Auldgirth to Keswick

Today was supposed to be an easy day, after a fantastic breakfast we said goodbye to Zan and were on our way. We started with a gentle descent in to Dumfries and then an easy ride along the B721.

Not far out of Dumfries we came across the Solway Firth and England came into view on the other side of the water, soon we would be out of Scotland and the next stage of our journey would begin.

It was another gloriously sunny day and I could not believe our luck, it seemed like we had been cycling in a pocket of good weather. We paid close attention to the weather reports and while the sun had been shining in Scotland there had been storms and floods in the South of England, I was hoping our good fortune would continue.

The Border

Before long we reached Gretna and the bridge over the River Sark that marks the border. After stopping for the inevitable photos at the border signs we reluctantly continued on our way.

I have spent a lot of time in Scotland, but had never seen so much of it before. It really is as beautiful as the Scots would have you believe.

And so to England, it did not start well!

Firstly we had my route planning to contend with. I must have planned this day much later than the day before because suddenly, instead of analysing every unnamed road in the hope of finding the quietest route, I had decided to get to Keswick using the shortest route possible which meant that, in order to avoid a 10 mile detour between Gretna and Carlisle, we were going to use the A74 trunk road.

The A74(T) is the short bit of green road on a map that joins the M74 to the M6 and I think it is only green because there is no immediate alternative for non-motorway traffic, its basically a Motorway that bicycles are allowed on if they are stupid enough.

Well after sitting on the bridge that forms the A74's intersection with the A6071 and watching the speed of the traffic for about 10 minutes we decided we were indeed stupid enough! It may have only been 2.5 miles to an exit we could get to Carlisle from, but it was the most terrifying ride on a bike I have experienced.

If you are planning on doing this, be aware there is very little in the way of a hard shoulder on this section of road and, in some places, it disappears altogether. You will get up close and personal with some very big lorries doing over 70m/ph. The drag factor is considerable and most of it not at all positive (under rather than along).

We were very glad indeed to get onto some quite roads into the middle of Carlisle to calm our nerves. The route then was to follow the A595 to Bothel and then the A591 to Keswick.

The first part of the A595 to Thursby is not particularly pleasant either, it is a very busy road and all of a sudden the wind was no longer on our side.

After Thursby the bulk of the traffic follows the A596 and the A595 gets a lot quieter, but the wind did not relent and I began to understand why the North to South route is considered the harder way to go. There is not much you can to but grit your teeth and keep pedalling.

Eventually we reached Bothel and a left turn toward Keswick. Being the hilly section I had thought this would be the hard part of the day, but it was not at all. We had turned away from a strong headwind and the hills sheltered us from what was left. Also we were now entering the lake district so the scenery really picked up again.

We reached the Youth Hostel in Keswick tired but relieved, it had been a hard day.

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Day:6 of 13
Date:04 July 2003
Distance:130 KM
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