Turn over a new leaf in Galloway Forest Park
The start of a new year is the perfect time to turn over a new leaf. And what better place to embrace the great outdoors, than Galloway Forest Park? It’s the largest Forest Park in Britain, with over 300 square miles (800 km²) of outstanding natural beauty, and there’s a huge range of activities to keep even the most energetic visitor busy.
BBC Countryfile magazine has shortlisted Dumfries and Galloway for a top destination award. Here’s six things you can check out in the area and if you think it’s one of the top destinations in the UK, then cast your vote (note now closed).
Wildlife and the Wild Watch Hide at Kirroughtree
Kirroughtree has a children’s play area and trails suitable for pushchairs and little legs. For a family challenge, check out the orienteering trail where you can have fun with a map and compass to navigate your way round the trail.
Superb walking trails
Walking is the perfect way to explore the forests. We have an amazing selection of trails ranging from gentle strolls to serious mountain adventures, all helping you sample the best of the Forest Park at any time of year.
There’s loads to see along the trails including the historic Bruce's Stone, where you can imagine past battles while soaking up stunning panoramic views over Loch Trool.
There’s history in these hills as well, including ancient burial cairns hidden among the trees, the ruins of old settlements and even leadmines. Venture in to the woods at Gatehouse of Fleet and see how some of the history is being cared for and enjoy the walks while you’re at it.
Magnificent 7stanes mountain biking trails
Galloway is home to world-class mountain biking, that’s suitable for all ages and abilities. Kirroughtree and Glentrool are two of the seven internationally renowned 7stanes mountain biking trail centres that span the south of Scotland.
Kirroughtree has some of the best singletrack in the country - with a skills area, a friendly bike shop with bike hire and a great café for sharing your post-ride tales over tea and cake. Glentrool offers a wide range of riding, including the unique Big Country Ride, an epic 58km day out in the hills. The cafe is open at weekends throughout the winter.
Galloway Forest Park is one of the darkest places in Scotland, which is why it’s the UK’s first official Dark Sky Park.
Over 7,000 stars and planets are visible with the naked eye from the Forest Park, and the bright band of the Milky Way is usually easy to see arching across the sky. There are Dark Sky information points at the visitor centres to help you identify the constellations and planets you can see. Be sure to check out the panoramic viewing points across the Forest Park too – here you can sit back and enjoy one of the natural wonders for free.
Fully accessible visitor centres
Start or finish your forest experience at one of the three up-dated visitor centres. £4.5million has been invested to create a new complex at Kirroughtree, a totally modernised centre at Clatteringshaws and an upgraded centre at Glentrool.
The state of the art Kirroughtree Visitor Centre is set in landscaped grounds and has an open space modern café.
For walkers or mountain bikers, there are new showers, changing rooms and a bike wash. There’s also an under-floor heating system which is powered by underground piping. There’s also a state of the art ‘Changing Places’ facility - meaning toilets are fully accessible.
Clatteringshaws Visitor Centre has been totally transformed and modernised, with huge glass windows with epic views across the sparkling loch.
Glentrool’s smaller centre has also been modernised, with an upgrade of the small centre and toilet facilities, keeping Glentrool an intimate and picturesque site for all to visit.
What’s your favourite spot to visit in Galloway Forest Park? Tell us in the comments below…