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Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway
Ayrshire, birthplace of Robert Burns
From Glasgow you can travel along the Firth of Clyde and into North Ayrshire. Along the coast are several Thistle Holiday Parks, from which it is easy to enjoy the beaches or head inland to explore the countryside. Ayrshire is the land of Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet, and there are villages here where you can learn more about his life and his poetry. In Alloway, just south of Ayr, is his birthplace, a modest cottage, with a museum alongside it; you must also visit the National Trust for Scotland's Robert Burns Heritage Museum, which was opened last year and is one of the best attractions in Scotland. Nearby is Alloway Kirk, in the graveyard in which Burns’ poem ‘Tam o’ Shanter’ is set.
To the south of Ayr is Culzean Castle on a cliff-top. You can tour the Castle and spend time on the extensive wooded estate. A little further south is Turnberry and inland from here on the way south to Dumfries and Galloway is rugged countryside, as wild and attractive as the Highlands; drive for a few miles and you are into the huge Galloway Forest Park. This is Dark Sky country - where you really can see the stars.
If you like being out and about, you should also check out the locations of Forestry Commission Scotland's forests.
Dumfries and Galloway – beaches galore!
Dumfries and Galloway is less than two hours' drive from Edinburgh and Glasgow, just over the border from England and a short ferry journey from Northern Ireland. There are miles and miles of sandy beaches, winding roads and many acres of forest and moorland; more than enough for a several short breaks! The main town is Dumfries but there are several other towns and villages worth visiting – Kirkcudbright, Castle Douglas, Kippford, Creetown and Wigtown, Scotland’s Book Town. Drive as far as you can down the Mull of Galloway and you will reach the most southerly point in Scotland and glimpse the hills of the Isle of Man, Stop off en route at the Logan Botanic Gardens - the Gulf Stream means that the plants are tropical!
There is plenty to tempt you off the beaten track. The road south from Dumfries goes through New Abbey, with the graceful ruin of Historic Scotland's Sweetheart Abbey, plus New Abbey Cornmill. If you're on a family holiday, then the place to go is Mabie Farm Park - plenty to do inside and outside.
The road runs along the Solway Firth, with its beaches and bays, to Kirkcudbright, then on to Gatehouse of Fleet, where the whole family can have fun at Cream o’ Galloway – a working farm which makes a range of tasty ice-creams. At Creetown visit the unique Gem Rock Museum and nearby is the Galloway Smoke House where you can buy something tasty to take home. Also on your to-visit list must be Bladnoch Distillery, near Wigtown., small and friendly, so the tour is special. A few miles south is Wigtown, Scotland's Book Town, with many second-hand bookshops to browse in, including one which serves good coffee and home-bakes. Then head for Whithorn, the "Cradle of Christianity", where the heritage centre traces the history of the settlement there from 450AD.
The keen gardener should visit Threave Gardens near Castle Douglas and, not far from Stranraer, are the beautiful Castle Kennedy Gardens, Glenwhan Garden and Dunskey Garden (all near Glenluce). Visitors interested in heritage will find plenty to attract them – Threave Castle (where a small boat takes you across to an island), Glenluce Abbey, and Drundrennan Abbey, where, it is said, Mary, Queen of Scots spent her last night in Scotland before fleeing to England and imprisonment for life.
For golfers, there are thirty golf courses to choose from. For cyclists who like a challenge, there are five world-class Mountain Biking Centres.
Historic Scotland's Dumfries and Galloway Explorer Pass: If you are planning a holiday in Dumfries and Galloway, be sure to get the Historic Scotland Explorer Pass. Two adults plus up to 6 children pay only £37 for the Pass which gives entry to 9 attractions, including Caerlaverock Castle, Threave Castle, Glenluce Abbey and Sweetheart Abbey. Available from Historic Scotland properties in Dumfries and Galloway or at www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/explorer
View the Thistle Holiday Parks in Ayrshire, Clyde Valley, Dumfries & Galloway