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Two More Stanes....

If you’re finding Glentress just a little too crowded on a Bank Holiday weekend these days, don’t forget there are six other “Stanes” to ride in the Borders – and many of them no further away. Kathryn treated me to a surprise weekend in Dumfries to mark the solemn occasion of my 40th. The plan was to ride at Mabie and Dalbeattie, but Mabie is still suffering from diversionitis as the felling fellas do their felling. So we rode Dalbeattie on the Saturday and drove on to Newton Stewart on Sunday to take our first look at Kirroughtree.


Kathryn concentrating on Kirroughtree's singletrack

Dalbeattie is a different beast to Glentress. For a start, it’s hardly on a hill – the highest point is only about 100 metres above sea level – so there’s none of the huge climbing and endless descending of the Tweed centres. Instead, the Red route works on a combination of fast-flowing singletrack and butt-puckering rocky sections to keep you interested. Its reputation is built on the scary challenges known as “The Slab” and “The Terrible Twins”; plus the worst of the lot, in my view, “The Qualifier”. Frankly, I can’t even do the approaches to these things (The Slab is accessed down a near-vertical rock-armoured chute), so don’t ask me what it’s like to ride them. Anyway, all the Black sections have easier bypasses and don’t amount to a great deal of the overall distance. It’s as tough as you want to make it.

We thought it was a good day out, with plenty to ride. The only disappointments were some confusing/missing waymarkers and the lack of facilities at the trailhead. A solid 8/10.

 

Kirroughtree has taken the idea of the Dalbeattie rides and turned them into something really special. There’s a red route called “The Twister” with a long black extension called “Black Craigs”. We kept to the red and were pretty surprised when we looked at the map afterwards to find that it was only 14km because it took us three hours to get round. But that’s what happens when you keep going back to try bits again until you get them right (or come to your senses and give up!) The red loop also includes one or two black obstacles – and if they’re anything to go by the full black loop will be very challenging indeed.

Neil tackles the "White Witch" on Kirroughtree's Red Route

Kirroughtree keeps promising to turn into that kind of flowing, sinuous ride that marks the Glentress experience, but it does something else altogether. Because every time you think you can relax and go with the flow, it throws up a little challenge to take you unawares.

This can be anything from cunningly-positioned stones, just big enough to send a tyre skittering sideways if you catch it, to foot-high drop-offs that come up at you with only a few fractions of a second to react. And it does this sort of thing over and over, so you know it’s no accident. If you like your riding to be like running on rails this may not appeal – it demands total concentration. But for me, I think it’s one of the best Stanes rides yet. Only the fact that the visitors centre was closed, and there were no maps in the “Please Take One” box, to complain about. 9 points out of 10.

 

From Lanchester, the drive to Dalbeattie is two hours. Add 45 mins. to get to Kirroughtree.

Check out the 7Stanes website at www.7stanes.gov.uk

 

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The Forest Cycle Code

  1. Expect the unexpected, keep your speed down.
  2. Remember other vehicles use the forest roads as well as you!
  3. Give way to walkers, be friendly towards other forest users.
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