- Distance: 9.5km/6 miles
- Time: 1.5 hours
- Grade: Easy/Moderate
- Ordnance Survey Explorer OL342; Landranger 64
- Start at The Bank GR NS478572
This predominantly off-road route follows broad, rough tracks around Neilston Pad. Although there are a couple of steepish ascents this superb cycle is ideal for families; there are some great spots for a break where wonderful scenery and wildlife can be enjoyed. A few gates on this route may, at times, be locked. This may mean having to lift bikes over the gates. One short section of track crosses a field where livestock may be grazing. At all times follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
From The Bank cross Main Street onto Station Road. At its end turn right onto High Street from where a gradual rise leads away from the village centre. After 0.5 miles turn left onto a rough track and make your way through tranquil scenery and the fine countryside surrounding Neilston.
In due course the track curves right past Craig o’ Neilston to a gate. Once through continue to climb steadily past a pocket of woodland, at which point the track splits and here keep left (the track on the right is the return route).
The steady climb continues across a field (watch for livestock) and if you need an excuse for a breather then there is a superb view across Neilston to Fereneze Braes and beyond to the Campsie Fells.
At the top of the rise the track veers right and drops gently downhill with the wooded slopes of Neilston Pad ahead. Beyond a gate continue to descend through 2 more gatesfrom where the cycle passes near to Snypes Dam – the likes of lapwing, buzzard, raven and grey heron may well be seen.
Archaeological digs near to the dam have found the remains of medieval pottery, substantiating evidence that humans have utilised this landscape for hundreds, if not thousands of years.
With Neilston Pad rising to the right fantastic off-road cycling continues. A steady ascent leads to a short, steep rise (get your gears ready in advance) and then a gradual climb along a fine forest ride. In a while the route reaches a track on the right.
Just before this is a waymarked path on the right, allowing you to walk to the top of Neilston Pad. It is a simple ascent and from the summit an exceptional view awaits, one that takes in Tinto Hill’s long whaleback ridge, the jagged peaks of Arran and the big, brutish mountains of the Southern Highlands.
To continue the cycle take the track on the right and after a gradual rise it then decends with much of the hard work done for the day. A wonderful descent, alongside scattered woodland, zips along nicely, sweeping right and drops down to Craighall Dam.
The track turns left at the head of the dam, a wonderful spot for a break; keep an eye out for great crested grebe and moorhen.
Once away from the dam the route continues its easy progress. Flanked by conifer trees the track passes through 3 more gates to eventually regain the outward bound route near Craig o’ Neilston. Turn left and retrace tracks back to The Bank.