Walking festival bookings being taken

The Newton Stewart Walking Festival programme for 2016 has been published and bookings are already coming in thick and fast.

The festival, which runs from May 6-12 2016, is celebrating its 14th year and will once again showcase the many and varied walking opportunities in Galloway.

The full programme, which features over 30 walks and other events, is now available on the festival website at www.newtonstewartwalkfest.com and booklets will be available in the usual outlets soon.

Joan Mitchell, chair of the group of volunteers who organise the festival said: “We believe we have come up with another interesting programme, which includes several routes never featured in WalkFest before.

“We’ve included a new route from Knowe Village to Bargrennan, which instead of following the Southern Upland Way, heads north to Loch Maberry, source of the River Bladnoch, and takes in the Three Counties Pool, where the old counties of Ayrshire, Wigtownshire and Kirkcudbrightshire meet.

“We’ve also include dan easier walk in and around Castle Douglas, which takes in many of the town’s highlights, including Threave Castle and Threave Gardens as well as a chance to see ospreys.

“Another exciting innovation this year is our first ever overnight walk, which sets off late evening to explore the Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park in all its glory before finishing at Bruce’s Stone at sunrise.

“This year’s Walkfest challenge for those looking for a real adventure in the Galloway Hills is a 24 kilometre, route from Forest Lodge to Kirriereoch, taking in many of the highest points in the south of Scotland.”

Joan added: “As we all know, Newton Stewart was thrust into the national media spotlight at New Year because of the dreadful flooding.

“Its aftermath, which has closed bridges and damaged paths has created a few challenges for us in planning this year’s festival, but we’re confident we’ve found solutions.

“I hope the festival can play its part in helping to put Newton Stewart on the map for positive reasons and in turn provide much needed support to our local businesses and the town.

“We are particularly grateful to the businesses and community groups who have offered financial support to the festival again this year, including the Old Luce Community Fund, Stewart R Cunningham Outdoors Centres and The Belted Galloway Visitors Centre.

“We were particularly heartened to receive messages of support from other Walkers are Welcome towns at the time of the flooding and I am sure many of our regular visitors will return again.”