Whether you’re racing or riding, the three routes of Raiders Gravel Galloway take you on a thrilling adventure through the Galloway Forest Park, deep into the woods, past stunning lochs, up treacherous climbs and down exhilarating descents all amidst some of Scotland’s most stunning wilderness.
THE GRANNOCH: Stage 1 — Friday
Climbing on tarmac first to gain height out of Gatehouse before you make a right turn and head for the remoter parts of Galloway Forest. The early miles of the stage follows the abandoned railway line before you are back on fast riding logging roads. You drop down to the River Dee past the abandoned buildings of a farm at Barney Water and turn right onto Raiders Road to run along Stroan Loch before turning and starting a series of double track climbs.
Red Kites will almost certainly be overhead here as you take on some of the toughest and fastest miles of the festival. Climbing and then diving down at speed and riding the gears before the next ascent.
39km in and the longest downhill of the day takes you back to the Raiders Road and a sharp right to begin and the landscape opens to the mountains ahead. At 48km a feed station awaits after hard kilometres of climbing on the fast surface. Left and tarmac for a few seconds before another left lines you up for home and another climb. Less steep but long, you can push the pace here. You draw level with Loch Grannoch below to your right and it is full gas for 6km of descent.
Fork right to pick up the railway line and there are views across the glens to the coast. Back on tarmac and down to Gatehouse, but a sharp left just beyond Rusko Castle and over the Water of Fleet to ride into town.
Cairnsmore of Fleet National Nature Reserve
Big Water of Fleet Viaduct
THE CLATTERINGSHAWS: Stage 2 — SATURday
Riders leave Gatehouse and the coast, climbing up into the Galloway Forest Park, with the views of the mountains opening up in front. Cairnsmore of Fleet is ahead, and a turn to the right lines you up with the highest mountains in southern Scotland.
After 11.7km you hit the first timed section, pass under the Big Water of Fleet Viaduct and onto some of the finest gravel in the UK. Fast double track and a vast empty landscape are the flavours of today’s ride, and yes, some punishing climbing and arm pumping descents.
Loch Grannoch is the day’s first proper ascent, with stunning views to reward your effort before you drop down to the southern tip of Clatteringshaws Loch where the first timed section ends. Left, onto tarmac for a while, the clock starts again with 30km done and it’s a long drag uphill past Black Loch to the Munwhul climb, the day’s highest point.
If you’re not already breathing hard the views will take your breath away as you head deep into the wilderness then skirt Clatteringshaws Loch to finish that timed section with 48km done.
More tarmac follows until you turn onto Raiders Road and the clock starts again for the long ride home. For 2023 we switch sides and follow the northern bank of the Black Water of Dee for 10km when you cross the river and head for the climb of Knock Derry. These climbs are hard, but ahead are views of the sea, the Isle of Man, the coast of Ireland beyond, and you’re soon back in Gatehouse of Fleet.
THE SKERROW: Stage 3 — SUNday
We open with the tarmac climb you descended the day before, hitting gravel and the single timed section at the top the clock starting just across the cattle grid.
Long, sweeping descents and short, testing climbs await but if lose yourself in the huge views of dramatic Scottish countryside and you can briefly forget the uphill effort.
The descent of Shiel Rig is long and fast and you cross the rail trail at Loch Skerrow. This part of the route gets a mention in the classic book, The 39 Steps; “…we rumbled slowly into a land of little wooded glens and then to a great wide moorland place, gleaming with lochs, with high blue hills showing northwards.”
This year we skirt the western side of the Loch then hit Raiders Road with 21kms behind you. It’s a beautiful place, the Black Water of Dee bubbling and brooding on your left before you arrive at the day’s northernmost point at Clatteringshaws Loch, there are then two left turns to bring you back along the other side of the glen.
Up and down, you never settle here, eventually you turn south, before a sharp right hander sends you back on yourself, up hill for the long ascent to the day’s highest point at Loch Grannoch, 53km done. The descent is long, steep in places and technical making your shoulders will be aching after acting as shock absorbers as you drop to the Big Water of Fleet Viaduct where the clock stops and the the final descent into Gatehouse starts.
THE CLATTERINGSHAWS: Stage 2 — Saturday
Riders leave Gatehouse and the coast, climbing up towards the Galloway Forest Park, with the views to the mountains opening up in front. Cairnsmore of Fleet is ahead, and a turn to the right lines you up with the highest mountains in southern Scotland. Under the Big Water of Fleet Viaduct and onto some of the finest gravel in the UK. Fast double track and a vast empty landscape are the flavours of today’s ride, and yes some punishing climbing and arm pumping descents.
At just over 24km you are on tarmac for a short section before a right turn to regain the gravel. Scratch the surface here and there are flint tools and hand axes. An old trading and smuggling route that became the main road across Scotland to Edinburgh. Two back to back climbs beyond the 32km point take to the highest point of the stage 357m.
Descending skills and nerve are needed for the descent off Brockloch Hill to Clatteringshaws Loch. You ride around the head of the loch and back towards the Queens Way. Right turn and gravel as you ride parallel to the Black Water of Dee before you turn right, begin a short climb and start the return ride to Gatehouse. The final climbing is hard, but ahead is the sea with the Isle of Man and the coast of Ireland beyond.
Big Water of Fleet Viaduct
THE SKERROW: Stage 3 — Sunday
A steep climb out of Gatehouse and soon you are up on open moorland with far horizons. 6km in you turn left onto fast riding gravel, a few short climbs and then a long fast descent of Shiel Rig to pick up the rail trail at Loch Skerrow. This part of the route gets a mention in the classic book – The 39 Steps – ‘…we rumbled slowly into a land of little wooded glens and then to a great wide moorland place, gleaming with lochs, with high blue hills showing northwards.’ Over Stroan Viaduct with views back across the water and then to the village of Mossdale at 23km for a short section on tarmac.
Left onto the Raiders Road for 16km of perfect gravel biking along the Water of Dee before two left turns bring you back along the other side of the glen. A series of short climbs here will make legs burn up to 51km where a steep descent takes you onto the railway line again and the speed is kept high all along this section to Cullendoch. Under the Big Water of Fleet Viaduct and onto tarmac to gain height before the final descent into Gatehouse. It is one of the most beautiful stretches of road in Galloway, but likely to be lost in a blur of concentration and speed before you turn left onto Fleet Street and the finish line.