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Dumfries and Galloway - the undiscovered land

Dumfries and Galloway is the south-west part of Scotland, which many overseas visitors bypass on their way to the Highlands - but the Scots know that it is a lovely area and they head there for their holidays, as I did in June. There are not mountains, but there are beautiful beaches; there are not heathery glens, but there are small villages, winding roads and interesting places to visit. On my holiday, I opted for touring with my motorhome, because there are several caravan parks in lovely locations overlooking the Solway Firth (you will find information at the end) and, because it is a long, narrow area, I selected three - Kippford in the east, Auchenlarie near Castle Douglas, and Whitecairn at Glenluce in the west.

The main reasons for visiting are the scenery (very lush and green) and the range of places to visit. Wherever possible, do not take the main road (A75) but hug the coast and go to Kippford and Kirkcudbright, Wigtown and Whithorn; you could leave the caravan at Whitecairn and head right to the south and climb the steps in the Mull of Galloway Lighthouse for spectacular views of Luce Bay and the Isle of Man. And take time to do a loop north from Castle Douglas along Loch Ken in the Galloway Forest Park (great for walking) and across to Newton Stewart. Because Galloway is warmed by the Gulf Stream all the way from the Caribbean, there are a number of gardens where everything grows well, including palm trees; the best are Logan Botanic Garden, Castle Kennedy Garden, Glenwhan Garden (all to the west) and the National Trust for Scotland's garden at Threave in Castle Douglas; my favourite is Glenwhan, on a hillside, with views over Luce Bay - it is open in the evening (you leave the entrance money in the honesty box).

Also not to be missed are two places unique in Scotland. The Creetown Gem Museum has an outstanding collection of gemstones, fossils and crystals, many of which you can pick up to study (plus good food in their café); the other place is Cream o'Galloway (near Kirkcudbright), an organic working farm where they make delicious ice-cream and where there are guided walks to tell visitors about the farm and the animals. This summer you must visit Threave Castle, near Castle Douglas, not just for the short (two-minute) crossing in the small boat but also because ospreys are nesting nearby and you can borrow binoculars to see the chicks on the nest.  If it is a fine day, take a picnic to enjoy beside the ruins of the Castle. One place I discovered this year is Balcary Point, not far from Dalbeatte; you get there via  Auchencairn and a small road to the Balcary Hotel and a small car-park; then walk for about twenty minutes through a field and a wood to a rocky hillock from where there are stupendous views over the Solway Firth and across to England. For information on caravan parks visit Thistle Parks. These parks all take touring caravans and motorhomes, but it is best to book in advance.
 
Judith Sleigh
Expert Scotland Advisor