Or, The A-Z of D&G!

South Western Scotland is often overlooked by holiday makers seeking the splendours of the Highlands or the vibrancy of Glasgow & Edinburgh.  Yet those same holidaymakers who blithely cruise the M74, without ‘eyes left’, are missing out.  We believe Dumfries & Galloway has so much to offer it’s visitors, we’ve created this Ginspired Day Trip and confidently called it ‘The A-Z of D&G’, because there really is everything here, from A to Z.  Come with us as we Day Trip to Dumfries & Galloway:

Map of Dumfries & Galloway

Getting Here

Getting here is easy:  under 2 hours from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle or Preston by road, or 3 hours from Leeds and Bradford. With alternative routes across country if the journey is part of the fun.  From side to side, the whole region is just a 90 minute drive with detours to our suggested locations to the north and south of the main A75 route west to Stranraer.

So here goes:

A             Art Galleries aplenty, but probably the most significant is the Kirkcudbright Galleries site, which is currently hosting an exhibition of works by Ewan McClure (now until end October).  But whichever part of the Dumfries & Galloway region you find yourself in, there are galleries and art centres, more than a dozen in total.  Many are free to enter, some you must book in advance, all are worth a look.

B             Books – staying in the cultural vein, Wigtown is known as Scotland’s Book Town, with over 30 book-related businesses in the area.  The Book Festival has moved online this year (Sept 24th – Oct 4th) but a non-virtual visit to Wigtown still rewards visitors with its beautiful setting and historic architecture.

C             Castles, Coos, Crafts – Caerlaverock Castle unique triangular design is so impressive. It’s open all year round, but tickets must be booked in advance, online just now. Situated in Glencaple, it has a rich history, but it’s huge curtain wall was demolished in the 17th Century to prevent it ever being used again as a fortification.  Much older is Loch Doon Castle, near Dalmellington. It was built by Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland on an island in Loch Doon.  It’s free to visit and open all year, but was relocated, stone by stone, to its current location on the shores of the Loch in 1935, as a new hydro electric scheme meant the water levels would rise and cover it!  It’s ruin now, but still worth a look.

D             Dark Skies & Deer – The Dark Skies Observatory near Dalmellington re-opens on September 3rd for star gazers to enjoy.  Evening visits begin initially at 9pm, changing to 8pm later in the season. The region’s scarcity of artificial lights means that over 7000 stars and planets are visible with the naked eye, and by using the high-powered telescopes in the observatory, the whole sky comes alive.  Even if you don’t know Uranus from your elbow, this is still a memorable treat for the eyes.  The Galloway Forest is home to the full range of Scottish Wildlife, but is much less visited than many areas of the country.  It’s entirely possible to spot ospreys, otters, red squirrels, red deer, pine martens, and eagles across the region, especially if you know where to look!  A great place to start is the hide at the Red Deer Range, near Castle Douglas.  Use of the hide is free, but you stand a good chance of seeing some of the local 60 or so deer which live here.

E              Enchantment – JM Barrie, author of Peter Pan, lived in Dumfries and took much of his inspiration for his most famous work from his home and garden at Moat Brae.  Now a visitor centre celebrating his life and work, Moat Brae reopens on September 3rd, for story telling tours and a brand-new exhibition. 

F              Fishing and Fish – If it’s coarse fishing you’re looking for, you’re spoiled for choice with rivers and lochs offering opportunities to fish a range of species.  For a unique pescatarian experience though, make a trip to The Logan Fish Pond, close to Port Logan on the west coast.  Open until the end of October, and with a family ticket costing just £10, the ‘pond’ has been used for over 200 years!  It was originally set up to take advantage of a natural cavity in the rock formation where the tide would refresh the seawater twice a day, but always leave a significant pool of water, enough to sustain large sea fish.  The laird of nearby Logan House would buy live fish from the locals and place them into the pond to live happily, until their turn came to feature on his menu.  These days it’s possible to walk down to the edge of the pond and see the fish (now free to live out their natural term) at close quarters.  It really is fascinating.  Don’t miss a trip to Port Logan itself while you’re there.  Lovely beach and so quiet.

G             Golf – With over 20 golf courses across the region, from challenging upland, parkland and links courses, you’ll find it easy to find one to suit your taste, ability and location. 

