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Environment & Wildlife

Environment & Wildlife

The Source to New Cumnock & Kirkconnel

Glen Afton East Ayrshire Woodlands Project

Broadleaf woodlands offer immense value to Scotland’s natural heritage and biodiversity. Some exciting work has been going on near New Cumnock which has already managed to bring ash, silver birch, hawthorn and hazel back along our riverbanks.

Glen Afton Wood is part of the East Ayrshire Woodlands Project that was created in 1997 as a partnership initiative, supporting communities and landowners to expand and enhance native and amenity woodlands in Ayrshire

The Ayrshire Woodlands project manages and interacts with sites all over the South West of Scotland and offers a wide range of education, learning and Forest School programmes and they have a wide range of information on wildlife and how to access woodland spots on their website.

Eco LIFE project

This four-year LIFE-funded partnership project aims to improve and connect habitats across Scotland, including New Cumnock’s Coal Fields. This project focuses on the positive effects of peat bog conservation and the biodiverse environments that they benefit. The project ranges from creating new wetlands, reed bed management and ditch blocking on raised bogs to tree planting and retrofitting green roofs in agricultural and industrial areas. The CEI have delivered 609 hectares of bog restoration work across seven sites since 2013.

Sanquhar to Drumlanrig Castle

Environmental Arts Festival at Morton Castle

The Environmental Arts Festival Scotland (EAFS) began in 2015 and ran over three years within the beautiful grounds of Morton Castle. EAFS’ producers created a temporary community on site which modelled a positive ethos and relaxed environment conducive to the sharing of ideas and thoughtful discussion. Festival organisers worked closely with a team of local young people who were passionate about the idea of being able to raise people’s awareness of climate change and find new ways of living.

Spilt Road – Carronbridge to the Dalveen Pass

Carronbridge is a small Hamlet located on the confluence of the Carron Water and the River Nith. This is a prominent location geographically speaking as the A76 also splits here and merges into the A702. The A702 takes you through the Dalveen pass which is a well known route for tourists and bikers and into the area of the Lead Hills famous for the historic gold panning industry. The village also plays host to one of the region’s main timber exporters, founded in 1910.

Drumlanrig Castle Grounds

Drumlanrig Castle’s estates spread over 90,000 acres of gardens, forests, lochs, hills, heather and moor. The estate’s outdoor activities includes extensive hiking, cycling and mountain biking routes as well as an adventure playground for the wee ones. Due to its size and variety of environments, it plays host to a wide diversity of local and often threatened wildlife such as red squirrels, barn owls, gold crests, buzzards, kingfishers and is a hotspot for native trees.

Heritage Walks Near Sanquhar

The hills around Sanquhar boast a variety of impressive walks. Two in particular provide a great mixture of walking, beautiful natural environments and heritage:  Muirkirk to Wanlockhead Drove Road and Sanquhar to Stroanpatrick Path.

Thornhill to Moniaive

Crichope Linn

Crichope Linn is an impressive sandstone gorge near the hamlet of Gatelawbridge, 8 miles from Thornhill. The gorge was long believed to harbour supernatural beings in local folklore and was a place where elves and other creatures would congregate. In the 17th century, the Covenanters used Crichope Linn as a hiding place. It was a popular attraction during the Victorian period and a natural archway on the footpath along the side of the gorge still bears many 18th and 19th century inscriptions, supposedly including one by Robert Burns.

Further Reading:

A walk to Crichope Linn in Dumfries and Galloway | Kirkennan Estate Blog – Crichope Linn

Auldgirth, Holywood, and Uppercluden

Ae Forest

Ae Forest is the perfect place to visit, whether you want to relax with a picnic beside the river, watch woodland wildlife, stroll through the trees or burn off some serious energy on horseback or on the superb mountain bike trails.

The way-marked routes include gentle rambles beside the sparkling Water of Ae as well as longer hikes into the hills with wonderful views. Ae Forest covers an area about the size of 10,000 football pitches!

Further Reading:

Forest of Ae | Forest of Ae walks | Forest of Ae (Visit Scotland)

Glenkiln walk

Not far from Dunscore you can enjoy a ramble amongst the attractive upland landscapes around the Glenkiln Reservoir. The walk used to be well known for a series of 12 sculptures, which unfortunately are no longer present except for Glenkiln Cross. Nevertheless, it is a superb walk that encompasses views of the hills around the Nith valley.

