As the homeland of the venerable ‘Outlaw King’, Robert the Bruce, as well as the final resting place of Robert Burns the region plays a key role in Scottish history and heritage.
Not only can you explore the first Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in the western world, Dumfries’ 11-night ‘Big Burns Supper’ celebration and a world-famous literary festival, the region is also home to the Galloway Forest Park – the UK’s first Dark Sky Park, with more than 7,000 stars and planets visible due to the low light pollution.
Those looking to sample some of Scotland’s sensational outdoor sights won’t be disappointed either. From sandy beaches, to rocky shorelines and vast expanses of forest, there’s a little something for every outdoor explorer to tackle. For those feeling even more adventurous, there is ample opportunity for mountain biking, yachting and windsurfing – what better way to see the sights and snap dome truly Insta-worthy pictures!
Food and drink are also high on the agenda during holidays in Dumfries and Galloway, while culture vultures have a mouth-watering menu to dine from year-round too.
Whether it’s a quaint, picture-perfect village for a quiet Scotland escape, or a vibrant town with plenty going on, the options for getaways in Dumfries and Galloway tick all the boxes. The charmingly nicknamed ‘Costa del Solway’ offers spectacular beaches and dramatic coastlines, while just inland, you’ll find the mesmeric Galloway Forest Park. Dumfries offers a bit more to do in terms of attractions, bars and nightlife, while foodies will want to make a beeline for Castle Douglas.
Wherever you decide to base yourself during your Dumfries and Galloway holiday, you’ll never be too far away from any of the main sights, jaw-dropping scenery, or opportunities for adventure, while there’s no shortage of history and heritage to boot. A drive from Gretna in the east to Stranraer in the west takes just over two hours, so it’s easy to get around wherever your starting point.
While getting to Dumfries and Galloway is simple enough, the best way to get around is undoubtedly with a car, due to the remote nature of the region. If you have a car, be sure to take advantage of a trip along the South West Coastal 300, which takes in some of the region’s most stunning sights and attractions.
The main towns of Dumfries and Stranraer have well-connected train and bus stations, connecting across the region and beyond, to cities including Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Those keen for a spot of exercise and bracing Scottish air can enjoy the numerous cycle routes on offer throughout Dumfries and Galloway. The Upper Nithsdale Trail winds through the Lowther Hills and its fascinating history, culture and nature.
If you’re keen to take advantage of a lazy day on the region’s sandy beaches, July and August are the warmest months, with temperatures averaging 17 degrees, but if you’re happy to brace yourself against the elements, travelling out of season will likely result in the best accommodation prices.
It’s also worth factoring in Dumfries and Galloway’s fantastic array of cultural events which take place throughout the year. In January, a visit can coincide with the Big Burns Supper, while in the autumn a trip to Wigtown is a must for literary lovers, as the town hosts its 10-day world-famous literary festival.
The hills of Dumfries and Galloway are alive with the sound of music throughout summer too. The region’s longest running outdoor music festival is the World Ceilidh, set in the remote uplands of Galloway in May. In June, Moffat plays host to the Eden Festival, while the spectacular backdrop of Drumlanrig is the place to be for Electric Fields during the last weekend in August.
Elsewhere, Spring Fling weekend is unmissable for art enthusiasts. Through the late May Bank Holiday, More than eighty top artists and craftmakers open their studios, offering visitors the chance to go behind the scenes to learn about artistic practice, experience artists and makers demonstrating their processes and inspirations, and have the opportunity to buy a piece of artwork direct from the artist. In September, Stranraer celebrates local produce through its Oyster Festival.
As with any holiday in Scotland, it’s best to come prepared whatever time of year you visit – that’s part of the beauty, right? So, while it’s best to avoid January if you’re not a fan of getting soggy, a light rain jacket and cosy jumper still might be advisable even in the height of summer.
With so many outdoor adventures to be had around Dumfries and Galloway, hiking boots, rucksack, sun cream, bug spray, a hat and good book are a must, while experienced explorers might also want to take advantage of the activities on offer and bring their own bike, maps and camping gear.
For families, the beaches are a must and there are even some with plenty of sand for sandcastle building. So, be sure to pack accordingly.
