Galloway’s great variety of walking

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THERE’S just a week left until the beginning of the ninth Newton Stewart Walking Festival.

Organisers hope that the recent spring sunshine will encourage others to join walkers from across the country as they converge on the town for the festival launch on 6th May.

Many of those who have already booked up to attend are return visitors who have learned to appreciate the beauty of Galloway’s open hills, woodlands, shores and cliffs in spring. Every season has its attractions but May is special with its spring flowers coming freshly into bloom on river banks, woodland and cliff tops, it’s migrant birds back to moors and woods and a landscape awash with shades of green.

To enjoy the festival and avoid last-minute disappointment, it’s recommended that those who haven’t chosen their walks yet should sign up soon. Some of the most popular routes are already fully booked but there are still places available across the full range of walks. For those who enjoyed testing themselves on the recent Cairnsmore of Fleet Challenge, the walking festival is the ideal opportunity to widen their experience of the Galloway hills. For those looking for the opportunity to tackle some of the wilder, more remote places in good company, the Rhinns of Kells and the Awfu’ Hand Range beckon. The walks on the Minnigaff Hills and the Dungeons should appeal to people looking for something a little less strenuous while there are still places available on moderate walks including the Stewartry and Machars coastal routes, and the woodlands of the Cree catchment area.

If you want to relax completely, learn a bit more about the area, and be transported to the great outdoors from the comfort of an armchair then the evening events are for you. On Saturday 7th May the RSPB will take us on a journey through the birdlife of Dumfries and Galloway. On Tuesday 10th May you can learn more about the geology of Galloway and prepare for the popular rock-themed walks on Wednesday and Thursday in the home of Galloway’s rocks – Creetown Gem Rock.

Full details of Newton Stewart Walking Festival, which runs from 6th to 12th May and features over 30 walks and events, can be found at www.newtonstewartwalkfest.com. Alternatively, pick up a festival brochure from the WRDC Business Centre, Stewart R Cunningham Outdoor Centre in Newton Stewart or local libraries, tourist information centres and other outlets throughout the region. Alternatively call 01671 404500 to find out more.