Self-Catering Cottage Holidays in South West Scotland
Marvel at the wildlife and history of South West Scotland
South West Scotland may not be able to boast a major city like Edinburgh or Glasgow, but that doesn't mean it's not absolutely crammed with amazing qualities that make it a first rate holiday destination. Whether you're into culture, sport, food, or simply experiencing something different to the norm, you'll find what you're looking for.
The region of Dumfries and Galloway is renowned for the quality of its natural beauty. Walkers will be delighted with the variety of routes ranging from wheelchair accessible to exceptionally challenging. Ancient woodland, picturesque gardens and rugged coastline make it a joy to visit at any time of year.
Galloway Forest Park covers 300 square miles and includes 250 lochs and 2 trillion trees - perfect for walking and mountain biking! It isn't just great in the day time - it was Britain's first Dark Sky Park and incredible at night. Another natural wonder is St Ninian's Cave near Whithorn Abbey. It's a special site for Christians who believe that St Ninian, the first Scottish Saint, used it.
Wigtown is famed for its bookstores and annual book festival which celebrates writers of all genres. While you're there, visit the distillery at Bladnoch, or play 18 holes at the Wigtown and Bladnoch Golf Club. Other courses nearby include St Medan, the most Southerly course in Scotland, Lockerbie and Colvend.
Possibly the most famous village in Dumfries and Galloway is Gretna Green. Even if you're not planning to get married there, it's still fun to see the famous blacksmith's shop where eloping English couples have been tying the knot since the 1700s.
The Wigtown Bay Local Nature Reserve is brilliant for bird spotting, especially in autumn and winter when it has an influx of migrating geese. Other fantastic places for wildlife watching include Carstramon Wood, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation; and Castle Kennedy Gardens in Stranraer, where you can see red squirrels, wildfowl, osprey, otters and foxes, among dozens of other species.
Dumfries prides itself on its strong connection to Scotland's most beloved poet, Robert Burns. There's a museum devoted to his life and works at Ellisland Farm and another at Robert Burns House, where he spent his final years. While you're there, remember to have a dram in his honour at The Globe Inn .
Robert Burns was born in Ayr. If you're not there in time for the annual festival celebrating this link, be sure to visit the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum on Murdoch's Lane in Alloway. At the other end of the housing scale is Culzean Castle - a magnificent fortress built to take advantage of strategic views over the Firth of Clyde. With 600 acres of accompanying park and countryside it's a top day out for the whole family.
Fancy a flutter? Ayr Racecourse hosts the Scottish Grand National every spring and has an exciting calendar of events throughout the rest of the year. You can also walk and cycle coastal paths and play on one of several superb golf courses, including Troon Lochgreen, Prestwick and Girvan.
If you're in South Ayrshire to research your family tree, you won't find a better place to start than Carnegie Library. It was built in 1893 and has useful information on the local history to help you plan your visit.
A D Rattray's Whisky Experience and Shop in Kirkoswald is a must-see if you like whisky, or you're looking for a special souvenir. Thrill the kids (and keep them in line) by showing them the spooky dungeons at Dundonald Castle, while Crossraguel Abbey in Maybole is a more peaceful attraction.
Troon's beach and marina are incredibly pretty. Spend the day on the sand then enjoy a deliciously fresh seafood meal at Troon Yacht Haven. You can see the Isle of Arran from the shore line, which is only a short boat trip away. Spend a day or two enjoying the lochs, mountains and meadows of Arran; or take your bicycle to the island of Great Cumbrae and spend the day exploring on two wheels.
South West Scotland may be one of the nation's smaller regions, but its stature belies its enormous appeal to visitors of all ages.