No family holiday to Dumfries and Galloway is complete without visiting Galloway Forest Park. The UK’s first Dark Sky Park, from where more than 7,000 planets and stars can be seen – including the Milky Way – is truly spectacular for all ages. But it’s not just stargazing the park has to offer. You’ll also find gorgeous walking and cycling trails, the ruins of a traditional Galloway farming village, abandoned over 200 years ago, and Bruce’s Stone, which overlooks the glistening waters of Loch Trool and commemorates Robert the Bruce and the battle that took place here in 1307. Near Newton Stewart to the south of the park, Red Deer Range and the neighbouring Wild Goat Park are also great spots to take the family.
The Galloway Kite Trail, circling Loch Ken, is a beautiful 24-mile walk or cycle ride around the tranquil body of water where – as the name suggests – it’s possible to spot swooping kites in the skies overhead. The Loch itself is great for fishing or, if you’re feeling brave, even a spot of wild swimming.
Here you’ll also find the Galloway Activity Centre, where the whole family can enjoy canoeing, windsurfing, sailing, paddleboarding, a 25 ft climbing wall, zip wire, and even a spot of archery.
When planning a Scottish getaway, a beach trip might not be the first thing that springs to mind. But you’d be missing out if you bypass Dumfries and Galloway’s spectacular coast. South of Wigtown and Castle Douglas, Brighouse Bay is a wonderful, sandy spot, while head a little way west and Dalavan Beach and Mossyard Beach are also not to be missed.
And with beaches comes ice-cream. Just outside Gatehouse of Fleet – located between Wigtown and Castle Douglas – Cream o’ Galloway is a must for any family holiday in Dumfries and Galloway. The working dairy farm has a highly acclaimed ice-cream parlour, with plenty of quirky flavours to sample – any kid’s dream! Then you can work off the sweet treats with a farmer-led farm tour, round of crazy golf or nature trail walk – before rewarding yourselves with another ice-cream! When in Rome…!
Other recommended sights include Dumfries Museum and Camera Obscura, St Ninian’s Cave, Caerlaverock Castle, Mabie Farm Park and Robert Burns House.
Nestled between Castle Douglas and Dumfries, Brockloch Bothy provides a simply stunning eco-retreat for four people, in the heart of gorgeous Galloway hills.
These self-catering lodges on the Dumfries and Galloway coast are ideal for couples’ escapes, all the way up to groups of eight. As well as beautiful lodges, you’ll also find swimming, cycling, walking and golf on the agenda.
Book a getaway to remember with a stay in one of the two suites on offer – the Dungeon or Abbot’s Room – in this restored 16th Century Tower House designed in Scottish Renaissance style.
Sleeping up to seven people across three bedrooms, Laggan Behind in Gatehouse of Fleet, is nothing short of breath-taking both inside and out. With a hot tub, barbeque, pizza oven and PlayStation 4, it would be impossible to drag yourself away – if it wasn’t for the spectacular surroundings, of course
In the heart of Kirkcudbright, The Selkirk Arms is ideally situated for a Dumfries and Galloway escape. The dog-friendly Georgian hotel dates back to 1777 and is a short walk from MacLellan’s Castle and Galloway Wildlife Conservation Park.
Simply the stuff dreams are made of. Overlooking the gorgeous Portpatrick Harbour, this elegant castle-style hotel is nestled within nine acres of clifftop land. Dunskey Castle, Portpatrick, Dunskey Golf Club and the town centre are all within easy reach.
Located north of Dumfries in the centre of Moffat, Buccleuch Arms Hotel offers 13 rooms within its circa-1760 coaching inn. The hotel has rooms catering for single visitors to groups of four, so is ideal for couples and small families.
Set on an historic, private estate, you’ll find 18 individually themed cabins in an idyllic location overlooking the coast. Perfect for couples’ holidays in Dumfries and Galloway, stargazing is a must, while some snugs even have their own hot tub.
Offering a minimum seven-night stay in Dalbeattie, near Castle Douglas, the Roundhouse is quirky yet modern and chic accommodation for up to four people.
Located in Gatehouse of Fleet, the Three Little Huts makes for a perfect rural escape in scenic Dumfries and Galloway. Offering style and comfort, the shepherd’s huts sleep two per unit with unique outdoor bath tubs and stunning sea views.