A linking section on the Stranraer to Dunbar long distance route.
Wanlockhead - the highest village in Scotland
At 469 metres Wanlockhead has a long history. The Romans took gold and lead from there and there are claims of Roman roads and the remains of a fort to be seen. Perhaps you can imagine the heather thatched dwellings housing the miners who extracted lead ore and the families who smelted it. The Museum of Lead Mining has a mine to explore and a tea room. There is also a shop, plus craft workers, and a community centre.
Leadhills was also a lead mining village. Allan Ramsay, born in Leadhills in 1685, became one of Scotland's most famous poets. It was through his influence that a library was formed in 1741, allowing lead miners and their families access to literature. This can still be visited today. Another notable son of Leadhills was William Symington, who was born there in 1763 and worked as a mechanic in the Wanlockhead mine. In 1787 he patented an engine for road locomotion and in 1788 he constructed for Patrick Miller a similar engine on a boat 25-feet long having twin hulls with paddlewheels between. This was launched on Dalswinton loch. In 1802 he completed at Grangemouth the Charlotte Dundas, one of the first practical steamboats ever built.
Biggar has an amazing number of museums for a small town, these reflect its interesting history.
For a fuller description of the museums The Moat Park Heritage Centre has geology displays, natural history and historical items. Gladstone Court Museum has wee shops and offices displaying small town life as the old remember it.
Greenhill Covenanters' Farmhouse is a Convenanting museum. Here one is transported back to the century of the signing of the National Covenant and the Civil War. The Albion Archive houses the archives of Albion Motors, a commercial vehicle manufacturing firm which was started here in1899. The company grew to be the largest truck manufacturer in the British Empire.
In 1973, when natural gas from the North Sea came to Biggar, the gas works closed down. However, unlike other gasworks it was not demolished. Instead, it has been preserved.
This linking route is included for those who are cycling the long distance Stranraer to Dunbar cycle route. I would not recommend cycling this unless it was necessary as it includes an unpleasant several miles on the busy A73/A702 between Abington Services and Symington. This is unfortunately unavoidable. Apart from the A73/A702 sections the route is attractive.
The first part of the route passes through the Lowther Hills. From Mennock you climb to Wanlockhead, Scotland's highest village, a 300 metre climb. Wanlockhead was a lead mining area, and there is a mining museum in the village (tea room). There is also an open air museum, with beam engines, a smelt mill, and period furnished cottages. Just beyond Wanlockhead is Leadhills, gold and lead were mined here from Roman times, and gold from this area is incorporated in the Crown of Scotland. There's a tea room and a pub in the village.
After Leadhills keep on the B797, going downhill at last, continue straight on ignoring the turn-off for Crawfordjohn then pass over the M74 motorway to Abington. Abington has a shop and tea room. Perhaps some refreshment would be a good idea before you tackle the A702/A73. While this section is busy the road is fairly straight and drivers will see you a long way off - if you are a group cycle together. The Symington turn-off is signed and the back roads will seem a relief. There is a hotel in Symington, on the A72. The A72 is quite wide here and the short distance on it should not be a problem.
Biggar is an attractive town with a good choice of pubs and tea rooms. It has the only surviving coal gas works in Scotland, a museum since natural gas arrived in 1973. The B7016 to Broughton is at the north end of Biggar, signed Puppet Theatre. Broughton was a home of John Buchan, author of 39 Steps. The Real Ale, Greenmantle is brewed locally in Broughton Brewery and is called after another of his novels. The John Buchan Centre tells an interesting story for he was a soldier, lawyer, politician, and Govenor-General of Canada.