Further Reading:

Glenkiln | Glenkiln (Walk Highlands)

Dumfries to Kingholm Quay

Friends of the Earth

Friends of the Earth are a national charity with bases all over Scotland, one of which is located in Dumfries. Their mission is to educate and campaign on issues surrounding Climate Change and are calling for a country that runs solely on renewable energy, has zero fossil fuel emissions and does not use nuclear power. You can get involved with their campaigns, donate and learn more from Friends of the Earth on their website to help save our planet.

South West Environmental Action Trust

SWEAT (Dumfries) help groups from all over Scotland fund environmental and community projects that are located within 10 miles of a SEPA approved landfill or re-cycling site. In 2004, Mike Rae of Armstrong Waste Management suggested forming the organisation to allocate and distribute Landfill Community Funding (LCF) to local environmental and community-based projects.

Scottish Wildlife Trust, Galloway

The Galloway Group supports the work of the Scottish Wildlife Trust at a local level by organising talks and walks to educate visitors on subjects like the environment, local wildlife and conservation. They also publicise important wildlife issues, engage in fund raising to support wildlife projects and organise volunteers. While their base is in Castle Douglas, the group supports conservation and wildlife all along the river Nith.

The Heather Trust

Heather Trust in Dumfries is a local conservation group that provides conservation efforts specifically around heather moorland. They also support plant and habitat conservation and animal conservation projects. Their mission is to develop and promote sustainable, resilient moorlands through facilitation and collaboration, engagement and representation and education and demonstration based on research, experience and best practice.

Zero Waste Space

Zero Waste Space is an international charity whose aim is to tackle climate change and make a sustainable, waste-free future. Their Dumfries premises holds events and workshops to educate people on how to significantly reduce their household waste as well as to sell items that are biodegradable and reusable. They are hoping to become Dumfries and Galloway’s first ever zero waste food shop.

The Dock Park

The Dock Park is one of the most popular scenic areas of Dumfries and it is situated right in the heart of the town. As well as being a play park for children, it is the perfect location to spot some of the wildlife that inhabits the river Nith – from Herons to Otters. The park is home to a 19th century bandstand and a memorial to the musicians that lost their lives during the sinking of the Titanic.

Walking in and around Dumfries (Kingholm Quay)

There are many fantastic walking routes around Dumfries and the nearby village of New Abbey. This leaflet explores some of the routes you can take to see some of the most scenic landmarks around the town. A particularly beautiful day out is to follow the route south along the river Nith towards the sea and walk to Kingholm Quay or continue on to Glencaple. The wildlife there is in abundance and it is an easy-going path for those with restricted mobility.

The Freelance Ranger Elizabeth Tindal

Elizabeth AKA The Freelance Ranger is an Environmental Artist who specialises in using nature to create and inspire. She specialises in forestry school classes, outdoor education, Stargazing and wild foraging. Elizabeth is also one of the coordinators of the annual Environmental Fair.

The Crichton Gardens

Situated on the grounds of the Crichton Institutional Campus – the location of several Universities, a college, a hotel and the Crichton Memorial Church – the Crichton gardens are free to visit any time and a great place to wander and relax. The gardens are also a hotspot for wedding photographs and flower shows.

Glencaple to Caerlaverock

Caerlaverock Wetland Centre

Caerlaverock Wetland Centre is a superb place to spend the day learning about the incredibly rich environment of the Solway. It is set over 1400 acres of wetland paradise that brims with nature and is somewhere you can enjoy quality time with friends and family.

In late summer at the Wetland Centre, the swallows start gathering, wildflower meadows are full of buzzing bees, beautiful butterflies and fascinating dragonflies, and the occasional osprey can be seen out on the merse. Not only that but the centre offers some of the most stunning views in Britain that encompass sea, shore and mountain.

Further Reading:

WWT (Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust)

Caerlaverock Castle and Reserve Walk

The Caerlaverock Castle and Reserve Walk is a great way to enjoy the scenery and nature of the area before or after a visit to the castle itself. The walk may be short but its packed full of diverse scenery including river, coast, forest and views of the majestic mountains to the south. There are plenty of spots to picnic and the walk will also take you by both Caerlaverock Castle and Old Caerlaverock castle.

Further Reading:

Walk Highlands | Dumfries & Galloway Walks

Islesteps, New Abbey, and Carsethorn

Mabie Forest

On the outskirts of Dumfries, Mabie Forest covers more than 1200 km of walking tracks and 130 cycle routes, wildlife reserves, and activity centres. The beautiful trails that weave through the forest include, one of the fantastic 7 Stanes mountain bike routes, stunning views of the Solway Coast and river Nith as well as opportunities to spot the abundance of wildlife that lives within. Currently Forest and Land Scotland have learning programs and activity centres to educate on wildlife as well as develop renewable energy schemes, create and maintain trails and visitor facilities and conserve habitats, wildlife and archaeological treasures.

