It is one of the most beautiful parts of Scotland, yet Dumfries and Galloway is often overlooked by day-trippers and holidaymakers. Those who make it their destination are well rewarded, however, as it boasts beautiful beaches, picturesque villages, a spectacular coastline, castles, museums, and a whole range of sporting activities that range from mountain biking to golf.


Castle Douglas is a designated Food Town but fine cuisine and interesting drinks can be found all over the region with cafes, restaurants and distilleries all part of the tempting taste trail. The fresh air means the daylight has a quality that draws creative people, with the result that Kirkcudbright is now known as the Artists’ Town. The lack of light pollution has also led to the creation of western Europe’s first dark skies park. 
The beauty of the surroundings inspired Robert Burns whose final resting place can be found at Dumfries where the Robert Burns Centre tells his story. Wildlife is attracted to the unspoiled countryside and nature lovers can enjoy the RSBP Mull of Galloway reserve and Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve where barnacle geese, whooper swans and osprey can be seen. Romantic ruined abbeys include Sweetheart Abbey where Lady Devorgilla was so heartbroken by her husband’s death that she carried his heart around with her until she died.


Whether it is culture, cuisine, history, nature or sport, Dumfries and Galloway covers them all. It opened the first dark sky park in the UK and western Europe and now the region has a new Dark Space visitor centre and Planetarium. Based in the Artists’ Town of Kirkcudbright, it aims to build on Galloway Forest Park’s Dark Sky status, granted in 2009 and recognising it as being one of the best places for stargazing in the world

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The £2.6m Dark Space Planetarium opened last summer and is a state-of-the-art experience designed for all ages to enjoy. The exhibition space contains interactive science and space themed exhibits and visitors can also enjoy the immersive Planetarium domed cinema screen, taking virtual trips to the edge of the universe, exploring inside the human body, and journeying around the Earth.


WHAT’S YOUR TIPPLE?
Also new is the Dark Art Distillery in Kirkcudbright which offers tastings and tours. It is Scotland’s most southerly distillery and was established by Andrew Clark-Hutchison whose family have lived in Dumfries and Galloway for generations. The distillery’s gin still is named Peggy, after Clark-Hutchison’s grandmother who hailed from Kirkcudbright, and it can be seen on the tours that include a tasting of the distillery’s Sky Garden Gin. 
Whisky lovers should head to Annandale Distillery, first opened in 1836 but which closed after the first World War, with the site falling into disrepair. A £14m makeover begun by Teresa Church and David Thomson, who was born in Dumfries, resulted in the reopening of its doors in 2014.
With its rugged coastline, the region has its fair share of lighthouses and there are now new and exciting ways of visiting them by boat or ebike. The Lighthouse Boat Tours depart from picturesque Portpatrick Harbour. 
From the sea it is possible to experience the majesty of Galloway’s lighthouses the way they were designed to be seen, with their striking silhouettes standing guard to warn of rocky outcrops and cliffs. Exploring the Lighthouses of the Rhins by e-bike is also a fantastic way to make the most of the scenic coastal scenery as well as the quiet country roads. Bikes can be hired for half, full or multiple days and are adjusted for each rider with full instruction on how to use them. 

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FRESH PERSPECTIVES
Designed by renowned landscape artist Charles Jencks, the Crawick Multiverse is an amazing land art installation near Sanquhar. Nestled within the rolling hills of Upper Nithsdale, this major land restoration project has transformed a former open cast coal mine into a spectacular artland and public amenity. The ecology of the site, and the materials found within it, inspired its design, which is based on space, astronomy and cosmology. A climb up to Belvedere, the highest point, offers spectacular views not only of the site itself, but also the surrounding valley and beyond. Approximately 2,000 boulders have been used to create Crawick Multiverse and the project spans 55 acres. It has been awarded a Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Award.
The Museum of Lead Mining in Wanlockhead sits amidst the Lowther Hills, directly on the Southern Upland Way, and is a four star VisitScotland attraction. Visitors can take an underground tour of the Eighteenth Century lead mine as well as get a glimpse into the past by visiting the miners’ cottages to see how the miners and their families lived. The Miners’ Library is one of three subscription libraries in Scotland set up by the miners themselves. Due to its significance it has been given Recognised Collection Status by the Scottish Government. There is also the chance to go searching for gold during the museum’s open season. Licences are available along with gold panning equipment for prospecting in the local streams.


Animal lovers are spoiled for choice in Dumfries and Galloway. Those who would like to experience a working farm can sign up for a tour at Kitchen Coos & Ewes near Newton Stewart to see Highland cows and Beltex sheep. Visitors can get close to the animals from the safety and comfort of a purpose built trailer on a farmer-led Highland cow safari. The tour finishes with home baking fresh from the farmhouse kitchen. 
Dalscone Farm Fun near Dumfries is another top destination for families, with a large indoor soft play area and fun-filled farm park, while Cream o’ Galloway near Gatehouse of Fleet offers crazy golf, ice cream making workshops, cheese making courses, nature trails and farm tours.
Galloway Activity Centre occupies a stunning location on the banks of Loch Ken in the heart of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere. It offers a range of land and water-based activities and water sports tuition to families, individuals and groups alike. Well-equipped facilities provide everything from courses and equipment hire, to accommodation and holiday packages. All year round there are taster sessions which are half day instructor led activity sessions designed to be a fun introduction to activities such as kayaking, sailing, windsurfing, archery, mountain biking, outdoor laser combat games, climbing and waterpark fun. The centre also boasts Scotland’s first 40-foot swing, which can be enjoyed as part of the climbing and high ropes half day.

Nestled just seven miles from the Anglo-Scottish Border, the Devil’s Porridge Museum is dedicated to telling the story of how this once quiet area became a hub of wartime activity. Visitors can discover what life was like for soldiers in the World War One trenches and for the thousands of Munitions Girls who flocked to work at HM Factory Gretna. 
The World War Two exhibition focuses on local female munitions workers, RAF fighter pilots, munitions depot workers and the coming of the Cold War and Scotland’s nuclear age. By donning a state-of the-art VR headset, you can also see the inside of a British nuclear power station where plutonium and tritium were produced for the atomic bomb. 
Take a stroll through the history of a beloved children’s book in a house that lives and breathes storytelling. Scots author JM Barrie lived in Dumfries from 1873 to 1878 and often visited Moat Brae where the gardens were “enchanted lands” to him and inspired the world of Peter Pan. A dedicated group of local people, led by the Peter Pan Action group, came together in 2009 and committed to finding a way to keep JM Barrie, Moat Brae and Dumfries, his childhood home town, at the forefront of children’s literature. 
After fundraising for 10 years their vision, hard work and unstinting commitment resulted in the re-opening of Moat Brae as a literary destination for all ages in 2019.

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THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Set in the 120,000-acre Queensberry Estate, complete with a country park and Victorian gardens, the Seventeenth Century Drumlanrig Castle is one of the most important Renaissance buildings in the country with magnificent rooms and spectacular collections of silver, porcelain, French furniture and art - including Rembrandt’s Old Woman Reading. 
The numerous trails, which range from 1.5km to 7km, follow an extensive network of paths and tracks and can be explored by foot or mountain bike. There is a trail to suit every ability and interest from technical single-track routes, to swooping family routes through the beautiful Drumlanrig woodlands, to scenic country back roads. Bikes and trailer hire are available. Children can also enjoy the adventure playground.