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Places to Visit

Stranraer

Stranraer has a long history as a ferry port and the town is situated at the head of Loch Ryan.  The town’s main attraction is the Castle of St. John, a ruined four-story tower house built around 1500, which sits on a green in the main street. There are several eye-catching artworks in the area surrounding the castle. Stranraer Museum can be found in the old town hall.

Three miles east of Stranraer are Castle Kennedy Gardens, with the castle, two lochs, a giant lily pond and an avenue of monkey puzzle trees.

 

Portpatrick

Portpatrick is a pretty town of pastel-coloured houses, set around a small bay with cliffs forming the backdrop. A former port for transportation to and from Northern Ireland, Portpatrick is now a peaceful holiday resort.  Sea angling is a popular pastime in these parts, as is walking, with options including a short stroll along the cliffs to Dunskey Castle. The Southern Upland Way starts here and continues for 212 miles, all the way to the east coast.

Portpatrick Folk Festival is a three-day celebration of folk music which takes place in September.

 

Ayr

Ayr has a fantastic esplanade with a long sandy beach which is perfect for walking. There are also plenty of parking spaces on either side of the main road that runs parallel with the beach.  Ayr Racecourse, dating back to the 16th century, runs many Flat and National Hunt meetings throughout the year and is particularly famous as the venue of the Scottish Grand National, the Ayrshire Handicap and the Ayr Gold Cup.

Scotland's national bard, Robert Burns, was born in Alloway, on the outskirts of the town. Visitors should make the short trip to visit his birthplace and the new Robert Burns Birthplace Museum.

 

Newton Stewart

Newton Stewart is a small market town on the banks of the River Cree, surrounded by the Galloway hills, around 25 miles from Stranraer.  It was named after its founder William Stewart, son of the Earl of Galloway. It thrived on its cotton and carpet industries, but is now more famous for its salmon and trout fishing on the River Cree.

The town is a favourite for hill walkers and mountain bikers as it is near Galloway Forest Park, with internationally recognised biking trails amidst some of the most dramatic scenery in the south of Scotland.

There is a wealth of wildlife, such as red and roe deer in the forest and hills, while wild goats thrive on the rocky slopes.

 

Wigtown

Wigtown is Scotland's National Book Town and is the gateway to the Machars.  Wigtown is the home of the annual Wigtown Book Festival and the town has a wide range of independent bookshops. There are plenty of places to eat out within the town. Situated seven miles south of Newton Stewart, Wigtown is well placed for exploring the Machars peninsula.

Near Wigtown is the Martyrs' Stake which marks the spot where two women covenanters were drowned in May 1685. A marked walk through the town will take you there via the County Buildings, which used to be the local courtroom and now houses the town library. The walk has views over Wigtown Bay and the Galloway Hills.

Wigtown Bay is great for bird watching, and you can even watch ospreys on CCTV at the County Buildings during the summer.

 

Gatehouse of Fleet

Gatehouse of Fleet is a village situated near the mouth of the Water of Fleet, ten miles west of Kirkcudbright.  In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Gatehouse of Fleet was a thriving industrial centre with cotton mills, shipbuilding, a brewery and its own port. It was known locally as the 'Glasgow of the South'.

Traces of this industrial past can still be found in its buildings and street names and in the Mill on the Fleet, a former textile mill which is now an award-winning visitors' centre tracing the economic and social history of Gatehouse.

Gatehouse provides opportunities for a variety of sporting activities, including golf, walking, cycling, fishing and sailing. Port Macadam, once the town's harbour, is still used by small pleasure craft.

Among the local historical attractions are Cardoness Castle, a late 15th-century fortified tower house that was the ancient seat of the McCullochs, and the ruins of Anwoth Church with its atmospheric graveyard, complete with Covenanter graves.

 

Kirkcudbright

Kirkcudbright is a harbour town on the Solway coast that has always been popular with artists. Located around 10 miles form Castle Douglas, and only 6 miles from the A75.  It sits on the banks of the River Dee and is the only town on the Solway coast with a working harbour. It’s an attractive town with a colourful blend of medieval, Georgian and Victorian buildings. Kirkcudbright became a magnet for Scottish artists in the late 19th century, and is now know as The Artists' Town beacuse of this association.

MacLellan's Castle is a ruined 16th century tower house by the harbourside and nearby is Broughton House, a smart Georgian townhouse which was once the home of the artist Edward Hornel. The house has some impressive Japanese gardens.

Other town attractions include the Tolbooth Art Centre and Harbour Cottage Gallery.

 

Castle Douglas

Castle Douglas is an 18th century market town that is also a designated Food Town with lots of local produce.

There are around 50 local businesses in Castle Douglas that either produce or sell quality food and drink. The town has many independent shops selling a great variety of goods in addition to food. 

Beside Castle Douglas is Carlingwark Loch, dotted with islands and great for boating and learning to sail and picnicking. There is a caravan park and kids' playground by the loch and at the far end of the loch is National Trust for Scotland's Threave Garden, House and Estate open to visitors all year.

On an island in the River Dee stands 14th century Threave Castle, the great fortress of the Douglases, which can be reached by ferry. Nearby is Threave Wildfowl Reserve, an important place for wintering wildfowl, where visitors can watch the birds from hides.

 

Kippford

Kippford is an unusually narrow village on the shore of the estuary of the River Urr and is popular with yachtsmen. It is a charming waterside location and from Kippford you can take a stroll on the Jubilee footpath to the pretty village of Rockcliffe.

 

Dumfries

Dumfries, ‘the Queen of the South’, is a historic country town, famed for its connection with Scotland's National Bard Robert Burns.

Dumfries lies on the banks of the River Nith and this charming town, which became a royal burgh in the 12th century, has countless attractions as well as an intriguing history.

Lady Devorgilla, matriarch of the powerful Balliol family, was a great benefactress to the town. She paid for the building of the first bridge over the Nith as well as nearby Sweetheart Abbey, which was founded in 1273 to honour her late husband.

It was in the town’s Greyfriars monastery in 1306 that Robert Bruce murdered John Comyn, ally of the Balliols and Bruce's chief rival for the then-vacant Scottish throne, leading to Bruce's coronation and the Scottish War of Independence. Today, Greyfriars church shadows the site of the original monastery.

Dumfries has been home to various well-known individuals, including J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan and, of course, Robert Burns. The town has a number of sites associated with the bard who lived in Dumfries in his later years and died there in 1796. Burns’ former house is now a museum dedicated to him while the town also boasts his favourite howff - or drinking haunt - the Globe Inn.