Towns and villages
The main England-Glasgow transport corridor cuts through the east of this region, with railway and motorway running north from Carlisle to cross into Scotland, and flash past 1 Gretna, 2 Lockerbie and Beattock, crossing the moors into Clydesdale and descending towards Glasgow. With your own car you can explore the scenic hills and glens alongside, such as 3 Wanlockhead the lead-mining village, and the Grey Mare's Tail on the back road to the Scottish Borders and Edinburgh.
The region's other towns are along A75. Heading west:
- 4 Annan helped brew "The Devil's Porridge", an essential ingredient of World War 1 munitions.
- 5 Dumfries is where Robert Burns spent his last years; the town is also a good base for exploring the castles and hills beyond.
- 6 Castle Douglas is home to impressive Threave Gardens.
- 7 Kirkcudbright near the coast was popular with the "Scottish Colourists" and remains something of an artists' colony.
- 8 Gatehouse of Fleet has Cardoness Castle.
- 9 Newton Stewart is the base for exploring Glen Trool forest.
- 10 Wigtown to the south has a wide range of book shops and an annual Book Festival in late Sept / early Oct.
- 11 Whithorn saw the first church in Scotland, established by St Ninian in 397 AD; the present ruins are from the 12th C.
- 12 Stranraer is the port for ferries to Northern Ireland, which nowadays sail from nearby Cairnryan.
- 13 Portpatrick is a small fishing village to the west, and the main port until Stranraer developed.
- 14 Drummore is a village near the Mull of Galloway, the southwest tip of Scotland.
By plane: Glasgow is closer, but consider Manchester for its excellent range of flights, competitive fares, and good onward transport.
By train: most trains from London Euston rush non-stop between Carlisle and Glasgow Central, but every two hours they stop at Lockerbie and Motherwell.
A loop of line runs west from Carlisle via Annan, Dumfries, Sanquhar and Kilmarmock to Glasgow Central. Trains run M-Sat hourly as far as Dumfries, continuing to Glasgow every couple of hours.
Trains run from Glasgow Central via Ayr to Stranraer but don't serve the Cairnryan ferry terminals.
Buses run direct between Edinburgh & Glasgow and Dumfries, but it may be quicker to change in Carlisle.
National Express / Ulsterbus 920 runs overnight from London Victoria via Luton airport, Coventry, Birmingham, Manchester airport and city, Preston, Carlisle, Dumfries, Castle Douglas, Newton Stewart, Stranraer, Cairnryan then by Stena ferry to Belfast.
Citylink / Ulsterbus 923 runs from Glasgow via Ayr to Cairnryan then to Stranraer town.
By boat: See Stranraer for ferries to Northern Ireland, which sail from Cairnryan a few miles north of town. The operators are Stena Line to Belfast (with onward buses to Dublin and Londonderry), and P&O Irish Sea to Larne.
Train is the best option between Carlisle and Lockerbie, and Carlisle, Annan and Dumfries.
All the villages have at least occasional buses M-Sat, radiating out from Carlisle, Dumfries, Newton Stewart or Stranraer. There's next to nothing on Sunday.
Taxis are another option for short journeys, with most towns having at least one taxi company.
You'll need a car to visit the remote castles and forests out in the countryside.
Dumfries & Galloway boasts an impressive range of tourist attractions. Most places have a small visitor centre of some description, or a small local museum. Bigger attractions are listed below:
Bruce's Stone at Glen Trool, near Newton Stewart - marks one of the early victories of Bruce in the Wars of Independence. Also a starting point for many hiking trails, including the path up the Merrick, the region's highest hill.
Cream of Galloway visitor centre, near Kirkcudbright - there is an assault course and various farming related activities, all aimed at families. For the less adventurous, there is also ice cream tasting and tours of the ice cream factory.
Bladnoch Distillery, Wigtown - tour a whisky distillery.
The Port Logan Fish Pond, near Drummore - a natural rock fish pond where visitors can feed a range of deep sea fish and view a small aquarium.
The Port Logan Botanic Gardens, near Drummore - an impressive gardens with a wide range of tropical plants. Perfect for a picnic.
Walking, pony trekking, mountain biking are all popular and easy to access here.
Visit the vast plantation forests of Dumfries & Galloway, which have various access points and amenities for visitors. Glen Trool is a forest park close to Newton Stewart with forest walks, a circular walk around Loch Trool, and a path up Merrick, the highest hill in southern Scotland.
A long distance walking trail called the Southern Upland Way passes through the area, starting on the coast at Portpatrick, trekking through the forests before leaving the region at Wanlockhead and eventually finishing on the North Sea coast south of Edinburgh at Cockburnspath.
Fishing is a popular sport here. Local tackle shops can provide advice on or sell permits for loch and river fishing. Sea fishing is also good fun, but be careful on the Solway Coast as the tide comes in quickly along the sandy, flat inlets.
Those interested in history can visit sites related to the Scottish Wars of Independence, the Covenanters and various other historical events.
Dumfries & Galloway is famous for dairy produce, including a variety of local cheeses and Cream of Galloway ice-cream, a luxury brand produced near Kirkcudbright and widely available throughout the region.
Disappointingly, it can be difficult to get hold of freshly landed local fish, however there are fishmongers at the Isle of Whithorn and the Galloway Smokehouse near Creetown.
Speaking of smokehouses, the Galloway Smokehouse supplies a range of excellent smoked meats, cheeses and fish. Marberry Smokehouse has an outlet close by - the company supplies many top restaurants in Glasgow and further afield.
In early summer, new pototoes are available either local or from Ayrshire, and are something of a local delicacy.
Local game is sometimes available from butchers and restaurants.
Castle Douglas styles itself as the region's food town - both locally produced and more exotic foodstuffs are available there.
Pub food is generally above average; most villages have at least one pub that serves excellent meals.
There are two whisky distilleries in the region, both of which can be toured: Bladnoch near Wigtown, and Annandale near Annan.
Most local pubs provide a range of real ales.
You are extremely unlikely to run into any sort of trouble in the towns in Dumfries and Galloway.
For outdoors pursuits, standard safety precautions apply; make sure you are prepared for changeable weather and take stout footwear.
The main options are east into the Scottish Borders and Northumberland, north to Glasgow or Edinburgh, northwest to Ayrshire and the Isle of Arran, west by ferry to Northern Ireland, or south via Carlisle into the English Lake District.