Been there, done that: Gretna to Castle Douglas

Date Posted: 19/02/2015

Group organiser Mike Battman gives his tips on exploring the eastern area of south west Scotland, after exploring the region with his group.

When travelling to Scotland, most people pass Carlisle and keep going up the M74 towards Glasgow, Edinburgh and the north. But you are missing a treat if you don’t take a detour west on the A75 Stranraer Road. Here are five of the area’s best bits…

The Devil’s Porridge Museum

Located near Stanfield Farm on Annan Road, this museum has been expanded by the local community from a small exhibition in St John Church, Eastriggs, to a state of the art interactive museum.

The museum’s name is inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who while visiting the factory as a war correspondent witnessed the munitions girls mixing the nitro cotton by hand and commented ‘that is the Devil’s Porridge’.

The attraction tells the story of the munitions industry that grew up in the area during World War One and the factory that came to be known as ‘The Greatest Factory on Earth’.

The coastal path

The coastal path is a long distance walk that follows much of the Solway Firth, there are many walks that can be undertaken that take in sections of the route.

Here are two relatively short circular walks…

Kippford and Rockcliffe circular

A popular section between the two picturesque waterside villages of Kippford and Rockcliffe with great views over the estuary. Depending how far you go in Rockcliffe this is about  three miles of fairly easy walking.

Sandihills to Portling Bay circular

Park at the car park at Sandihills Bay, which is just off the A710, about half an hour’s drive south from Dumfries. In the summer months there is a charge for parking.

Follow the signs to the beach and then go west following the bay round. You will cross a bridge over a stream. Next, look out for signs for the coastal path and head up the hill.

Be advised, the first 400 yards is quite a steep walk, but it is all downhill afterwards and there are some great views to be had.

Once at the top, follow the path keeping the cliffs on your left until you reach a stile and a minor road, here you leave the coastal path and head to the quaint seaside hamlet of Portling Bay.

When you’re ready, head back along the shore and enjoy the caves and salmon nets.

WARNING: About an hour either side of high tide you cannot get along the shore, so time your walk appropriately.

Caerlaverock Castle and Wetland Centre

This is a beautiful destination to watch wildlife or wander through wildflower meadows run by the Wildfowl & Wetlands trust.

It is renowned for its barnacle geese, which can number 10,000 in a day, but there are many other birds that visit the site. Obviously the species will be seasonal and the website keeps you up-to-date with recent sightings.

It is open each day from 10:00am until 5:00pm and there is a café and shop, which sells many local products.

Castle Douglas – Food Town

Fed up with boring identikit high streets? Castle Douglas is the place to visit. There are lots of independent retailers here, with an emphasis on food, drink and cookery.

Make sure you visit the Sulwath Brewery Tap to sample their fine ales and try the scotch pies.

Free parking is available along the streets and in car parks at either end of the high street. Close by is the National Trust for Scotland’s Threave Gardens, Historic Scotland’s Threave Castle and the Osprey viewing point.

Drumlanrig Castle

If you like history, culture, beautiful countryside – or adrenaline-fuelled mountain biking – you’ll thoroughly enjoy a day at Drumlanrig Castle. There are also activities here for kids, including an adventure playground and ranger-led wildlife walks.

The castle itself has 120 rooms, 17 turrets and four towers. Inside you’ll find walls adorned with art, including Rembrandt’s Old Lady Reading, family portraits by artists such as Thomas Gainsborough, landscapes by Paul Sandby and the Dutch masters, and cartoons by Rowlandson.

Surrounding the castle is a 90,000 acre estate with miles of beautiful walks and acres of gardens. Group tours are welcomed but should be pre-booked to avoid disappointment. If you are interested in booking a group tour call 01848-331555.

Photo credit: ©VisitBritain / Britain on View


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