Corbetts and Coast in Kirkcudbrightshire: A Weekend of Walks in Dumfries and Galloway

At the start of this Summer, when I was visiting family in Scotland, I enjoyed a weekend of walks in Dumfries and Galloway.  I headed to Kirkcudbrightshire to allow me to attend the wedding of some wonderful friends. My parents came along with me to kindly dogsit Annie and to allow them to continue ticking off the Corbetts on their list (Scottish mountains between 2,500 and 3,000 feet; there are 222 of them).   Over the long weekend, we enjoyed touring around this much-underrated region in the south of the country and, as always, made time for some great hiking.

For those that do find their way there, you are in for a treat.  Lush rolling green hillsides, vast numbers of forest trails, and beautiful, untouched stretches of coastline await you.

Annie enjoying one of our coastal walks in Dumfries and Galloway

Climbing Corserine, a Corbett in Kirkcudbrightshire

What better cure for a hangover than Corbett Bashing!  After a late night at the wedding I, perhaps foolishly, agreed with my parents to get out on the hills the following day.  Okay, so the journey to our start point was not a pleasant one, but once we were out on the hills, I slowly began to feel ‘normal’ again.

My parents wanted to tick off the Corbett Corserine.  This is the highest summit in the Kirkcudbrightshire region.  It is situated along the Rhinns of Kells Ridge, standing at 2,671 feet, and it offers wonderful views back down over the Galloway Forest Park and beyond.

The views over Kirkcudbrightshire while climbing to Corserine
The views over Kirkcudbrightshire while climbing to Corserine

To reach Corserine, you need to follow some rural roads to the Forrest Estate, near the village of St John’s Town of Dalry.  

The Forrest Estate, owned by wealthy businessman Fred Olsen, has over 65km of well-maintained roads running through its largely forested grounds.  You have to drive a fair bit into the Estate to find the public Forrest Lodge car park for the start of the walk. Continue past the impressive Natural Power Building called the Green House.  We initially wondered if this was where you are meant to park, but this is a staff only car park, and it is another few minutes on from here.

Well marked trails in the Forrest Estate on the way to Corserine
The forest trails are well-marked and well-maintained

It is not a difficult hike, and the path is generally well marked, it can be easily walked in around 5 hours.  It was also a great one for us to do with Annie, my dog. The lack of livestock meant that she could enjoy plenty of off-leash time. 

Heading up to Corserine
Annie loved the freedom she could get on this peaceful route

The route takes you through some well-marked forest trails, and then, as you ascend the hill, you are spoilt with the fantastic views.  It is exceptionally peaceful, we only met a few other walkers. It is a great route if you want to get away from it all and appreciate some breathtaking views of natural scottish countryside.

For a full description of the 10-mile circular walking route, check out the details on the Walk Highland Website.  If you walk a lot in Scotland, this is a super practical resource.

We were lucky with the weather, it was a generally calm day, but it is quite exposed up on the top of the ridge when making your way to the trig point.  Make sure you have buffs, hats and scarves at the ready.

Descending from Corserine, the hats and scarves are coming off again
It can be very exposed up at the trig point. We started to remove hats and buffs pretty quickly though when on the descent

Visiting Rockcliffe, one of my favourite coastal villages in Scotland

There are hundreds of amazing villages dotted along Scotland’s coastline; one of my favourites has to be Rockcliffe, even when the rain is pouring down!  

It is a tiny little place, so if you are expecting lots of shops to meander around and plenty of places to eat, this is not the place for you. The village is situated on a dead-end road, with one cafe and art gallery (with limited opening hours).  There is sometimes an ice cream van parked up in the summer months.  

Rockcliffe Beach
The small but perfectly formed Rockcliffe Beach

I was so taken with it though that, on our return home after the weekend, I spent hours scouring the property sites and rental in the area.  No surprise that prices are steep and houses rarely come onto the market.

There is a decent-sized public car park at the entrance to the village, and it is just a five-minute walk down to the water’s edge.  The beach is only a small sandy inlet, but it is very clean and has beautiful views out over the Solway Firth.

Views to Rough Island from Rockcliffe before the storm arrived
Views to Rough Island from Rockcliffe before the storm arrived

We had planned to do the easy coastal walk from Rockcliffe to Kippford.  The circular route is only around 3 miles long, and it is well signposted and extremely picturesque.  Unfortunately, we were only about twenty minutes into the walk when the heavens opened up, and we had to take cover in the trees as a huge storm enveloped us.  There were even massive hailstones at one point. Gotta love Scottish weather! When we realised the rain wasn’t going to let up we reluctantly decided to head back to the car; we were not geared up for such a heavy downpour.

