New routes will 
feature in 11th 
walking festival

With little over a week to go before the start of the eleventh Newton Stewart Walking Festival, organisers are reminding walkers that this year’s programme offers locals and visitors alike the opportunity to get back into the great outdoors and explore new areas.

Joan Mitchell, chair­woman of the Walking Festival committee, said: “After a winter which sometimes seemed to be never-ending, we all need to recharge our batteries. Joining one of our walks in the company of old friends and new acquaintances from all over Britain is an ideal way to shake off the winter blues.”

The week-long event runs from Friday, May 10, to Thursday, May 16, and for the first time features walks exploring the southern Rhins in the programme. Two guided coastal routes, one in the area around the Mull of Galloway focusing on birdlife and another in the Port Logan area with a geology theme, take place on Sunday, May 12. They have already proved very popular with advance bookers and there are now only a handful of places left on each.

Joan added: “We have been very fortunate in the 11 years that the festival has been running to have welcomed back walkers from both near and far year after year. It is, therefore, important that we offer new areas to explore and new routes every year. This year is no exception.”

On Saturday, May 11, walkers have the chance to head for the moors of the Machars with a walk along the “lost road” from near Kirkcowan to the Luce Bay shore. This route provides a new perspective on the landscape of Galloway through a lonely, wild area little frequented by walkers. It offers panoramic views of the Galloway Hills before descending through gorse-scented knolls to the coast at Auchenmalg.

The Sunday programme also features a pleasant walk in and around Wigtown, Scotland’s National Booktown. Entitled “The Wigtown Story – books, birds, martyrs and whisky”, the itinerary reminds just how much interest the ancient burgh has to offer. It uses an interesting and varied route not included in the festival before which features everything from saltmarsh to drumlin hills to riverside path.

Alternatively, for those looking for a more strenuous challenge, there are various routes exploring the Galloway Hills in the hands of members of Galloway Mountain Rescue Team. A new route featured this year heads to the hills north of Carsphairn, one of the least visited areas of upland Galloway. The route entitled “The windy northern hills” takes in the summits of Alwhat, Alhang and Cairnsmore, and visits the windmills of Windy Standard, while offering exceptional vistas.