Guide to the Wild Side of Southern Dumfries & Galloway

Dumfries and Galloway has often been regarded as the ‘most overlooked part of Scotland’ as many head further north to the Highlands and Islands. However visitors can enjoy some of the best kept secrets and charms that it boasts. Ideal for those who fancy something on the wild side different. And without the crowds.

Galloway Forest Park remains a big draw and hosts many of those delights. It is one of the darkest places in Scotland, when it became the UK’s first Dark Sky Park back in 2009. It also hosts several great wild landscapes and many best kept secrets.

Here are some ‘wild side’ ideas that may inspire you to head out in the great outdoors and explore these great locations whilst staying at Ross Bay Retreat.

Glen Trool

Glen Trool

Loch Trool, Galloway Forest Park – ‘Visit Bruce’s Stone & Circumnavigate Loch & Waterfalls’

A real jewel of the Galloway Forest Park. This stretch of water is a tranquil freshwater loch with waterfalls tumbling into it and surrounded by dense and gnarled Scots Pine Forest. On the Northern Shore of Loch Trool is Bruce’s Stone, a large boulder erected to commemorate the Battle of Trool back in less tranquil times in 1307. This prominent stone provides a commanding viewpoint of the loch and surrounding landscape. There is a 5.5 mile walking trail that circuits all around the shores of the loch.

Bruce's Stone - Loch Trool

Bruce’s Stone – Loch Trool

Loch Ken, Glenkens, North of Castle Douglas – ‘Enjoy Water Adventures’

Loch Ken is a 9 mile long, picturesque and freshwater loch with Kenmure Castle at the head of the Northern shore in the Glenkens. It is the largest and wildest glen in Galloway that is fed from the north by the Water of Ken. Loch Ken is great for watersports. Galloway Activity Centre hires out stand up paddleboards, kayaks and great for wall watersport. Visitors can also try archery or go mountain biking and exeprience many more fun outdoor activities.

St Ninian's Cave near Wigtown

St Ninian’s Cave near Wigtown

St Ninians Cave, Physgill Glen, Whithorn – ‘Seek Solitude in a Sea Cave’

Experience the solitude of a sea-side cave that folklore says was the hideaway of an early Christian saint. It is said that St Ninian’s Cave was a place of Roman Catholic pilgrimage and retreat by way of its association with the Scottish saint Ninian. Seek out the ten carved crosses cut into the cave walls left by pilgrims back in the 700’s. There were also old Christian carved head stones found in the cave, these can now be found at the nearby Whithorn Priory and Museum.


Southerness Lighthouse

Southerness Lighthouse, Southerness – ‘Enjoy Views Across The Solway Firth to The Lake District’

Get the sea breeze on your face from up at from the curved parapet of the second oldest lighthouse in Scotland and enjoy teh views across the the Solway Firth. Southerness Lighthouse is often open to the public in high season, where views from the top are said to be well worth the 18m climb. Southerness is a lovely and wide sandy beach. This beach flanks both sides of Southerness Point and sits within the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is a great beach for dog walking all year round and the sand dunes roll on for many miles. Rockpools, teeming with fascinating wildlife can be found a low tide.

Caerlaverock Castle

Caerlaverock Castle

Caerlaverock Castle, South of Dumfries – ‘Discover one of Scotland’s Great Medieval Fortresses’

One of Scotland’s great medieval fortresses, Caerlaverock Castle is a spectacular wide moated triangular castle with a twin-towered gatehouse and imposing battlements. Learn all about its turbulent history and the brutal cross-border conflicts. The siege warfare exhibition ignites the imagination with reconstructions of medieval siege engines including trebuchets.

Its spectacular looks and island location makes the castle a popular filming location. These films include the Legend of King Arthur and more recently the Decoy Bride starring David Tennant.

Dunskey Castle

Dunskey Castle

Dunskey Castle, Stranraer – ‘Visit an Amazing Abandoned Cliff Top Castle’

Look across to Northern Ireland from the magnificent ruins of Dunskey Castle which. It is picturesquely perched on a rocky clifftop outcrop jutting out into the Irish Sea. Dunskey Castle is a abandoned and spectacular ruin of an Edwardian castle and towerhouse that dates back to 13th century. It is a lovely scenic coastal walk from Portpatrick.

The Merrick, Galloway Forest Park – ‘Climb to the Highest Point in Southern Scotland’

The Merrick is the highest mountain in southern Scotland. With a summit elevation of 843 metres, it lies in the Range of the Awful Hand, a sub-range of the Galloway Hills and is named due to their resemblance to the fingers of a hand. The view from the Merrick and Mount Snowdon is the longest line of sight in the British Isles, at 144-miles.

