There are two very different streams down in Dumfries & Galloway, the region that makes up Scotland’s southwest corner. First, with the region sitting on the shoulder of the English Lake District, there is – inevitably – a stream of cross-border traffic plying the A74.
But there’s a second stream – and if the tourists in those cars had any sense, they’d make time to experience it before carrying on north. For while Dumfries & Galloway is not overburdened with visiting outsiders, it does have one very special repeat visitor: the Gulf Stream.
This warm gift from the weather gods laps at Dumfries and Galloway – so much so that the coastline hereabouts is nicknamed “The Scottish Riviera”. That might sound tongue-in-cheek, but the climactic phenomenon is very real. The region’s landscape – all ruined abbeys, stately homes, gorgeous gardens and mellow valleys – is lent a certain dreaminess by its balmy qualities.
The effects of the Gulf Stream are felt year round but they’re particularly pleasant in spring and summer. Here are five reasons to visit Dumfries & Galloway during the region's sunny playtime. For a family-focused trip, check out VisitScotland's own itinerary.
Dumfries & Galloway really comes into its own in the warmer months with a range of events and festivals. The fun kicks off with Spring Fling (May 26–28), an arts and crafts open-studios weekend. Overlapping with the Fling is the Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival (May 25 to June 3), a ten-day bonanza showcasing the best of local creativity. Other highlights include the Eden Festival (June 7–10), a cute-and-boutique music event, and Electric Fields (August 30 to September 1), a larger music festival in beautiful forest surroundings. Finally, aw shucks, why not go ahead and treat yourself at the Stranraer Oyster Festival, a fitting way to round off the summer (not that the summer ever really ends in Dumfries & Galloway).
The Gulf Stream's frontline: otherwise known as the Solway coast. Fractured and circuitous as if to make the most of its length, Scotland’s southernmost coastline is full of gorgeous sandy coves. Tour along it by vintage Alfa Romeo to really enjoy the full “riviera” experience – there’s no St-Tropez or Cannes, but who cares when you’ve got coastal beauties such as Southerness, Sandyhills, Mossyard and Carrick Shore? The South West Coastal 300 is the way to go (top down, if at all possible). Really make a road trip out of it by venturing all the way down to Scotland’s southernmost tip for the Mull of Galloway Experience, a fascinating lighthouse visit.
It's far from the nastiest member of the pollution family, but light pollution affects our lives all the same. Often it’s not until we see what the night sky looks like without light pollution that we really understand what we’ve been missing. Galloway Forest Park is the UK’s first Dark Sky Park and it makes for a jaw-dropping experience of stargazing. Those who are drawn to the science behind dark-sky stargazing should also check out the work of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere, a UNESCO-backed scheme to promote a sustainable relationship with the natural environment.
The Dumfries & Galloway landscape isn’t just there to be gawped at, you know. Amongst many other pursuits, Laggan Outdoor offers a human slingshot, which will give you a – ahem – unique perspective on the surroundings. Galloway Activity Centre, meanwhile, can hook you up with everything from paddleboarding and sailing to climbing. For two-wheel enthusiasts, the 7stanes mountain biking centres are well worth checking out. They cater for everyone from beginners and families up to steely thighed mountain biking experts.
For the time travellers amongst you, Dumfries & Galloway offers material galore. You can track the traces of Christianity’s establishment in Scotland, courtesy of the Whithorn Way, a long-distance pilgrim route. Picture-perfect Caerlaverock Castle, meanwhile, is the very height of ruined chic. Finally, Dumfries town itself is a Rabbie Burns hotbed, with the Burns House Museum and Robert Burns Centre – you can even toast him (and those delicious gushing entrails he was so fond of) at his favourite pub, The Globe Inn.
Top image: Caerlaverock Castle © Damian Shields/VisitScotland.