People scurrying north along the M74 rarely turn off at Gretna and head for Dumfries and Galloway. This is a pity, as it is a wonderful area that can match anything in Scotland for beautiful scenery, grandeur and history. There are more than 200 miles of coastline with small coves, neat fishing ports, towering cliffs and wonderful sandy beaches. There also are beautiful villages, old abbeys and castles, vibrant towns and country roads that meander through soft, verdant scenery or climb up into bleak moorland landscapes that were made for walking. In the fields you will see herds of the region’s own indigenous cattle - the Belted Galloways, so called because they have a wide white band running round their bodies.
Dumfries is the largest town in the area, and is a lovely place, full of old red sandstone buildings and great shopping facilities. It is where Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, is buried, and any trip to Scotland should include a visit to St Michael’s Kirkyard to see his mausoleum. Kirkcudbright, because of the quality of light found there, has had an artists’ colony since Victorian times, and is a gracious place full of Regency and Georgian buildings. Wigtown is Scotland’s official book town, and Stranraer, with its ferries, is a gateway to Northern Ireland. Then there’s Lockerbie, forever associated with the air disaster of 1988.
The area contains three former counties -Dumfriesshire, Kirkcudbrightshire and Wigtownshire, and each one has its own particular charm. You can explore beautiful Nithsdale in Dumfriesshire, for instance, and visit Drumlanrig Castle, one of the homes of the Duke of Queensberry and Buccleuch. Kirkcudbrightshire was the birthplace of John Paul Jones, founder of the American navy, and Wigtownshire was where Christianity was introduced into Scotland.
For more free guides in this series, visit the Travel & Holidays pages.