Galloway Forest Park is Britain’s largest forest park, with a spectacularly varied landscape of mountain peaks, lochs, coast and moorland, cut through by the Southern Uplands Way. It has visitor centres at Clatteringshaws Loch, Glentrool and Kirroughtree. Each has a tearoom, several waymarked walks and information on activities and events. The only tarmacked road to cross the park is the desolate twenty-mile stretch of the A712 between Newton Stewart and New Galloway, known as the Queen’s Way. There’s a Wild Goat Park on the Queen’s Way in the heart of the park and, a mile or so further up the road, a Red Deer Range.
Both Glentrool and Kirroughtree visitor centres have mountain bike trails, which form part of southern Scotland’s outstanding mountain-biking facilities, known as the 7 Stanes. Of the two, Kirroughtree, three miles east of the town of Newton Stewart, is by far the most varied and fun, with lots of exciting singletrack trails for all abilities and good bike-rental facilities.
About seven miles east of Newton Stewart, at the Grey Mare’s Tail Bridge, various hiking trails delve into the pine forests beside the tarmacked road, crossing gorges, waterfalls and burns. Clatteringshaws Loch, meanwhile, a reservoir surrounded by pine forest at the southeastern edge of the park, has a fourteen-mile footpath running right around it. Serious hikers should head for Glentrool, at the western edge of the park, about ten miles north of Newton Stewart, where a narrow lane twists the five miles over to Loch Trool. From here, you can follow the Gariland Burn to Loch Neldricken and Loch Enoch, with their silver granite sands, and then on to the Devil’s Bowling Green, strewn with hundreds of boulders left by the retreating glaciers. Alternatively, you can head for the Range of the Awful Hand, whose five peaks include the Merrick (2746ft).