1. Dark skies
When the sun sets over the 300 square miles of Galloway Forest Park the skies become the darkest in Europe. Stargazers are attracted from miles around to wonder at the Andromeda Galaxy, shooting stars and occasionally the Aurora Borealis. An experience you’ll never forget and one of the top reasons to visit this area.
The region’s nature reserves and natural beauty are home to a vast array of wildlife. Spend long enough looking around and you could see the likes of golden eagles, ospreys, red deer, pine martens, wild geese and swans, red kites, otters, red squirrels, rare natterjack toads and much much more.
3. Ports and harbours
From quaint fishing villages and their harbours to the major ferry port at Cairnryan, which sends regular sailings to Ireland, the coastline plays a vital role in the region’s economy – and charm. Kirkcudbright Harbour is the busiest commercial fishing harbour while Stranraer gives access to the Irish Sea.
4. Common riding
An annual event celebrated in border towns, most notably at the “Muckle Toon”, Langholm, the tradition dates back to the 13th century, when warring English and Scottish clans would ride out and thieve cattle from each other. Today, the peaceful affair involves hundreds of horses, riders and costumes.
5. The Wicker Man
The cult 1972 movie, weird and wonderful and far better than the recent Hollywood remake, was filmed almost entirely in Newton Stewart, and has now inspired an annual summer music festival attracting top names and a friendly vibe to fields at Dundrennan.
6. Getting married
Gretna Green is one of the world’s most popular wedding destinations. It rose to fame as the place to go for runaways to get wed when their parents did not approve, or when laws in their own country prohibited it, and a museum charts its fascinating history. Today 1,500 couples tie the knot there every year and 200 couples renew their vows.
7. ‘Rabbie’ Burns
He was Scotland’s national poet and many places across the country lay claim to him, but Burns spent his final years in Dumfries and Galloway. Dumfries in particular is awash with Burns landmarks and memorials, and his favourite pub, and his words live on and his life is celebrated each year.
8. Famous people
Aside from Burns, the region has produced the likes of James Barrie, author of Peter Pan; actor John Laurie from Dad’s Army (“we’re doomed!”); Fred Basset cartoonist Alex Graham; Formula 1 driver David Coulthard and musician Calvin Harris among many more.
There are three National Scenic Areas in the region – Nith Estuary, following the River Nith southward from Dumfries into the Solway Firth; East Stewartry, the picturesque coastline from Balcary Point to Mersehead and Fleet Valley, taking in Fleet Bay. All stunning.
10. Castles and fortresses
Surrounding the town of Dumfries are many castles, towers and ruins which have played a major role in Scotland’s history. Caerlaverock Castle is a stunning and unusual triangular moated fortress. Others in care of Historic Environment Scotland include Threave Castle and MacLellan’s Castle. Visit and take a fascinating step back in time.
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