Further Reading:

Forestry and Land Scotland | Visit Scotland

Criffel Hill

Criffel is one of Dumfries’s most iconic landmarks and most travelled hikes. It lies near the Solway coastline and is the highest hill in the area making it stand out on the picturesque scenery even though it is only 570 metres high. The access to the base of Criffel is not far beyond New Abbey Village where you come onto the Ardell Path, it is a steep decent and it can be hard going in places but works are underway to create an easier route to the summit of the hill so that those with accessibility may see the amazing views of the Solway coast.

Further Reading:

Walk Highlands | Galloway Escapes

Wild Boar

When walking in the woods in Dumfries and Galloway be careful not to come across the unusual but potentially dangerous animal that now thrives in Galloway forest and the Carsphairn Hills! The Wild Boar was extinct from Britain in the 1600’s but has been accidentally reintroduced to the wild due to colonies escaping from hunting farms. Rumour has it that one of these escaped colonies originated from an estate near New Abbey! There have been arguments legitimising the name Wild Boar as they are deemed impure due to mating with domestic pigs, the SNH have now classed them as Feral Pigs not Boar but these notoriously shy animals whether legitimate or not are an amazing addition to Dumfries and Galloway’s wildlife.

Further Reading:

Galloway Farm

Kirkconnell Flow Nature Reserve

The Kirkconnell Flow is located on the road to new Abbey, just below the Whinney Hill, and is home to one of the most biodiverse and threatened habitats in the UK, the ancient raised peat bog. Nature Scot has been doing extensive work to preserve and restore this area that is home to a range of animals, plants and insects including the very rare six-spotted pot beetle.

Nature Scotland | Visit Scotland

Mersehead Reserve

On the northern side of the Solway Coast lies the extensive wetlands and salt marsh Reserve known as Mersehead. This is home to a range of seasonal birds and is an important breeding ground for wading water birds. The links below will provide you with a trail pack PDF that shows you what kind of birds you may see in this protected landscape. You can go and check out the visitor centre to get activity packs, learn about the reserve and get a hot cuppa after some twitching.

Further Reading:

Mersehead Trail Guide | RSPB

New Abbey Pow (Tributary)

The New Abbey Pow is one of the small rivers that travels through the village of New Abbey. Historically, this was how materials and cargo where transported up to the Village from the Canmore Harbour at the Solway Firth. If you look closely at one of the houses on the main street, you’ll see a carving of three women in a rowing boat, transporting materials across the Solway Firth during the construction of the abbey.

Further Reading:

Geograph | Canmore

Loch Kindar

From the top of Criffel Hill you can look down at the amazing views of Loch Kindar. Despite its stunning location, it is quite hard to access unless you are part of the Loch Kindar Angling Club as there are no public roads or parking near the loch. Fear not, however, as an Ordinance Survey map can provide you with safe walking routes for the best views of the loch. There is also an ancient Crannóg on the loch and you can find out more about this in our Heritage section.

Further Reading:

Walk Scotland | Ordnance Survey

Carsethorn & Carse Gut (tributary)

The Solway Coast is home to a wide range of marine and bird life with the Carse Gut being one of the more prominent ecosystems of the area. Cockles, Razor clams and all manner of shellfish thrive in the flat sand banks of Carsethorn attracting wading and digging birds throughout all seasons. As this is the point where the Solway ends and the sea begins, we use this as our starting point for the Nithraid boat race each year.

Further Reading:

Ordnance Survey | The Steamboat Inn

Powillimount Beach

If you love climbing rocks and hunting for crabs, this is the beach for you. It is a shingle beach located between Carsethorn and Southerness that is a local favourite for seaside adventures. This is also a wildlife hotspot with lots of birds nesting in the rocks and caves of Powillimount waiting for their catch in the rock pools.

Further Reading:

Visit South West Scotland


Southerness is one of the closest large beaches to the river Nith and Solway Estuary. It has parking and toilet facilities with a caravan site that hosts thousands during the summer months. It’s easy to see why it is so popular, with its sandy beach and landmark Lighthouse being a prominent figure in the skyline- a perfect place to go with families to explore nature and find wildlife.

Further Reading:

The Beach Guide | Day Out With The Kids

Continue the Journey

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