Season of Mists…

Twelve Apostles
museum ride attendees
Seven of the 10 who made it out for our ride (photo @Dumfries Museum)

I almost hesitate to post the photos from our latest history ride as they don’t exactly look like an advert for winter cycling! We weren’t sure how many people would turn up for a 17 mile ride on a freezing cold morning after a week of flooding and wild weather, so we were delighted to have 10 brave and very enthusiastic takers show up at the museum this morning. After a quick photo call for the Standard, and a brief gallop through 5000 years of history from Fiona Wilson, the Museum’s Access officer, we set off for the 12 Apostles, hampered only slightly by a puncture on the way.

Twelve Apostles
Exploring the biggest stone circle on the Scottish mainland

By then the frost was clearing but the fog was thick in the Cairn valley, lending the whole expedition an atmosphere of mystery. We had considered cutting the route a little short, but everyone was happy to press on, following the line of the old Moniaive-Dumfries railway route, with the stations still quite visible, albeit now converted to private houses (what a tourist asset that would be to the region if it were re-opened as a cycle path – imagine being able to get to the Green Tea House without encountering any hills!)

riders disappearing into the mist
It’s fortunate we didn’t advertise these as scenic rides! To the left, the old Moniaive railway can still be made out

We crossed the Cairn at Drumpark and returned via the Routin Brig and the Irongray Road, stopping at the waterfall, the Martyrs’ memorial and the Irongray Church. On a warmer day we might have paused to look for the tomb of Helen Walker, immortalised as Jeannie Deans in Sir Walter Scot’s Heart of Midlothian, or the memorial to Jane Haining, who died at Auschwitz after she refused to abandon her orphan charges. As it was, the thought of tea and biscuits waiting at the museum pressed us on. We made one last stop at the Lincluden Collegiate Church, which we’d visited before, but we didn’t know then that its nuns had been expelled, allegedly for licentious behaviour!

misty trees on the Irongray Road
Somehow on days like these, history doesn’t seem all that far away…

As with the last ride, one of the bonuses of these tours has been that the folk that turn up are often as knowledgeable about some aspects of the history of the area as our guides. This time we were joined not just by Fiona but another curator from the museum and an archaeologist so we got some real insights into the area’s recent and not so recent past. Well worth a few frozen fingers and a frosty start!

Our next ride will be in January and will be a Burns Mystery Tour … watch this space for details, or just show up at the museum ready to ride – and to learn.


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