If you’re a nature lover planning a short break in the south west of Scotland, you’ll find plenty of great things to do in Dumfries and Galloway.
Here are 10 places where you can watch coastal bird colonies in a feeding frenzy, admire brilliant blooms, stroll around beautiful forest trails, watch red kite being fed, or simply admire the local wildlife whilst you picnic by a relaxing loch. Finding great things to do in Dumfries and Galloway has never been easier!
Castle Douglas, Dumfries & Galloway
Threave Garden comprises a series of beautiful gardens including the rock garden, secret garden, patio garden and walled garden. Ablaze with colourful flowers in spring and summer and beautiful purple heathers and evergreens in the winter, this venue delights visitors throughout the year.
Threave is also a Bat Reserve and visitors can follow the bat trail on the hunt for elusive rare bats, and is part of a Special Protection Area for breeding wildfowl.
Read more about Threave Garden here
2. Galloway Forest Park
Visitor centres at Kirroughtree, Clatteringshaws and Glentrool, Dumfries & Galloway
Galloway Forest Park stretches across 75,000 hectares of land and offers visitors a great day out. From great walking round picturesque forest trails, to driving along the scenic forest drives, you can hope to spot wild goats and red deer. The park is not short on stunning views either – the amazing loch and mountains provide the perfect backdrop for a relaxing day out.
Interestingly Galloway Forest Park is Scotland’s first Dark Sky Park. Due to its lack of inhabitation, nights at the park are inky black, providing the perfect backdrop for star gazing. There are dark sky information points at the three visitor centres, and 7,000 stars and planets can be seen with the naked eye alone!
Read more about the Galloway Forest Park here
3. Bellymack Hill Farm – Red Kite Feeding Station
Laurieston, Castle Douglas, Dumfries & Galloway
Red kites are fed daily at 2pm and you can view them from the feeding station. It’s a fabulous way to observe them up close as they interact with one another in large numbers.
At the farm you may also see other wildlife such as the roe deer grazing in the pasture, or the yellowhammer, stonechat and linnet which breed there in the summer. Eagle eyes may spot the odd kestrel or sparrowhawk, but everyone will be charmed by the goats, sheep, cattle, puppies and occasional pig or duck wandering around!
Read more about Bellymack Hill Farm here
4. Creetown Gem Rock Museum
Creetown, Dumfries & Galloway
If you’re fascinated by all things rocky, this is definitely for you. The museum display includes rare examples of crystals from the UK and abroad as well as the more unusual – such as a 3kg meteorite which is 4.5 billion years old, a fossilised egg of a dinosaur and one of the largest natural gold nuggets displayed in the UK – the “Maverick” gold nugget.
There is also a fascinating “Fire in the Stones” audio visual presentation in The Professor’s Study, and The Crystal Cave which displays crystals and minerals in a realistic cave setting.
Read more about Creetown Gem Rock Museum here
5. RSPB Mull of Galloway
Near Stranraer, Dumfries & Galloway
The Mull of Galloway RSPB reserve is heaven for nature lovers. The beautiful cliff top heaths are awash with a variety of wildlife, including rare butterflies and a range of birds such as the linnet and stonechat. You’ll be amazed by the large colony of birds – kittiwakes, razorbills and guillemots – and their non-stop activity around the cliffs.
The amazing wildlife is coupled with stunning views: Solway Firth and the Irish Sea to the west and on a clear day you can see the Isle Man.
Read more about RSPB Mull of Galloway here
6. Logan Fish Pond Marine Life Centre
Port Logan, Dumfries & Galloway
This is thought to be the world’s oldest, natural marine aquarium. It was created from an Ice Age blowhole and sits deep in the rocks on the sea shore. Back in the 1800s, the local Laird used the aquarium as his own “fish larder”!
You can view and feed the fish and marine life by hand, and enjoy the adjacent sandy beach with its stunning views over to Portlogan harbour. There is also an old stone pier dating back to 1818 with a stunning lighthouse designed by Thomas Telford, the famous Scottish engineer.
Read more about Logan Fish Pond Marine Life Centre here
7. Galloway Wildlife Conservation Park
Kirkcudbright , Dumfries & Galloway
Galloway Wildlife Conservation Park is an wild animal conservation park set in 27 acres of woodland. Nearly 150 animals from across the globe can be seen in relaxed, woodland settings, some of which are able to roam free within the park. Animals within the park include tapirs, lowland anoa, Scottish wildcats, ring tailed lemurs and snowy owls. Every ticket bought helps with the conservation of threatened species and the ongoing improvement programmes for the animals’ facilities.
Visitors are also welcome to stroll through the woodland walks and admire the wild flowers. There is a cafeteria and picnic area for those who wish to relax.
Read more about the Galloway Wildlife Conservation Park here
8. Castle Kennedy Gardens
Stranraer, Dumfries & Galloway
The Castle Kennedy Gardens have been described as “one of the showpieces of Galloway” and are considered by many to be Scotland’s finest historical landscaped gardens. The 30 hectares boast terraces, avenues, rhodedendrons, championship trees and rare species, and are located around the Castle Kennedy ruin, surrounded by the White and Black Lochs.
Originally created by the 2nd Earl of Stair in the 1730s, and then hidden for almost 300 years, the vast gardens, covering more than 30 hectares, have been lovingly restored to their former glory.
Read more about Castle Kennedy Gardens here
9. Grey Mare’s Tail Nature Reserve
Moffat Water Valley, Dumfries & Galloway
Grey Mare’s Tail is known for having the 5th highest waterfall in the UK. The spectacular sight sees water cascading 60m from Loch Skeen into the Moffat Water Valley below. Various walks enable you to see the waterfall in all its glory, and for those with plenty of energy, a walk up the highest hill in Dumfriesshire – the White Coomb hill – provides even more stunning views.
The location also boasts stunning scenery and a variety of rare upland plants and wildlife. There is also an Iron Age earthwork, often referred to as the Giant’s Grave. However investigation has shown it is not a burial site – more likely created for religious or defence purposes.
Read more about Grey Mare’s Tail Nature Reserve here
10. St Ninians Cave
Near Whithorn, Dumfries & Galloway
Thought to be a retreat for Scotland’s first saint, St Ninian, the cave is located 4 miles from Whithorn Abbey. There is a car park about one mile away, and a delightful walk through woods down to the stony beach where the cave can be found.
The cave is still a pilgrimage for many and they visit to find peace and meditate, You’ll find people have left crosses and messages written on pebbles, and there are a number of names and dates carved in to the rock in memory of people who have passed on.
We’re quietly confident that if you’re a nature lover looking for things to do in Dumfries and Galloway, at least a handful of the above will be ideal.. And if you need base from which to explore the area, come and stay at the Dumfries Caledonian hotel in the heart of Dumfries – a warm welcome, tasty food and the very best value for money!