The visitor who speeds through Dumfries and Galloway without stopping is missing something. It may look like a quiet rural location and it is – but the region is a perfect place for a family holiday. There are beaches and walks galore – but there are also plenty of family-based attractions and activities to keep the children amused in sun or rain.
Beaches of the Solway Coast
It’s almost a hundred miles from Gretna, in the east of the region, to Stranraer in the west; but the well-signposted Solway Coast Heritage trail is longer than that, winding along the roads near the stunning coastal scenery. The trail is designed to link historic sites – but it also serves to bring the visitor close to some of the many beaches which are characteristic of Dumfries and Galloway’s coastline.
From the expanses of sand at Brighouse Bay and Sandhead to the smaller coves at Kippford, Rockcliffe and Cardoness, there are many happy days to be had on the beach. For those who like exploring rock pools, there are plenty of opportunities to hunt for crabs, whelks, shrimps and even sea anemones. And the many coastal villages offer plenty of opportunities for an ice cream or a souvenir.
Activities in Dumfries and Galloway
For those who are tired of lazing on the beach, there are ample opportunities to let off steam. The Southern Upland Way runs through the Galloway Hills from Stranraer until it enters the Scottish Borders west of Moffat, and there are many shorter walks around the region, most notably in the Galloway Forest Park. A series of signposted walks, from a mile upwards, can be found at Kirkconnell.
For more organised activities – especially suitable for older children and teenagers – there is also plenty on offer. The Galloway Activity Centre at Loch Ken offers water sports and other activities, ranging from sailing, canoeing and windsurfing to climbing and archery. The region promotes itself for its cycling potential so there are many bike hire and mountain bike opportunities available at places such as the five 7Stanes mountain bike trails, Drumlanrig Country Park and the Breakpad at Kirroughtree.
Family Visitor Attractions in Dumfries and Galloway
For those who don’t want to commit themselves to formal activities, or who have tired of the beaches, there are plenty of other attractions designed to appeal to families, many of them with a range of indoor activities and attractions for rainy days. They include country parks, farm parks and even an ice cream visitor shop.
Among the farm parks, that at Mabie, near Dumfries, complements the animals wih activities such as dirt buggying (on quad bikes), flying fox, donkey rides and grass sledging, along with an extensive soft play area. Also near Dumfries, Dalscone Farm has animals, crazy golf and trampolines with indoor and outdoor play equipment. Monreith Animal World, a more traditional farm park, has a range of animals including the region’s famous Belted Galloway cattle.
There’s something a little different at Cream o’Galloway visitor centre near Gatehouse of Fleet. Originally a farm where ice cream was produced, the attraction diversified into a family day out and now offers a range of activities including karting and biking, pond dipping and extensive soft play. Tours are available – and of course the ice cream, made on site, is available in the shop in a bewildering range of flavours.
If the children are tired of seeing sheep, they can seek out something a little more exotic at the Galloway Wildlife Conservation Park, just outside Kirkcudbright. Here there are monkeys, red pandas, owls, tapirs and many more. The park has a number of distinctively Scottish breeds, such as red squirrels and otters, as well as Scottish wildcats: the park is actively involved in a breeding programme to help protect this endangered species.