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Dumfries and Galloway is a region of Scotland that is easy to miss. The most southerly region of the country can be easily bypassed if you scoot up the motorway from England or on the West Coast railway line. To miss out on Dumfries and Galloway – one of the most fascinating, beautiful and attraction laden parts of Scotland – is a tragedy. Join me now as I take you on a personal tour of this seriously underrated southern charmer, and give you my sevens reasons to visit Dumfries and Galloway . . .

Caerlaverock Castle

Caerlaverock Castle (c) Robin McKelvie

Burns in Dumfries

The largest settlement in south-western Scotland has a rich history, and its Viking heritage and links with Robert the Bruce can be explored at the Dumfries Museum. Alloway may be celebrated as the birthplace of Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns, but he spent the last years of his life in Dumfries. The Burns House where he lived is now a museum. It offers a compelling insight into the psyche and the complex domestic arrangements of the legendary poet and womaniser. Gawping at the hulking Carrara marble statue of the great bard in the High Street after a pint in his favourite howff, the Globe Inn, completes your Burns Trail.

Burns House

Burns House (c) Robin McKelvie

Romantically Ruined Abbeys

The Borders are justifiably proud of their quartet of romantically ruined abbeys, but did you know Dumfries and Galloway sports a trio of its own? I love Dundrennan and Glenluce abbeys, but Sweetheart Abbey remains for me the most romantic in Scotland. Its picture book good looks are only part of the appeal. It tugs at my heart strings because local luminary Lady Devorgilla was so devastated when her husband died that she carried his embalmed heart around in a pendant on her neck until her own death more than twenty years later! She was, of course, buried here with her beloved.

Sweetheart Abbey, Dumfries and Galloway

Sweetheart Abbey (c) Robin McKelvie

Bountiful Beaches

Dumfries and Galloway boasts some epic sandy beaches and decent water temperatures. (I say that as someone who spent their childhood taking chilly swims in the North Sea whilst on holiday in Aberdeen!) The southern fringes of Dumfries and Galloway are laced with a necklace of refreshingly clean sands that also wrap around parts of the west coast. A family favourite is Luce Sands. It boasts mile upon mile of gorgeous sand that my kids just love playing on. I like the views across the water to England, the Mull of Galloway and the distant hulk of Ireland.

McKelvie Girls at Sands of Luce

McKelvie Girls at Luce Sands (c) Robin McKelvie

Get Active

Dumfries and Galloway is an ideal escape for lovers of the great outdoors with swathes of the Southern Upland Way to hike, as well as the mountain bike centres at Ae, Mabie, Glentrool and Newcastleton. I’m a big fan of the dynamic operation at the Laggan Outdoor Activity Centre. I took my young family here recently and we had a brilliant time. We tried our hand at grass sledging and enjoyed archery in the forest. This was topped off with an adrenaline pumping thrill ride on Scotland’s longest zip wire! They have an excellent café on site too! The same extended family run the brilliant wee Mossyard Farm Pottery a mile away, which sits next to a gorgeous sandy beach.

Emma on the zip wire at Laggan Outdoor Activity Centre

Emma on the zip wire at Laggan Outdoor Activity (c) Robin McKelvie

Local Food Aplenty

Dumfries and Galloway has an impressive natural larder. We dined at Trigony House, where chef proprietor Adam Moore got creative with the superb local lamb, game and seafood. I rate Marrbury smoked salmon as some of the best in Scotland (I suggest enjoying lunch at the Marrbury Smokehouse and taking some home). There are great whisky distilleries in the region, and a new gin distillery – the Crafty Distillery – has recently opened in Newton Stewart. In short Dumfries and Galloway’s food and drink scene is booming!

Great Hotels

Dumfries and Galloway also boasts some of my favourite hotels in Scotland. There is Knockinaam Lodge, which is set in its own wee cove and with a great Michelin star restaurant. At old world Blackaddie House the cooking is also Michelin star quality. On our last visit we stayed at daffodil shrouded Trigony House, which provided a useful staging post just north of Dumfries, but also impressed with its pet friendly credentials, lovely garden and new spa treatments.

Trigony House

Trigony House (c) Robin McKelvie

Everything Else!

Ok, I’m cheating a little here, but Dumfries and Galloway really has so much to offer! How about the UK’s first ever Dark Sky Park, which sits in Galloway Forest Park? One of Scotland’s most impressive medieval fortresses – the mightly Caerlaverock Castle with its unique triangular shape? The artist’s colony of Kirkcudbright, the book town of Wigtown, or a visit to the ultra remote Mull of Galloway? This southern charmer really boasts an endless array of things to see and do at any time of year.


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