But ‘G’?  I mean really, it’s all about the GIN!

Click the links to learn more.

Now here are three wonderful reasons for you to visit Dumfries and Galloway.  They’re called Orogin, Solway Gin and Hills and Harbour Gin. If you do nothing else while you’re in the area make sure you sample at least one of these (and take several bottles home with you too!)

Orogin originates at The Dalton Distillery near Lockerbie. Although currently not running tours due to Covid, they do hope to re-open soon, so it’s worth checking online before your trip, or call them on 01387 840381. The Distillery Shop is open every day except Sunday, but the Oro Bar & Garden is open on Fridays and Saturdays only from 1pm – 11pm. Their website is www.orogin.co.uk

Solway Spirits in Annan is run by Andrew & Kate.  Although there’s no visitor centre at present, tours and tastings are possible for pre-arranged visits.  The best way is to call to arrange something according to your timetable, group size, date etc, and they’ll do their best to accommodate you.  It’s totally flexible, for up to 12 guests, and if you’re buying, they won’t even charge you for the tour!  Call them on 01461 758388 or email at info@solwayspirits.co.uk

Hills and Harbour Gin is made at the Crafty Distillery near to Newton Stewart. Tours of the distillery take place at 11.30am on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. There’s an overspill tour at 2pm if it’s especially busy.  Book in advance, by phone or online, and make sure you have a designated driver, as the tour includes three gorgeous ginny drinks too!  There is also a shop to explore with some other local food and drinks to enjoy.  For the real gin enthusiasts among you, call to arrange a ‘Gin Escape’.  This full day experience for up to four people (one bubble), includes joining the Crafty’s Gin Makers in foraging for ingredients (botanicals), lots of tasting, gin making techniques and so much more.  You’ll need your own transport just now, and if you bring a driver too, he/she would not count towards the four people limit.  The distillery is in a beautiful location, run by friendly and hugely knowledgeable people, with a real passion for what they do.  You won’t be disappointed.  Visit their website at https://craftydistillery.com/

H             Horse Riding.  When was the last time you cantered down a country lane or galloped off into the sunset?  Too long, time you did it again, and Dumfries and Galloway is a perfect location to revisit that feeling only a saddle can give to your bottom. Lochhill Equestrian Centre near Castle Douglas offers treks from one hour to a whole day to explore this part of Galloway.  With horses and ponies of all shapes and sizes, they can accommodate people of all shapes and sizes too, so the whole family can join in.  Alternatively, Lochhill also offers Carriage Rides through the historic town of Kirkcudbright, so if you fancy something a little more sedate, that could be for you.

I               Ice cream – oh yes!  What’s a day out without a melty 99 running down your chin or over your hand?  It’s what day trips were made for (well that and Scottish Gin of course!)  My personal favourite and a brand you’ll see everywhere is ‘Cream o’ Galloway’. Situated near Gatehouse of Fleet, this organic dairy farm produces excellent ice cream and also has a visitor centre, adventure playgrounds, e-karts, café etc etc.  It’s a full day out in itself, and of course there’s always lashings of ice cream to go around.  Don’t miss it!

J              Jewellery – in tune with the creative vibes in the air around here, Dumfries & Galloway have a world class collection of bespoke jewellery designers.  So, you have an heirloom in need of modernisation, a romantic proposal to engage with, or just want to spoil yourself or someone special, try Elizabeth Gault and Kathryn King in Kirkcudbright, or Alison MacLeod in Thornhill. True gems for you to discover.

Photo of Outside eating area
The Steam Packet Inn

K             Kennedy – well to be fair, Castle Kennedy near Stranraer.  I thought it deserved a space of its own as space is truly what it offers.  Over 70 acres of beautiful gardens to wander in, with something of interest no matter what time of year you visit.  Open Wednesday to Sunday until the end of October, and if you happen to be NHS staff, please show your pass for a discount.  Book ahead just now, and you’re assured of a wonderful visit. I really could continue with Kippford (picturesque seaside village with coastal walks, family and dog friendly pubs, and scenic views), Kircudbright (with its busy fishing harbour and its community of artists and craftspeople, it was first established in 1455).  And Kites.  See wild red kites being fed at Bellymack Hill Farm.  Lots of Ks!

