|Location Map ( geo)|
|Distance:||24.7 miles (39.7 km)|
|Meets:||A780, A756, B793, A711, B794|
|Old route now:||B794|
|Route outline (key)|
The A710 forms a scenic coastal route between Maxwelltown 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 to the B794 in the 1970s. This was done due to 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.
Maxwelltown – New Abbey
The road begins at an acute T-junction with the A780 in Maxwelltown, the A780 being the reclassification of the A75 through the suburbs of Dumfries. The road immediately heads south behind the former convent – an imposing sandstone building that recently found fame as the main set in the Magdalene Sisters. After half a mile the town already begins to thin and on the right we have Dumfries Showfields (site of the Dumfries Agricultural fair) and the rugby grounds. We pass two T-junctions, the first an unclassified but busy link to the A711 and the second the A756, another part of the former A75. Both of these roads are considerably busier than the A710 yet have to yield to the traffic on the direct route.
Leaving the suburbs of Dumfries we get the first clear views of Criffel and of the River Nith. While Criffel is not particularly big (about 550 m) it rises on the eastern and southern sides from sea-level and therefore provides a very impressive sight. The view of 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 botched partial improvements. Over the first five miles towards New Abbey we vary from a wide single carriageway with open verges to a narrow single carriageway with limited visibility due to dykes and hedges. We also have to negotiate a number of tight right-angled bends, especially at Islesteps, and narrow bridges. The road also has that undulating nature of many routes in Scotland with us starting at sea level, proceeding steeply up to about 100 m and then dropping slowly back down again. About 3 miles on the route we reach Kirkconnel Moss, a plantation forest which is slowly being removed to allow the natural lowland marsh to be restored. On our left we can see 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.
As we approach New Abbey, we pass 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. As we enter New Abbey and pass 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 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 a hump-backed 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.
New Abbey - Dalbeattie
After the village we regain an improved section of the road and pass through open countryside – the actual route we follow is a narrow portion of flat land between the Solway Firth and the steeply rising slopes of Criffel. About 7 miles from Dumfries the road narrows again and passes over a narrow bridge at Brickhouse before widening as we approach the village of Kirkbean. There is an interesting restored milestone at the entrance to the village as we enter the 50mph speed limit. Almost as soon as we enter the village recedes away behind and the speed limit is soon forgotten as we enter a series of long straights connected by deceptively steep corners. The road along this section has not been opened up through the removal of the hedges and has the power to take unwary drivers by surprise. We pass through a few hamlets like Prestonfield and Torrorie, each with the customary narrow bridge. If we turned off to the left and headed towards the coast we would reach Southerness, Dumfries and Galloway's answer to Butlins and just about as tacky.
The next significant point on the road is the village of Mainsriddle which, although much more houses are on the roadside than in Kirkbean, doesn't have any sort of speed limit. A painted "slow" in front of a blind crest tries in vain to stop the speeding on this section. I would expect this hamlet to get a limit in the near future as the council has been gradually placing limits on the A710: five years ago there were none between Dumfries and Dalbeattie with the exception of New Abbey. The road beyond Mainsriddle becomes very claustrophobic with high hedges and dykes – in fact the removal of the tarmac would reveal a scene unchanged over a hundred years. 12 miles from Dumfries we reach the village of Caulkerbush/Southwick – nobody is quite sure which. 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. We meet the B793 (former A745) at a T-junction. Taking the B793 takes us over the hills and provides a short-cut route to Dalbeattie (although if we wanted a short cut we wouldn't have taken the A710 in the first place); however we have time so we shall continue on the A710. The character of the landscape changes dramatically at this point. Prior to this we were on a low flattish plain beside the Solway - from here to Sandyhills 3 miles ahead we are on a narrow 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. Approaching Sandyhills (a fairly popular but polluted beach) we are greeted by the sight of continuous double yellow lines and a plethora of No-Waiting signs (illegal but unlikely to ever be removed) as well as a cluster of grand Victorian manors which have long since been converted to flats. We are dropping steeply back to sea level along this last mile until we reach the junction of another short-cut to Dalbeattie and access to the Barend Holiday Village (another curtailed holiday plan for the area). The beach looks quite impressive as we pass, a wide expanse of sands, but the tide is dangerous here and there is a lot of agricultural run-off in the water: look don't swim is my advice.
Leaving Sandyhills we leave the coast and begin 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. 15 miles after we leave Dumfries we enter the village of Colvend. Colvend is a motley collection of modern and old houses clustered around a 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. The council became so concerned about the safety of pupils at Colvend Primary School that it has put a blanket 40 over the entire village. I agree with this, I was a pupil at the school and I remember being terrified of the traffic that went by, especially since we frequently had to cross the road to get to the public hall where sports classes were held. At the far end of the village we pass the road to Rockcliffe (an attractive Victorian village with a lot of pleasant walks around it – and a much better beach than Sandyhills) and the Manse for the Colvend Parish church and for the first time get a clear view of the loch and the Dalbeattie Forest behind it. The road resumes its previous character of narrowness for another mile before a new alignment takes us past Clonyard Farm. The new alignment was constructed to allow safer access to a new house constructed here. The landscape around here is of very poor grassland interspersed with large areas of dark plantation forest.
Passing the Clonyard Inn we approach the hamlet of Barnbarroch. Barnbarroch 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 but good caravan park. Just before the hamlet we pass 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. Most of Barnbarroch was demolished to widen the A710 so the straight past the village and the wide curving section beyond it as we drop into the River Urr's valley is wide and open and very fast, even on a bike. As we enter the valley the quality of the soil improves dramatically and our panorama widens considerably: we can see 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 into the distance. Crossing over a rebuilt bridge at Boundary Cottage we enter another improved section with the tell-tale large lay-bys on the left. The improved section lasts for about a mile until we enter 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 are all new (1974) and of high quality although they have been marred by the encroachment of the town. Just past Little Richorn Farm we get the first clear view of the town to the north and proceed towards to on a wide curve which takes us of the old alignment through the town centre. We skirt the edge of a large new development (Hestan Park) before entering the 30 limit at 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. We pass over the Dalbeattie Burn on a small concrete single-span bridge with the old port road bridge visible to our left. Finally we curve slightly to the right to regain the alignment of an older route and end at a crossroads with the B794 and the A711. The end of our journey.