Days out in Dumfries and Galloway
Dumfries and Galloway makes the most of its natural beauty and fascinating history to provide visitors with a wealth of attractions to visit and fantastic family days out. The stunning Galloway Forest Park covers a large and lush 300 square miles for walking or driving through. Spectacular scenery homes an abundance of wildlife, so look out for red deer, red squirrels, otters, black grouse and maybe even a golden eagle or pine marten. Visitor centres at Kirroughtree, Glentrool and Clatteringshaws are the best places to start.
Galloway is one of only a handful of accredited Dark Sky Parks in the world – it was the first to be given the award in the UK. This means that light pollution is next to non-existent, so on a clear night you can see the stars, constellations and planets in amazing detail.
Nature impresses across the region. The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve at Caerlaverock is open all-year-round, and from October to April is alive with the noise of tens of thousands of barnacle geese, whooper swans and other visiting birds.
Grey Mare’s Tail Nature Reserve, a Special Area of Conservation owned by The Woodland Trust near Moffat, boasts Britain’s fifth tallest waterfall, cascading into Loch Skeen. The reserve is a refuge for rare upland plants, peregrines, feral goats and mountain hares.
Threave Garden and Estate, owned by the National Trust for Scotland, has been voted one of the best gardens to visit in the UK. Logan Botanic Garden at Stranraer, meanwhile, is Scotland’s most exotic garden with plants rarely seen in the UK.
Light pollution is next to non-existent, so on a clear night you can see the stars, constellations and planets in amazing detail
Excellent visitor attractions
Many farms in the region have diversified into excellent visitor attractions. Mossburn Animal Rescue Centre and Community Farm at Hightae, near Lockerbie rescues and shelters unwanted and neglected animals, and is a popular family day out.
Mabie Farm Park and Dalscone Farm Fun, both near Dumfries, offer the viewing of farm animals alongside indoor and outdoor play areas. At Dalscone you can also visit Scotland’s largest independent toy shop.
Cream o’ Galloway is a family attraction on an organic dairy farm which churns out luxurious ice cream. On site is an adventure playground, buggy-friendly nature trails and bicycle trails. Find it at Rainton, near Gatehouse of Fleet. Upper Senwick Farm near Kirkcudbright is home to Senwick Alpaca Trekking, where you can join a guided trek across 320 acres.
Consider visits to The Cocoabean Company at Twynholm, which offers chocolate workshops and play areas, and Lockerbie Ice Rink, which is pushing the attraction of curling and looking for people to try out the sport.
The family attraction is on an organic dairy farm which churns out luxurious ice cream. On site is an adventure playground, buggy-friendly nature trails and bicycle trails
A rich history makes for many of Dumfries & Galloway’s attractions, however. Gretna Green Famous Blacksmiths Shop is where runaway couples have come to marry since 1754. Audio-visual displays bring the story to life.
At nearby Eastriggs, the Devils Porridge Museum tells of possibly the greatest munitions factory ever, a huge chain of buildings stretching between Dornock in Scotland and Longtown in England. It was built to give troops a continuous supply of ammunition in World War One.
Dumfries Museum tells the story of the land and people of the region through fossil footprints, tools, weapons and stone carvings. Installed in 1836, The Camera Obscura is on the top floor and offers a panoramic view of Dumfries and the surrounding countryside.
The Creetown Gem Rock Museum at Newton Stewart is renowned worldwide for its collections, and Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum includes the restored control tower of the former World War Two airfield at Dumfries.
Gretna Green Famous Blacksmiths Shop is where runaway couples have come to marry since 1754. Audio-visual displays bring the story to life
Famous historical figures
Wanlockhead Lead Mining Museum is in Scotland’s highest Village, at 1531 ft (468m) above sea level. On display are some of the finest minerals found in the Lowther Hills, an area responsible for one per cent of all known minerals in the world today. More heritage is tracked at Scottish Industrial Railway Centre at Patna, near Dalmellington – the only steam railway in the south west of Scotland. Whithorn is the site of the first Christian church in Scotland, while at Arbigland trace the early years of John Paul Jones, the ‘Father of the American Navy’.
Of course the most famous historical figure from these parts is poet Robert Burns, and a good place to begin tracing his story is at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Dumfries. Take a day trip along the Burns Heritage Trail, a driving route which takes you on a journey through Burns’ life, taking in his birthplace in Alloway to his grave in Dumfries.
Travel further back in time to visit some stunning fortresses and ruins across the region. The 17th-century Drumlanrig Castle, an ancient Douglas stronghold, is now the home of the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry and is one of the most visited attractions in Scotland.
The 13th-century impressive ruins of Caerlaverock Castle on the Solway coast also boasts an interactive exhibition and nature trail, while Threave Castle, on an island in the River Dee, can only be reached by boat. Dundrennan Abbey near Kirkcudbright is where Mary Queen of Scots spent her last hours in Scotland.
Take a day trip along the Burns Heritage Trail, a driving route which takes you on a journey through Burns’ life, taking in his birthplace in Alloway to his grave in Dumfries
All year round
Travel way back 150 million years to visit Dino Park in Carrutherstown to discover the giant creatures which roamed the earth. Open from Easter to October, the soft play area there welcomes visitors all year round.
The adventurous shouldn’t leave the area without a walk along the clifftop to Mull of Galloway Lighthouse, which dates back to 1828. It is Scotland’s most southerly lighthouse and the tower and an exhibition are open to the public at selected times.
Or climb to the top of the hill on the north side of Loch Trool and find The Bruce’s Stone, a massive granite boulder commemorating Robert the Bruce’s first victory over an English army in 1307 during the Scottish Wars of Independence. It is the recommended starting spot for the challenging walk up Merrick, the highest mountain in southern Scotland.
Further exertions are necessary at the Galloway Activity Centre, on the banks of Loch Ken, and Laggan Outdoor near Gatehouse of Fleet, both offering outdoor adventure for the whole family.
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