A long mountain bike route in Galloway Forest Park, between Barr in Ayrshire and Loch Doon.
The routes are at high level much of the way so they have good views.
We start from the village of Barr in Ayrshire, and reach Dumfries and Galloway at Loch Doon. The hills tend to be steeper and longer at the east (Barr) end of the route. There is a good pub at Barr and a tea room. There is also a hotel serving meals at Straiton.
The Banks and Braes o' Bonny Doon are still as lovely as when Robert Burns sang of them, though no doubt now they are a little changed. While the route finishes at Loch Doon, the nearest river most of the time is in fact the River Stinchar.
There are four different circular possibilities, most of which use public roads to link up circular routes. These could be linked in a number of ways. The part between Loch Doon and Loch Braden is linear only.
The forest roads are signed as bike routes by the Forestry Commission and you need to pay attention to the signs to find your way. The public roads are not specifically signed as bike routes but the normal road signs should be adequate.
The nearest town to Barr is Girvan, 17 miles south of Ayr. Loch Doon can be reached via Dalmellington.
Carrick Forest falls into three sections - the route is linear but could be made circular using public roads.
Barr to Balloch Burn
(6 miles one way, 10 miles circular)
In Barr bike east away from the river, the forest entry is a left turn after half a mile. The first two miles are a steady climb to the top of the hill. After this there is a very steep descent crossing Balloch Burn at the bottom. Following the burn there is a sharp left bend to turn north.
After biking north for half a mile return to Barr on the public road by the River Stinchar. Turn left then left again, crossing the Balloch Burn, keep on the south bank of the River Stinchar.
Balloch Burn to Loch Bradan
(8 miles one way, 16 miles circular)
The route follows the contour along the edge of the hill giving good views, the river far below. After passing Black Hill it crosses the quiet Straiton-Glen Trool road, just west of Loch Bradan.
You have the option of making a 16 mile circular route using the public road. Turn south for five miles, turning north again to the Nick o' the Balloch road near a picnic site. This option involves a big climb in either direction.
Loch Braden Circular (6 miles by the shore)
The shore route round Loch Braden is quite easy and might be a good option for children. The 7 mile loop to the north, going round the hill Craig Dhu is very hilly.
Loch Braden is very much a fishing loch and was re-stocked with fish in 1973 in one of the Forestry Commission's early trout rearing experiments.
Loch Bradan to Loch Doon
(7 miles one way)
Going east to Loch Doon is mostly a gentle downhill. On the way you pass pretty Loch Riecawr which also has picnic tables. The route ends near Loch Doon Castle (14th Cent). This stood on an island, but was moved and re-erected on the shore when the water level was raised by the Galloway Water Power Company in 1933.
There is a bike hire shop just before the castle. It also doubles as a tea room and sells craft products.
The route between Loch Riecawr and Loch Doon is also a forest drive so there may be the occasional car.
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