The Machars

The Machars (a name meaning “coastal pastures”) is a quiet peninsula, full of small villages to visit, sandy beaches at Monreith and Garlieston, and is packed with history, some associations with famous people ( did you know that Gavin Maxwell, of the Ring of Bright Water, had his family home here and first released his otter into the loch at Monreith House ? ) and great Georgian architecture in the main towns and villages.

There are coastal walks, round a rugged coastline of cliffs where you can spot seabirds, and quaint harbours at the Isle of Whithorn, Garlieston and Port William; there’s a sea-girt golf course at Monreith and don’t omit seeing the bronze “Standing Man” at Port William, created by a local artist. In Whithorn, you can see some of the most important stones in Scottish history and understand the role pivotal role this small town played in shaping modern Scotland. Wigtown, the county town dominated by the huge French-style County Buildings, is now home to the National Book Town, crammed with small, quirky bookshops and tearooms; don’t forget to visit the osprey viewing room or the hide down on the saltmarshes, where a warden is often on hand to show you the wetland birds. Each autumn, the centre of Wigtown is transformed into an arena for booklovers, who can book into dozens of talks by contemporary authors of all kinds. Don’t forget there’s a Children’s festival at the same time, and also a Spring festival, focussed on choice local foods.The arts are not forgotten either, with Whithorn’s Arts Trail gaining a growing reputation, when artists and crafters take over the town’s shops and front rooms.

If you prefer prehistory, an Ordnance Survey map reveals a wealth of sites – the most complete stone circle in the area is just outside Wigtown at Torhousekie. At night, just look up, when you’re outside the glow of streetlights, to see some of the darkest skies in Europe and pop up to the Galloway Forest for family-friendly stargazing sessions