Lochs and Glens South

Route Details

  • Start: Carlisle City Centre
  • Finish: Bell's Bridge, centre of Glasgow
  • Distance: 214 mile
  • Time needed: 5 - 7 days
  • Classification: Challenge
  • Traffic: Mixed
  • Access: Train stations at Carlisle, Dumfries, Ayr, Troon, Paisley, Glasgow and all intermediate stations.

A dedicated page lists any major route closures and diversions for the National Cycle Network in Scotland.  

Route Description

Starting at the Town Hall Square in the historic city of Carlisle, National Cycle Route 7 takes you out of the city in a north-westerly direction. You then follow minor roads to Longtown where the A7 bridge takes you over the River Esk, before returning to minor roads to Gretna Green. Continue west through Eastriggs and Annan to Dumfries. The ride is flat but sometimes uses fairly busy secondary roads although there are good views over the Solway Firth in places. Caerlaveroch Castle and National Nature Reserve are well worth a visit.

Traffic-free routes by the River Nith take you through Dumfries from where you head out on the track along the old railway line to Cargenbridge. From here it's an undulating ride along minor country roads to Castle Douglas and Kirkcudbright and then nearer the coast to Gatehouse of Fleet. After travelling north to Gatehouse Station those with sturdy bikes and provisions can take the off-road alternative to Glen Trool. Others return towards the coast at Creetown on minor roads and then on to Newton Stewart along a railway path.

After Newton Stewart, you enter the more remote country of the Galloway Forest Park. Minor roads lead to Glen Trool and then through Glen Trool Forest. Along this section you should carry a repair kit, food and drink as it's a long climb on a single-track road up to the Nick of the Balloch - watch out for timber lorries throughout this section. From here it's a rapid 1.5km descent to the River Stinchard and then another steep uphill stretch to Doughty Hill and The Pilot.

Once over the summit, it's an enjoyable run down country roads to Crosshill, which offers the first facilities for 21 miles. From Crosshill the route leads you through Maybole, after which there is another climb that rewards you with magnificent views of Arran and the Ayrshire Coast. The route is pretty flat along urban roads and cycle tracks through Ayr, Prestwick and Troon and almost completely traffic-free from Troon to Kilwinning. You may find the Ayrshire Coast Cycleway route description (a shorter part of this route) helpful.

After 6 miles along country roads to Kilbirnie, you join an excellent cycle track along an old railway line to Paisley. The route then passes through parks, along river banks, cycle tracks and quiet urban roads to Bell's Bridge on the Clyde in the heart of Glasgow.

Important note regarding Clatteringshaws Loch to Big Water of Fleet Viaduct harvesting

Forestry Commission Scotland harvesting may affect the section of route between Clatteringshaws Loch to Big Water of Fleet Viaduct. We have been asked to communicate that...

  • where possible, route users alert Forestry Commission workers to their presence
  • route users make sure the operators of big working machines have seen them
  • route users under no circumstances pass notices which read "Do not proceed beyond this point".
  • large groups contact the local Forestry Commission office in advance (01671 402420).

An unsigned alternative route (going south) exists. The following description includes references to Ordnance Survey mapping for those happy to use this. The route is via Raiders Road - which is an untarred forestry road starting just across the bridge from Route 7 (OS NX545753). After about six miles, at the signposted Barney Water turn (623717) go right on a forestry track to cross the Dee at Barney Water. Then, after about half a mile (612711) keep right just after a bridge and continue straight on which will take you generally south and then south westerly towards the Big Water of Fleet viaduct. The route goes through OS grid references 608700 and 591671 and towards the end of this track it runs fairly close to the old railway. When the track ends at a T-junction, turn right, away from the old railway line and, keeping left, follow this track back up towards the railway on the other side of the Little Water of Fleet Valley. After about two miles, at the next junction (561649) go right and down to Meikle Cullendoch (560652) where you rejoin Route 7. This is an attractive quiet run, shared with tourist traffic on the Raiders Road, although not many cars use this toll road (no toll for bikes) and there's a speed limit. New forestry roads can appear from time to time so a map and a compass is a good idea to prevent confusion.

Important note regarding ‘Regional Route 10’

Regional Route 10 has been signed by Dumfries and Galloway Council. This provides a useful link between National Cycle Network routes 7 and 74 and is shown on some of our maps. USERS MUST TAKE NOTE that the route involves a 12 mile forest track section which is rough and steep in places, where there are no facilities, and there hae been instances of people getting lost. Food, drink, clothing for bad weather and a bicycle repair kit are essential. If there is a gap in Route 10 signage it may be possible to follow the South of Scotland Countryside Trail posts.


Things to see and do

Natural attractions:

  • Solway Firth
  • River Cree estuary
  • Galloway Forest Park
  • Ayrshire Coast

Visitor attractions:

  • Carlisle Castle
  • Tullie House Museum and Arts Gallery
  • Old Blacksmiths Shop, Gretna Green
  • The Devil's Porridge Exhibition
  • Eastriggs Heritage Centre
  • Historic Resource Centre, Annan
  • Savings Bank, Ruthwell
  • Eastpark The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust
  • Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve
  • Caerlaverock Castle
  • Kirkpatrick Macmillan Bridge, Dumfries
  • Dumfries Museum
  • Old Bridge House Museum
  • Camera Obscura, Dumfries
  • Robert Burns Centre
  • Burns House
  • Castle Douglas Art Gallery
  • Galloway Wildlife Conservation Park
  • Castle Museum, Kirkcudbright
  • Broughton House, Kirkcudbright
  • Cream o' Galloway Visitor Centre
  • Mill on the Fleet Visitor Centre
  • Cardoness Castle
  • Big Water of Fleet Viaduct
  • Creetown Gem Rock Museum
  • Creetown Exhibition Centre
  • Dolls House Museum, Newton Stewart
  • Newton Stewart Museum
  • Wood of Cree RSPB Reserve
  • Glen Trool Visitor Centre
  • Bruce's Stone
  • Greenan Castle (ruin)
  • Tam O'Stanter Experience, Ayr
  • Burns National Heritage Park, Ayr
  • Shewalton Moss Nature Reserve (SWT)
  • Scottish Maritime Museum
  • Glasgow Vennel museum
  • Dalgarven Mill Visitor Centre
  • Lochwinnoch RSPB Nature Centre
  • Castle Semple Country Park
  • William Wallace Memorial
  • Paisley Abbey
  • Pollok House, Glasgow
  • Burrell Collection, Glasgow
  • National Science Centre, Glasgow
  • The Tall Ship, Glasgow

To make sure everyone gets the most out of their time by the water, please ensure that you follow the Towpath Code.

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Map shows the National Cycle Network and local routes in this area.


There are lochs and glens, plus miles of coasts and forests on this part of National Route 7 north of Carlisle.  It takes you along the beautiful Solway Coast, over the hills of the Galloway Forest , and to the beaches of Ayrshire, before heading into Glasgow.

214 miles