A wild goat in Galloway Forest Park © Jan Holm, Shutterstock
Blessed with fine hill and coastal landscapes, replete with history, overflowing with anecdotes and tales of characters past and present.
Blessed with fine hill and coastal landscapes, replete with history, overflowing with anecdotes and tales of characters past and present, and the location of some of Dumfries and Galloway’s most attractive towns, the Stewartry has it all. No wonder that those in the know return to it time and again. It is varied and big, stretching from the north of the wild Glenkens down to the rocky bays of the Kirkcudbright coast, and it would be easy to spend a week in any one of the five different locales into which we have split this chapter, let alone take the time to discover the others.
The name – ‘Stewartry’ – is a corruption of ‘Steward’, dating from the 14th century when a steward was appointed by Archibald the Grim, Lord of Galloway, to collect revenues. The area is the location of the Galloway Hydroelectric Scheme, built in the 1930s and consisting of a network of dams and power stations. Much of it falls within the Glenkens, but you will spot the striking Modernist power stations all the way down to the valley of the Dee at Tongland. This is an area with a rich literary heritage, too, the glorious scenery inspiring John Buchan and Dorothy L Sayers to set books here, not to mention local author S R Crockett. And this is the place to come for the Galloway Kite Trail, with opportunities to see these impressive birds at close quarters.
A history rich in smuggling characterises the coastal strip.
A history rich in smuggling characterises the coastal strip. Between Southerness in the east and Fleet Bay in the west there are some 30 bays and coves. This is one of the most stunning stretches of coast in Scotland, yet many parts of it remain relatively undiscovered and it is not unknown to have a beach to yourself. Alternatively, if you prefer wilder places, the Stewartry is also the location of the enormous Galloway Forest Park, the country’s first Dark Sky Park and a remote and invigorating landscape of moorland and mountains.
With so much history having played out here, there is an ongoing programme of archaeogical digs organised by The Stewartry Archaeological Trust. The trust is often on the lookout for volunteers, so if you fancy getting your hands dirty while in the area, do drop them a line.