Activities: Walking & Climbing
Newton Stewart has long been a favourite base for walkers, and most of the countryside - mountain, forest, moorland and shore - is accessible, with due care and observance of the Country Code.
Whether you are looking for an afternoon stroll, woodland or coastal walks, hill-walking, or rock-climbing , you'll find Newton Stewart offers a wide choice of scenic outings for all ages and abilities. Combined with cycling, bird-watching, photography or sketching, these walks can be enjoyed by families, groups or in solitary splendour. The following is a small selection to provide a taste of what's available:
As a gentle introduction to the beauty of the local landscape, Newton Stewart Initiative has created a Riverside Walk based on the Sparling Bridge (left) beside the Riverside Car Park in the town centre.
Going up-river from the Car Park, along Riverside Road, then following Victoria Street, Arthur Street and King Street to Douglas Gardens, the Walk then crosses the Cree on the King George V Suspension Bridge into Minnigaff, under the imposing bluff where the River Cree meets the Penkiln Burn. Crossing the Penkiln Burn, the walk then continues through Old Minnigaff back to Cree Bridge and the town, or continuing down the east side of the Cree, back to the Sparling Bridge.
There are artistic way-markers and poems inscribed on stones along the route.
The Newton Stewart Walking Festival, (right) held over 7 days in May each year, was initiated in recognition of the variety of walks available locally, and to help introduce people to the enjoyment of walking in the area. It has gone from strength to strength and now offers 25 guided walks, for varying abilities, graded from moderate to very strenuous. Places must be booked in advance.
For a timetable and more details of all the walks, and to book online, see the Newton Stewart Walking Festival website.
Penninghame Pond All Abilities - 3 miles north of the town, towards Glentrool, a hard-surfaced path has been created around the pond to provide an all-abilities fishing access and trail. The path has been specially constructed to allow access by wheelchair users and is great for anyone wishing a short, pleasant stroll along the water’s edge through attractive woodland. There are picnic areas along the way.
At Creetown, only 6 miles away, there is a community woodland project which has created paths and wildlife ponds in the beautiful Balloch Wood. A choice of waymarked Trails lead up from behind the church (left), through the woods beside the Balloch Burn, to the recently created wildlife ponds (right). From there, you can continue on the Oak Trail which meanders through native woodland. A lovely walk in any season.
North from Minnigaff, following the east bank of the River Cree, there is a choice of woodland walks through Knockman Wood, Wood of Cree, Camer Wood, Minnoch Wood and Water of Trool. These have been developed by the Cree Valley Community Woodland Trust.
At the Wood of Cree RSPB bird reserve, a trail leads up through ancient mixed oak and birch woods, beside gushing streams and rocky clefts. At the top of the wood, where it opens onto the moor, deer can often be seen, and there are many relics of prehistoric habitation in the area. The path returns past the top of a waterfall with lovely views out over the valley.
For the long-distance walker, the Southern Upland Way, provides access to some of Scotland's most beautiful landscapes. It crosses the 212 miles of southern Scotland from Portpatrick in the west to Cockburnspath in the east, passing through Glentrool (right), 10 miles north of Newton Stewart.
Many walkers do this walk in stages and Newton Stewart makes a central base for the section through Galloway.
Southern Upland Way
Time and energy permitting, the two highest local hills, Cairnsmore of Fleet (2330ft / 711m) and The Merrick (2764ft / 843m) provide reasonably strenuous hill walking, but either of them can make a good day's outing. On a clear day, views from the top can encompass four countries - England, Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man.
There are 24 named peaks above 2000 feet in this part of the Southern Uplands and among them a wealth of challenges to hillwalkers, with unbeatable views of mountain scenery.
Map of the Galloway Hills
For comprehensive information about the crags and cliffs of Galloway, covering rock and winter climbing, see this excellent website from local enthusiast John Biggar:
A Guide to Climbing in the Galloway Hills
There are numerous guides to walking in Galloway, many of which are available from local shops or the Tourist Information Centre.
Further Useful Links
VisitScotland Dumfries & Galloway Walking Guide - a regionwide guide to different types of walks
Galloway Forest Park - a guide to facilities and outdoor activities in Britains largest forest park
Galloway Mountain Rescue Team - a wealth of expert advice on safety, weather, walking routes etc
Stewart R Cunningham Outdoor Centre for outdoor clothing and equipment