Newton Stewart WalkFest preview

Walkers stop for a break and to take in the spectacular views along with Solway coast during the 2014 Newton Stewart Walking Festival'. 'Photo credit: Mike Kneeshaw
Walkers stop for a break and to take in the spectacular views along with Solway coast during the 2014 Newton Stewart Walking Festival'. 'Photo credit: Mike Kneeshaw

The region’s largest walking festival, WalkFest, based in Newton Stewart, is little over two months away. The event, which runs from 8th to 14th May, is celebrating its 13th year this year and organisers are looking forward to attract visitors and local residents to the event once more.

Joan Mitchell, Chair of the organising committee said: “Newton Stewart Walking Festival prides itself on coming up with new routes and new experiences for its participants each year. Having featured new coastal routes in South Ayrshire and the Rhins in 2014, this year the emphasis for new territory has a distinctly Stewartry bias.”

“For example, on Saturday 9th May, for the first time, WalkFest will be tackling Criffel, the iconic summit overlooking the Nith which is such a distinctive landmark for the visitor entering Galloway from the east. For those looking for a more gentle walk, but still in the shadow of Criffel’s granite flanks, we are offering a route which takes in the areas rolling fields and attractive woodlands, combined with the opportunity to spend time in the charming and picturesque village of New Abbey, sampling its historic attractions.”

She added: “The following day the festival offers another opportunity to enjoy spectacular views of the Solway Firth and Lakeland Fell, this time from the summit of Bengairn - one of the best vantage points in the eastern Stewartry. Starting at Gelston and finishing on the coast at Auchencairn, this walk explores a completely new cross section of the Galloway countryside for WalkFest to provide a good, bracing Sunday walk.”

“For those more attracted to Galloway’s rocky coast, with its fascinating history of smuggling and rich folklore, there is another Sunday walk which fits the bill – an attractive mainly coastal linear route from south of Dundrennan to Auchencairn.”

The Glenkens is a regular fixture in the Newton Stewart Walking Festival programme but this year it features in a completely new walk - a north to south route along the Drovers Road, south of Carsphairn, taking in the old settlement of Polmaddy. This moderate graded route on Wednesday 13th May, in the company of a walk leader who has rich stock of local stories and an archaeology expert, promises to be full of interest.

However there is such a wealth of interesting landscapes and settlements in the Newton Stewart and Machars area, that it’s not necessary to travel far to find new experiences. On Friday 8th May, a completely new style of town walk and museum visit, arranged in conjunction with Whithorn Visitor Centre, offers a leisurely start to the festival. Meanwhile on Monday 11th May an evening walk ending with a pie and a pint at the Bladnoch Inn explores the fascinating historical landscape around Torhouse and the Bladnoch River near Wigtown.

Details of the full festival programme can be found on the event’s website www.newtonstewartwalkfest.com, where you can book all events and sign up for a free electronic newsletter. A paper brochure will also be available shortly from a wide range of local outlets.