This is the second attempt at writing this blog (this time on a phone), as David indicated our tablet died on us. It may therefore lack some of the nuance of a blog written on the day after but the overwhelming memory of headwind has not been forgotten.
This day was dominated by Wind – and the capital ‘W’ is intentional. We were blown along our first 20km along the Solway Firth towards Carlisle. It felt great but also full of trepidation as we knew we were cycling the other way on the Scottish side – so whatever was in our favour for the first 20km was against us for the rest of the day. We were right to be worried!
We met our first touring cyclists of the trip at a level crossing just outside Carlisle. And, as these things happen, two others came along like buses in a row! They were both doing Lands End to John O Grouts. They weren’t camping so were travelling much lighter than us, and soon wizzed on past us. Over the river Usk and we entered Scotland. We paused at the ‘Welcome to Scotland’ sign just ourside Gretna and caught up with the touring cyclist couple, and took the obligatory photos. It did feel like a landmark. They then carried on North while we turned West and into the teeth of the strong wind.
It is difficult to explain to non cyclists how difficult a headwind makes cycling. Of course you have to work much harder but psychologically my brain keeps telling me that I should be going faster. It’s like going uphill all day long, but without downhills to rest the legs.
The first stretch was very exposed and after 8 miles from Gretna we pulled into cafe for our first Scottish ‘second breakfast’ feeling windblown and somewhat daunted. This was the Cafe Royal at Annan, in a building where Robbie Burns penned his poem attacking exercemen – tax collectors who collected for the Crown and themselves on the side. Possibky well informed and possibly somewhat ironic as he was working as an exciseman at the time.
We carried on, fortified by breakfast but knew we had a long day. On the plus side, the terrain was mostly flat; but the flatness meant there was no relief from the wind. The predictions were that it would swing from south-westerly (mostly against us) to westerly (totally against us) that day. The predictions were sadly right.
Somewhat fortified we pressed on – we were a bit more inland and there were more hedges and trees for shelter so the wind wasn’t quite so bad but still relentless. We had a brief respite from the wind as we turned north up a river towards Dumfries – but as that section was also slightly up hill there was still not rest for the legs!
We reached Dumfries after 70km and had our picnic overlooking the river. The afternoon section was more hilly – nice rounded hills without steep sections – but our legs were already tired so we felt it. The scenery was lovely though and kept us going.
At last we rolled into Castle Douglas and then the last few kms to our Warmshowers hosts for the night. For those new to this blog Warnshowers is a hosting website for touring cyclists a bit like couch surfing. We offer a bed for the night to passing touring cyclists (we live on route 45) and can request a bed when we are touring. We struck gold with our host tonight. Warren and Esther were warm and hospitable.
They had had spent 4 years cycling through various countries around the world and understood why we do this crazy from of travel. We shared reminiscences and had a wonderful meal and great conversation. The moved to Galloway 4 years ago and had set up a cycle holiday company (www.gallowaycycling.com) when the pandemic hit and they had had a very difficult year but were impressively up and running again.
They were also the instigators of a gravel cycling festival this coming October. Their love of cycling and of Galloway was evident and their entrapeneurial spirit will see them through. We wish them well and cannot think of anyone who is better place to make cyclists get the very best out this wonderful part of the world.