Section 1:Dumfries - Lochmaben
The A709 begins at the junction of Annan Road and St Mary's Street in Dumfries where the A780 (former A75) leaves to journey towards Carlisle. The road continues past Dumfries Station (an impressive ensemble in sandstone) and crosses a modern roundabout with Cornwall Mount, the home of D&G Constabulary and a link back to the A780. Now called Lockerbie road, uncomfortably narrow when cars are parked, it heads out past the town's high school and across a roundabout providing access to modern executive housing. Something Dumfries has plenty of now. After crossing a signalised junction withan access road to the peel centre the road plunges into the countryside. We cross over the A75 at a busy roundabout after about a mile and then head dead straight over flat countryside. This exit from the town is very scenic with oppressive recently felled forest to the left and the towns main landfill site to the right. Crossing a roundabout with Catherinefield road we finally begin to rise out of the floodplain of the Nith.
Catherinefield road is surprisingly busy for an unclassified road as it is used heavily by HGVs you access the Heathhall Industrial Estate and Tynwald Downs (former Military Airfield with plenty of left over hangers converted to industrial premises). We now speed quickly on a wide realigned section towards Torthorwald. The village, although barely more than a crossroads has a small garage and a ruined castle as well as the ubiquitous 30 mph limit. However after a tight central bend the road opens out onto another wide upgraded section with generally good sight lines. The countryside is pleasant but pretty featureless. The new alignment continues for about 6 miles out of Dumfries before abruptly ending in a forest of "tight bend" and "road narrowing" signs. The money very quickly runs out. The road quickly reverts to a narrow and twisting Scottish A road and any ambitions a driver may have harboured about the A709 being a good alternative to the A75 to read the motorway are quickly extinguished - especially if you get stuck behind a milk tanker. About 11 miles from Dumfries we reach the first main town after Dumfries, Lochmaben. The road enters past the local hospital does a sharp left bend and follows the north shore of the loch towards the town centre. The loch however is not visible as the road is heavily built up on both sides. I am not sure if it still exists but a garage used to be located along this stretch.
Facing you however, is one of the two "pinch points" on the road. The A709 makes a tight right turn to squeeze itself past the town hall onto the main street. This pinching to one lane by the town hall is eerily similar to that experienced by the A76 in Sanquhar and the A7 in Langholm. There is no signal control here and precious little visibility so its a cross the finger and hope you don't meet a truck job. Lochmaben's main sreet is attractive, composed of vernacular Scottish one- or two-storey buildings coupled with an attractive lining of pollarded trees. The street is easily wide enough at the top end to park on both sides and still have plenty of room. It narrows to the south and is finished off with the parish church and a view of the loch, very scenic!. The town doesn't offer many shops or services, its proximity to Dumfries and small population ensures that. The A709 leaves the town via another sharp (though two-laned) bend and runs past an abandoned garage and active yachting club.
Section 2:Lochmaben - Lockerbie
The next few miles are unremarkable, the road is constrained by the embankment of a long disused railway to the left and by a thick copse of trees to the left preventing any landscape views. About 12.5 miles from Dumfries we pass the Lockerbie Cheese factory and reach the second major pinch point on the road, the River Annan Bridge. The bridge is a spectacular sandstone construction, through sadly not up to full two lane width. Traffic lights are used to restrict access. We now begin our final drive into Lockerbie - although we can't see it due to the large coniferous plantation straight ahead of us, which we skirt to the north.
Just before the town we reach the saddest part of the journey, the memorial garden for PanAm 103 which crashed over the town in 1988. If you have time it is well worth visiting the cemetery and remarking on how fortunate we are to avoided such a disaster. As we enter the town of Lockerbie we pass through its west end, separated for ever by the great expanse of the A74(M) ahead of us. We rise over, on a large arching concrete bridge and for the first time get a view of main link between Scotland and England. The road is six lanes wide at this point with the former southbound carriageway of the A74/(B7076) acting as a feeder for it. You can imagine how it carves up the town. Just after the bridge we have the option of using the feeder at a simple Grade Separated Junction. However we plough on for a further 200 yards to make an inconspicuous ending on the former A74 (in its first incarnation), now the B7068, just south of the town centre, making the A709 one of the few A-roads to end on a B-road. Lockerbie is a member of that exclusive club of having two bypasses. The A709 used to continue over the hills to Langholm but that section has long been a B road.
One of the most notable features of this road is the nearly complete set of milestones that line it - their having being preserved through successive upgradings and realignments.
There have been some mutterings about whether this road could be upgraded to D2 to provide a fastlink between Dumfries and the M74 subsuming the roles of the A701 and A75 that currently provide this service. Both of these roads will need at some point considerable upgrading so maybe this isn't such a pipedream.
The A709 between Lockerbie and Langholm was downgraded to B7068 by 1972. In 1994, the junction with the A74 was closed which explains why the A709 now ends on a B road.