Over the years Newton Stewart Walking Festival has been lucky enough to enlist the help of a range of respected experts for both our guided walks and evening talks. This year’s event, which runs from 9th to 15th May, is no exception.
Participants regularly remark that they appreciate the value added by local experts and guides who bring an extra dimension to a walk in the countryside.
With wildlife habitats ranging from sea cliffs, to forest, hill and moorland, Galloway is rightly famous for the diversity of its wildlife and several walks in this year’s festival provide the opportunity to sample nature’s offering.
A Rhins coastal walk on Saturday 10th May from New England Bay to the Mull of Galloway in the company of an RSPB ranger is already almost fully booked. Fortunately another Mull of Galloway walk on the same day still has places available and provides the opportunity to explore the dramatic cliff scenery of Scotland’s most southerly point in the company of geology expert, Tim Stephenson, from Creetown Gem Rock Museum.
The birdlife of the moorland, river banks and woodlands of Galloway can be sampled on a route along the Southern Upland Way from Knowe Village to Stroan Bridge in the company of Pete Robinson from Cree Valley Community Woodlands Trust on Saturday 10th May. Pete’s walk along another stretch of the Southern Upland Way was one of the highlights of last year’s festival.
For those with a more historical bent, Council Archaeologist Andrew Nicholson will be on hand on Sunday 11th May for a walk which uses ancient tracks to link Creetown with Kirkdale Bridge. Andrew will explain features such as Glenquicken stone circle and the enigmatic cup and ring markings.
A leisurely historical walk on the evening of Wednesday 14th May around Newton Stewart will remind people of the importance of the River Cree to the story of Minnigaff, Creebridge and Newton Stewart and will include sites and buildings as diverse as Minnigaff Churchyard and Craig Wilson’s livestock market.
Two evening talks also draw on local expert knowledge. Local historian Laurie Johnston will provide an armchair journey to Galloway’s historic places on Saturday 10th May. Laurie’s talk will feature many places visited during previous festivals – a great chance to link Galloway’s landscape and history in a relaxed way.
On Tuesday 13th May WalkFest is delighted to welcome Mark Williams of Galloway Wild Foods for a talk and slide show exploring edible and useful plants and fungi to be found in the mountains, forests and shores of Britain. Mark is an acknowledged expert on wild food and this is a great opportunity to get an introduction to a topic which appeals to the hunter / gatherer in all of us.
As well as these ‘outside experts’, most of the regular walk leaders and guides from Galloway Mountain Rescue Team and Wigtownshire Ramblers bring a wealth of local knowledge and diverse interests to the job.
Bob Peace, who will lead a lovely walk around the Glenkens on Sunday 11th May and Alan Leiper, who will explore the Luce valley on Monday 12th May, are hard to match for their knowledge of and entertaining stories about their home patches. Joan Mitchell brings a geographer’s eye to two walks around Creetown and Carsluith on Friday 10th and Saturday 11th May while Mike Kneeshaw will bring to life the romantic past of the Glentrool area on Sunday 11th May with an exploration of the Dungeon range. Finally, on Tuesday 13th May the Crammery Hill area will be explored in the company of forester Richard Kay, which will provide the chance to learn more about Galloway’s forests.
The emphasis of a walking festival is always on the walking but there’s no doubt that experiencing the countryside in the company of people who know and love it adds greatly to the pleasure.
The twelfth Newton Stewart Walking Festival runs from Friday 9th to Thursday 15th May and will feature more than 30 guided walks and other events. The full festival programme is available at www.newtonstewartwalkfest.com and in a brochure widely available in various outlets. Bookings can be made via the festival website, by calling the festival booking office on 01671 404500, or by calling in personally to the WRDC Business Centre in Queen Street, Newton Stewart.