Explore Dumfries & Galloway

06 Jan 2022
If you thought that Dumfries and Galloway was just somewhere that you zoom past on the motorway if you’re heading south from Scotland to the Lake District, or north from England to the Highlands, it’s time to think again.

Scotland’s most southerly – and warmest - region is alive with things to see and do. It’s a glorious escape for a holiday, whether you are travelling solo, in a couple, part of a family or with friends.

1. Discover Castles and Abbeys - Love History? You’ve come to the right place in Dumfries and Galloway. Caerlaverock Castle is a joy, the UK’s only triangular castle, the sort of place I just keep wandering around peering over the moat trying to make sense of it. Threave Castle meanwhile is the stuff of fairy-tales tucked on its own island in the River Dee. Sweetheart Abbey may just be Scotland’s most romantic, built by Lady Devorgilla as a testament to her love for her late husband. Dundrennan is another spectacular abbey built in the 12th century in Romanesque style. At Glenluce Abbey learn about four centuries of monastic life.

Robin On The SUW At Portpatrick, The Start

2. Hiking Heaven - One of Scotland’s Great Trails, the 344km-long Southern Upland Way, ripples from the Atlantic at Portpatrick east right across the whole of Dumfries and Galloway. It really is a diverse walk starting and finishing on the coast, scything through the region’s thick forests and up its hills, over its rivers too. One of my favourite stretches is the first one as you hike up the coastal cliffs from Portpatrick’s picture postcard perfect harbour out in search of Killantringan Lighthouse and then eke inland in search of Castle Kennedy.

3. Magical Dumfries – Remember Peter Pan from your childhood? Well the author of the children’s classic spent a lot of time in Dumfries. The building that houses the garden that is said to have inspired his ‘Neverland’ offers its magic to kids and big kids alike at Moat Brae. The site is now the National Centre for Children’s Literature and Storytelling, a cultural hub where the power of stories, of the imagination and of magic are paramount. You can even eat at the ‘Lost Boys Bistro’.

4. Get Wet and Wild – Wild swimming is very popular in Dumfries and Galloway these days, but it you want to take to the water in a more organised way then head to the excellent Galloway Activity Centre on gorgeous Loch Ken. They actually offer organised wild swimming sessions here alongside sailing, stand up paddle boarding (SUP), windsurfing and kayaking. It’s not all in the water at the Galloway Activity Centre with combat laser tag games, archery, mountain biking and climbing too. You can stay here and they have a café.

River Nith And Dumfries (2)

5. Swap Four Wheels for Two – Dumfries and Galloway is a brilliant escape for cyclists, whether you are into MTB or road cycling. And the perfect base is Marthrown of Mabie which gives you great access into the 7stanes routes at Mabie. You can also easily get to the other 7 Stanes sites at Glentrool, Dalbeattie, Kirroughtree and Ae. There is cycling for all levels with easier green and blue routes for the less experienced and families, on to more testing red routes and black runs to for those with the skills really wanting to put them to the test in adrenaline-pumping style. There is more great biking at Drumlanrig Castle Estate with their very natural trails. Mountain bikers should check out the new trails. Local outfit Rik’s Bike Shed can supply the wheels; Liz at TrailSkills MTB the guiding expertise.

Robin At Drumlanrig (4)

6. A Hame’s a Hame For ‘a That – Many people associate Scotland’s national bard Robert Burns with Ayrshire and not Dumfries and Galloway. That always amazes me as he spent years of his life here and you can follow in his pen quills at the Robert Burns Centre. A highlight for me is visiting his modest old house and seeing the desk where he used to pen his epic verse. Then there is a highlight that the famously fun loving poet always loved – the Globe Inn. In recent years they’ve invested heavily here and it’s now no longer just somewhere you can see his ‘graffiti’ on the windows, but also a huge testament to the great man. The food these days is superb too with a brace of chefs trained at Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles.

7. The Devil’s Porridge – Not as tempting as it sounds, this is the name given by Arthur Conan Doyle to the massive amounts of essential cordite that were conjured up here by the hard working women. Britain was at real risk of losing the First World War to Germany due to a chronic lack of ammunition, both bullets and shells. The mass production of the propellant cordite here in Dumfries and Galloway was the answer. The brilliant Devil’s Porridge Museum here now tells the story of the women and their dangerous work. It also puts the women’s role in the societal context of the day and covers the region during both world war wars.

8. The Scottish Riviera – The balmy Solway Firth coast is often eulogised as ‘Scotland’s Riviera’ and its big skies and dappled light are really something special. The highlight is gorgeous wee Kirkcudbright. So special is the light here that for centuries artists and other creatives have flocked to the this charming waterfront to relax by the banks of the River Dee. It’s a joy just strolling through the streets by the pastel-hued houses nipping into any of the wee galleries that catch your eye.

Kirkcudbright 5

9. Local Produce Heaven – Dumfries and Galloway offers a seriously well-stocked culinary, larder from its rich rivers and bountiful seas, through to its acres of pasture and wild glens. You can eat well all over the region. I’ve been back down recently and savoured the produce of two brilliant smokeries – Barony and Marrbury. At the latter you van savour their delicious smoked salmon and hot smoked salmon on site by Carsluith Castle. Belted Galloway is one of Scotland’s finest beef herds – the steaks rival Aberdeen Angus. You can learn more about cooking too at Nick Morris’ excellent Station House Cookery School in Kirkcudbright.

10. Whisky - and Gin - Galore! – The brilliantly recreated Annandale Distillery – a former Johnny Walker bolthole – shakes everything you thought you knew about Lowland malts on its head. Here as well as delicate Bourbon-tinged and comforting sherry-infused malts, they have some peaty monsters to test your tastebuds. Great tours and both an excellent shop and café too, so you’ll want to make a half day of it here. The Dark Art Distillery in Kirkcudbright meanwhile is a rising award-winner with shining star distiller Fiona Williamson at the helm.

Annandale Distillery 6

Blog by our travel writer, Robin McKelvie

Our hostels in Dumfries & Galloway

Moffat Independent Hostel

Moffat Independent Hostel Bridge House Well Road Moffat DG10 9JT

Moffat Independent Hostel is a friendly, family run hostel that has been set up with the outdoors enthusiast in mind. Moffat is in the heart of the...

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