Because of the tradition of relatively generous access to the countryside in Scotland, there are fewer signed and marked footpaths than in England. Nonetheless, of recent years, the local authority and local communities have been working on a network of paths which is likely to expand in the years to come.
The South Machars offers a selection of walks, with landscape varying from woodland to rugged cliffs.
Kilsture Forest has two woodland walks, starting from the Forest car park on the B7004 from Garlieston. Both tracks are waymarked, and there are some specimens of Redwood trees and larches to be seen. Pheasants are regular occupants of the woods, and birds of prey, such as buzzards, circle over the forest.
Cruggleton Castle and Galloway House Gardens
Walks begin from the car park at Galloway House Gardens and some meander through these landscaped gardens. For the cliff walk, proceed to the beach, turn right along the path which runs parallel to the shore through increasingly shadowy woods. You may notice a sort of balcony giving a viewpoint over some sheer rocks, near the top of your climb : this was said to be where the French prisoners of war, then building up the walls round Galloway House, stared out to sea in longing for their lost homeland. The walk follows the cliff edge, with farmland to your right.. Following the cliffs, you will eventually see the sole remaining barrel vault of Cruggleton Castle outlined against the sky.
The walk begins at the car park near Kidsdale Farm. The track goes through the glen, which in spring is a blazing carpet of bluebells; later in the year, it is aromatic with wild garlic. When you emerge onto the shingly beach, turning to your right (north) you will see the fissure in the rock known as St. Ninian’s Cave. There is proof of the antiquity of the pilgrimage tradition in the carved crosses on the rocks, which date from the 8th century AD. Alternatively, you can go south, up a fairly steep cliff to the south of the pebbled beach, and follow a cliff walk to Burrowhead, where it ends at the Caravan Park, where you can also begin the walk, reporting to Reception before you start. The path is marked and you will have spectacular views down heady drops to the sea.
Occasionally, you may spot the outlines of an Iron Age promontory fort, or the remains of the abortive tin mine near Tonderghie.
Plants well adjusted to the salt environment thrive on the rocks, and you may be treated to view of the Isle of Man, the Lake District, the Rhinns of Galloway, and occasionally, even of Ireland, a reminder that Galloway has always been close to the kingdoms surrounding the Irish Sea.
Monreith House, White Loch of Myrton Walk
On this historic estate, you can walk round the White Loch of Myrton, where, according to a seventeenth century historian, Andrew Symson, local girls would come on May Day to see the faces of their future husbands in the water.
The walk begins at the car park, and you will see fishing platforms, a boathouse, and many woodland plants, as well as superb mature trees from the eighteenth and nineteenth century plantings.
The Loch has the largely unrecognised distinction of being the first place where Gavin Maxwell, whose family still own the estate, released his famous otter for a swim after his return from Iraq. His succession of tame otters became the subject of his world-famous trilogy, beginning with “Ring of Bright Water”, whose premiere at Newton Stewart cinema he attended. He also temporarily lodged his wildfowl collection on the Loch, before eventually giving them to Peter Scott, who, with these as a foundation, founded the Slimbridge reserve.
Often, you will be able to see a heron perched in the trees, some swans and ducks, and near the south end of the loch, you will be able to spot an Iron Age “crannog” or fortified island site close to shore.
Garnets Walk, Port William
Following the line of an old road into Port William, there is now a circular walk, beginning at the historic meal mill buildings near the roundabout in the centre of the village. The coastline to the north is of interest to geologists, because it presents a good example of the raised beaches, created when the weight of the ice left the land, allowing it to rise above the sea level.