The journey from Penrith to Glentrool was horrific, for pretty much the entire journey on the A75 the wind again battered the van, it chucked it down with rain, it got proper dark and the road got infected with HGV’s. We found out later that a ferry must have landed which is where all these trucks were coming from. Imagine being in heavy rain on a badly lit and not particularly wide road with impaired visibility because your wipers can’t clear the rain quick enough and out of nowhere, a behemoth truck lit up like a christmas tree comes hurtling toward you at 50 miles an hour, then another one and so on for an hour straight, welcome to the A75!
We left the A75 at Crocketford and picked up the quieter but consdierably more darker A712 in order to escape the murderous lorries, this made the journey considerably longer but it was worth it, the rain and wind kept up for the entire journey, we both agreed that when we headed to Loch Lomond we’d drive during the day!
I’d called ahead earlier to say we would be late and when we eventually arrived as promised, there was a map on the door showing which pitches were free, we parked up, deployed the curtains and hook up then hit the hay for the night.
Glentrool Expedition Base Camp (formerly the Glentrool Holiday Park) is set in Galloway forest a short distance from the Glentrool visitors center and is run by two very nice ladies who unfortunately we only saw the once and didn’t get their names. It’s not that they were never about, more that we weren’t, hopefully we will see them again as we were both really impressed with the site.
Everything at Glentrool looks brand new, the shower and toilet block, laundry room, the bothy, washing up area even the gravel on the drive all look brand new. As you come on to the site past the office to the right are fstatic caravans, to the left the towed caravans and motorhome / campervan area with electric hook ups and just beyond that a grass area for the crazy fools that turn up in a tent, a couple did while we were there and I was most suprised to see their tent still there in the morning based on the usual night time gales.
Overnight I turned 40, for my birthday we were exactly where I wanted us to be, together, in our van, nowhere near London with an off road cycling adventure ahead.
Lauren made me a champion birthday breakfast, smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and toast with a mug of tea, she also bought me the G-Force t-shirt I wanted, perfect!
Shortly before we headed off to the forest on the bikes it rained, snowed and hailed with a bit of sunshine oddly within the space of an hour, I did get a video but as this is a free account i’m unable to upload it, the weather round these parts is proper mad!
We set off on the bikes to the visitor center which is about 1km away from the campsite, there is a nice information center / tea room that also has wifi, for some reason my phone wouldn’t pick up the campsite wifi and had zero carrier signal (Vodafone is the only carrier that works round these parts), much to my delight birthday greetings via iMessage came through over a quick tea.
In the forest there are 2 of the 7stanes world renowned mountain bike trails and the impression I got was that they are similar to Bedgebury forest, technical trails through pine forests, things are a little different when you get there, said pine forests are no more…
You can see from this picture the trail in the distance going through what would have been I believe a pine and larch forest, it’s pretty much the same whichever way you look.
This was at the start of one of 7Stanes trails, I was quite gutted to be honest as this isn’t what I had in mind for my birthday. What I thought were pine trees were actually larch trees which have been felled as they are suffering from Phytophthora ramorum, you can read all about the issue halfway down this page.
I was adament we would do the trails anyway and what followed was a discussion as to the merits of doing a trail that went up just for the sake of going down in possibly not the pine (or larch) forest we imagined and then driving to Bruces stone after (as we both wanted to see it)or scrapping those trails and riding to Bruces stone, we opted for the latter and set off.
As you can see from the strava page above, we went a bit of an arse about face route but managed to cover eight and bit miles, the way we rode up to Bruces stone was via the loch trool trail. To protect the now exposed pathways they were covered in a kind of shale which made riding on them not as pleasant as perhaps it could have been if all the trees were there and the shale wasn’t, you can see what I mean about the trail in the picture below.
Within a short space of time we again got hit by snow, rail and hail with a teasing of blue sky that never really materialised, it wasn’t cold however.The trail crosses over onto a road and alongside the road is a nice little waterfall, we stopped for a crunchie and a drink and I grabbed a quick shot of Lolly on the iphone.
Not long after the waterfall we arrived at Bruces stone and as promised by the nice ladies at Glentrool base camp, the views were lovely. I got a bit distracted however as i’ve wanted to try and take some monochrome pictures and Bruces stone lends itself to that type of photography so I didn’t get a great shot of the view, just a shot of Bruces stone!
The return journey was via the road as the shale paths were a pain, as it turned out the journey back by road was really quite nice, not too many ups and no rain! When we arrived back at the visitors center Lauren said she wouldn’t mind if I wanted to go and do the trails on my own and could meet her back at the van, it was a nice thought but it’s no fun on your own so we rode back to the van, got changed and headed out for my birthday meal.
We were going to bake a cake on our Cobb BBQ after going out on the bikes but the weather was fine one minute and crazy the next so we decided we’d make it the following day and just go get some food and booze!
A five minute walk from the camp site is the only inn within Galloway forest which is well handy if you stay where we did! The House O’ Hill hotel has recently been refurbished to a very high standard, free wifi, a great selection of alcohol and has a fantastic menu. It wasn’t massively busy but i’m sure in the summer months this place is heaving! I had the Haggis Pasty to start and then the Hoose burger for my main, Lolly had Sticky Fig & Blengdale Blue Tart followed by catch of the day which was turbot, all arrived quickly, well presented and tasted amazing, if we come up this way we’ll be eating here again. If you are heading up to the hotel of an evening take a torch with you so you can be seen, there is no pavement, no street lights and the occasional van / lorry passing!
After the traumatic journey to Glentrool we had earlier agreed we’d head to Loch Lomond during the day so we got up, showered and headed out, we were sad to leave Glentrool as there is so much to do and we hadn’t even done a hundredth of it, I was sad too that we didn’t get to say goodbye to the owners as they were really nice, I hope they got the map they lent us, I left it in the box on the door if you’re reading!
We stopped off at the visitor center quickly as I wanted to get a few pics of the forest devastation and one of the van in the car park !
We opted to give the A75 a miss again and took the A77 which is a much more scenic route, this hooks up with the M77, up to Glasgow and then on to Loch Lomond, halfway along the road I stopped for a quick picture, all that black stuff you can see was either pine or larch, such a shame..
The drive to Loch Lomond was fairly uneventful other than going through the middle of Glasgow, it’s not hte most picturesque of places and the traffic was horrendous, we’d be doing our best to avoid that on the way home!