Looking across to the snow capped alpine mountains seen from the back seat of a motorcycle

Home Travel StoriesExploring The Galloway Coast

Around Dalbeattie

Ride Date 11 September 2023

By Ren Withnell

It was a wee bit wet and wild last night, as I stagger out of bed I pull the kitchen curtain back and check the bikes are still there and upright. They are so I put the kettle on while I try to get my brain into gear. I need to figure out what we're doing today. The televisualy thingy informs me the weather will be "mixed" which is standard for the UK, and not too cold which is good for Scotland. The gogglebox reassures me that the world is ending, everyone in power is evil, politicians can't give a straight answer and Mavis from Bristol has knitted a collection hats for letterboxes. I look at the maps. 

A map around Kippford with a very simple line around the route Ren hopes to travel
My route appears to be a pair of glasses. 

Now that I have a cunning and devious plan in mind, it's time to execute it. Sharon is remarkably awake, breakfast is being consumed and motorcycle clothing is being donned. My bike gets a splash of oil on the chain and the tyres are checked. We're ready to rumble, the skies are a hazy shade of cloudy, the sat nav is doing complex calculations and we're off. Sharon's on the back of my bike again as is now her habit.

3.6 miles later we're at our first stop. That's 3.6 road miles, we're probably a quarter mile from the end of the path we walked last night. Rockcliffe beach is stony and pebbly and rocky, the sea is millpond flat and there's a couple of hardy paddleboarders and a few strollers too. There's an ice cream van here? Either he's a serious optimist or maybe it gets a little busier later. 

A craggy rocky and pebble strewn beach, a couple of walkers and a paddle boarder
Hardy souls at Rockcliffe Beach. 

The A710 is fast and flowing, the landscape starts out undulating with gentle hills and easy corners then flattens out to arable farmland although the hills can always be seen inland. We turn off to Southerness and now it's really flat, this could be The Netherlands save for the omni-visible hills. There's the gentle hills behind us, inland, then across the bay in the hazy distance lies The Lake District's mountains. 

Green fields with darker hills rising in the mist across the scene
The hills are always close by,

Ah, right. I see. Southerness is not a once was fishing village now cute coastal village complete with community tea room and an old phone box as a library. It's a holiday park. There's the bar come entertainment centre, countless rows of static caravans and the shop for your ice cream and bread. Oh, there's the arcade too. Oh dear.

You see - Sharon is not liking this. Sharon will openly admit she's a bit of a snob at times, a bit posh. This cheesy commercial low brow commoner's holiday tat is not for her. Me? Well, errr, no, and yes, maybe - but - I have happy memories over the years from various holidays in various places just like this. I can't stand kids but I like the convenience of these places. We don't stop, I'm instructed to carry on.

We somehow pick up the B793 towards Dalbeattie. We're now in the hills we've been seeing for some time. These aren't big hills, they're soft and easy, the land is farmland although hardier than the flatlands. The road is quiet with some open corners and we're blatting along quite swiftly. We take a brief stop at Dalbeattie's Co-op for supplies. Dalbeattie does indeed look just fine in the regular weather, nothing special but not as dour as it looked last night.

Taking the B727 we head to Kirkcudbright. The hills are a little hillier, the road a little more twisty and I'm gleefully swooping around the bends with aplomb. At the risk of repeating oneself - no this ain't The Alps or The Picos or The Highlands but it's still good riding in engaging environs. There's space to breath, little traffic to consider and it's not raining. There's better out there, there's always better out there, this is still really good right here right now. This road is a tad rough here and there, the odd wet patch. This is CB500X country.

Kirkcudbright again. Why? What is it about this place? It's not like Ullapool that took my breath away when I first saw it, nestled down by the loch, both lonely and homely. It's not like there's a great bike shop here or a super tasty cafe (that we know of yet). The architecture isn't ancient or impressive or beautiful. It's a town, a small semi rural Scottish town with a simple harbour and a few shops. It's nice enough but I wouldn't place it on a list of "must sees".

A stout harbour wall, a handful of boats, a river estuary and a bridge in Kirkcudbright
The harbour isn't busy today.
A green area with trees and paths, with the shops and houses beyond
A little space to relax.

And yet I like it here. It's nice enough, I feel safe enough, it's pretty enough, it's big enough to be interesting and have mod-cons like shops and cafes. It's also small enough to not feel overwhelming like most other towns and cities I've grown to dislike over the years. Or, possibly, it's because I'm on holiday and I haven't had to live and work and go shopping and trudge through endless winter rain here for years and years.
We walk to the harbour, it's presently very quiet. We walk around the main street and peer into a few shop windows. We search for tea. Kirkcudbright galleries has a cafe, and very smart it is too, it's also very busy which seems odd on a regular Monday. We Blunder into The Belfry Cafe who fix us up just right with a brew and  scone for Sharon. 

While perusing the maps in the cafe I spy a campsite on the edge of town. Regular readers know I've been looking for a campsite on the edge of a small town and it would be a shame not to check this one out. Silver Craigs Campsite overlooks the town, offers the basics you'd expect from a campsite and no more save for a wooden shack that's the camper's kitchen, and a young chap as welcoming and enthusiastic as you could hope to meet. I plan to return and camp here when the chance arrives.

