The three stages of Raiders Gravel Galloway take riders 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. Final route maps will be published in due course.
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.
24 miles 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. 30 miles and a feed station after hard miles 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 4 miles 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
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 15 miles 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 20 mile point take to the highest point of the stage 1171ft.
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
A steep climb out of Gatehouse and soon you are up on open moorland with far horizons. 4 miles 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 14 miles for a short section on tarmac.
Left onto the Raiders Road for 10 miles 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 32 miles 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.