When planning a visit to Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway may not be an obvious first choice destination. There are the rugged landscapes of the Highlands, the beautiful western Isles, and world class cities in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Dumfries and Galloway in the south west of the country would be very easy to overlook in favour of better known areas of Scotland, but it is a region with so much to offer any type of visitor.
Dumfries & Galloway is a real haven for outdoor enthusiasts, with whole range of activities available, such as walking, cycling and horse riding.
It is also home to the Galloway Forest Park which boasts protected dark sky status and a large population of Red Kites. It is full of small, traditional Scottish villages and has some very nice beaches.
Jim and I kicked off our camping tour of the UK by spending 3 days in Dumfries and Galloway, and it wasn’t nearly enough time.
For anyone planning a visit to Dumfries and Galloway, here are some ideas of what to do:-
1. Stay at Loch Ken
We camped at Loch Ken Holiday Park. This is a very large park, but the size of it means that you very much get to have your own space, and there are lovely views of the Loch across the whole site.
The fact that it is big means that it is well equipped in terms of facilities and the onsite shop. However, the town of Castle Douglas with pubs, restaurants and supermarkets is only a short drive away.
We stumbled upon this beach by just following any road signs that pointed towards a beach. It delivered us such a beauty. The beach itself was rocky, and I’m normally not a great fan of rocky beaches, but this one was set in such a stunning landscape that I quickly forgot about the lack of sand.
From Rockliffe, you can also follow the trail to neighbouring Kippford. We walked some of the way along the river path, but I was wearing flip flops so we had to abandon the walk before the hilly section to avoid ripping my feet to shreds.
There is something incredibly relaxing about sitting on a beach in the sunshine surrounded by a beautiful landscape. Rockcliffe was one of those peaceful places where you are happy to just sit and be. It would definitely be my beach of choice if I returned to Dumfries and Galloway in the future.
3. Cream o’ Galloway Ice Cream Farm
Jim & I are essentially just big kids. This is probably more aimed at families, but we had a fantastic time running around and climbing on all the equipment in the adventure playground on site. This is an ice cream farm, but the ice cream is almost secondary to the huge range of activities on offer. There is a zip wire, a tunnel slide, an adventure playground, karting, bike rides and nature trails.
We opted to take one of the nature walks, and it was lovely. The scenery was so lush and green, and as an added bonus we had the walk totally to ourselves. We obviously had to round off the visit with an ice cream, and it was very, very good!
This is the main city in Dumfries and Galloway, and it is a lively little city with numerous shops, bars and restaurants.It’s main claim to fame is its connections with the poet Robert Burns. Although Jim and I did not visit, it is possible to visit Robert Burn’s former house, favourite pub and final resting place.
Pronounced Kir-cud-bree, this is a really charming little arts and crafts town.It is right on the estuary of the River Dee and it is a very popular destination for visitors to the region. It has a strong fishing history and boats line the harbour. It has also traditionally been a haven for painters, crafters and other artists, many of whom have shops or galleries within the town. It is definitely touristy, but utterly charming, and a really nice town to just wander around taking everything in.
6. Galloway Wildlife Conservation Park
Another favourite with families, this wildlife park is situated on the outskirts of Kirkcudbright. It hosts over 150 different animals and it is a small, but well maintained park. The highlight is definitely the Meerkats and Lemurs which are beyond cute. The only thing I would say is that the entrance fee is quite high for a park of it’s size. It costs £7.50 for an adult and £5.00 for a child. It will take no more than 90 minutes to see the whole park.
7. Dalbeattie Forest
There is so much on offer for the outdoor enthusiasts in Dalbeattie Forest. There are miles and miles of well marked and well maintained forest paths. There are also numerous points from which to hire mountain bikes, with trails to suit all levels of ability. We had originally intended to hire bikes, but ultimately decided to explore on foot. We followed an easy trail through the forest. It was wide and flat most of the way and circled Plaintain Loch, which was really pretty and very peaceful.
We spent a total of 3 days exploring Dumfries and Galloway. We could easily have spent 3 weeks there and still had loads of things to do. The big miss for me was not visiting Wigtown, a small town famed for its second hand book scene (though as an avid reader, letting me loose in a town famous for book shops may not be the best idea!).