I love to go out exploring and here in Dumfries and Galloway you can head out any time of the year – it is the perfect place to see wildlife in their natural habitat and beautiful scenery whatever time of year you visit.
There is over 200 miles of coastline in Dumfries and Galloway with hundreds of walks from to Solway Firth to the Mull of Galloway.
You can spot Red squirrels, Roe Deer, Hares, Red kites, Ospreys even the Natterjack Toad.
In the Rhins of Galloway, where Kirklauchline cottage is there are lots of walks and lots of wildlife to spot – even from the cottage. We often see Buzzards overhead or sat on a fence, Roe Deer grazing, Foxes, lots of Hares and at night huge Barn Owls too.
A great place to visit in The Rhins, where I often take the Dog for a walk, is The Wig – located 6 miles north of Stranraer. There is a parking area at the start of the walk and parts of it are ok for disabled visitors too. It takes about an hour to walk, depending on how many times you stop to look at the view, take photographs or to watch some interesting wildlife you may have spotted! Wig Bay is part of Loch Ryan and the initial part of the walk takes you along a rough track called the scar (it is possible to drive this bit too if walking is not an option).
This eventually runs out into the loch and, on a clear day you get fantastic views through the mouth of the Loch of the Ailsa Craig and the coastline of the Mull of Kintyre. it is said to be home to the largest colony of nesting terns in the region too. For those people who like to see the Ferries you can see both Stena Line and P & O at their ports in Cairnryan, just across the Loch. Look out for all sorts of shells on the beach here – you can see Scallop, Oyster, Mussel and Razor shells. If you keep following the route it turns towards Kirkcolm village and past the school then back on the A718 and back to the car park – it’s all quite flat but can get muddy at some points so you need you boots on. Along the way you are sure to see large flocks of Twite in the fields during the winter months ( I was not too sure what these were until I checked out the RSPB web site), Eider Ducks (a friend of ours who visited was so excited when he saw these!), Scaup ducks, Widgeon, Great crested Ducks and Slovonian Grebe are regular visitors along with Dunlin, Lapwing, Ringed Plover, Turnstone and Curlew. My favourite sighting are the Seals – we mainly get the larger grey seals here and,if you are very lucky, you can see them on the rocks or sandbanks – that usually means camera time for me! For any of our visitors I have another secret location for Seal spotting too!
Another must do is the Mull of Galloway nature reserve – there’s lots of wildlife here together with the RSPB visitor centre. Oh, and a Lighthouse and Coffee shop – can’t forget those! There’s a large free car park and the walking here is fairly easy, although you can venture a little further along the cliff tops where it gets a bit more tricky. Dogs are allowed but must be kept on a lead. When you have parked your car, firstly look at the view – you feel like you are on the edge of the world (as you are in Scotlands most southerly point you almost are!). Go through the gateway and turn right following the markers towards the cliffs and towards the Lighthouse, pass by the cottages and walled garden and down to the foghorn, where there is an amazing viewpoint. Visitors have seen Porpoise here but I have never been as lucky but hope to some day. You can then head towards the RSPB information centre, where you can go in and check out the live web cams on the cliffs, look at the books and posters and all the other information they have there, the friendly staff will tell you which wildlife has been spotted in the last few days and where you might see it – there is sometimes a friendly RSPB dog there too to fuss over. You return to the car park via Lagvag point, where you can see the nesting sea birds on the cliffs – Guillemott and Kittiwake.
After your walk a visit to Gallie Craig Coffee house is a well deserved rest! They serve hot and cold drinks,snacks and meals – the food there is very nice and the cakes are to die for! They cater for young children, having high chairs and a small play area too. Dogs are not allowed inside but there are seats outside where you can sit and take in the fresh air and the views. There are toilets here and baby changing. Inside the coffee shop is a great gift shop too selling local books, gifts, jams and preserves, Jewellery and lots more . They have the hugest set of Binoculars I have ever seen too, which visitors can use to check out the scenery.
During the summer you can visit the Mull of Galloway Lighthouse and climb to the top – 115 steps. The first lot of steps up are steep and narrow, as you can imagine! If you want to venture right to the top you need to go up the ladder and into the light – there is a lady up there who tells you all about the workings of the lighthouse, how many times the light rotates, how far it can be seen, what happens in a power cut and anything else you want to know. Did you know “Aga” , as in the cookers made the workings for the light up there! I have been up there a couple of times and it is amazing and it is still a working Lighthouse.
The views from the walk way that runs around the outside at the top are fantastic – you just see blue everywhere. You can see the Isle of Man and the Calf of Man on a clear day, Cumbria and along the Galloway coast too. I would not recommend this for people who are unsteady on their feet or the very young or very old – even people who don’t like heights!
So there’s a snapshot of the Rhins but there’s lots more to come!
Inside Kirklauchline cottage we have a rather well used OS map of the region and we have marked on it where all these places are, our visitors take it out with them and most have commented on how useful they have found it. If you would like to come along and see the wildlife here and do a spot of walking then do get in touch. I really enjoy telling people about the region and whats on and when. Infact, the Dumfries and Galloway Wildlife festivalstarts early April for 2 weeks with over 80 wildlife events.