What it's like
"The Galloway Hills are covered wi' broom, Wi' heather bells in bonnie bloom," says the song. There are also bare granite slabs, silver lochs (lakes), wild goats and three mountains over 750m. The ground has small paths, if any, and its central section around Loch Enoch is tough indeed. Around the rim, the Awful Hand, the Rhinns of the Kells, and the Minnigaff Hills, offer high grassy ridges that are almost as rewarding as, and very much quieter than, any in the Highlands or English Lakes. This little-known small range is a rugged and remote mountain treat for any serious hillwalker.
For gentler days out, the well-made Southern Upland Way crosses many of the slightly lower ranges. Away from that marked path, the Lowthers, Carsphairns, and (in the region's far east) the Ettricks, are grassy and mostly pathless. While the going is fairly easy, navigation can be challenging. The reward is the 'cleuchs' and 'scars', the little rocky hollows and waterfalls, that decorate the hillsides.
Scattered along the Solway coast are smaller, but more rugged, hills such as Screel and Criffel. Also rewarding are coastal walks, looking across to the Lake District or the Isle of Man. These tend to be unmarked and quite rough, but often very beautiful – especially so in frosty days of winter.
For a gentler walking experience, there are waymarked trails in many forestry commission plantations. Perhaps the most rewarding of these are at Mabie Forest, south of Dumfries, and at (privately-owned) Drumlanrig Castle in Nithsdale.
- Merrick from Bruce's Stone, Glentrool A fine mountain walk over subsidiary Benyellary and along the Neive of the Spit ridge on a well-marked path. The ambitious will descend through the rugged granite heartland via Loch Enoch.
- Sandyhills coast Walk from Sandyhills to Rockcliff or onwards to Kippford. The walking is varied and interesting, but quite rough and can be muddy in parts. The views across the Solway are outstanding.
- DurisdeerDumfriesshire's prettiest village, with its historic church, lies below shapely hills with various walks including one via a Roman fortlet to the Well Pass, an old coach road to Edinburgh.
Must see and do
- Mountain biking at Mabie Forest Part of the acclaimed '7 Stanes' complex, which also includes Glentrool, Kirroughtree, Ae and Dalbeattie Town Woods. Forget bulldozed forest roads. Here are tree roots, bare rock, and all grades from challenging right up to dead lethal.
- Implausible place-names Visit at least one from the Murder Hole, the Rig of the Jarkness, Long Loch of the Dungeon, or the Clints of Dromore. They and even more poetically named places are all in the Galloway Hills.
- Get seriously stuck into some Moffat Toffee You'll find the strangely four-cornered lumps of the Moffat Toffee at the Moffat Toffee Shop, Moffat (www.dalbeattie.com/moffat/moffat-toffee).
Destination County : Dumfries & Galloway