|Location Map ( geo)
|24.7 miles (39.7 km)
|A780, A756, B793, A711, B794
|Old route now:
|Route outline (key)
The A710 forms a scenic coastal route between Dumfries and Dalbeattie. Although the road is more-or-less the same length as its original classification, it was extended to the A75 near Haugh of Urr in the late 1920s, which section was downgraded again to be the B794 in the 1970s.
Dumfries – New Abbey
The route begins at an acute T-junction with the A780 in the Maxwelltown are of Dumfries, the A780 being the reclassification of the former A75 through the town. A short distance further west the A711 also turns off, and provides a shorter route through to Dalbeattie. The A710 heads south along New Abbey Road, passing behind the grounds of the former convent – an imposing sandstone building that found fame as the main set in the Magdalene Sisters. After half a mile the town begins to give way to greenery, with the Dumfries Showfields (site of the Dumfries Agricultural fair) and the rugby grounds on the right. There are two busy T-junctions by the showfield, the left turn is an unclassified link to the A711 and the right turn a short distance further on is the A756. Both of these routes are considerably busier than the A710, as they form a sort of inner bypass of the town centre, but the A710 maintains priority through each junction.
Leaving the suburbs of Dumfries the steep slopes of Criffel dominate the view ahead, as the road works its way across the flat lands to the west of the River Nith. While Criffel is not particularly big (about 550m) it rises on the eastern and southern sides from sea-level and therefore provides a very impressive sight. The view from the top is simply stunning with the ability, on a clear day to see the radio transmitters of Silloth and the Lakeland hills, the cooling towers of the Chapelcross nuclear plant and Snaefell on the Isle of Man. You also get a stunning panorama of Dumfries and the Southern Uplands to the north. However, the road is less stunning, and indeed is a victim of partial improvements. Over the first five miles towards New Abbey it varies from a wide single carriageway with open verges to a narrow single carriageway with limited visibility due to dykes and hedges. It also has to negotiate a number of tight right-angled bends, and narrow bridges. The first of these comes about a mile out of town where the road turns sharp right to cross the Cargen Pow at Islesteps Bridge, with a sharp left off the bridge and past the houses.
The route now curves across the fields on a series of sweeping bends joined by short straights, before a longer straight leads to the lower slopes of Auchenfad Hill. This straight crosses Kirkconnel Moss, a plantation forest which is slowly being removed to allow the natural lowland marsh to be restored. On the right, climbing the slopes of the hills lies Mabie Forest which is a large Forestry Commission plantation but due to its age has developed a nice mixture of trees and open sections. It also has excellent walking and cycling; there is even a hotel for the less actively inclined. A windy climb through patches of woodland lifts the route steadily up over the low ridge of Whinny Hill, remarkably the routes summit at around 70m, followed by an undulating descent. As the route approaches New Abbey, it passes through Shambellie Wood, a beautiful beech forest that looks stunning in the late afternoon sun. Shambellie House is itself a museum of costume operated by the National Museums of Scotland.
At the entrance to New Abbey, near the junction for the Kinharvie Road (to Beeswing) there are a number of interesting and beautifully carved granite milestones. New Abbey is many people's picture of a perfect Scottish village, with a winding main street lined with "quaint" cottages, a cobbled square, the stunning sandstone ruin of Sweetheart Abbey, a working mill and lovely planting everywhere. The abbey dominates this section of the road as it rises above the roofs of the houses. Through the village the road squeezes over the hump-backed New Abbey Bridge and then proceeds down the main street which at the pinch-point is only just wide enough for one lane of traffic – it doesn't even have a pavement. The village has been stretched southwards over the years with new housing, but the road is wider through this section apart from a couple more narrow bridges.
New Abbey - Sandyhills
After the village the route follows a series of longer straights, at first constrained by dry stone walls, but soon the verges widen as the walls give way to hedges. The landscape is undulating and agricultural, with some fine views to the east across the Nith Estuary from some of the crests. There are a scattering of roadside properties, but most are set back along side roads and lanes in amongst the fields on what is a narrow area of lower ground between the Solway Firth and the steeps slopes of Criffel. After climbing over the shoulder of Corbelly Hill, this strip of land becomes noticeably narrower and the road approaches the coast. After dipping to cross Drumburn Bridge, the road climbs a little past some pretty black and white cottages to a viewpoint car park offering expansive views across the Solway to the distant Cumbrian Hills on the horizon. A long straight then leads south to Brickhouse, with only a few trees to obscure the expansive views. After a gentle double bend, the route follows another short straight into the village of Kirkbean.
There is an interesting milestone at the entrance to the small village, which is quickly passed through. The route now follows a series of long, undulating straights connected by deceptively sharp corners as it turns round to the south west and then west, still following the lower slopes of Criffel. The road along this section has not been opened up through the removal of the hedges and therefore has the power to take unwary drivers by surprise. It passes through a few hamlets like Prestonfield and Torrorie, each with the customary narrow bridge. A series of left turns head towards the coast, and the small resort of Southerness, Dumfries and Galloway's answer to Butlins and just about as tacky. There are good views to be had across the Solway along this stretch, and as the road kinks right just after Torrorie, the hills of Galloway come into clearer view ahead.