Back out on the road and it just gets worse. The sun is desperately trying to break through the clouds. The roads are almost completely dry. The A711 is fast and flowing. The surface precludes supersport bike speeds thus suiting the 500 just fine. Dagnammit I'm at risk of enjoying myself here.

Luckily I spot a sign to a lonesome looking clump of houses and turn off to see what's there. Palnackie is tiny. Palnackie feels forgotten. Palnakie could be a little scary on a dark night with a vivid imagination. The harbour is presently dry, narrow and filled with rusting hulks, and the odd apparition of a tall ship? Really? If I saw the jolly roger hoisted I'd barely be surprised. 

Rusting smaller trawlers on the presently tide out narrow harbour
Lick of paint they'll be as right as rain.
Behind the rusty trawlers, wire fencing, and run down wall we see the masts of a sailing ship
I've found Blackbeard's secret port.

Logic dictates the locals are regular folks living regular lives, I'm sure they're perfectly friendly. However the hard stare from the ripped jacket, boots over the pants and weather worn face man with hands like shovels prevents me considering wandering around what is most likely a workshop, or a scrapyard, or a place where the Glaswegian Mafia dispose of dealers skimming off the top. I'm probably safer here than I am in my home town, my imagination is getting the better of me.

A Jolly Roger flag atop a pole beside a scruffy workshop
No, no, there really is a Jolly Roger flying proud here in Palnakie.

It's still a tad early to head back so I follow the road south again, hugging the coast as best I can. Balcary Bay Country Hotel is, I later learn, quite posh. It's also at the end of a single track that's off an already quiet and remote road. Once again my imagination is in overdrive as I'm seeing a Hammer Horror mansion complete with vampires and Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor. We make a U-turn and head back to the static.

Contrary to my overly gothic imagination I've enjoyed our ride today. I have come to an executive conclusion about this area and that is - I approve. I particularly approve of Kirkcudbright (kerr-coo-bree) if for no other reason than the difference between how the name is spelt versus how it is spoken (think Cholmondeley).

Kirkcudbright and the surrounding areas will not leave you speechless or struggling to find wise ass superlatives. I'm sure you could all suggest prettier towns, more impressive hills and mountains, bluer oceans and gnarlier roads. No, it's not that. I just feel right being here? Of course I'm on holiday so this is not a fair assessment. There's good riding to be ridden, there's remote places that aren't that remote and I feel there's still a lot more hidden beaches and scary hotels to explore. All this and it's only 166 miles from home!

Bedtime in the squishy convenient static caravan. Night folks.

Share your overly imaginative ramblings - click here.

Prologue - Galloway Coast 2023 The wheres and whys are explained in Ren's usual "looking for excuses" style. There's method to his madness, if only he could explain.
Traffic, Improving Scenery And Drink Problems And they're off! There's traffic and improving scenery, Ren dares to spend a few pence and there's some drunkenness.
Exploring The Machars Peninsula The Machars Peninsula on the Galloway coast receives a good dose of looking at today. What the area lacks in superlatives it more than makes up for in charm. 
A Long Way To Not Far There's a big job breaking out today and Ren is worried if they're up to the task. They have 4 hours to cover 35 miles, OH NO! Fear not, even Ren can get this wrong too.
Around Dalbeattie It's time to explore the area around Dalbeattie, to see what's what. It's all going rather well until Ren's vivid imagination runs away with him.
Home And Thoughts On The Galloway Coast Home time once again and Ren's mulling over the whole experience. Was it worth the effort and should a return trip be planned?

Reader's Comments

ROD¹ said :-
Just looked at Silver Craig's Campsite, looks good with reasonable prices, and open all year!
22/11/2023 17:37:38 UTC
ROD¹ said :-

22/11/2023 17:39:10 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Quite so ROD - I have plans to return to Silver Craigs. For myself it's a fair run of 166 miles, further for you I believe but with your titanium ass that'll be barely a short hop. The town is but 5 minutes walk away which means going for a bite to eat etc is easy enough. On the downside if there's any shenanigans in town then those shenanigans are right on your doorstep.
23/11/2023 07:54:04 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
I've stayed at Silver Craig's several times, though it was about 35 years ago the last time. It is, or was, just about my perfect type of campsite because it's quiet enough, but only a 5 minutes walk from all the conveniences of the town. Perfect.

I was in Kirkcudbright last year and I'm happy to report that it hasn't changed much in the last 35 years, so I doubt if the campsite has either!
23/11/2023 19:31:13 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
35 years since! I imagine they've probably cut the grass and cleaned the loos since then CrazyFrog, otherwise it's probably the same. What were you doing in Kerr-coo-bree?
27/11/2023 19:45:09 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
We were stopping at a nice little B&B down the road at Bridge of Dee Ren. It was my 1st visit to south west Scotland for ages, and I was very heartened to find that apart from a few more caravan sites, it hasn't changed much at all.
27/11/2023 20:07:07 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I looked up Bridge of Dee and ended up at Aberdeen. Nah, that can't be right - I see, there's a tiny "area" south west of Castle Douglas.

Apparently I went along both the Galloway and Ayrshire coast some 50-odd years ago but I recall nothing of it. I don't know why my mother thinks I should remember holidays we took when all I was likely to see was the side of my cot.
28/11/2023 08:13:01 UTC

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