A Crafty guide to visiting bonny Galloway
Planning a trip? Somewhere easy, chilled and tranquil? With the best bits of Scotland all in one place? Then come and visit us in Galloway, it’s a pretty special place. And before you ask, Crafty Distillery is not the newly opened branch of VisitScotland! We’re just really passionate about this stunning part of the country, and when guests come for a tour at the distillery, we love to share some of our must-see secret spots and favourite things to do. So we thought why not pop our best recommendations in a blog post, as a local’s guide to Galloway, to help everyone plan the most amazing trip even if you have just a few days away.
Cross the border and turn left
Galloway is in the far south west corner of Scotland and is less than 2 hours from Carlisle and Glasgow, and less than 3 hours from Edinburgh also. Entering Galloway through either Dumfries or Ayrshire, the countryside rapidly changes to more dynamic and exciting terrain. In fact, within just a short drive through Galloway, you will find yourself being transported from coastline and beaches, to vast forests before entering hills and glens.
For this reason Galloway is known as a mini Scotland. Everything you love about Scotland and its scenery in one picturesque corner of the country. Whether it’s strolling, hiking, biking, or simply unwinding, Galloway has something for everyone plus a few surprises. Oh and if you’re a fan of fabulous craft gin, artisan whisky and handmade vodka, we know just the place for you too!
Our top places to visit in Galloway
Scotland’s first Dark Sky Park
The Galloway Forest Park is an epic destination for woods, rivers, hills, birds, red deer and wild goats. It is also one of the best places in the UK to enjoy the night sky in all its splendour due to a distinct lack of light pollution. Galloway on the whole is relatively sparsely populated, which means very few electric lights at night. Something called a Sky Quality Meter is used to measure light pollution on a scale of 1 to 24, with 24 being so dark that you are reliant on touch alone to find your way around. While a typical city will have a score of around 8, the Galloway Dark Sky Park ranges between 21.5 and 23, which is so dark that even Darth Vader needs a headtorch!
One of the most stunning glens around
Just a short drive north from us here at Crafty Distillery is Glentrool. A truly stunning glen that is home to Loch Trool and it’s legendary history. Glentrool was once a hideout for Robert the Bruce and is the site of a well known battle against the 2nd Earl of Pembroke. Glentrool is quintessential tranquillity with an untouched and ancient feel. For a full day on the hills, Glentrool is also the starting point for visiting a number of other incredible inland lochs plus the highest mountain in southern Scotland at 2,766 feet, The Merrick, which also boasts some of the most impressive views of the Ayrshire coast towards the Isle of Arran.
The gateway to the Galloway Forest
Also part of the Dark Sky Park, Kirroughtree is the perfect place for parents to exhaust the children into an early night so they can sit back with a well earned G & T. From its popular visitor centre, Kirroughtree offers short walks, long walks and family-friendly mountainbiking. It’s even easy to take a push chair around so there’s no excuse for not getting out into the wilds of Galloway.
Both Glentrool and Kirroughtree are also part of the 7 Stanes mountainbiking centres that are spread across southern Scotland. The well maintained and graded routes offer mountainbiking for all levels of experience as they weave their way through the woods and glens. For the little rippers there are skills areas, jumps and downhills for high fives and big smiles all day long.
The Raider’s Road and Otter Pool
If all that action sounds too exhausting, or you just fancy a wee picnic without too far to walk, the Raider’s Road forest drive is the perfect cruise. A 10 mile forest drive suitable for cars but also open to walkers, cyclists and horse riders, it’s a great way to head out into the wilderness without the dilemma of what to wear. Just pack your boot and off you go. Make sure to stop by the picturesque Otter Pools for the perfect spot to relax on its grassy banks.
A historical harbour village
We love the Isle of Whithorn, with a great harbour pub to boot (see below for food). One of the most southerly villages in Scotland and steeped in history, this quaint wee coastal village is all you could ask for when seeking a relaxing getaway. While it is now part of the mainland it was once a true island that became a popular pilgrimage route back in ye olde times.
The UK’s best kept secret
Heading to the most westerly and most southerly point of Scotland without getting your feet wet will take you to the Mull of Galloway. This entire area is an unspoilt gem that is unrivalled in terms of peace and tranquillity. Grab yourself a chilled bottle of our Distilled Gin Cocktail and relax on a lazy afternoon amongst the sandy beaches, cliff top walks and unique gardens that benefit from the unusually warm climate. Oh and it has a rather cool lighthouse too. Go at the right time and you may even bump into a dolphin, porpoise or puffin!
Great places to eat in Galloway
It is a must when visiting the Isle of Whithorn to pop into The Steam Packet Inn for great beer and amazing food. They specialise in serving fresh lobster, scallops and crab that are so local the fisherman catch them by calling each one by name. Heading over to Castle Douglas will take you to the well-worth-a-visit Mr Pook’s Kitchen. Sharing our passion for the flavours of Galloway, foraging and innovation, this wonderful restaurant is a specialist at transforming local ingredients into creative tastes. Get yourself to Gatehouse, one of Galloway's prettiest towns and home to Galloway Lodge. The preserve masters, but also a tasty spot for lunch, including some cracking burgers. Our final foodie favourite is further inland at St John’s Town of Dalry. Here The Clachan Inn is a superb choice for seasonal, local produce served with a bit of imagination and in a wonderfully relaxed setting.
Visit our 5 star craft distillery
Rumours have it that there’s a particularly unique distillery in the heart of Galloway that is a rare find amongst gin, vodka and whisky makers and is about as craft as craft can be. Not only did they create their own gin through the feedback of their community, but they designed and built the entire distillery themselves by hand. Plus it’s just one of a handful of distilleries that go to the extra effort of making their own base spirit for their gin, from scratch, from local wheat. Apparently they also have some pretty special whisky maturing away and a vodka that will blow your mind. Could it all be local gossip? Find out for yourself by visiting Crafty Distillery to book a distillery tour, or join our award-winning Gin Escape Adventure where you will forage for your own botanicals out in the wilds of Galloway!
These are just some of our favourite bits of Galloway and secret hideaways that many visitors will simply pass by without realising it. Galloway is abundant with exciting scenery, flavours and activities though, so whether you’re making a flying visit or planning a longer stay, be sure to see what else may tickle your fancy. Head over to our Things To Do page or our Food And Drink page for many other great recommendations. Most importantly, if you find yourself passing by Galloway, make the effort to come and see us at the distillery for a friendly welcome and a tour. We’re always delighted to share our local insights and help our guest to have a truly memorable time.
See you soon!
Back to BOLT FROM THE BLUE - JOURNAL