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Fantastic things to do with children (aged 5-12) on a family holiday in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland

14 Things To Do With Children on a Fabulous Family Holiday in Dumfries and Galloway

Family holidays in Dumfries and Galloway are a chance to do things together. Our family has been visiting The Machars area, south of Newton Stewart, for a generation, so here is the Glorious Galloway guide for children aged 5 to 12 years. 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 below…

1. Sandy Beaches in Dumfries and Galloway Scotland

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Dumfries and Galloway has 200 miles of coastline! One of our favourite beaches is at Garlieston, pictured, which is accessed through the gardens of Garlieston House. It forms a great arc, sheltered and warm, with a rocky outcrop, which make it great for rockpooling, too. Incidentally, the equipment used in the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944, was tested here.

Monreith Bay has large sandy beaches, one accessed by a path past an ancient church. And the ‘Step Beach’, off the road between Port William and Monreith (A747), is another huge sweep of sand with rocks for scrambling.

Meanwhile, Mossyard Beach, near Gatehouse of Fleet, is a beauty, which is highly recommended in the visitors’ book at Burnside Cottage. A visit can include other activities in that direction, such as Kirroughtree Visitors' Centre in the Galloway Forest Park, Cream O’Galloway, horse riding, the Galloway Smokehouse, Marrbury Smokehouse and Carsluith Castle.


2. World-class mountain biking at 7Stanes, Kirroughtree, Galloway Forest Park


Dumfries and Galloway is a national centre for mountain biking. The 7Stanes at Kirroughtree has amazing bike trails and an excellent cycle hire shop on site, called The Breakpad.

The trails have been created to offer something for everyone from families and sedate riders (green, 6km), to challenging but safe (blue, 10km), challenging (red, 17km) and technically very demanding (black, 14km). 

The experts at The Breakpad can advise you, but we have been doing the green route since our children were in the trailer and the blue route since our lad was eight-years-old. It’s ‘character building’ (i.e. some tricky moments), but with some bike-pushing (and chocolate) it is doable and immensely rewarding.

We absolutely love the mountain biking at Kirroughtree (the children are now 10 and 12).  The trails twist and turn through pines, lochs and rough, open country on a mixture of gravel tracks and depending on the level you choose, roads, rutted paths and even rocks. There is an excellent cafe and adventure playground at the end, too. 

3. Crabbing at the Isle of Whithorn in Galloway, Scotland

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We love crabbing. Our favourite spot in Galloway is at the Isle of Whithorn, off the quayside, just beyond the scallop dredgers. At high tide the water is deep and we use a double net scavenged from the beach, weighted with stones, baited with bacon and suspended on a piece of string.

The contraption is left at Burnside, by the gate, for other families to use. The crabs reach in for the bacon and are too greedy to let go as we reel them in. The best bait we ever had were the bones of a sea bream our friend had just devoured in the Steam Packet Inn (an excellent pub on the harbourside). 

We know there is a monster crab down there, but he keeps slipping off as we haul up...

We’ve had a super time... been to Portpatrick, pottery painting at Mossyard Farm, pony riding, on the Kirroughtree wildlife trail and we’ve had lovely times at the beach and checked out various playgrounds
— Nicola, Thomas and three children

4. Cream of Galloway Ice Cream Farm (and activity centre)

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Cream O'Galloway is a great day out for the family. We first took our daughter as a very young toddler and it's good right into the tweens. Book early if you want to do ice cream making and tasting, but there is lots to do in an imaginative adventure playground, including the 'drop slide'; Go Boing, pictured, which is a huge net structure suspended 20 feet above the ground that allows children (and adults) to bounce about madly; go-karts and a 3-D maze that is excellent for hide and seek and '40/40 in'. There are also beautiful walks with sea views and plenty of picnic spots. The ice cream is delicious, too, and on sale throughout the area.


5. Rocky Beaches in The Machars, Dumfries and Galloway

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There is excellent rock pooling at Garlieston Bay and at the Isle of Whithorn, pictured. For clambering over rocks go to the end of the Isle of Whithorn, by the lighthouse. It is great for older children, but only in good weather. In bad weather it makes a good vantage point to watch the sea boil.

The ‘Step Beach’ (between Monreith and Port William) has a rocky outcrop that lends itself to climbing for all ages and was a favourite of ours when little. Meanwhile, St Ninian’s Bay is reached by a winding, picturesque path signposted from the road to the Isle. It is a stony beach with a cave where St Ninian, who brought Christianity to Galloway, is said to have visited during periods of contemplation as he established a base in Whithorn.


