road between Lanark and Uddington
I soon reached Uddington and the pretty OK traffic machines there. I had no problems through them and under the underpasses. I was glad not to go up the steep hill towards Wanlochhead this time. The hill up to Douglas was steep enough for me. But I soon reached the crest of this hill and the descent down to this village. Douglas is supposed to be a pretty village. Due to a bit heavy traffic and the zig-zag roads there, I hardly noticed this village during the two minutes I spent there. But the village has a very scenic setting. Next time...... I headed up the valley to Glespin and Muirkirk. I noticed the road signs leading over to Crawfordjohn and a possible route there next time. But the hills up to Glespin soon got my attention. The road is both undulating and very twisty here with some small hard climbs. The same can be said about the road through Glespin too. The valley were pretty wide with some great views towards south until Glespin but narrowed very considerable after this village and entered a canyon where the valley made some S-turns.
Cycling up the narrow valley between Douglas and Muirkirk
This is the kind of cycling I love so I really enjoyed this ride up a not too steep valley. The valley became a bit steep at the end past a small loch. I was too soon out of this narrow valley. I like this valley and it is alone a good reason to do this ride.
On the top of the Douglas to Muirkirk valley
After some rather flat cycling past a roadwork area and a lot of lorry traffic, I entered the small village of Muirkirk which has given the name to this tour. It is a very popular destination for us cyclistst, but the village itself is nothing special so no pictures. I was meant to enjoy a couple of bananas here too on my way up the climb to the moor towards Strathaven. But they had become very ripe on this ride and not edible at all so I was left hungry. I therefore decided to crack on up the climb. It is vertical for some hundred meters after Muirkirk, but then pretty congenial after the graveyard. I was in need of some food so I gave it all up this hill and over the moor. I found this moor, which topped out at 300 meters above sea level, a pretty easy climb with two distinct different tops with a small descent between them. The second top is the highest top (just after the small bridge). The road over to Strathaven from this moor have several smaller steep climbs though after the top of the moor and is not an easy ride. But I overcame the obstacles and that includes a pretty nasty vertical climb just before Strathaven. I got some chocolate bars here and continued through this well kept scenic village which I first visited on my aborted ride last year (see the Strathaven tour). The road climbs up a hill through and above this village in the direction of East Kilbride.
Overlooking Strathaven on my way to East Kilbride
The climb is not steep. It is rather gentle, but it is still hard though. It topped out just before Chapelton and became a bit undulating after that in a agricultural landscape. I soon reached what I believe is the highest point of this road.
Looking towards East Kilbride and Glasgow (both hidden)
Unfortunate, I had not done my homework properly before setting out on this tour. At the Torrance Roundabout, I was in doubt if I should continue straight ahead or take the road to the left. I continued down the hill. What I should had done was to take the road to the left and by then avoided the busy junctions and the busy roads around East Kilbride. I was at a busy motorway and through several busy junctions which confused me. It was no fun at all. But I managed and got through this very busy area to Busby where the traffic was a lot easier to deal with. The road was supposed to drop 200 meters in height difference, but I was too busy with the traffic to really enjoy this. But I now know the alternatives and it is safe to assume that East Kilbride will be avoided from now on. I was soon down and home in Paisley again after a very interesting bikeride.
A very nice ride through the southern rim of the upper Clyde valley. The best part is from Lanark to Muirkirk. But the moor over to Strathaven was a surprising delight and the highlight of the tour. I have now done my homework and will avoid East Kilbride in the future. Which means this route is bound to be repeated by myself again and that on an annual basis, I guess. It is a great ride and recommended.