Before the rain arrived on the Rockliffe to Kippford Coastal Trail
Before the rain arrived on the Rockliffe to Kippford Coastal Trail

Luckily, at the start of the trail, we were treated to a beautiful blanket of bluebells, so it made up for getting soaked.

The blanket of bluebells on the Rockcliffe to Kippford Walk
A blanket of bluebells on the trail from Rockcliffe to Kipford

We had also wanted to head out to Rough Island; again, the stormy weather scuppered our plans.  This small, 20 acre Island is a National Trust Scotland bird sanctuary and nature reserve.

You can walk to the Island from Rockcliffe in low tide.  Visiting during bird breeding season (May, June and July) is a no-no, and dogs should be kept on leash.

Kirkcudbright:  Scotland’s Art Capital?

Kirkcudbright is an up and coming town that is a bit of a trending cultural hub in Dumfries and Galloway.

We only had a quick pit stop here on our way back home, but it is well worth a visit.  This harbour town has been known as a mecca for artists over the years.

It has been home to prominent artists, including Jessie M. King and her husband, E.A. Taylor, E.A. Hornel and Charles Oppenheimer.  There are a plethora of galleries in the town, and it continues to inspire many artists locally, and internationally today.

Visiting the Artists Town, Kirkcudbright
Visiting the Artists Town – Kirkcudbright

You can visit the Tollbooth Arts Centre, a former debtors prison, that is now home to pieces from some of the town’s most famous artists.

Close by, you can explore the ruins of MacLellan’s Castle; don’t be expecting anything too grand though.  It is just a small fortification, but interesting nonetheless.

Part of the charm of Kirkcudbright is just taking the time to explore the streets and alleyways around the centre.  Many of the historic houses are brightly coloured and full of character and the town was in full bloom when we arrived with lots of well-kept gardens and displays.

Lots of beautiful gardens in Kirkcudbright
A beautifully maintained community garden in Kirkcudbright

If you are looking for somewhere to stop for a bite to eat, why not try the Garret Hotel.  They are dog-friendly and, as you can see from their job advert, have a good sense of humour!.

The Garret staff have a sense of humour
The dog-friendly Garret Hotel staff have a sense of humour

Southerness Coastal Walks in Dumfries and Galloway

There are so many fantastic coastal walks in Dumfries and Galloway.  The paths from Rockcliffe are a highlight, but there are plenty more to choose from.  If you are travelling with a dog, the beach at Southerness is a great place to let them stretch their legs.  Annie had a blast!

Southerness Beach Walk
Views back to the Lighthouse on Southerness Beach

There is not much else in Southerness really, other than a large Caravan and Camping site.

What it does have though is a lovely stretch of coastline, and you can walk for miles in either direction.  It is a short walk along to the more secluded sandy cove of Powillimount Beach where you can see an impressive limestone arch.

Southerness beach is also home to one of Scotland’s oldest Lighthouses.

Southerness Lighthouse
The Lighthouse at Southerness is one of the oldest in Scotland

Auchenlarie Holiday Park:  Not Perfect, But Dog-Friendly With Great Views

We needed to stay somewhere dog-friendly, that was close to the wedding venue, and we had left it a bit last minute for booking.  Auchenlarie Holiday Park was just five minutes drive along the road from GG’s Yard, so we plumped to stay there.

It wasn’t expensive for our three-night stay, the caravan was well kept, and we were pleased it was at the quiet, far end of the park.

If you have kids, this could be a great place to stay as there is plenty of on-site entertainment and facilities.  We would normally prefer something a bit more peaceful and traditional, but it worked out fine. It was a great location for us, there is lots to do around the immediate area, and it is right on the beachfront.  It is a rocky beach though, not one for sandcastles and sunbathing, but perfect for exploring all the little pools.

Sunset at the beach beside Auchenlarie Holiday Park in Kirkcudbrightshire
Sunset at the beach beside Auchenlarie Holiday Park

It is also worth being aware that if, like me, you need a WiFi connection on your trips, then you have to pay for the privilidge at the campsite. None of us were getting a good phone signal so we could not rely on our mobile data.

Getting to Dumfries and Galloway from Central Scotland

If you are travelling from further afield, you really would benefit from hiring a car to appreciate all the region has to offer.  It could make a great spot to explore for a long weekend if you are already visiting Glasgow, Edinburgh or somewhere like Newcastle, in the North of England.  They are all within 2.5 hours drive from Kirkcudbrightshire.

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