Neilston Stewarton & Dunlop
- Distance: 32.5km/20.25 miles
- Time: 3 hours
- Grade: Challenging
- Ordnance Survey Explorer OL342; Landranger 64
- Start at The Bank GR NS478572
The hilly, quiet, rural scenery of East Renfrewshire and East Ayrshire offer a demanding yet hugely satisfying ride. There are many steep hills on this route, especially when leaving Neilston, but the height gained bestows several outstanding panoramas. The outward-bound cycle visits the villages of Stewarton and Dunlop, where a number of pubs and cafés make for an ideal pit stop. The return journey is equally appealing and passes through Uplawmoor.
From The Bank follow Station Road to High Street, turn right and make your way out of Neilston. Over the course of the next 1.8 miles there are 4 tough climbs to undertake, all of which get the heart pumping. However, if a breather is required, there is a fine view across Neilston.
After the 4th climb make a left onto a narrow side road for Harelaw Dam. Following a gradual incline the road swings right and then climbs steeply. A short, steady drop passes Harelaw Dam before another steep pull (with a tight right turn so get gears ready in advance) reaches a stunning, expansive vista; Harelaw Dam and Neilston Pad draw the eye to Glasgow’s urban sprawl with Ben Lomond and the Arrochar Alps forming an impressive mountain backdrop.
From here the cycling becomes a little easier with the quiet, country road undulating southwest alongside fields and moorland, granting a really fine ride (although watch out for traffic).
Beyond Over Carswell Farm, East Renfrewshire is left behind and the route now heads through East Ayrshire. As progress is made the road passes several cottages and farmhouses at Gabroc Hill and Fulwood. However it is the remarkable view of Arran’s serrated outline, rising from the Firth of Clyde, thatreally dominates – on a clear day the pointed peaks of Goat Fell, Caisteal Abhail and Beinn Tarsuinn are clearly visible.
A speedy descent finally drops down to the Dunlop/Neilston road and here make a left. Pleasant cycling persists for just over 2 miles, along a slightly busier stretch of road, to reach the A735.
Make a left and cycle for a further 1.5 miles into Stewarton.
The village is known as the Bonnet Toun, due to the textile industry that most famously produced the traditional Scottish headwear for over four centuries. Perhaps Stewarton’s most famous son was David Dale, who built the cotton mills at New Lanark and, with his son-in-law, Robert Owen, helped establish the cooperative and socialist movements of the early 19th centuries.
Retrace tracks along the A735, passing the outward-bound route and then drop down under a railway bridge into the village of Dunlop.
The name Dunlop translates from Scots/Gaelic as ‘Fort of the Bend’. This relates to the stronghold that used to stand near the banks of the Glazert Burn, a strategic point that led to much dispute during the 6th century between the Picts, Britons, Gaels, and the Angles. Agriculture, particularly dairy farming, has been the mainstay of the local economy for the past couple of hundred years, and Dunlop cheese is enduringly popular.
At a crossroads keep straight on onto Newmill Road where a bridge takes you over Dunlop Railway Station. After 0.25 miles, as the road sweeps right, keep straight on and follow a narrow road as it climbs steadily away from the village, the height gained offering lovely views across Ayrshire and Renfrewshire.
The incline eases and soon reaches a junction. Turn right then left (both roads signposted ‘Uplawmoor 3 miles’) from where the landscape and cycling roll along nicely – one prolonged, steady ascent grants a fine view of the Southern Highlands.
In a while the road begins to descend, allowing the pedals to spin freely. Once the road sweeps left past Linnhead Farm it descends to a t-junction. Keep right and drop back down into East Renfrewshire, where Tannoch Road leads into the village of Uplawmoor.
Uplawmoor was, for many centuries, part of the Barony of Caldwell. During the 19th century Uplawmoor was home to the workers of the Caldwell Estate, including handloom weavers and cobblers.
At a junction go right onto Neilston Road and cycle out of Uplawmoor. A final 3 miles of attractive scenery leads back into Neilston where Main Street is followed back to The Bank.