The Dumfries and Galloway area offers a wealth of interest to the visitor.
Dumfries , the regional capital, offers good shopping opportunities, cinema, theatre, Ice Rink and sports centre, and is famed for its connections with Scotland's national poet, Robert Burns - be sure to visit the Robert Burns Centre, Burns House and Burns Mausoleum. Also worth a visit are the Dumfries Museum and Camera Obscura and Scotland's oldest working theatre, the Theatre Royal. Shopaholics may also enjoy a visit to the various Designer Outlets at Gretna (home to the famous blacksmith's marriage parlour).
Smaller towns include Castle Douglas (Scotland's Food Town), with a good range of small local shops, cafes etc., and the delightful Cullingwark Loch and Lochside Theatre. The medieval county town of Kirkudbright (Artist's Town) is a picturesque harbour town, with a variety of art galleries and shops. Gateway of Fleet is a quaint small town with a kilt-making centre and old mill centre housing cafe, shops and exhibitions, at the heart of the Fleet Valley National Scenic Area. Newton Stewart , on the banks of the River Cree, offers a variety of small shops and a local cinema, and hosts an annual walking festival, while nearby Wigtown is a must for keen readers, with its various antiquarian and secondhand bookshops making it recognised as Scotland's national booktown. Scotland's southermost whisky distillery is to be found just down the road at Bladnoch .
There are numerous historic sites in the area, including Caerlaverock Castle , near Dumfries, Threave Castle, near Castle Douglas and smaller castles at Carsluith and Cardoness (near Gateway of Fleet). Ruined abbeys abound, including Sweetheart Abbey, near Dumfries, Dundrennan Abbey (between Dalbeattie and Kirkudbright), Glenluce Abbey, and Whithorn priory (a historic focus for pilgrims with its links to St Ninian, and known as the cradle of Christianity in Scotland). Earlier history (and prehistory) is reflected in numerous bronze and iron age sites throughout the region, including the famous Cairn Holy chambered cairn neolithic burial site near Creetown and Torhouse standing stones near Wigtown. American visitors should not miss the John Paul Jones museum at Arbigland, and the nearby Shambellie House national museum of costume will be sure to interest almost everyone.
The main attraction of the area, however, is probably the beautiful unspoilt countryside, offering a wealth of opportunities for walking, and cycling, both inland among the hills, forests and lochs, and along the many miles of coastline - much of which is designated a National Scenic Area - offering rocky cliffs and quiet pebbly or sandy beaches, as well as acres of unspoilt salt marsh (or merse) which provide overwintering sites for a multitude of wildfowl. The lovely coastal villages of Kippford, Rockcliffe and Sandyhills on the Colvend Coast are ideal for a gentle ramble in picturesque surroundings, Balcary Point, once the haunt of smugglers bringing contraband from the Isle of Man, offers more challenging walks along the clifftops (home to thousands of nesting seabirds in the early Summer), with numerous other small bays in the area offering quiet hideaways and spectacular views to the Cumbrian coast and Isle of Man. Further west, the pretty fishing village of Garlieston opens up miles of unspoilt coastal walks, while picturesque Portpatrick offers stunning views across the North Channel to the Irish coast, and from the Mull of Galloway on a clear day you may be lucky enough to glimpse '5 Kingdoms' - Scotland, Ireland, Man, England and Wales!
From Dalbeattie to the Colvend Coast, miles of unspoilt woodland is home to deer and red squirrel - and also holds one of the reknowned '7stanes' cycle trails to be found across the region. Further inland, the Galloway Forest Park - the largest Forest Park in the UK - boasts red deer and wild goats among its natural inhabitants, and offers scenic drives through some spectacular scenery with ample opportunity to get away from it all along various paths and cycle ways. The area has recently been established as a Dark Sky Park, with an observatory and visitor centre near Dalmellington, just over the Ayrshire border. The Galloway Hills offer opportunities for the hardier walker to explore some true unspoilt wilderness, including a number of areas of special scientific interest. The Solway Firth is a major staging post for migrating wildfowl, and the many salt marshes (Merse) of the area are home to a number of wildfowl reserves, including Caerlaverock and Wigtown Bay, while the famous Galloway Red Kite Trail is a major attraction in its own right. Ospreys have been nesting in the area for several years now, and can be viewed on live tv from April to September at Wigtown county buildings, and also at Threave, near Castle Douglas and Caerlaverock. Some of the area's natural beauties are showcased at D&G Natural History. Keen gardeners should be sure not to miss Threave Gardens, near Castle Douglas, or Castle Kennedy and Logan Botanical Gardens, near Stranraer, and other gardens on Scotland's Garden Route
For the more sporting-minded, the area boasts a number of good quality golf courses, including the championshiop course at Southerness, while the numerous rivers and lochs offer excellent fishing opportunities. Loch Ken , between Castle Douglas and New Galloway, is home to two small watersports centres, while horseriding is available at a number of local equestrian centres.
For the children, there are various attractions, including Mabie Farm Park , Dalscone activity centre at Dumfries, the Cocoa Bean chocolate factory at Twynholm, and the Taste of Galloway ice cream farm, complete with go-karting track.
A little further afield, the more commercial seaside resorts of Ayr and Girvan are both within reach of a day's outing.
See the recent BBC feature on the region's Wild Spring Festival
Claims to Fame
Probably the most famous son of the region is Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick and Annandale, whose claim to the throne of Scotland was secured by the assasination of the Red Comyn at Greyfriars Church in Dumfries. His predecessor as King of Scots, John Balliol, was brought up at Buittle Castle, near Dalbeattie, which now plays host to regular re-enactments of Border Reiver skirmishes. In the early middle ages, royal castles were sited at Dumfries, Kirkcudbright and Wigtown, with a number of important battles in the War of Independence being fought in the area. Mary Queen of Scots spent her last night in Scotland at Dundrennan Abbey, near Kirkcudbright.
Galloway has numerous literary and artistic connections, with Scotland's national poet, Robbie Burns, living for several years in Dumfries, and patrolling the region's coastline in his role as custom's Exciseman. JM Barrie was inspired to write about Peter Pan while living at Moat Brae in Dumfries, where plans are going ahead for an ambitious children's literature centre.
Founder of the American navy, John Paul Jones, grew up at Kirkbean, just outside Dumfries. And the bicycle was invented in Galloway.
More recently, Wigtownshire achieved fame - or notoriety! - in the book 'The Wigtown Ploughman' and other writings by Ian Niaill, who grew up just outside Wigtown. while Gavin Maxwell - of 'Ring of Bright Water' fame - also lived on the Machars coast. The cult movie 'The Wickerman' was filmed around the Wigtown and Creetown area - giving rise to the Wickerman music festival, now based near Kirkcudbright - and the recent TV series '100 Acres of Sky' was set in and around Port Logan. Other films shot on location in the region include 'The 39 Steps'.
The popular 20th century actor, James Robertson Justice, lived for many years in Wigtown, and the area is still home to a number of other celebrities, including Martin Shaw and Joanna Lumley, many more of whom can be encountered during the internationally reknowned Wigtown Book Festival.
Some upcoming events around the region courtesy of DG Link
Wild Spring Festival- a wide range of nature related events across the region - 29th March to 18th April 2013. Save £25 on your stay at either of our cottages when you mention taking part in the Festival.