Monday 18th June – Day Seven

Today started well with everyone up and looking forward to a ‘flat day’. Weather was cool but fairly bright with a stiff breeze.

Will all headed off to cross the border into Scotland. A lovely lady I met told me it’s traditional to sing Bonny Banks of Loch Lomond as you cross, turns out none of us know more than two lines….

Will Notcutt turned out to wish us well and spent his morning leapfrogging us and providing moral support – I am so lucky to have such lovely friends!

Gretna is one of the most popular wedding destinations in the world, who knew it gives Las Vegas a run for its money?

The blacksmiths were able to perform marriage ceremonies under Scottish law and as such became ‘Anvil Priests’.  Richard Rennison apparently performed 5,147 ceremonies.  The Old Blacksmith’s shop built in 1712 has been a visitor attraction since 1887.

We toasted entering Scotland with a wee dram…9am was not early but we are warriors!

Douglas Adams defined Gretna Green as:

“A shade of green which makes you wish you’d painted whatever it was a different colour.”

we pushed on and came across a rather worrying sign!

Apparently it was the site of a nine mile munitions factory in WWI that got its name from the highly explosive mixture that the young girls used to mix up to make cordite for shells.

We rolled on and passed several sign for Dumfries.

Dumfries is known as The Queen of the South! People from Dumfries are known as

“Doonhamers”

Apparently in 2017 Dumfries was named the happiest place in Scotland. Dumfries is a Roman town – probably of some note as apparently digging anywhere turns up Roman artifacts, a problem for any local developer in my experience as this immediately stops the job and a load of work-shy history loving hippies move in for nine months to excavate the site with a teaspoon and toothbrush (actually I would defend to the death the archeologists but it has no comic potential publicly admitting this!)

In Chester I heard that a local construction company employs a special foreman to evaluate any potential roman remains unearthed…he apparently turns up, takes one look, pronounces it not Roman and immediately horses onto the area two tonnes of ready mix concrete!

King Arthur is reputed to have fought a battle here (local historians claim this, ie they made it up!)

In 1659 ten women were accused of diverse acts of witchcraft by Dumfries Kirk Session. The Justiciary Court found them guilty of the several articles of witchcraft and on 13 April between 2 pm and 4 pm they were taken to the Whitesands, strangled at stakes and their bodies burnt to ashes…witch hunting seems popular in the North of England (Lancaster hosted the Pendle witch trials, see note in yesterday’s blog).

Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed in Dumfries for three days, one of the hotels has a Bonnie Prince Charlie room with tartan carpets. Charlie demanded £2000 and 1000 pairs of brogues when he stayed here, rather puts you off hosting royalty really.

A rumour that the Duke of Cumberland was on his way made the young pretender leg it to safer places taking only £1000 and 255 pairs of shoes for his kilted Jacobite rebel army…

John Laurie came from Dumfries- he was Private Fraser in Dads Army

“We’re Doomed!”

The cartoonist who drew Fred Bassett is from Dumfries, other notable people include Bill Drummond of the KLF.

I have lots of other useful factoids about Dumfries but unfortunately our route was A76 for the whole day and it avoided Dumfries altogether! Shocker! Imagine having all that good useful information about a place and then not riding through it!

The A76 is a horrid road, it’s a triple threat – poor surface, lots of lorries and other traffic and the worst kind of agricultural smells along its whole length. We had a miserable ride, I kept asking myself that surely there was a quieter, less smelly and better surfaced route available. It was Warrington to Preston all over again.

We saw a jolly roadside tableau and, after propping our bikes in there, had a realistic representation of us! We are obviously well thin now…

To cap it all we were huffing into a headwind all day! James and I pushed on through to Sanquhar with the minimum of fuss – we were feeling strong!

On the way we had a jolly rest stop with the others and saw Will again….

Sanquhar claims to have the oldest working post office in the world. It was established in 1712. Sadly we didn’t see it! No idea where it was…maybe it’s shut?

We had to stop to let James express his allegiance to the Covenanters…

The Covenanters signed their renunciation of their allegiance to the King in Sanquhar – they opposed the Episcopaliastion of the Church (something to do with it being governed by the Bishops – I think!) which is memorialised in the high street.

I think he thought episcopaliastion was something to do with fishing rights, still he looked happy…

The toll booth in the centre of town is the only surviving one of its type. It was designed by William Adam, a noted Scottish architect.

My rear wheel had been making very worrying noises for the last 24 hours…Uncle Phil, the tour leader, had looked at it and advised me to get it checked on a jig at a bike shop.

I looked up bike shops in Kilmarnock and phoned them to see if a mechanic was available, one was so the horror began. Any interest in photography ended at this moment.

We worked out that if we took 30 mins, no more, no less, we could make it to the bike shop for the mechanic to review and carry out any work necessary before they shut.

The wind had picked up, we rode and rode – after I had pedalled for an hour I was done! The wind was in our face the whole way and I was fading badly. I had led James most days up til now but seriously without home looking after me I would have been found a week from now rocking under a hedge!

James nursed me to Kilmarnock then led me to the bike shop where a lovely mechanic popped my rear wheel onto a jig and did the best he could with it. Unfortunately I think it needs a rebuild, that said, after he had worked his magic, he informed me that it would likely last the remaining distance!

He then refused to charge me! What a guy!

For the record the bike shop is Sprockets in Kilmarnock and their website can be found here… lovely people and a tasty showroom full of nice bicycles – great service guys many thanks!

We rocked on to the hotel, I would have liked to see more of Kilmarnock but I was finished!

Kilmarnock is mostly known as the home of Johnnie Walker Whisky, Johnnie Walker was a Grocer in Ayreshire (presumably before he started presenting Sounds of the Seventies on Radio 2) and started selling his own brand of blended whisky. The bottling plant was moved by its new owners Diageo in 2012 amid howls of protest.

There is a famous museum in the Town called The Dick Institute. That’s all I’m saying about that (*snigger*). The building is listed but sadly our route does not take us past it…

Kilmarnock was immortalised by two of the most important poets in Scotland (The Proclaimers) they titled a song “The Joyful Kilmarnock Blues”, (no I’ve not heard it).

The Sweet, a ’70s Glam Rock Band, were bottled off stage in 1973 in Kilmarnock.  This inspired their song The Ballroom Blitz.

Once ensconced at the hotel I had a hot bath and slowly started to feel better. The phone rang and Derek Hamilton, a highly esteemed and jolly decent Ex-colleague had arrived! Was great to see the man again. What a guy!

The dinner was a bit subdued – others had had accidents and also had witnessed a road accident on route…

Speed rebel won the Outil D’Or, he had ridden into a pigeon which had rather horrifically bounced into Roly’s wheel….right in front of a bus stop full of school children. He’s starting work with the RSPB when he gets back…

James won the spectacles of awesomeness for looking after me…what a guy!



Enjoying the blog?  Please take time out and sponsor us!  Maurice and I are riding in support of Fresh Start – new beginnings, a treatment service for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.  My just giving page can be found here and all donations go straight to the charity (my ride is 100% self funded).

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