Activities in Galloway
Galloway is the place to come to enjoy the great outdoors, while its many small towns and villages offer plenty to interest and entertain. You will never be at a loss to find something memorable to do.
WALKING AND CYCLING
From gentle forest rambles to strenuous days in the hills of the Southern Uplands, there is walking for all abilities. In the house, we keep a special file of local walks starting from Rose Haugh itself, and a collection of books describing walks further afield. The coast-to-coast Southern Upland Way crosses the Ken valley a few miles to the north. Quiet roads and forest tracks are ideal for cycling, and the 7Stanes mountain biking trails are enjoyed by the more adventurous.
Galloway is home to ospreys, wild geese, otters, red squirrels, wild goats, black cock, the occasional golden eagle and so many more. Among a dozen wildlife reserves are the RSPB’s Mersehead Reserve, Wood of Cree and Ken Dee Marshes, the WWT’s Caerlaverock Reserve, the SWT’s Carstramon Wood and the Wigtown Bay Local Nature Reserve. Laurieston is on the Galloway Kite Trail, and red kites continually circle over the house. Whether a bird, butterfly, fern or fungus enthusiast, you will find your favourites in this wonderfully unspoilt country.
The Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park runs star-watching events and courses at three main centres. On any clear night the Milky Way arches over the house, and spectacles like comets, meteor showers and the aurora borealis are sometimes visible from the garden – even better if you go a few hundred yards away from the village lights.
ARTS AND CRAFTS
Craft workers of all kinds find Galloway the ideal environment to inspire their work. The annual Spring Fling, held over the last weekend of May, showcases over 90 different craft studios across the region. You can follow the craft trails at any time to seek out beautiful pottery, glassware, woodcarvings, paintings, prints, textiles, jewellery and much more.
Kirkcudbright is “The Artists Town” and was the home of a famous group of early 20th century artists. Broughton House and the Tolbooth Art Centre house paintings by E.A.Hornel, Jessie M.King, E.A.Taylor, Charles Oppenheimer and others. The elegantly re-furbished Kirkcudbright Galleries have an excellent permanent collection of paintings by local artists, along with a special exhibition each summer and occasional travelling exhibitions from elsewhere.
Wigtown, “Scotland’s Book Town”, is about an hour’s drive west of Laurieston. The annual Wigtown Book Festival is held at the end of September. A large number of secondhand booksellers have their premises along the main street. Galloway was the scene for Dorothy Sayers’ “Five Red Herrings” and for part of John Buchan’s “The Thirty Nine Steps”.
Local-born author S R Crockett was a late Victorian whose novels blended historical fact about Galloway’s past with romantic adventure stories. His memorial stands at the north end of Laurieston village and he is buried in the local churchyard. The Galloway Raiders are Crockett enthusiasts who follow his life and work and organise Crockett-related activities.
Saint Ninian, Robert the Bruce, the Black Douglas, Samuel Rutherford, Robert Burns – each left their mark on Galloway. Gaunt castle ruins record struggles from the 14th to the 16th Centuries for the lordship of the region, and covenanters’ graves and memorials give evidence of the religious fervour which led to the Reformation of the 16th Century. Find out more – visit the Whithorn Trust Discovery Centre, tramp to Bruce’s Stone, climb the towers of ancient castles, seek out Anwoth Kirk and its graves, or re-live Robert Burns’ life along the Burns Heritage Trail.
Top favourite is Cream o’ Galloway, a original dairy farm making ice cream, now with an exciting adventure course for all ages, wildlife walks, and a cafe and restaurant. The Cocoa Bean Company has the kids making their own chocolate dinosaurs to take home. For teenagers (and their parents!) the Galloway Activity Centre on Loch Ken teaches sailing, kayaking, windsurfing, archery and more. For smaller children, there are several open farms with play areas. And then there are always the beaches along the Solway coast.
Great gardens flourish in the mild westerly climate. Locally, the National Trust for Scotland’s Threave Gardens are handsome at all times of year. Further away are Castle Kennedy Gardens, famous for its collection of rhododendrons, and Logan Botanic Garden, an outstation of Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden where especially tender subjects are grown. Leaflets on these and half a dozen other gardens are in the house.
FOOD & EATING OUT
Castle Douglas styles itself “The Food Town”. Meats, cheeses and ice cream are produced from livestock grazing Galloway’s grasslands, and bakers, chocolatiers and a microbrewery have their products on sale in shops and farmers markets. Scallops are landed at Kirkcudbright, and two local smokehouses smoke fresh-caught salmon and sell fresh fish and seafood and smoked meats and cheeses.
For dining out, there is a wide choice in either Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbright or Gatehouse of Fleet. From traditional Scottish hotels, through fine dining in small restaurants, to excellent Indian food or even the chip shop, there will be somewhere to suit your purse and your palate. Several select cafes serve excellent lunchtime soups, salads, quiches and cakes. A list of recommended eateries is kept in a file in Rose Haugh.