|Location Map ( geo)
|Newton Stewart (NX427653)
|32.3 miles (52 km)
|A75, B794, B7075, A713, A762, B7079
|Route outline (key)
The A712 is, to many people, the Galloway Forest Road, as the western part of the route passes through the forest while the eastern part leads to it from the A75, Dumfries and all places beyond. It is actually a shorter route end to end than the A75, which is met at both ends, but it passes through difficult, hilly terrain meaning that the A75 has long since been the preferred route.
Crocketford - New Galloway
The route starts at a simple T junction on the A75 in the middle of the small village of Crocketford. It is clear from the building lines that this used to be a wide fork junction, but much of the area has been paved over with wide pavements to create the current layout. The route heads west, past the hotel and shop and then on out past an assortment of mostly 20th century housing along Maiden Row. Once out of the village, the road winds westwards across fields with a handful of shorter straights between the bends. There are a scattering of properties in the landscape, but they seem to become more spread out the further west the road goes. After one of the straights, the route crosses a minor road at a crossroads and then has to kink over a narrow bridge onto a sinuous section past Craigadam and then onto a longer straight. It has been climbing gently since the start, but this suddenly becomes more apparent with some expansive views out to the south as the road becomes much twistier and passes through some patchy woodland.
Now heading more north than west, the route crosses a summit of around 171m near Crofts Farm and then begins to descend a little, still winding gently through the fields with patches of trees scattered across the hillside. A much larger woodland is passed on the right, but otherwise it is more of the same until the B794 is met. The junction is a T junction, with the A712 curving round to the right as the B794 comes in from the left, forming quite a sharp fork. A short distance to the north, the A712 swings back to the left at another junction, this time with a minor road. The Urr Water is then crossed at Corsock Bridge, before the route climbs a little into the tiny village of Corsock, with its prominent church stood on a roadside knoll some distance before the core of the village is reached. The landscape has changed a little this side of the Urr, the fields look a little rougher, boggier, and there are more patches of woodland. The A712 loosely follows the meandering Crogo Burn upstream, passing through the small Elders Wood before reaching some much larger forestry plantations.
The forests have always stood back from the road on one side or the other, but recent felling has accentuated this, revealing more of the landscape which now has a very moorland character. The highest point on this section is only 168m, but it feels higher ground compared to the farmland to the east of the Urr. A minor road turns left opposite the intriguingly named Bread and Beer Cottage, with a right turn a short distance further on, both winding out across the hills to serve the scattered communities. After a mile or so out of the trees, with the road winding across the moorland, the next block of forestry has been clear felled and replanted, although a line of trees survives along the roadside. The route continues to wind westwards, with some short straights and easy bends, although a couple of tighter turns can catch out the unwary. After curving between a couple of low hills, a straighter section leads out across a fairly bleak section of moorland before winding down into the small village of Balmaclellan.
The village itself actually lies on a loop road to the north, although there is no bypass for the A712, its twisty nature proving that it is an old road which the village itself has shunned! The second turn into the village is a short cut across to the B7075, which is met itself half a mile further on at the bottom of a winding hill. A short straight, followed by a sweeping bend then brings the route down to a wide junction with the A713 at Kenbridge. The two routes briefly multiplex northwards, past the Ken Bridge Hotel, before the A712 turns west once more, immediately crossing the Water of Ken on the narrow, humped Ken Bridge. A series of sweeping bends across the riverside meadows then leads into the small town of New Galloway.
New Galloway - Newton Stewart
New Galloway is a pretty, small town famed as the smallest Royal Burgh in Scotland. The A712 winds in on Kenbridge Road, with Old Edinburgh Road forking off to the left at the entrance to the town. There are then two right turns in quick succession, the first is the northern part of the A762, the second the A712 which has to TOTSO onto Newton Stewart Road while the A762 continues ahead along the pleasant, but narrow High Street. It is well worth pausing and exploring the small town, before resuming the journey along the A712 which passes a small housing estate before leaving New Galloway behind. After the town, the scenery becomes more mountainous as the route enters the Galloway Forest Park, and from here on the road is known as The Queen's Way, given that name in 1977 in commemoration of the Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II. A winding climb through fields and a wood brings the route around to the other end of the Old Edinburgh Road at a sweeping right hand bend - the A712 has always follows the current, slightly longer route.