The next significant point on the road is the small village of Mainsriddle which has many more houses on the roadside than in Kirkbean. These houses all stand on the north side of the road, facing out across the fields to the Solway beyond, soaking up the views! The road beyond Mainsriddle becomes very claustrophobic with high hedges and dykes rising from the edge of the tarmac – in fact the removal of the tarmac would reveal a scene unchanged over a hundred years. A sharp left turn drops the road down the hill, past the distinctive white buildings of Home Farm and on to the low lying marsh lands of the coast. Twelve miles from Dumfries lies the tiny village of Caulkerbush, also known as Southwick. The village is set in a pleasant wooded glen and has a wonderful listed hump-backed bridge that has recently been sympathetically widened by the council to make it less dangerous. The B793 (former A745) is met at a T-junction just across the bridge, and leads over the hills, providing a short-cut route to Dalbeattie.
The character of the landscape changes dramatically at this point. Prior to this the road crosses the low flattish plain beside the Solway - from here to Sandyhills 3 miles ahead it sits on a narrow tree-clad ledge above cliffs. The road has not been improved at all on this section and so is very narrow and even has a section of near-single track. It does, however, get closer to the coast than at any point so far, and if a gap can be found in the gorse hedges, there are fine views across the Solway once more. Approaching Sandyhills, with its popular beach, the road is lined with continuous double yellow lines, as well as a cluster of grand Victorian manors which have long since been converted to flats. As the road drops steeply back to sea level along this last mile, the beach opens out below. At the bottom, there is a junction with another short-cut to Dalbeattie and access to the Barend Holiday Village, and a small car park. The beach looks quite impressive, a wide expanse of sands, but the tide is dangerous here.
Sandyhills - Dalbeattie
Leaving Sandyhills the coast is left behind and the route begins to turn inland passing the Colvend Golf Course, which like many others in the regions straddles the road and requires golfers make a dash in front of the traffic. The landscape has changed again and is now much more rocky with poorer quality grass and a lot of plantation forest (Dalbeattie Forest) to the north. Colvend itself is a motley collection of modern and old houses clustered around the southern edge of the White Loch. The road through the village itself bears no resemblance to that we have become used to – it has been widened extensively and has a long sweeping curve which used to encourage speeding. At the far end of the village a left turn leads down to Rockcliffe, an attractive Victorian village with a lot of pleasant walks around it – and a much better beach than Sandyhills. The Manse and Colvend Parish church sit along this road at Kirkland. Opposite the junction is the first clear view of the loch and Dalbeattie Forest behind it.
The road resumes its previous character of narrowness, interspersed with short stretches of road running between wider verges as it passes the scattered properties at Clonyard. A summit of around 65m is reached before the route dips down once more, curving around the steep slopes of Doon Hill, where a double bend appears to have been eased a little, but the resulting wide verge is now too overgrown to be certain. The next settlement is Barnbarroch, which is dominated to the north by the Dalbeattie Forest which crowds around it on the areas hills (particularly Moyle) and to the south by a large caravan park. Just before the hamlet is the road end to Kippford (or Scaur) which is a popular boating spot on the estuary of the River Urr providing a safe harbour and another golf course. The steep slopes of the hills dropping down into the Rough Firth mean that there is no coastal road between Kippford and Rockliffe, depsite the proximity on the shore.
Some properties at Barnbarroch were demolished to widen the A710, although it was never a big place, so the straight past the village and the wide curving section beyond as it drops into the River Urr's valley are wide, open and very fast. As the route enters the valley the quality of the soil improves dramatically and the panorama widens considerably: to the east the forest and Moyle Hill and to the west the winding route of the river and the wooded hills of Bengairn and Screel in the distance. Beyond a rebuilt bridge at Boundary Cottage lies another improved section with the tell-tale large lay-by on the left. This lasts for about a mile until the route reaches the edge of the Dalbeattie Forest (about 19 miles from Dumfries). A new entrance has been constructed here to provide access to the world-class mountain bike routes that have recently been constructed in the forest as part of the 7-Stanes project.
The final two miles of the road into Dalbeattie were all newly built in 1974 and therefore of high quality although they have been marred by the encroachment of the town. Just past Little Richorn Farm is the first clear view of the town to the north and the A710 proceeds on a wide curve which takes it off the old alignment through the town centre on the High Street, which forks right. The bypass, Port Road, skirts the edge of a large new development (Hestan Park) before crossing Port Street. Dalbeattie used to have a large waterside mill and small port capable of handling barges until the port silted and the mill was demolished. It is hard to believe that the town could have been so industrial in the past but it was. The Dalbeattie Burn is crossed on the small concrete single-span New Port Bridge with the old port road bridge visible to the left. Finally the route curves slightly to the right to regain the alignment of an older road and ends at a signalised staggered crossroads on the A711, with the B794 continuing ahead.
As noted above, the A710 is now more or less the same length as it was when first classified in 1922/ However, for many years, it extended north of Dalbeattie to meet the A75 near Haugh of Urr. This road had originally been left unclassified, but was numbered as the B794, probably in 1924. At some point between 1927 and 1932, the B794 was moved north to run from the A75 up to the A712 near Corsock, and the A710 took over the original southern section, it is not clear if these changes were made simultaneously or not. The A710 remained on this section through until the early 1970's when Dalbeattie's western bypass opened. This precipitated a number of changes around the area, one of which was that the B794 was extended south to regain its original route into Dalbeattie. Another likely reason is the presence of a narrow bridge over the Spottes Burn which made the road impassable to heavy or wide vehicles. However in 1990 the bridge was strengthened to allow the road to be used as a diversion route for the A75 when necessary.
Although the A710 has seen some improvements over the years, the vast majority of them are simple online widenings, or improvements to junctions. As a result, there don't appear to be any significant deviations to the original line to be found, just a handful of laybys and wide verges suggesting a slight realignment. The one obvious exception is at Dalbeattie, where the A710 originally ran along the High Street