The sun sets over the beautiful roads of the south of Scotland,
The sun sets over the beautiful roads of the south of Scotland, which will feature in the Kirkpatrick C2C. Credit: Visit South West Scotland

A new long-distance cycling route, the Kirkpatrick C2C, is set to launch this summer, running 250 miles from Stranraer on the west coast of Scotland to Eyemouth on the east. The new route is named after Kirkpatrick Macmillan, the 19th-century blacksmith and pioneer from the area who invented the first pedal-driven velocipede. When the new route launches, it will be the longest official coast-to-coast cycle trail in the UK.

“Kirkpatrick Macmillan is an iconic cycling figure which we in the South are immensely proud of,” said Paula Ward of South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE). “It is fitting that his achievements are being acknowledged and our heritage celebrated with this new exciting tourism offering.”

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The launch of the trail will coincide with Scotland’s summer of cycling, with the country set to host all 13 UCI World Championships - from BMX freestyle to downhill mountain biking and road and track cycling - in a world first, which is being dubbed the biggest combined cycling event in history.

The finish point of the route, which ends in Eyemouth, on the east coast of Scotland. Photo: Visit Berwickshire Coast | Jason Baxter
The finish point of the route, which ends in Eyemouth, on the east coast of Scotland. Photo: Visit Berwickshire Coast | Jason Baxter

Dumfries, in the south, will welcome UCI road events in August, while Glentress Forest will play host to the cross-country mountain biking, with the region already world-renowned for the 7Stanes - seven world class mountain bike trail centres which are spread across the south of Scotland. Road cyclists rate the backroads highly too - expect rolling, quiet routes with leafy linings and big views.

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The exact route for the Kirkpatrick C2C is yet to be announced, but it promises to run through much of this stunning area, taking in the history-steeped landscape. It's likely to include the four famous ruined abbeys of the Scottish Borders, sites where Mary Queen of Scots stayed, and scenic stretches along the River Tweed, next to which the writer Sir Walter Scott lived and wrote.

Early estimates for the project say it could attract up to 175,000 new visitors - and a spend of £13.7 million per year. David Hope-Jones is the Chief Executive of the South of Scotland Destination Alliance. “Cycle tourism is a major growth area for the whole of Scotland’s visitor economy,” he said. “This 250-mile route will be another fantastic boost to visitor numbers right across the south. It's a fantastically exciting year for cycling fans from or visiting our region.”

Cyclists on a winding road in the south of Scotland. Credit: Paul Dodds
The south of Scotland has an intricate network of quiet roads which weave through rugged, lush scenery. Credit: Paul Dodds

The early stages will pass Galloway Forest Park, a Dark Sky Park which is exceptional for stargazing, and travel on rolling hills through quaint villages like Wigtown and Castle Douglas, not at all far from the coast.

Stranraer itself is a port town, reachable by bus or a couple of trains (or a two-hour drive) from Glasgow, while Eyemouth is just over an hour from Edinburgh on public transport, with the nearby Berwick upon Tweed being on the high-speed Edinburgh-London east coast line.

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Markus Stitz, founder of Bikepacking Scotland, is a big advocate for the south of Scotland. “It's one of the beautiful parts of the country," he said, "with endless opportunities for bike-based adventures. The south of Scotland inspired me to move from Germany to Scotland. I was attracted here by the huge variety of off-road tracks, quiet roads, unique scenery, amazing forests, clean air and dark skies; and as the south of Scotland is a natural destination for cyclists, it was here that I mapped my first bikepacking route, the Capital Trail.”

It’s recommended that the route be ridden over four to eight days, with the former being aimed at those wanting a challenge, and the eight giving plenty of time to take in the beauty and heritage of the south of Scotland, and the many excellent villages along the way. If you're planning ahead, our tip would be to combine the route with one of the many excellent events in the area - whether it's the Wigtown Book Festival or TweedLove, an annual festival of bikes.

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