6. Cocoabean Company, Twynholm

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The Cocoabean Company at Twynholm includes an adventure playground and indoor soft play as well as a chance to make your own chocolates, pictured. Children (and adults) can make chocolate and decorate it along with marshmallows and animal shapes in a professional kitchen. There is a lot of chocolate to buy, too.


7. Galloway Cottage Garden, Burnside

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On a nice day the half-acre gardens of Burnside Cottage can be a fine play ground. The whole area is fenced so no need to worry about escape. At the front, the wild area is perfect for hide-and-seek in the long grass, while at the back the patio and lawn are suited to a game of boules or just rolling around and having fun. We use the whole area for treasure hunts. The bridge over the stream at the bottom of the road is great for competitive Pooh Sticks.


8. Play Parks in Dumfries and Galloway

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Children love a good park and there is a belter at Stranraer. Agnew Park, pictured, not only features a miniature railway, go-karts, pedaloes, pirate ship and duck lake, it is also on the shore of Loch Ryan, which glitters in the sunshine and offers some distraction for adults from pushing the swings.

Kirroughtree Forest Park has two good adventure parks, one for young children by the café and another for older ones along the stream, past the red squirrel enclosure, with big slides and fun zip wire.

There is a charming little park at the Isle of Whithorn, with exceptional views across the bay, and swings at the south end of Port William looking over Luce Bay to the Mull of Galloway. In addition there are swings at Garlieston and parks at Wigtown and Newton Stewart.


9. The best picnic spots around Newton Stewart and Galloway Forest Park

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There are so many fabulous places for a picnic in Galloway. Our top spots include, Bruntis Loch, pictured, at Kirroughtree Forest Park, which is a peaceful, picturesque place where swifts snatch a drink ‘on the wing’; Garlieston Bay (see image in ‘sandy beaches’); the remains of Cruggleton Castle near Garlieston; the slopes by the sea at the Isle; the grounds of the Galloway gardens (Castle Kennedy); Loch Trool in Galloway Forest Park; the summit of the Merrick (tallest mountain in the Galloway Hills) or just in the garden at Burnside.


10.Horse Riding around Newton Stewart and West Dumfries and Galloway

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The Calgow Equestrian Centre, just north of Newton Stewart, Galloway, on the A75 offers lessons for riders of all abilities. It can also take riders on hacks. There is also the charming Kirkclaugh Equestrian, which boasts incredible views from its stables between Creetown and Gatehouse of Fleet. In addition, there are other options near Kirkcudbright, the Brighouse Bay Trekking Centre and Lochhill Equestrian Centre.


11. Monreith Animal World, Galloway

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The residents of the Monreith Animal World are a delight for young children. We have made many happy visits over the years. There is a good mix of familiar animals, including Belted Galloway cattle, Shetland ponies, donkeys and pigs, but also otters, owls, alpacas and aviary birds. Rabbits, chicks and guinea picks are prevalent, too, and they can often be cuddled, which goes down very well.


12. Cinemas in Newton Stewart and Stranraer

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The Newton Stewart Cinema and Ryan Centre Theatre, Stranraer, offer regular showings. Meanwhile, Machars Movies at the Isle of Whithorn is the most southerly community cinema in Scotland. It is run by volunteers and screens a mix of movies (including blockbusters) from September to April. Charmingly, the website says: “Let’s be honest we don’t have the most comfortable seats, but we have loads of cushions and you can bring your own or a folding chair to make yourself more comfortable.” In addition, there is pre-film dinner at the community centre next door, as well as tea, coffee and a bar


13.Leisure Centres and swimming pools in Newton Stewart and Stranraer

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The Ryan Leisure Centre, Stranraer,] is a good bet when it’s raining in Galloway. The pool is good for children with three slides of different sizes, a feature pool, hot tub as well as lane swimming. The centre also includes a café and children’s indoor play area (up to six years). In addition, there is a sauna, steam room, spa and fitness suite. Meanwhile at Newton Stewart the Merrick Leisure Centre offers a pool, sauna, spa and fitness facilities.


14. Some of the best cafes, pubs and restaurants for children and families in Dumfries and Galloway

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Galloway is a great place to eat out with children. See our guide to 11 favourite pubs and cafes. An agricultural area with lots of local produce, they keep it simple for the littl’uns, while serving up some top tucker for mum and dad.

The Pheasant at Sorbie, is a great example. The Italian restaurant serves up delicious pizza and thrilling food for adults. The Clansman in Port William is homely and hearty with sausages, chicken, pasta, mac cheese, chips and steaks, while The Craft Hotel at Wigtown specialises in burgers.

One of our favourite places is the Kirroughtree Visitors’ Centre. It would never claim to be fine dining, but there is a special pleasure tucking into good quality, tasty food after a morning of activity biking, hiking or in the adventure playground