Useful web sites for the South West Coast of the Dumfries and Galloway region:
Dumfries is the region's largest town and the real gateway to Galloway. The town is the administrative, commercial and shopping centre for a large hinterland. Many of the older properties are built from Locharbriggs sandstone - a handsome, local red rock. Many of the main visitor attractions are linked with Robert Burns as he lived in the town from 1791, until his death in 1796. The market town is built near the mouth of the River Nith, a former major seaport. Today it has a mixture of old and new shops dotted around small narrow streets known as 'vennels'. Ample supermarkets and convenience stores are dotted around the outskirts. A mainline railway station links south to Carlisle and north to Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Avoid the busy A75 that takes you 72 miles to the far westerly town of Stranraer. Take the A710 coast road. Just 8 miles away from Dumfries is the small village of New Abbey offering a cluster of interesting places of interest, one of which is the ruined Cistercian Sweetheart Abbey, a roofless edifice looming over the village with worn stonework glowing red.
Coming out of New Abbey, continue along the coast road to view the typical Solway scene of moors above and sea below and all around lush green.
Sandyhills Beach Early Morning
Through Kirkbean (this is where you will see the Southerness turning) and Caulkerbush, keeping a look out for the infamous 'Red Squirrel' as you travel onto Sandyhills, a large sandy beach, a reminder that the sands and low cliffs have for long been enjoyed as a resort area.
Park up at Rockcliffe and take a gentle stroll past it's well kept gardens and a path through scrub and open coastal woodlands to Kippford where neat cottages and an RNLI Life Boat Station doze gentle in retirement mode amongst the "riviera" views. Rough Island in the distance is accessible at low tide.
Onwards to Dalbeattie, a small town meaning 'valley of birch' is situated in the wooded valley on the Urr Water. The town is 12 miles away from Southerness and famed for its granite industry, which is very noticeable as you drive through its small streets of individual shops. (www.dalbeattiematters.co.uk)
Rockcliffe at high tide
From the junction here you can meander your way back to Dumfries via the A711 or take the A745 to Castle Douglas, Scotland's 'Food Town' (20 miles from Southerness) which boasts a variety of lovely individual shops, restaurants, cafes and a supermarket. Tourist Information is in the main car park. (www.castle-douglas.com)
Typical countryside around the Auchencairn area
Continuing A711 to Kirkcudbright, in the village of Auchencairn take a little time to stop at Balcary Point, where you can view Hestan Island and maybe take the opportunity to do some birdwatching.
Keeping on the coastal road you will pass Dundrennan Abbey on your way to Kirkcudbright (pronounced Kirkoobree). The town is known as Scotland's "Artists Town" and enjoys a sheltered position in the estuary of the River Dee. (30 miles from Southerness).
Hestan Island from Balcary Bay
The town features cheerful pastel coloured houses and wide streets, here you will find many art galleries and an often busy harbour that is home to a scallop fishing fleet. Tourist Information is in the main car park. (www.kirkcudbright.co.uk)
Travelling south you will pass whalebacks (drumlins) which were formed during the last ice-age. The area is also well known for pre-historic and Christian sites. To view the most known site head for Whithorn, one of the first places in Scotland to practice Christianity.
Past Wigtown a colourful community with a wide main street, museums and tales of 17th Century Religious Fanaticism. Here you are in the 'Machars' - the rural lolling lands of the South - open land with wide breezy skies. Keep a lookout on route for the Belted Galloway Cattle. Heavy soils made from glacial material dumped and shaped into little whalebacks (drumlins) during the last ice-age. Also a well known area for prehistoric and Christian Sites.
The attractive Glen Luce Abbey and the Logan Botanic Gardens benefit from the south westerly winds, where the prevailing mildness is appreciated by a multitude of exotic species.
Continue South to reach the Southernmost tip of Scotland at the Mull of Galloway - a winding road across a rocky neck of land collared with wave beaten cliffs and a lot of sea between you and the Isle of Man.
Also on this coast is the lovely colourful fishing village, Portpatrick - the official starting point of the Southern Upland Way, 212 miles of footpath to Cockburnspath in the East. Continue to Stranraer and Loch Ryan.
Mull of Galloway Lighthouse
North of Newton Stewart is Loch Trool. The area has a historical association - Bruce's Stone a boulder recording Robert the Bruce's first victory over occupying English forces in 1307 and the start of the Bannockburn Campaign. The Merrick - the highest hill in Southern Scotland lies to the North of Loch Trool. Travel through the Galloway Forest Park with its National Dark Sky Status and Observatory and a stop off at the Red Deer Range to see if you can spot one of the 60 that live there today! Sure to thrill all ages! The Wild Goat Park at feeding time can be great entertainment! Glorious views at every turn so be sure to take your camera and strong walking shoes. Onwards to New Galloway at the top of scenic Loch Ken and into Castle Douglas, Threave Gardens is nearby with a wide range of rock, water and shrub features.