Length 77 miles / 124 km
Take in Galloway Forest Park on this delightful route from Gretna to Ayr and stop off at superb attractions, including Threave Castle and the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum. There’s also ample opportunity for adventure with woodland trails to explore on foot or by mountain bike and the waters of Loch Ken for a whole range of thrilling watersports.
GRETNA GREEN FAMOUS BLACKSMITHS SHOP
Find out how love conquered all at this unlikely wedding venue.
Just off the M74, Gretna Green has been associated with romantic elopements for hundreds of years. English law made it impossible for couples under 21 to marry without their parents’ consent, so they flocked to Scotland instead. Thanks to its proximity to the border with England, Gretna Green Famous Blacksmiths Shop made the perfect location for runaway couples to tie the knot, with the blacksmith acting as a presider over the wedding. Discover the full story, complete with memorabilia from the thousands of weddings that have taken place over the years, tales of angry father-in-laws, and see where the nuptials still take place.
THE DEVIL’S PORRIDGE MUSEUM
Learn about Gretna’s vital role during the First World War.
You may be surprised to hear that you can see what life was like in a First World War trench in Annan, but it’s all relevant to the local history, honest! During the war the area welcomed thousands of women who came to work at HM Factory Gretna, a munitions factory. At the Devil’s Porridge Museum you can enjoy interactive displays that bring the history of this huge wartime endeavour to life. For more local history visit Annan Museum, and if you are a whisky fan, then don’t miss the nearby Annandale Distillery.
DUMFRIES MUSEUM AND CAMERA OBSCURA
Located in a former windmill, Dumfries Museum and Camera Obscura is home to a wide range of historic artefacts.
Located in a former windmill, Dumfries Museum and Camera Obscura is home to a wide range of historic artefacts and tells the story of Dumfries and surrounding Galloway. Climb up to the top to experience the camera obscura which was installed in 1836 and still works today. During good weather this optical instrument projects panoramas of the local area in a truly magical way.
While in Dumfries you may also wish to visit attractions relating to the poet Robert Burns, who lived in the town towards the end of his life, such as the Robert Burns Centre and Robert Burns House.
Take on one of the trails – whether you are a beginner or an expert, you’ll find the ideal route.
Mountain bikers take note! Head to Dalbeattie 7stanes and take on one of the trails – whether you are a beginner or an expert, you’ll find the ideal route. Try out your technique in the skills area to get ready for challenging granite features, uphill climbs and excellent views.
Set around a pretty loch, the woodland at Dalbeattie is also great for a short walk and has three paths of varying ability level to choose from. Dalbeattie is just one of seven mountain bike centres in the south of Scotland, known collectively as the 7stanes.
Cross by boat to a medieval fortress.
Located on the outskirts of Castle Douglas, Threave Castle is located on an island on the River Dee, and looks like a castle tower from a storybook. Follow the path across farmland and down to edge of the river and ring a bell to call over the boat. Board the boat and cross to this formidable five-storey ruined fortress, which was built in 1369 to house and protect the Lord of Galloway who was known ominously as Archibald the Grim. Nearby you can also visit Threave Garden and Estate to explore the informal rose garden, walled garden and estate trails.
GALLOWAY KITE TRAIL
Watch wild red kites swoop down to feed.
Follow some or all of the Galloway Kite Trail to find nature walks, hides and viewpoints, and get the best chance of spotting the area’s majestic red kites. To the east of Laurieston you can visit Bellymack Hill Farm Feeding Station, one of the points on the route, to watch one of the daily feedings and see these great birds of prey close up.
Another stop on the trail is the RSPB Ken-Dee Marshes Nature Reserve which has both woodland and wetland to explore, and a kite-watching platform which is also excellent for watching visiting geese in winter.
GALLOWAY ACTIVITY CENTRE
Fun, family-friendly activities on and by Loch Ken.
It’s time to make a splash! At Galloway Activity Centre there are a whole range of water-based outdoor pursuits to enjoy, as well as things to do for people who prefer to keep their feet on dry land. Traditional watersports such as kayaking, sailing and windsurfing can be enjoyed on Loch Ken, as well as the popular wobbly waterpark – an inflated assault course that children just love. On land you can have a go at archery, laser tag, mountain biking and a host of climbing and zip wire challenges.
CLATTERINGSHAWS VISITOR CENTRE AND CAFÉ
Sit back and enjoy views of Galloway Forest Park.
Enjoy panoramic loch-side views over the Galloway hills from Clatteringshaws Visitor Centre and Café. From here you can wander alongside the loch to Bruce’s Stone, which is dedicated to the Scottish king, Robert the Bruce, who took refuge in Galloway during the Wars of Scottish Independence.
For a longer walk head to the south of Clatteringshaws Loch where you can join the top of the Raiders Road Forest Drive, a 10 mile walking route. Part of Galloway Forest Park, which is a recognised Dark Sky Park, this area is excellent for stargazing. To find out more about the dark skies visit the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory at Craigengillan near Dalmellington.
SCOTTISH DARK SKY OBSERVATORY
Visit to use the observatory’s high-powered telescope for a magnified view of the stars, planets and Milky Way.
Located in the beautiful Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park, the observatory is perfectly placed for taking in the crystal-clear night skies above.
Book tickets to one of the observatory’s events to drink in the wonder of the inky black night skies and see stars sparkling like jewels above.
During an evening session you’ll get a guided tour of the constellations and planets using the observatory’s high-powered telescopes. During the day you can also visit the observatory (with pre-arrangement) to do some solar observing and terrestrial viewing of the beautiful landscapes around you. Tip! Tickets must be booked in advance before your visit to the observatory.
ROBERT BURNS BIRTHPLACE MUSEUM
See places that inspired Scotland’s National Bard.
The Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway is a fitting tribute to Scotland’s National Bard, and not only houses Burns’ original works and personal belongings, but is also the gateway to the cottage where he was born, a monument in his honour and two locations made famous in the poem Tam O’Shanter – Brig o’Doon and Alloway’s Auld Kirk.
Look out for environmental artwork as you wander between the attractions on the Poets Walk – you can’t miss Kenny Hunter’s giant cast iron mouse! Continue on to Ayr to visit Belleisle Gardens, Seafield Golf Course and Maclaurin Art Gallery.