The town of Newton Stewart is set on the west bank of the River Cree at the junction of the main A75 and the A714, amidst beautiful wooded countryside.
It's a popular base for hiking in the hills of Galloway Forest Park, especially around Glen trool. Newton Stewart is also a major centre for salmon and trout fishing. The season runs from March till mid-October. Permits, guides and the hire of fishing gear can all be arranged at the Creebridge House Hotel. The tourist office is on Dashwood Square, just off the main street and opposite the bus station. They can book accommodation for you as well as provide lots of information on walking in Galloway Forest Park. Info: Apr and Oct daily 1000-1630; May, Jun and Sep till 1700; Jul and Aug till 1800. Tel 402431. The Forestry Commission, Tel 402121, also produces a series of leaflets on its various marked trails through the forest park.
Phone code: +44 (0)1671
Around Newton Stewart
Newton Stewart lies at the heart of the most scenically stunning part of Galloway and makes an ideal base for exploring this most beautiful part of the country. About three miles east, near Palnure, is the Kirroughtree Visitor Centre, the southern gateway to Galloway Forest Park. A series of waymarked trails and cycle routes lead from here into the forest. There's also a tea room serving light meals. Info: Apr-Sep daily 1030-1700, Oct closes at 1630. Tel 402165.
Four miles north of town, reached via the A714, is the Wood of Cree Nature Reserve, Tel 402861, the largest ancient woodland in southern Scotland. This RSPB reserve is home to a huge variety of birdlife, including pied flycatchers, redstarts and wood warblers. There are nature trails running for two miles through the forest in the Cree Valley.
The prime attraction around Newton Stewart is Glen Trool, one of the most accessible and loveliest parts of Galloway Forest Park. Ten miles north of Newton Stewart at Bargrennan, on the A714, a narrow road winds its way for five miles past Glen Trool village to Loch Trool, hemmed in by the wooded slopes of the glen. Halfway up the loch is Bruce's Stone, which marks the spot where Robert the Bruce's guerrilla band ambushed the pursuing English force in 1307, after they had routed the main army at Solway Moss.
There are a number of excellent hiking trails which start out from here, including the one to the summit of Merrick (2,766 ft), the highest peak in southern Scotland. It's a tough climb of about four hours, but fairly straightforward and well worth the effort. There are also numerous Forestry Commission trails for the less fit/experienced/adventurous. Part of the Southern Upland Way runs through Glen Trool and along the southern shores of Loch Trool, then continues east towards Clatteringshaws Loch. On the road to Loch Trool, about a mile from the village, is the Glen Trool Visitor Centre. Info: Apr-Oct daily 1030-1730. Tel 01671-402420.
Stargazing in Galloway Forest (Europe’s first ‘dark sky park’)
The Galloway Forest Park, which stretches for 300 square miles and which has remained the most prevalent of its kind in the United Kingdom, is a proud addition to the other three dark skies (Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah, the Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania and the Geauga Park in Ohio) that the United States boast of. The Forest Park was accredited with the ‘dark skies’ label on 16th November 2009. This vast stretch of forest land which lies towards south-west Scotland gifts visitor’s consummate views of more than a million stars.
The above is enough reason to pave way to this corner of Scotland becoming a top-notch destination for star-gazers. Identifying this area where light pollution is least and hence the night sky quality the best, it was the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) who presented the award and gave the park a ‘gold tier Dark Sky Park status’- which is the maximum that is attainable. The level of darkness in the Galloway Park when measured with a sky quality meter comes to around 23. This sounds interesting when you compare it with the highest reading of 24 so far recorded, which is recorded in a photographer’s darkroom.
You can even get to see distant galaxies like the Milky Way and Andromeda thanks to the pitch-black sky and the very few buildings within the park’s boundary which do not actually obstruct your view. It is said that it is the intense lack in simulated light in this Forest Park in Scotland which make [[ Galloway | idyllic for star gazing. The area also benefits from fresh and unpolluted winds blowing in to the region from the Atlantic Ocean. Very few people in the densely populated United Kingdom (say less than just 10%) get to see the Milky Way from where they reside owing to light pollution.
At present, around 850, 000 visitors come to south west Scotland to visit the Galloway Forest Park. With the Galloway Forest Park turning out to be a Mecca for star-gazers, Scotland has moved one step ahead of the other places in UK.
The location of the park which is eulogized for accessibility to public is such that you can easily access it from the cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast and Northern England. A short walk from the car park in the foothills of the Range of Awful Hand, will take you to this place, probably the darkest in the country. The ferry port of Stranraer is also located nearby.
Newton Stewart Hotels & Accommodation
Sleeping & Accommodation in Newton Stewart
As a major walking and fishing centre, Newton Stewart has plenty of accommodation across the range. Top of the list is the fabulous A Kirroughtree House, Tel 402141, Kirrough Tree House] 17 rooms. This grand 18th-century country mansion is set in its own grounds and offers impeccable standards of comfort and service. It's superb restaurant (expensive) has a well-deserved reputation for its gourmet Scottish cuisine. Another fine choice, and a lot cheaper, is the charming B Creebridge House Hotel, across the river in the village of Minnigaff, Tel 402121, CreeBridge House Hotel 19 rooms. Arranges fishing permits and offers very good food at mid-range prices.
There are also lots of B&Bs to choose from. Many of these are on Corsbie Rd and include D Rowallen House, Tel 402520, Rowallen House EOakbank, Tel 402822, open Feb-Nov; and E Stables Guest House , Tel 402157. Also good is the friendly E-F Kilwarlin, 4 Corvisel Rd, Tel 403047, open Apr-Oct. There's a F SYHA Youth Hostel, Tel 402211, open mid-Mar to end-Oct, in the village of Minnigaff, which is on the other side of the river, across the bridge.
There are a couple of Forestry Commission campsites in Glen Trool. There's the Caldons Caravan & Camping Site, on the western shore of Loch Trool, Tel 840218, open Apr-Sep (possibility of closure so check with tourist office first), and the Glen Trool Holiday Park, Tel 840280, open Mar-Oct, near Glen Trool village, just off the A714.