|Location Map ( geo)|
|Distance:||14.8 miles (23.8 km)|
|Meets:||A76, B7040, A702|
|Route outline (key)|
The B797 is a cross-country B-road in south Scotland. It was originally unclassified but presumably got its number in the late 1920s.
Mennock - Wanlockhead
The B797 starts on a re-aligned A76 at Mennock, a couple of miles south east of Sanquhar. The new road sits slightly further down the hill than before, so the first section of the B797 is new, before it reaches a short run along the old A76. There is then a sharp left turn to cross the railway bridge and pick up the original road, with the old A76 continuing ahead beyond a half-hearted gate but otherwise unchanged from when it carried traffic!
We are now climbing, steeply at times, up the wooded valley of the Mennock Water, winding around the contours before crossing the stream to its north bank. The road continues to wind its way up this narrow, twisty valley, although the valley floor itself is often wide and level, offering plenty of space for day trippers and holidaymakers to set up camp for a day or more. Whilst it may be an idyllic and pretty spot offering a safe haven for children to play, it is a shame that such activity is not better regulated as it means that the roadside is littered with abandoned cars, tents, toys and litter for a mile or so on summer weekends and, no doubt, during school holidays too.
The valley soon narrows once more, however, the pass steepening until finally we burst out into the village of Wanlockhead, reputedly Scotland's highest, and a place whose prosperity was built on lead mining. It is well worth the time to stop and explore a little, with much of the landscape in this small hollow amongst hills being man made - the bumpy contours of the valley head are not all carved over millennia by streams. Many of them were created in a few short years as slag heaps, slowly being reclaimed by nature.
Wanlockhead - Abington
The main road skirts around the village, with an unclassified road dropping down to cross the Wanlock Water and so rejoin on the further side. We are still climbing, however, up to the summit next to Glengonnar Halt, a station on the preserved industrial railway. From here it is, quite literally, all downhill. After a short burst through open country, we soon enter the much larger, but more compact village of Leadhills with its tightly ranked rows of cottages. At some point the B7040 turns off to the right to wander across the hills to Elvanfoot, but our road keeps heading north.
The descent from Leadhills is long and gentle, with short straights interspersed with much twistier bits as the contours get in the way. The road is, however, wide and reasonably fast (unless you catch up the inevitable motor home!) with only one junction where the unclassified road crosses the hills to Crawfordjohn. Apart from the occasional house, and some large conifer plantations, the road remains in open country, higher above the stream and valley floor than the map suggests. Soon, however, we find ourselves crossing the A74(M) motorway and almost immediately terminating on the A702 (former A74) in Abington.