L              Lochs – for fishing of course, but also to cycle round, swim in, sail on and simply look at and enjoy.  Loch Ken, with the Galloway Activity Centre on its eastern shore, Mossroddich Loch for coarse fishing, Loch Doon with its Castle, close to the Dark Skies Observatory, Clatteringshaws Loch with the Forest Visitor Centre nearby, Loch Ryan and it’s wonderful oysters.  I could go on, but make sure you enjoy at least one during your visit.

M            Mountain Biking – If there’s any region of Scotland with better provision for mountain bikers, I’m yet to find it.  There are over a dozen dedicated routes and courses, from Kirroughtrees to Drumlanrig.  Glentrool to the Mabie Forest.  Some are only for the very brave, but others would suit even the most lily livered among us.  There’s also bike hire (e-bikes too) widely available, so you don’t even need to bring your own wheels to enjoy them.

N             National Trust for Scotland – It’s been a tough year for the NTS, so if you’re able to visit one of their properties it would help preserve both that place, and many others across the country.  Threave Gardens near Castle Douglas are gorgeous, Broughton House and Garden in Kirkcudbright was home to E A Hornel, one of the ‘Glasgow Boys’, who as well as being an accomplished artist, also held one of the largest collections of Robert Burns works. 

O             Open Spaces – from the massive sands of Luce Bay, the views across to the Lake District, the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland from the Mull of Galloway, you’ll not be short of open spaces, open air and open skies around here.  And the best news of all, most places are now also ‘Open’ for business!  Covid means things are constantly changing though, so do check ahead, especially if you’re making a long journey.

P             Plants – Castle Kennedy Gardens, Threave Gardens, Glenwhan Gardens at Glenluce, Logan Botanic Gardens, and I could go on.  This area of Scotland tends to be milder than most so you might be surprised by what you find!

Q             Queues? No, none of them around here!  That’s the beauty of this area, it’s one of Scotland’s best kept secrets.

R             Rockcliffe is a lovely historic seaside village and also part of the NTS estate. The Raiders Road Forest Drive is a great way to get deep inside the Galloway Forest even if you’re not the mountain biking, horse riding, walking booted type.  It’s a car-friendly (forest roads but well maintained) route with various recommended stops (including loos) along the way and a realistic chance of spotting deer, squirrels, birds or prey, and even otters in some places.  Take a picnic or visit the Visitor Centre & café at Clatteringshaws Loch to complete the experience. 

S              Seaside – there’s lots of this!  To the east, this tidal estuary can be a wee bit muddy, but further west the sweeping sands give way to rocky coves.  There really is a beach for every day of the week!

T              and scones.  There’s something about baking and Scotland.  It’s hard to beat, and even the west country’s famed cream teas would struggle to beat the scones our Caledonian cooks can create.  Seek them out during your day trip.

U             Undiscovered Scotland is a phrase often used, but honestly this area does remain quiet and relatively undiscovered by many visitors to Scotland. 

V             Visitor Attractions from Castles, Museums and Art Galleries, to Mountain Biking, Horse Riding, Walking, Fishing & Golf.  Sailing, Kayaking, Bird Watching, Star Gazing, Shopping, Eating to oh yes – Drinking Great Scottish Gin!

W            Whisky – yes there’s some of this too.  Try the Annandale Distillery, or Bladnoch, near Newton Stewart.  Both make exceptional malt whisky.

X             Marks the Spot – The Treasure Hunt in Castle Douglas is a two mile walk which should take around 2 hours, during which there are clues to solve a mystery.  Fun for detectives of all ages.

Y              Yachting, well sailing to be precise, at the Galloway Sailing School on Loch Ken.  The centre also offers climbing, laser tag and a wealth of other activities.  Covid restrictions mean it’s changing all the time so contact them direct for an up to date description.  They have accommodation and a café too!

Z              Well ok, so I’ve failed at the last hurdle, but Z, really? There used to be a wildlife park (or Zoo) in the area, but it seems no longer.  But you have to admit that we came up with suggestions for the other 25, so not too shabby!

As you can see, Dumfries and Galloway is not short of things to do, see and experience, with three great gins to explore too.  So, plan your own Day Trip to Dumfriesshire, or stay without delay in Galloway!

Here are some more of our favourite spots to stay, eat, drink & buy the local gins. Click through the links & Enjoy!