|Location Map ( geo)
|Barncrosh Junction (NX714589)
|36.3 miles (58.4 km)
|A780, B793, B784, A710, A745, B736, B727, A755, A762, A75
|Route outline (key)
The A711 is a cross-country A-road in southern Kirkcudbrightshire. After forming the direct route between Dumfries and Dalbeattie, bypassing the A710 which follows the coast, it then becomes the long-way-round route itself for its remaining distance.
Dumfries – Dalbeattie
The route begins at a Y-Junction with the A780 (former A75) in Maxwelltown, Dumfries, leaving the town on Dalbeattie Road, which is lined with solid sandstone houses, as it proceeds southwest. The houses soon come to an end on the south side of the road, and fields appear, but a string of properties continue on the north side as far as the Cargen Bridge. An attractive milestone is to be found near here. After a mile, the road crosses the Cargen Water on the bridge and immediately reaches a mini-roundabout with the unclassified but busy link with the Dumfries Bypass. A few hundred yards along a second roundabout marks the entrance to the Dupont Chemical plant, a major regional employer though an ugly eyesore since much of the site was demolished. Beyond the roundabout the route follows a section realigned in around 1994, with wide open bends and great overtaking opportunities. From the long straight beside Goldilea House you can see the impressive viaduct behind the house which carried the long closed Dumfries-Stranraer railway line.
The road then makes a tight left bend and proceeds up a steep hill known locally as the "The Long Wood" with the railway embankment running tightly beside it. This hill is actually climbing a narrow wooded valley between Craigmore Hill and Hillhead Hill, which rise steeply up to either side. The summit is reached at about 95m, and just beyond the vista opens out ahead into a wide flat plain with a ring of hills in the distance and a large amount of plantation forestry clothing the area. A couple of short straights then lead to the small village of Beeswing, seven miles after leaving Dumfries. This is a long linear village with most of the properties set on the right hand side of the long straight. Beyond the village, improvements have left the road wide and open with long straights crossing farmland, interspersed with brief corners that look worse than they are. On one of the straights stands Toll Bar Bridge which has been widened, leaving one half of the bridge in original granite and the other in modern concrete.
The next village is the scattered community of Kirkgunzeon, which predominantly lies off to the right, along with Gateside. At the entrance to the village stands the old station, whose grounds have become a caravan park, and a number of old railway bridges in various stages of decay can be seen nearby. A realignment to the south of Kirkgunzeon isolates an old hump-backed bridge which still sits forlornly beside the road just before the ruinous Corra Castle. The improved section continues, creating a number of large well used lay-bys, although some have been reclaimed by nature. The route is a little windier than before as it undulates south westwards. A scattering of farms are passed, and numerous small streams crossed by bridges, but otherwise this is a fairly ordinary farming landscape. The B793, Dalbeattie eastern bypass, is met at Edingham, giving access to an industrial estate. This bypass was built to divert trucks servicing the sawmill from the town centre.
The A711 then enters the town on John Street, initially passing a couple of modern developments and a truncated railway bridge, before reaching the attractive granite streets of the town centre. The A710 used to be met at the town clock at the top of the High Street, as it crossed and continued to Haugh Of Urr. However, since the 1970s the road has been truncated and shifted to the west and is at a signalised crossroads at the further end of Craignair Street, where it now terminates, with the B794 running to Haugh of Urr. Beyond the lights, the A711 follows another very long straight along Craignair Road which culminates in a traffic controlled junction and bridge. Craignair Bridge over the Urr Water is narrow and has poor visibility due to its hump back, with an almost blind junction on the far side. The A711 TOTSOs left here: the main road curving round to the right as the A745 to Castle Douglas.
Dalbeattie – Barncrosh Junction
Beyond Dalbeattie, the route immediately feels quieter and less important, although it has seen some widening and other improvements over the next few miles. After a couple of slight bends, a long straight leads south across the flat floodplaing of the Urr Water. At first, the river lies off to the left across the fields, but a big meander then pushes the road up into the trees, with a slight climb through a narrow winding cutting. A few more bends finally bring the tidal river into sight, and then the small village of Palnackie is reached, with what must be one of the smallest bypasses in the country at less than a third of a mile – more like a glorified lay by. A brief turn westwards leads the route through the low lying hillfoots, before the B736 is met at a crossroads, as it heads north to Castle Douglas, finding a gap in the hills. Some long straights then lead south once more across flatter farmland. To the right, the twin peaks of Screel and Bengairn are visible, the lower slopes cloaked in forestry.
On reaching the small village of Auchencairn, traffic has to negotiate a narrow bridge before running between pretty white houses into the village square. There are a few tight bends and a surprisingly steep hill beyond, which must be unchanged since the road's inception. The hill eases at the top of the village, the road winding south west with plenty of evidence of improvements as it climbs steadily. Before the summit, a large layby provides a viewpoint out to the Solway Firth. The route continues to climb, past Hazlefield and over the nose of Standingstone Hill, reaching a summit of around 125m before dipping down again. The road becomes steadily narrower as it now runs west, the bends becoming tighter, with only a few short improved sections ahead. Balmangan Mill sits off to the left, largely screened from the road by bunds, and then a series of particularly tight bends are met, in stark contrast to the sweeping curves so far encountered.
