WalkFest celebrates ‘one of best years yet’

Enjoying the Galloway Hills
Enjoying the Galloway Hills

Organisers of the 2015 Newton Stewart Walking Festival have thanked participants for making the 2015 event one of the best ever attended.

Joan Mitchell, chair of the voluntary committee who organise the event said figures were up on last year.

She added: “We are delighted with how the festival has gone. We are now in our 13th year, and with attendance figures up by around a quarter on last year, we can safely say that WalkFest is in good health.

“What’s particularly encouraging is that each year we are able to attract a number of people who have not only never attended the festival before, but who have never holidayed in Galloway previously. Around a third of those attending this year’s event were doing so for the first time, and their feedback has overwhelmingly being positive, impressed by what Galloway has to offer the walker and hope to return back soon. If each year we can convince a few more walkers to discover Galloway instead of always heading north, I think we will have done a good job.”

Despite some rather blustery weather at the start of the week, conditions improved as the festival progressed, enabling guides to show off the many and varied walking opportunities Galloway has to offer.

The festival included a programme of 28 walks, ranging from afternoon rambles to full days in the wild Galloway Hills. It featured routes spread across the south west, including an ascent of Criffel and a visit to New Abbey in the east, a coastal ramble at the head of Luce Bay in the west and an exploration of the hills and glens around Straiton in the north.

In addition, there was a full programme of evening events for walkers to enjoy, including a couple of evening walks, as well as an interesting and informative talk on the 19th century Galloway author S R Crockett and an entertaining exploration of whisky.

Joan Mitchell added: “Of course, the event takes a lot of planning and preparation and I am very grateful to the voluntary committee who organise all aspects of the event. In addition, we thank our guides from the Galloway Mountain Rescue Team, Wigtownshire Ramblers and others who give up their time so freely.”

“I’d also like to acknowledge the invaluable contribution of our public sector funders, Scottish Natural Heritage and Dumfries and Galloway Council as well as our commercial sponsors, S R Cunningham Outdoor Centres and the Belted Galloway Visitor Centre. The staff at WRDC have been a core part of our booking team for many years and we are grateful to McCullochs for first class transport once again. Also, we should thank the local accommodation providers and the people of Newton Stewart who help to make our visitors stays an enjoyable experience. Finally, thank you to local land owners whose land we cross during the festival, and to the visitors and locals who support us year after year, and provide us with such valuable feedback on how we can further improve the event.”

Next year’s Newton Stewart Walking Festival will take place from 6th to 12 May 2016. Details about the event will be available on the festival website www.newtonstewartwalkfest.com in due course. In the meantime there are a selection of photos from this year’s event available to view via the festival’s website and Facebook page.