Winter is a wonderful time to visit Scotland, and offers the perfect soft and clear light to photograph the landscape and enhance its colours.
There are fewer tourists at this time of year; it is a pleasure to walk in the rolling farmland and hills, and to enjoy the unspoilt beaches and coastal scenery. Classic beach holiday villages with attractive self-catering cottage accommodation are Kippford and Rockcliffe on the Solway, which are very popular in the summer. But winter is also a good time to observe the local wildlife and one of the greatest natural spectacles here is to watch the flocks of barnacle geese that come down in September from Svalbard in the Arctic Circle to winter in the Solway salt flats.
The Galloway town of Castle Douglas takes its name from nearby Threave Castle which is a formidable fortress tower built in 1369 by Archibald the Grim, a notorious leader of the warlike Black Douglas clan. The castle lies on an island in the River Dee, and is reached by a short ferry crossing over the fast flowing salmon river. Other outstanding castles in the region include Caerlaverock which stands on the banks of the Solway Firth and was built to defend the Scottish southern border with England. A well kept secret is the deciduous oak forest around Loch Trool, scene of an epic battle and famous victory by Robert the Bruce against invading English forces in the 14th century.
This part of Scotland is also home to many of Scotland’s early Christian sites, including Whithorn, Dundrennan Abbey and Sweetheart Abbey in the town of New Abbey which house the remains of Lady Devorgilla the founder of this cistercian abbey and her beloved husband John Balliol, who established the college in Oxford University that bears his name.No visit to Dumfries and Galloway would be complete without sampling its rich local agricultural produce; there is an excellent range of organic cheeses available in the village of Beeswing (which takes its name from a famous racehorse) at the Loch Arthur Creamery. Most of the local butchers also take great pride in telling you from exactly which local farm their lamb and beef is sourced; my personal favourite is TH Carson in Dalbeattie which has a formidable array of prizes for quality products ranging from haggis to pies and sausages.
If the weather permits, then there are several excellent golf courses to choose from in the region, including a scenic course at Colvend and a championship links course at Southerness. The village of Carsethorn along the coast from Southerness attracts many visitors from the USA, as it houses a small museum to the village’s local hero, Admiral John Paul Jones. The museum is in the gardener’s cottage for the Arbigland Estate, where John Paul Jones was born and brought up, before he emigrated to North America, later becoming the father of the American Navy during the American War of Independence against Britain – a different kind of 18th century Brexit.