12 Of The Best Activities for Teens On Holiday in Dumfries and Galloway
Our family has been taking holidays in Dumfries and Galloway, south west Scotland, for a generation. As our own families have grown up, our holiday activities have evolved from beach and ice cream into a fantastic agenda of thrills and spills, challenges and triumphs (and er… some less triumphant moments). Here are the Glorious Galloway family favourites for children aged 10 to 16.
We keep detailed information, maps and leaflets at our holiday cottage, Burnside. We would be delighted to host your stay and be your guide to Galloway. Check out our website and the link to our booking page at www.homeaway.co.uk below…
Things to do with (older) children on holiday in south west Scotland
1. Laggan Outdoor - Longest Zip Wire in Scotland
Laggan Outdoor, has a whole host of exhilarating activities to try. The centre is tucked into the hills that fall away from the remote moors above Gatehouse-of-Fleet, (which is where the final dramatic scenes of John Buchan’s novel, The Thirty-Nine Steps, were set).
The most exhilarating descent of these hills is the longest zip wire in Scotland (and one of the longest in Europe). This is a must do for anyone aged 10 or over. The 800-metre zip (half-a-mile!) is high, fast and thrilling, while happily the staff are skilled and reassuring. Alternative descents include water-balling, which involves you being strapped into a giant, water-filled plastic ball and rolled down the hill; grass sledging; segways and dirt scooters. And there are more traditional country sports like clay pigeon shooting and archery, too.
Laggan Outdoor overlooks the estuary of the Water of Fleet and the bays, inlets and islands that annotate the coast from Kirkcudbright to the Isle of Whithorn. The brilliant view is best enjoyed from the fantastic cafe , Basecamp, serving breakfast, lunch and tea (it closes at 5pm).
2. Galloway Activity Centre - Outdoor Laser Tag, climbing, water sports, assault course…
Meanwhile, the Galloway Activity Centre at Loch Ken offers land and water-based activities in another stunning setting. Our family opted to put our game faces on and sharpen up our combat skills in outdoor Laser Tag, pictured, which takes place in a wood by the water. Family groups divide into two teams who attack and counter attack during a two-hour session. It is particularly appealing to children, since it provides the opportunity to shoot mum and dad, which ours achieved with disappointing regularity.
In addition to war games, which were great fun, we spent our day on the climbing wall, zip wire and paddle boards, with excellent instructors. There is also mountain biking, an aqua assault course (in the loch!), windsurfing and much more.
It is an hour to Loch Ken from Burnside Cottage but it is worth it. Not only are the activities great fun, they challenge the whole family - adults and children alike.
3. Brilliant Mountain Biking at 7Stanes, Kirroughtree, Galloway Forest Park
Galloway is fortunate to have world-class mountain bike circuits that anyone can enjoy. One of the highlights is the mountain bike centre at Kirroughtree Forest Park, part of a national network called 7Stanes. The routes are colour-coded, with green suitable for tag-alongs and young children, blue is great for any age from seven or eight upwards, and there are red and black for the hard core. This place is fantastic. And if you have your own bike, there are additional trails at Glentrool, deep inside the Galloway Forest Park. If not, the shop at Kirroughtree, The Break Pad, rents very high quality mountain bikes, which are well suited to the challenging terrain.
4. A Guided Tour of the Universe at Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park
When you look up at night in Galloway, the chances are you will see a whole lot more than usual. The region has one of the darkest skies in Europe, which makes it a fantastic place for stargazing and the magnificently named, Dark Sky Rangers, act as guides to the universe in the Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park.
The rangers are very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the Galloway sky and they can be booked directly or you can attend one of the events they host at Kirroughtree Visitors’ Centre and at other locations in the Galloway Forest Park.
The rangers use laser pens to pick out planets and stars and regale their audience with tales from deep space as satellites and the International Space Station drift past in full view. It is a brilliant evening.
5. Yomping and hiking in the Galloway Hills
While it can be difficult to get everyone out on a walk, the sense of achievement afterwards, particularly if it is experienced in a cosy pub or over a hearty meal, usually makes the challenges worthwhile.
The Galloway Hills are extremely remote. One of the least populated parts of the United Kingdom, it is not unusual to go hours and sometimes a whole day without seeing anyone else. While there are trails on some popular walks, you may be walking without a path out in the hills and it is an excellent place to practice with a compass and map.
There are some great walks in Galloway, including, The Merrick (the highest peak in the region at 2,800ft), which is an 8-10-mile circuit depending on the route; Loch Trool, a beautiful loch where Scottish king, Robert the Bruce defeated the English in a battle in May 1307 and various approaches to Cairnsmore, which once summited affords wonderful views across Wigtown Bay and The Machars.