The Merrick is popular with hillwalkers, with the shortest route of ascent beginning from the car park in Glen Trool. It is a relatively straightforward hike. Nearby is Bruce’s Stone, which overlooks the site of the Battle of Glen Trool and commemorates the victory of Robert the Bruce over the English forces of Edward II, in 1307.

Raiders Road, Galloway Forest Park – ‘Get off the Beaten Track’

The winding gravel Raiders Road from Clatterinshaws to Mossdale takes you into the depths of the Galloway Forest Park. It is also a lovely safe from traffic bike ride.

One of two forest drives in Galloway Forest Park (the other is Carrick Forest Drive), this delightful forest track follows the forested glen cut by the Black Water of Dee. It is suitable for most vehicles and is an easy way to see a lot of the forest’s woodland, wildlife and the river without having to walk too far. The views and surroundings truly are spectacular.

Raiders Road Forest Drive is a 10 mile two-way forest drive, which is open to vehicles between April and October and for walkers, cyclists and horse-riders year-round. There is a small fee of £3.00, payable in coins.

Nature and wildlife can be seen all around the surrounding forest. If you are lucky you may well spot red deer and roe deer grazing. Look up and spot buzzards, sparrowhawks and red kites soaring above. A popular place to stop and enjoy the views and have a picnic at the delightful riverside Otters Pool (see below).

Family of Otters

Family of Otters

Otters Pool, North of Laurieston – ‘Picnic & Paddle with Otters in the River Dee’

A lovely spot for a picnic on the River Dee on the Raiders Road alongside tumbling shallow pools halfway right in the heart of the Galloway Forest Park. The beautiful pool is overlooked by a bronze otter which is popular with paddlers and rock hoppers. Otters Pool is found on the Raiders Road and part of a delightful ten-mile walk within the forest, the otter overlooks the Black Water of Dee.

Wood of Cree RSPB Nature Reserve

Wood of Cree RSPB Nature Reserve

Wood of Cree, Newton Stewart – ‘Walk Through Ancient & Mighty Oaks’

The Wood of Cree RSPB Nature Reserve is the largest ancient wood in southern Scotland. Spring offers a carpet of bluebells and beautiful birdsong including the sound of pied flycatchers and warblers. If you are lucky you may see barn and tawny owls at dusk.

It is a magical place, with a short but very worthwhile 3.75km Wood of Cree walk combining the natural woodland of mighty oaks, scrubland trails, cascading burns cascading burn and waterfalls. There is one high viewpoint which looks down over the Cree valley and marshes below. At the end of the circular walk you can view otters swimming from the platform overlooking a pool on the River Cree.

Cally Estate, Gatehouse of Fleet – ‘An Ice Cream Bike Ride to Cream of Galloway’

Enjoy a 12 mile leisurely cycle loop ride through the Cally Estate – great for viewing the spring bluebells and great ice cream lies ahead. From Gatehouse of Fleet, follow signs for National Bike Route 7, passing Cally Palace. Once in Cally Woods, follow the signs for Sandgreen and keep to the coastal track. The next section follows the shoreline, by Carrick Shore, one of the best Galloway beaches and the estate of Knockbrex.

The ride loop back follows Route 7 again takes you to Cream O’ Galloway where you must stop for a luxurious, traditional dairy ice cream, which combines fresh organic milk from our high-welfare ethical dairy farm where dairy cows and calves are kept together. The return route winds its way through Cally Woods passing the Cally Woods Temple and back on the road past the Cally Palace drive back to Gatehouse.

Gather Restaurant, Laggan, Gatehouse of Fleet – ‘Scampi & Sundowners overlooking the Sea’

Sit outside and enjoy the fantastic seascapes across Fleet Bay and the Solway Firth. A stunning sea view bistro near the Gatehouse of Fleet perched high on a steep hillside above Fleet Bay and the Solway Firth. The Gather Restaurant has an outdoor seating area with a panoramic glass fronted seating area to enjoy the wonderful views out over Fleet Bay. The menu focus is on good local Scottish produce combined with international influences.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors in Dumfries & Galloway

It is great to enjoy the great outdoors, from eating al fresco to walking, biking or hiking the spectacular hills, seeing the ancient forests and seeking out waterfalls and ancient monuments. Get out and enjoy what delights Dumfries and Galloway can offer, make memories and take experiences home with you that can never be forgot.

Have fun!

See map below where to find these locations, directions and how to get there.

Tagged with: , , , , , ,