Traditionally at this time of year, all visitor attractions would firmly shut their doors after the last visitors left at the end of October and didn’t reopen until the spring. Increasingly, this is not the case in Dumfries & Galloway though as holiday makers choose to travel in late autumn and winter and visitor attractions see the benefit in remaining open.
With this in mind, I’ve put together a shortlist of the highlights of what to do when on holiday at our luxury 4* Corsewall Estate Holiday Cottages in south-west Scotland after the clocks go back.
The Galloway Hoard – Kirkcudbright Galleries
Top of my list must be The Galloway Hoard: Viking Age Treasure exhibition at the Kirkcudbright Galleries, which runs until July 10th, 2022. This hoard of Viking-age treasure was discovered in 2014 by a metal detectorist in a field in rural Kirkcudbrightshire and is one of the most exciting archaeological finds in the UK in recent times. Visitors can see over 100 decorative treasures and practical objects – from silver arm rings and gold ingots to jewelled treasures and rare silk textiles, which were used to wrap the objects and have survived since the hoard was buried around AD900.
The significance of the find is hard to overstate. There is more gold in this collection than any other in Britain or Ireland and there is more silver than any other hoard found in Scotland. Many of the items are unique. And incredibly some of the items, such as a silver-gilt vessel, are believed to come from central Asia.
Do book in for a visit – it’s proving extremely popular and sells out fast on certain days. Afterwards we headed over to nearby Castle Douglas for lunch at Designs Café or if you are organised, book a table at Gather Restaurant at Laggan and enjoy delicious food and wonderfully expansive views over the beautiful Fleet Bay.
Dumfries House in Ayrshire
Unlike many National Trust properties which shut their doors firmly for winter, Dumfries House, near Cumnock in Ayrshire, owned by HRH Prince Charles, is open for tours throughout the winter. The Dumfries House Estate is a wonderful location for a fun and relaxing day out for all the family and is open free of charge, and the grounds are open 365 days a year.
The recently restored 5-acre walled garden has a magnificent mixture of terrace, greenhouses, formal areas and an education garden. This is also open all year round – but it is worth checking opening hours on the website before visiting. Just outside the walled garden, the Arboretum houses an impressive collection of over 500 specimens and a range of shrubs and woodland flowers.
There are lots of woodland walks to enjoy around the estate and it’s free to explore the policies. Don’t miss the wonderful Avenue Bridge which connects the house to the walled garden and arboretum – well worth a photo opportunity. The Coach House Cafe serves excellent lunches and snacks and is right next door to the amazing children’s adventure playground – children won’t want to leave!
Logan Botanic Garden
Logan Botanic Garden, the Royal Edinburgh Botanics’ most southerly outpost, is a 30-minute drive from our luxury self-catering cottages on the coast here at Corsewall Estate in Dumfries & Galloway. Open until November 15th and re-opening for Sundays during February and full time from March 1, Logan is aptly described as ‘a plantsman’s paradise’. It is undoubtedly one of the country’s most exotic gardens where many varieties of plants from the southern hemisphere flourish are warmed by the Gulf Stream. Do visit the Potting Shed afterwards – it’s a great place for a cup of tea or an excellent lunch.
Glenwhan Gardens, Dunragit
This beautiful corner of south-west Scotland is renowned for its exotic gardens and Glenwhan Gardens at Dunragit is one of the area’s hidden gems. With moorland walks, forest trails, a tranquil pond and amazing sea views, it’s a wonderful place to relax and unwind. Open all year round, with a wonderful collection of rhododendrons and plants to enjoy, Glenwhan is offering half price entry from November through to February 18th.
Galloway Forest Park
There are countless wonderful walks in the Galloway Forest Park, but the trek around scenic Loch Trool, is a particular gem. It’s a 5.5-mile circular route, which takes about three hours. The loch was once the site of a fierce battle where, in 1307, Robert the Bruce took on and defeated the 1500-strong English army. Although numbering only 300 men, Robert the Bruce won by ambushing the English along the steep banks of Loch Trool and knocking them into the water with large boulders. Brutal stuff. Bruce’s Stone commemorates the Battle of Loch Trool and sits above overlooking the loch and battlefield. The Glentrool visitor centre is closed during winter, so do take drinks and a picnic with you.
Alternatively, head for Kirroughtree, where the visitor centre is open all year round, albeit slightly reduced opening hours during winter. Here you will find a wide choice off walks, short and long and of varying levels from easy to strenuous.
Kirroughtree is also home to one of the superb Seven Stanes mountain biking centres. Again, as with walking, there are trails of varying levels – green being an easy route through the scenic Bargaly Glen that parents can enjoy with small children; the red trail is a slightly more challenging and takes you over Larg Hill and offers some pretty views. Blue and black are more technical and physically demanding and are definitely best left to the experts!
Dark Skies Park
Galloway is also home to the UK’s first designated Dark Skies Park and autumn and winter are the best time to star gaze and enjoy the night sky. Book an evening star gazing with Dark Skies Park ranger and expert, Elizabeth Tindal and get up close and personal with the stars. Armed with gallons of hot chocolate to keep you warm, Elizabeth will meet you at your cottage on Corsewall Estate and will give you a fascinating and informative tour of the stars and constellations.
Kitchen Coos and Ewes
If you want to get up close and personal with a Highland cow, then a Kitchen Coos and Ewes tour is a must. An authentic farm tour of High Airyolland Farm near New Luce, it’s a bit like a cow safari.
From the comfort of a covered trailer, engaging farmers Neale and Janet take you on a tour around in this unspoilt part of south-west Scotland in the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere to meet their beautiful Highland cows. Each one has a Gaelic name and all are proper characters. Some choose to come right up to have a look or a good scratch on the side of the trailer, while others watch mooing noisily from a far. Highland cows are renown for being very placid and friendly – so they are the perfect breed for this sort of tour. And of course, they are incredibly photogenic too.
Afterwards, we were treated to the most wonderful tea in a converted byre – with a delicious selection of cakes, tray bakes and Highland cow shaped shortbread.
This highly informative tour is definitely a must – as all ages cannot fail to enjoy it and fall in love with these cuddly Highland beasts with their shaggy coats.
Wigtown is Scotland’s designated book town with 13 wonderful second-hand bookshops to explore. It is about a 45-minute drive from our luxury self-catering houses at Corsewall Estate Holiday Cottages. There are a couple of decent cafes to visit – Reading Lasses and Beltie Books – both of which welcome dogs. The Bookshop is the largest second-hand book shop in Scotland and is a wonderful emporium of all things books. It is owned by Shaun Bythell, who is also a successful author in his own right, having published the hugely popular and highly amusing series ‘Diary of a Bookseller’.
Recently we have created a host of magnificent woodland paths and coastal walks around Corsewall Estate for guests to enjoy during their stay. Many guests comment that they love the new paths as they don’t need to drive anywhere to walk – it’s just a case of stepping outside and the walks are right on their doorstep.
The Corsewall Loop walk takes you through the historic policy woodlands – originally laid out to represent the British Army’s dispositions at the Battle of Corunna of 1809 in Northern Spain. When you reach the top of the hill, catch your breath at one of the picnic benches, which also provides fabulous views across the open farmland of the Rhins and onto Loch Ryan then out north and over to the Ailsa Craig and the Isle of Arran. In spring, the woodland walks are thick with carpets of bluebells and in summer, the policy fields are full of wildflowers.
Further north along the shores of Loch Ryan, but still on the Corsewall Estate, another new path now leads from Port Beg beach and hugs the coast round the rugged headland to Lady Bay – a pretty sandy beach with a craggy cove at the far end.