We’re back! Our three-week road trip through Wales and Scotland ended in a nine-hour journey back home to London. I’ve been spending more time offline than usual, but I did manage to do a small amount of work, mainly thanks to the CatStrand arts centre, in New Galloway.
New Galloway is in the Glenkens, a picturesque valley between Dumfries and Ayr known as the ‘Highlands of south-west Scotland’. The town is on the Galloway Kite Trail. It also includes part of the Galloway Forest Park, 300 square miles of untamed beauty. Birds of prey, red squirrels, wild rabbits and deer rove freely in the mainly pine woodland. The Forest Park was the first area in the UK to gain Dark Skies status, and the public can stargaze from the hilltop Dark Sky Observatory.
We stayed about fifteen minutes away from New Galloway, in our forest cottage. Telephone signals are almost non-existent there, so every couple of days I made a trip into New Galloway to use the CatStrand’s wi-fi, offered freely to locals and visitors.
The CatStrand is set in a bright, airy building, which used to house the local primary school and is named after the small stream running underneath. After a six-year fundraising and renovation process, the 1743 building re-opened as the CatStrand in 2007. Now it offers a lively programme of activities, including film nights, a youth arts programme (a group of youngsters were learning about film-making while I was there), gigs from touring musicians and theatre shows in the performance space, and the Scottish Alternative Games (not to be missed – I’ll be posting about the Games soon).
Eating out in New Galloway
The CatStrand’s cafe offers a basic menu, with soup, toasties, locally baked cakes and wine or beer. For a more varied selection, the bustling Smithy next door has a range of daily specials, like smoked haddock quiche, gammon, egg and chips, or tomato and basil soup. Local haggis is paired with cheese in toasties, or on top of jacket spuds.
A new community shop recently opened in New Galloway, selling fresh local fare. A sign in the shop invites locals to bring along surplus fruit and veg from their gardens to sell there.
For children there’s a small play park, overlooked by a commanding war memorial. You can’t see in the picture below, but there are swings, slides, a see-saw and a roundabout.
Although New Galloway itself is small and wouldn’t have enough to keep families occupied for longer than a day or so, it makes an excellent base for exploring the Forest Park, Kite Trail and other attractions in the local area. The town has several hotels and B&Bs, including the Cross Keys, Cruachan House and Kenbridge Hotel (none of which we visited). Golf is popular in the area, and the town boasts its own nine-hole golf course.
By road, New Galloway is around an hour away from Dumfries, on the A713. The nearest railway stations are Ayr and Dumfries, which have frequent train services from Glasgow and Carlisle. Regular bus routes run into New Galloway: the 520 from Dalry, Castle Douglas, and Ayr; and the 521 from Castle Douglas and Dumfries.
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