1. There are many stunning places to explore on foot, and for the avid hiker, Galloway Hills is a must see location. Amongst moors and forests, lochs and waterfalls, there is much to see. The Galloway Hills has 24 peaks above 2,000 ft providing spectacular views after a challenging climb. Not only are the hills steeped in beauty, but history as well. Robert the Bruce fled the English army and took sanctuary here in the later 13th century.
2. If cycling is more your style, there are two National Cycle Networks in the region. Galloway Forest Park covers over 150,000 acres of countryside and has a range of cycling routes varying from an introductory route in Kirroughtree Forest, to the Larg Hill route at Kirroughtree. This route is for more experienced cyclists, ending with a fast-paced plunge through the woodlands.
3. Dumfries and Galloway has many activity providers for those wishing to try something new and exciting. The Galloway Activity Centre on the banks of Loch Ken offers a range of activities for the family. Highlights include: archery, mountain biking, outdoor laser quest, sailing, climbing and more.
See here for prices.
The natterjack toad, found in Caerlaverock Nature Reserve. Image: Shutterstock ©
NATURE RESERVES AND GARDENS
1. Caerlaverock, Dumfriesshire: This nature reserve is one of nine Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust Centres around the country. Open 10am – 5pm daily, Caerlaverock is rich with nature and is a haven for wildlife. It has a bracing mix of wetlands, mudflats and green land, so bring your wellies!
In the spring and summer, Caerlaverock is home to the native natterjack toad (with its loud, croaking chorus) and a pair of ospreys that have mated. The Solway Firth area is a great place for any bird watchers. 2,000 Barnacle Geese fly into the reserve in October and November each year, along with hundreds of whooper swans.
As it is located nine miles south east of Dumfries, there is a limited bus service from Dumfries to Caerlaverock.
2. For nature lovers, Castle Loch Nature Reserve is a regular breeding ground for willow tits, reed bunting and reed warblers. The reserve is known for its mature woodlands and tree sculpture trail by chainsaw carver, Peter Bowsher. The trail leads visitors up to the ancient ruins of the 14th Century Lochmaben castle. And of course, the freshwater Loch itself has an array of birds, fish, insects and plants for visitors to discover.
3. Threave Garden and Estate is a 1,600-acre estate that supports farming, forestry, horticulture, wildlife conservation and outdoor recreation. Its wetland marshes are home to nine of the eleven species of bat found in Scotland. The colourful gardens are filled with over 200 varieties of springtime daffodils.
It is located off A75, one mile west of the nearby Castle Douglas. Garden tickets cost £5 each.
Drumlanrig Castle and Country Estate, Thornhill. Image: Shutterstock ©
1. Coming up is the 33rd annual Galloway Arts Festival. Starting 15 May and lasting nine days, the festival showcases a lively mix of international performers for the community.
The array of talent on offer includes live music of many varieties (folk, jazz, classical), literary events, theatre, and visual arts. They even have activities for the children, with storytelling and enchanting theatrical performances.
The events take place in a range of venues across the region.
See here for more highlights, locations and to purchase tickets.
2. Drumlanrig Castle and Country Estate in Thornhill was as built between 1679 and 1691 by William Douglas, 1st Duke of Queensberry. As one of Scotland’s ancient castles, it is a place of great rustic beauty and history.
The castle is surrounded by a 90,000 acre Queensberry estate filled with rivers, lochs, woodland, farmland and parkland – perfect for animals and diverse plant life. Red squirrels, barn owls, buzzards and roe deer are just a few of the native dwellers to be found here.
The castle itself is filed with centuries-old heritage, antiques and fine art.
See here for opening times, admission prices and more information.
3. Dumfries and Galloway also has a range of museums. The Museum of Lead Mining is a ‘Visit Scotland 4 Star Visitor Attraction’ set in the village of Wanlockhead. The 8th Century mine is set deep underground within the hillside. Visitors can also see the remaining miner’s cottages and explore the second oldest subscription library in Europe, where interesting artifacts can be found.
TOWNS AND VILLAGES
1. Kirkcudbright town is supported by a busy fishing trade and is also packed with outdoor activities. The Galloway Red Kite Trail is an opportunity for bird watchers to view red kites in the countryside.
At the Barstobrick Visitor Centre, visitors can enjoy a variety of nature walks. For a light walk, there are networks of wildlife ponds to be seen. More strenuous hikes can be enjoyed up Neilson’s Monument on Barstobrick Hill.
The town lies about 25 miles west of Dumfries and is easily accessible from the M6/M74 motorway system.
2. For a little romance there is the famous town of Gretna Green. It is well known for its weddings that brought many couples together against the odds. Here you can find memorabilia of wedding certificates, letters and telegrams at the World Famous Blacksmith’s Shop, an interesting read and a little slice of history. This old cottage and workshop is where couples were once married, often in defiance, through the years.
3. Creetown is a small seaport town in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, on the northern side of the Solway Firth. Movie fans may recognise it as the location of iconic horror film, The Wicker Man (1972). Location spotters may wish to stay at the Ellangowan Hotel which provided the interior shots of a pub fans will recognise from the cult movie. From there, fans may also wish to explore Kirkcudbright, Gatehouse, Newton Stewart and Burrow Head, all of which were used in the film.
Other attractions include Creetown Gem Rock Museum and Mill on the Fleet’s 18th Century Cotton Mill.