A long sinuous climb winds gently uphill above the Knocknairling Burn, slowly gaining height as it passes vast swathes of felled forest slowly being reclaimed by bracken and heather. The route then enters the forest proper, with tall trees sometimes standing close to the roadside, then curving away between swathes of lush, and probably boggy, green clearings. A couple of tighter bends lead onto a twistier section as the route approaches its overall summit at 202m. As it slowly curves round to the south west, Clatteringshaws Loch is suddenly revealed off to the right, with the visitor centre around the next bend. The road briefly runs along just above the loch shore, offering some expansive views to the north, but then it drops steeply down through a rock cutting to emerge below the dam, towering above. The outflow from the reservoir - the Galloway River Dee is crossed on High Bridge, which offers a better view of the dam.
A right turn a little further on climbs back up past the far end of the dam, and runs along the western shore to a distant dead end. Meanwhile, the A712 climbs a little through a clearing to its final summit of 192m, to the north of Round Fell. From here the road begins to descend the valley of the Patnure Burn on a generally southwesterly course. There are a series of parking areas along the road as it drops steadily down to the falls at Grey Mares Tail, where there is a larger car park. A short sharp climb then lifts the route away from the valley and onto another long windy section through the forest, with many rises and falls. From the roadside it often feels as though the route is winding through thick forest, but a couple of breaks in the trees reveal that clear felling has taken place to the north, with just a thin line of trees left against the road. Even this then comes to an end, with the route winding across open moorland, offering some fine views across the forest to the hills which rise out of it. The route then skirts the north western edge of Kirroughtree Forest as it makes its final descent.
A final series of straights leads down to the A75 at the eastern end of the Newton Stewart bypass. Just before the junction, the B7079 turns right through Minigaff and into the town, which lies about a mile away. The A712 has therefore been extended by a few metres to reach the bypass. While the A712 is around 5 miles shorter end to end than the trunk route, the A75 is a much faster route and therefore normally the quicker option.
The overall route of the A712 has changed very little over the last century, but there are numerous localised improvements along the route. Most can be identified by small laybys or loops of old road slowly being reclaimed by nature, and there are a couple of modified junctions as well. The first notable realignment has left a large layby just east of the crossroads near Craigadam. At Craigadam itself, there is a muddy track on the left curving around a shallow cutting through trees which was surely once the old road. From here to Corsock, there are a number of areas of wide verges and meandering boundary walls which suggest some improvement has taken place in the past. West of Corsock, a short layby on the right is followed by a longer loop of old road past the cottage on the left.
Several miles further west, old maps show a series of twisty bends at Troquhain, and the old bridge can still be seen a little north of the current crossing. The route past the farm, however, seems to have been completely lost. The decent from Balmacllelan has been considerably straightened, the first bend clearly visibly as a property access, but the following zig-zags can only be traced by what remains of the old field boundaries. The final, big loop, then survives in part as a farm drive to the south, just before the junction with the B7075. Just before the A713 junction, the A712 used to cut off to the left and then sweep back across, to meet the A713 at a crossroads opposite the Ken Bridge Hotel. This was moved to improve safety, but the old road survives as property access.
There is a layby beyond New Galloway, and another loop at the Old Edinburgh Road junction which show minor realignments, and as the route climbs into the forest, most of the laybys and other parking areas probably have origins in an old road alignment. At the Clatteringshaws Visitor centre, the road originally ran out into the loch, but was diverted before the dam was built. As the old High Bridge testifies, however, the road then ran down the river bank before turning hard right across the bridge. For the remainder of the route, there are several laybys and parking areas hinting at minor realignments, and perhaps more have been carried out but subsequently reclaimed by nature, or the forest.
Old Edinburgh Road
The Old Edinburgh Road through New Galloway appears to predate the construction of the Ken Bridge, which opened in 1824. It is certainly marked as 'old' on the OS Six Inch sheet from 1853, when an eastwards continuation curves across the meadows to an old bridge or ford site over the Ken a little to the south of the Ken Bridge. The route through the town is still in use, as far as the A712 to the west, beyond that it can be intermittently traced on the hillside above the current line as far as the forest edge. After a short break, it then reappears as a forest road, running down to a junction with a minor road. Another short break, and the old road resumes as an old, overgrown forest road to the south of the A712. This seems to just come to an end somewhere near the visitor centre, but beyond the Loch it bracnhes off the lochside road and can be followed as a rough track climbing up with the Pulran Burn. The route is then a bit confused past the Black Loch, but is subsequently used by a cycle route down to the Loch of the Lowes.
Once clear of the forest, the old road runs down the ridge above the A712 often as little more than a rough path along a field boundary, crosses a minor road and then joins the next one as it runs down into the top of Minnigaff. This old road is presumably the historic extension of the A702 route from Edinburgh, and would have linked through to western Galloway, and so Portpatrick and Stranraer for connections to Ireland. It was therefore once a very important route, and was probably upgraded to the current A712 route to be better suited for stagecoaches.