The route now drops gently down into Dundrennan through an attractive wooded gorge, Balmangan Glen, which is narrow and can be very dark especially during summer when the trees are in leaf. The single-lane bridge and tight bends don't help much either. The small village of Dundrennan is clustered around the attractive ruins of its Abbey, the narrow village street suddenly widening for a couple of sweeping bends and a short straight. This runs along the edge of the MOD ranges with the signs warning of gunfire and sudden explosions – not your usual kind of road warning. The road then becomes narrow and winding once more and goes up and down frequently, making it quite a fun drive. Views to the south are blocked here as the MOD have planted a thick layer of conifers to block the view of the range, while to the north the land is quite flat and boggy.
After several miles of fairly tortuous road, a gap in the trees near Gilroanie reveals a tantalising view ahead. Before long, the landscape opens up and gives a clear view of the Dee Estuary, which is stunning on a sunny summer day. The route then begins a steep descent which culminates in a tight right angle bend at Mutehill, bringing the road down onto the flat floodplain of Manxman's Lake, part of the Dee Estuary. It takes a while for the road to reach the shore, and even then at low tide it is just a vast expanse of mudflats, with St Mary's Isle beyond (a peninsula, not an island). After passing through an attractive wooded area, the road turns away from the shore and passes a few large houses on its way into Kirkcudbright. Sandside Street is soon built up on both sides, although the modern houses to the right either back onto the main road or are set back behind a service road.
Kirkcudbright has a wide main street which is very apparent in that cars can park down both sides and there is still plenty of room. The town is the old county town of Kirkcudbrightshire, the eastern part of Galloway and has lots of historic and attractively painted buildings, including the old town hall and county buildings which stand along St Mary Street, facing the parish church. It also has an active harbour and is a popular tourist spot. At the further end of the churchyard, a skewed crossroads sees the narrow B727 turn right to wind through the hills back to Dalbeattie. At the next Crosroads, the A755 turns left to Gatehouse, crossing over the attractive concrete Kirkcudbright Bridge, while the A711 continues north. St Mary Street eventually becomes Tongland Road, which winds gently through the northern part of town and after about a mile heads out, back into open fields.
About two miles north of Kirkcudbright, the route crosses Telford's revolutionary Tongland Bridge from which the remains of the Castle Douglas-Kirkcudbright railway bridge can be seen. At the northern end of the bridge, the route makes a sharp right turn at the junction with the A762 which is a useful link to the A75 and enters the ill-defined village of Tongland, whose main features are its Hydro-Electric power station and dam. It also has the rather less attractive roads depot and a quarry. However, once clear of Tongland, the landscape is back to fields and an attractive panorama of Screel and Bengairn from the other side. The last few miles pass through a woodland with a few unexpectedly large houses found in it. Finally, the route rounds a corner to end at a T-junction with the A75 and even though the A711 is nearly 40 miles long, it is only 22 miles back to Dumfries.
Unlike many of the other A roads in the area, the A711 doesn't appear to have changed its overall route since first classified in 1922. There have, however, been numerous improvements to the road over the years, as noted above. The route out of Dumfries is still the same, but on the western side of Cargenbridge, the old road used to curve further north, and can still be traced crossing the minor road to Lochfoot. This then crossed the modern alignment, as can be seen in the wide verge left behind. A little to the south, the bend at Moss Cottage has also been eased, with a short setion of the old road used to connect the minor road signed to New Abbey. The old road then runs alongside to the left for a short distance before rejoining the new road opposite Goldielea. The run through Long Wood has clearly been widened, but the tight confines of the hills means this has all been online.
The long straights through Beeswing and on to Kirkgunzeon all show evidence of widening, but again this is largely online with only slight deviations in hedgelines, predominantly around junctions, suggesting anything else. From the bypassed Corra Bridge, however, there are a series of loops of old road on either side to be seen. The first runs past Corra Castle and through the farm, then an abandoned piece of tarmac can be seen on the verge to the left, followed by a big layby to the right. Two smaller laybys on the left then sit either side of a curved line of trees in the field, which suggest perhaps a much older realignment which has been reclaimed by the farmer. Newfield Bridge has been replaced, and the set back hedgerow and wide verge beyond again show the original road alignment. The double bend to the south of Barluith Hill has been eased, as can be seen by the deviating hedgelines.
At the junction with the B793 bypass road, the A711 originally turned hard right, before curving back to follow the edge of the holiday park south into Dalbeattie. This bend was removed long before the bypass was opened, however. For several miles after Dalbeattie, any improvements to the route appear to have been largely online, obliterating any evidence of the old road. At Torr, there are suggestions that a series of gently bends have been removed, with a few strips of old tar lying in the verge or behind hedges. A longer loop at the southern end of this tiny settlement is still in use as property access. At the further end of Auchencairn, the bend in front of the school has been eased. A mile or so further along, a series of bends west of the bridge over the Blackford Burn have been removed, although while they show up clearly on aerial photography, they are less easy to spot on the ground, with thick vegetation taking hold.
The layby viewpoint halfway up the hill is noted above, and then at Hazelfield a long strip of old tarmac survives in the wide verge, before the old road crossed over, and is now tended by the householders as a driveway and property frontage.A similar thing has happened in front of the cottages at the next junction, with a layby opposite also showing the old road line. The next notable deviation is found on the far side of Dundrennan, where a long loop of old road is now mostly in use as part of the driveway to Dundrennan House. The final section of realignment of note is found opposite the army firing range, where an old loop can be traced through the trees by the small telephone exchange.