Been there, done that: Castle Douglas to Stranraer

Date Posted: 13/05/2015

Group organiser Mike Battman continues his series of tips on Scotland. This time, he explores Castle Douglas to Stranraer with his group, and reports back on the must-see sights.

Wigtown – Book Town

Wigtown was officially designated as Scotland's National Book Town in 1998 and is now home to over 20 book-related businesses. A book lovers haven – and with over quarter of a million books to choose from, old and new, it‘s impossible to escape empty-handed.

There is a book festival in the town in late September/early October, which is a much less manic version of the Hey festival.

Culzean Castle & Country Park

Designed by Robert Adam, with its dramatic clifftop setting, fascinating history and beautiful surroundings, Culzean Castle (pictured) is one of Scotland’s most popular visitor attractions. Surrounded by Culzean Country Park, an extensive estate encompassing lush woodland, landscaped gardens and rugged coastline.

You could easily spend an entire day exploring the country park alone, but with so many treasure-filled rooms to see inside the castle, it is well worth making time to enjoy both elements of this historic attraction.

Organised groups can arrange a guided tour of the castle. This must be done in advance by contacting the reservations secretary on 0870 118 1945. The maximum number of people for a booked tour is 30. Two or more tours can be booked, beginning at 30-minute intervals. The tour will last approximately one hour.

Galloway Forest Park Dark Skies

Due to its remoteness, the Galloway Forest Park has been awarded the status of being one of only four ‘Dark Sky Parks’ in the western world, along with the Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah and Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania. This means that the largest forest park in Scotland has become the only Dark Sky Park in the UK.

Once the sun sets on the three hundred square miles of rugged wilderness that is the Galloway Forest Park, under an inky-blue sky, they become the darkest in all of Europe. It is here that enthusiasts come to stand in awe at the vast universe which is revealed above them. Onlookers are given the rare chance to witness shooting stars; the Andromeda Galaxy, the Aurora Borealis and stellar nurseries, where new suns of distant planets are born.

There is an observatory near Dalmellington, which is home to a research grade telescope.The observatory is happy to host organised group visits. Costs vary depending on the group and requirements and are limited to a maximum of 32 at any one time. Duration for group bookings is about 90 minutes.

Castle Kennedy Gardens

Situated about five miles to the east of Stranraer, these gardens, part of Stair Estates, are surrounded on three sides by the sea and benefit from the warmth of the Gulf Stream which provides a micro-climate not found in many parts of the UK.

They are famous for colourful displays of rhododendrons, azaleas and embothriums, many rare and exotic plants, 20 champion trees, and of course the romantic ruins of 16th century Castle Kennedy itself.

Discounts are available for groups.

Logan Botanical Gardens

Logan Botanic Garden lies at the south-western tip of Scotland about 12 miles south of Stranraer and must be the country's most exotic garden. A remarkable collection of unusual and beautiful plants from the southern hemisphere flourish in this plantsman's haven.

The walled garden is a celebration of the world of plants, and from spring to late autumn, a blaze of colour greets the eye and the air is heavy with rich scents.

With a backdrop of cabbage palms, chusan palms and tree ferns, the atmosphere on a sunny day is truly tropical.

Wonder at the groves of eucalyptus and at the gunnera bog in the woodland garden. Head to the Local Heroes section to see the fascinating collection of native coastal treasures before dropping into the Discovery Centre to unearth the garden's intriguing history, from its foundation to its current wealth of plant collections.

Tours for groups can be arranged and can be tailored to meet the needs of your party. Due to availability, tours must be pre-booked at least two weeks before your visit to avoid disappointment. There is a small charge per person, to book a guided tour, call 01776 860231 or email logan@rbge.org.uk.

Portpatrick

Situated a few miles south west of Stranraer this historic harbour village has the feel of a Cornish coastal village with its harbour surrounded by shops, cafes and pubs.

The town also hosts a Folk Festival in early September.

Portpatrick is about half way between Logan Botanical Gardens and Castle Kennedy.

To read Mike's former piece on Gretna to Castle Douglas click here.

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