This year, 2013, has been designated ‘The Year of Natural Scotland’ by Visit Scotland, and what better place to enjoy a wide range of our stunning natural heritage than ‘Glorious Galloway’, the somewhat overlooked Southwestern corner of Scotland, which Dumfries and Galloway Council has defined as ‘The Natural Place’.
From the rugged Irish Sea coast in the West to the low-lying levels in the East, the region abounds with stunning landscapes, from rugged cliffs to sheltered bays, tumbling waterfalls, expansive lochs and hillsides, both windswept and forest-clad, all teaming with amazing plants and wildlife. Visitors should be sure to check out the National Scenic Areas of the East Stewartry Coast and the Fleet Valley, as well as the rugged Galloway Hills and Forest Park – designated Europe’s first Dark Sky Park. In fact the low levels of light pollution make the whole region ideal for appreciating the natural wonders of the stars and planets above our heads.
From the end of February onwards, large areas of the coastline, including Loch Ryan near Stranraer, Wigtown Bay, Mersehead near Dalbeattie and Caerlaverock by Dumfries, will play host to 4 different breeds of migratory wild geese, returning to the area to lay their eggs and hatch their young, with a number of events planned by the various RSPB reserves in the area. Around the same time, large areas of the countryside sport a blanket of white, with Snowdrop Festivals being held at various locations, including Castle Kennedy, which then gives way to the yellows of wild daffodils and primroses, in turn superceded by hosts of shimmering bluebells. Many of the cliffs along the Solway Coast are thronging with breeding seabirds during the early months of the year, and that rare creature the Osprey can be seen at its three breeding sites across the region – Caerlaverock, Threave and from the CCTV observatory in Wigtown. Another rare bird to be seen quite prolifically in the area is the Red Kite – follow the trail around Loch Ken and into marshes just north of Castle Douglas are another area rich in freshwater wildfowl, while higher up in the hills lie some remote boglands which are home to a range of endangered plants, insects and butterflies.
The region is, of course, home to a good number of red squirrels, which can be seen regularly in many of the woodland areas of Galloway – at times venturing into domestic gardens. Roe Deer can be seen in many parts of the region, with the magnificent Red Deer being much in evidence in the more remote areas of the Galloway Hills. Wild goats can also be seen coming close to the main road through the Forest from Newton Stewart to New Galloway. And, on a more domesticated level, you will be sure to want to check out the famous Belted Galloway cattle!
Idle Hour Holidays operate two four-star self-catering cottages, either of which would make an ideal base to explore the beautiful Galloway countryside and coastline, with numerous opportunities for independent walking or more organised visits to nature reserves and exhibitions within easy reach. ‘Forest Edge’ is a traditional granite cottage with open fire, backing directly on to Dalbeattie Town Wood., within easy reach of both the Colvend Coast and Galloway Hills. Further West, ‘Water’s Edge’ is a more modern property situated right on the harbour side in the village of Garlieston, near Wigtown, in the Galloway Machars, with coastal walks around Wigtown Bay (Local Nature Reserve) starting right from the front door. You will find a collection of leaflets and guides in each cottage, or visit the Tourist Information Centres in Newton Stewart, Castle Douglas or Dumfries. We hope you will decide to make us your base for your taste of Natural Scotland in 2013!
To find out more about some of the natural attractions of the area, check out the following nature-related pages and websites;