But, there are wonderful walks in the lowlands, too. Kirroughtree Forest Park offers easy woodland walks in the company of red squirrels; Garlieston to Cruggleton Castle, in the south of The Machars, is a very a fine coastal walk, and St Ninian's Cave to the Isle of Whithorn, which edges around cliffs and coves and passes through the old Second World War gunnery school at Burrow Head is another beauty (and ends in the excellent Steam Packet Inn on the Isle).
6. Cycling and biking in The Machars, Dumfries and Galloway
Quiet country roads offer excellent cycling with the prospect of a pub lunch or picnic. There are colour-coded routes throughout The Machars and Wigtownshire, as well as in the foothills of the Galloway Forest Park, where you can cycle by the beautiful River Cree and through forest drives.
Cycle hire is available at Newton Stewart. Kirkcowan Cycles offers a really good service with advice on routes around quiet country lanes and even a packed lunch. Bikes can be hired for multiple days and can sometimes be delivered to the cottage. From Newton Stewart you can cycle to Loch Trool (if you really want to tire out your older offspring).
7. Six of the most charming golf courses in Dumfries and Galloway
There are six golf courses within easy reach of Burnside Cottage, where we keep a set of modest but serviceable clubs in the shed for guests to use.
The spectacular nine-hole coastal course at St Medan’s in Monreith, pictured, is a beauty. It is also the most southerly golf course in Scotland and is a challenging par 3-4 with thick rough and coastal hazards. My favourite time to play is early in the morning when only the birds are out and the odd lobster boat works its way across the bay.
8. Horse Riding on the coastal plains of Wigtown Bay and the solway, dumfries and Galloway
Galloway is a beautiful place to ride. Two equestrian centres offer riding lessons and hacks to riders of all abilities. The closest to Burnside Cottage is the Calgow Equestrian Centre, just north of Newton Stewart. It offers lessons and hacks and non-riders are welcome. Meanwhile, Kirkclaugh Equestrian Centre is located a bit further up the A75, between Creetown and Gatehouse-of-Fleet (about 40 minutes). It boasts spectacular views, offers treks by the sea and welcomes non-riders, with miniature horses to meet and gift shop to visit.
9. Tanks, off-road vehicles and shooting… Galloway Tanks
Galloway Tanks offers the opportunity to drive a tank, armoured and amphibious military vehicles, fire Enfield rifles and have a go at archery. There are activities for the whole family, from six years upwards.
As well as military vehicles, there is the chance to put a 4x4 through its paces in challenging conditions. If one person pays to drive a vehicle, the others can often ride a long as a passenger for around £10. The centre is near Garlieston.
10. Beautiful beaches in Dumfries and Galloway and the best crabbing spots
The beaches around The Machars offer a mixture of sand and rocks. Everyone can enjoy the beach when the sun comes out and there are some lovely warm, sheltered spots at Galieston and Mossyard. If there is no wind, Monreith is a fantastic place to go. Meanwhile, the Isle of Whithorn and what we call the ‘The Step Beach’ are good for tweens who want to climb.
And no one is too old to crab. Even the bravest teen wobbles a little at the sight of two big pincers coming their way. Our aim as the children have grown up is to beat our crabbing record - 20 in one expedition. We keep our own crabbing net, which we bait, at Burnside Cottage, which all guests are welcome to use.
11. Eat Out… in family friendly restaurants in The Machars, Dumfries and Galloway
If all else fails, you can always bribe them with a meal out. See our 11 favourite pubs and cafes. There are plenty of places near Burnside Cottage that meet the needs of a slightly fussy palate and a big appetite. The Steam Packet Inn at the Isle of Whithorn has great pub grub and is located right on the quayside. Wonderful beer, too. The Clansman in Port William provides delicious home-cooked food that never disappoints, while fish suppers and Italian ice cream are available at the Central Cafe in Whithorn and you can takeaway from Tasty Bites in Port William. The Craft Hotel is a fine addition to Wigtown, serving burgers and craft ales, while Cobwebs next door does traditional British food. Both deliver big portions and great value. And now The View in Port William has started offering evening meals in the summer. They’s sell you a pint, too.
12. Eat In… with fantastic local produce from Dumfries and Galloway (and scare them with a lobster)
There is good food to be had in Galloway. See our guide to the best local food. Excellent butchers supply fine meat in Wigtown (Steven Cronnie) and Newton Stewart (John D Owen). There is a large Weber barbecue at Burnside Cottage just waiting for their steaks, burgers and sausages. Alternatively, scare the kids with a lobster, which can be bought off the boat from fisherman Paul Maguire at Port William. We keep Paul's number in the cottage, where there is also a giant lobster pan for cooking it in. (Fortunately, Paul puts the elastic bands on the claws so you should survive the experience intact.)