Route 73 (South), which will link from Route 7 in Newton Stewart to the ferry ports of Stranraer and Cairnryan, has been under development by Dumfries and Galloway Council for some years.
It’s hoped to complete the route as part of the Dunragit bypass works scheduled by Transport Scotland for 2011. In the meantime, the first part of the route out of Newton Stewart is complete and makes a lovely day ride.
Starting in the small town of Newton Stewart, a good navigation landmark is the Bridge of Cree, the road bridge over the river that links Minnigaff to Newtown Stewart. Route 73 is not signed yet, but if you are on Route 7, look out for the signs for the Riverside Path which heads south from the east side of the road bridge (Route 7 heads north on the road opposite).
Follow the route along a back lane and cycle track and cross the footbridge over the river to come out near a supermarket. Alternatively, from the west side of the Bridge of Cree, turn left and follow the main street for less than 100 metres and take the first left down Riverside Road. This leads you onto cycle track and alongside the river to the footbridge.
From here follow the Riverside Path sign onto a cycling and walking path on the west side of the river, which passes under the A75 and then skirts round fields. There is one short and steep section (14% gradient) up to where the path begins to run alongside the A74 for 1 mile (1.6km) to Lamanchan View.
Here, turn left onto a minor road heading towards the shimmering estuary of the River Cree which is visible through the trees. After 2¼ miles (3.6km) on this quiet, fairly flat road, you come to the entrance to the Moss of Cree.
A short distance off the road you can view the open heather-covered expanse and read about the history of this estuarine raised bog which was planned with conifers in the 1960s and 70s, but is now being restored.
A further 3½ miles (5.6km) and very close to Wigtown is the site of the Martyr’s Stake, where Covenanters were executed by drowning in 1684. (The Covenanters refused to accept that the king was the head of the church and the penalty was death.)
It’s a short climb up to the small town of Wigtown, which is Scotland’s National Book Town. There are many second-hand bookshops to keep bookworms happy for several hours. The honey-coloured Town Hall at the east end of the town square houses a museum and a wildlife centre where you can see live webcam coverage of local ospreys nesting in the early summer. Or head down Harbour Road to the old Wigtown Harbour where there are bird hides looking over the mud flats of the estuary. A further 2¼ miles (1.8km) out west from the town on the B733 and the B7005 takes you to the Bladnoch Distillery where there’s a Visitor Centre and guided tours.
You can either return to Newtown Stewart on the same route or devise a circular route on minor roads. If you need more information there is an Information Centre at Newton Stewart - Dashwood Square, Newton Stewart DG8 6EQ.
We have taken all responsible steps to ensure that these routes are safe and achievable by people with a reasonable level of fitness. However, all outdoor activities involve a degree of risk. To the extent permitted by law, Sustrans accepts no responsibility for any accidents or injury resulting from following these routes. Walking and cycling routes change over time. Weather conditions may also affect path surfaces. Please use your own judgement when using the routes based upon the weather and the ability, experience and confidence levels of those in your group.