Stepping back in time
FANCY a wee walk or three, and afterwards a book or two to relax with, all in a quiet, largely unspoilt spot? Well then, the south-west corner of Scotland might be to your liking.
It was to mine recently when we visited the Galloway region where we walked in woods, on cliff tops and pebbled-stoned (ouch) beaches, and called in to check out the latest releases in Scotland’s book town.
Much of the action (if you could call it that, given the quiet pace of life there) centres on the Machars, a peninsula in Galloway’s south.
Begin your tour with a visit to Wigtown with its 20 well-read shops, most of which were open for our visit.
All were appealing but the standout is called simply The Book Shop, complete with welcoming bookends outside the front door.
There are rooms every which way here, but what a way to lose your literary way.
You could spend days given the vastness of its stock supply. And that’s before you get a whiff of the brewed coffee, and spot the comfy chairs.
Finally forcing ourselves outside, local guide book in hand, we roamed around the town perimeter to check out its harbour which is not exactly Sydney’s in size… more so a few mudflats but the tide was out and the twitchers were having a great but quiet time in a new viewing hide, focusing their lenses on the avian stars of the salt marsh.
Me, I preferred to roam around another nearby walking trail to see the Martyrs Stake monument, erected after two local women were drowned in 1685 for supporting Presbyterian Protestants in their battle with the established church.
Continuing the religious connection, it was but a wee short drive and not too far a hike to the beachside cave of St Ninian who brought Christianity to Scotland in the fifth century. He chose this remote spot for a bit of peace and quiet.
Don’t forget some good walking boots as it’s a tough trail over the wide, long pebbly beach. Glorious Sunny Coast sand it is not.
You can climb the nearby beachside cliffs for some solitude of your own and head back to the township of Whithorn which was Ninian’s home base, to see the remains of his church and try out a couple of pleasant little walking spots near the bay.
But mind how you go as it’s open fields and there were some seriously big cattle roaming free along the way.
If time permits, on the way back from Whithorn to Wigtown, call in to Galloway House Gardens which face Rigg Bay. It’s a pleasant stroll through the gardens and along the bay-hugging path.
A few kilometres north of the Machars is another major nature reserve – the Galloway Forest Park where you can take in some history and healthy fresh air.
Head 5km up the Loch Trool circular walk and you’ll come across the big granite Bruce Stone, erected as a monument to Robert The Bruce whose 300 men defeated the 1500-strong English in the Battle of Trool in 1307.
There are a number of mostly wooded walks from the visitor centre. We chose a late afternoon one among the ancient oak and birch woodland leading to Loch Trool. It was “trooly” invigorating.
Nearby was the gentle circular forest walk at Penninghame which is even suitable for wheelchairs.
And just down the road is the Wood of Cree, another pleasant walking and wildlife-spotting spot complete with otter platform.
Even though we arrived at the most likely time and kept really quiet, there was no appearance, your honour, of Mr Otter. He obviously had otter plans.
But we were much luckier on our red kite trail, seeing quite an aerial show as the birds of prey circled and then swooped as they arrived for their daily appearance at Bellymack Hill Farm.
Quite a show and popular too, given the number of cars.
How to get there: Galloway is only a couple of hours drive south of Glasgow and only an hour or so further away from Edinburgh into which international airlines fly.
When to go: Autumn was lovely although a few days were a bit cloudy.
How to get around: A hire car makes life a lot easier. Best deals probably from the big two Scottish cities or even from England if that’s where you start your holiday. Manchester, for example, is not a long way away.
Where to stay: We scoured the internet and came up with a reasonable self catering cottage. Just punch ‘Galloway B and B’ or ‘self catering’ into your search engine.