Guide to Dumfries and Galloway holiday cottages

Guide to Dumfries and Galloway

Ed Roberts 14 November 2023

It’s time to explore Dumfries and Galloway, a fantastic county situated in South West Scotland where you will find endless forests, a rambling coastline, fascinating history, famous romantic hotspots, and the UK’s most haunted road. Dumfries and Galloway is known for its storied castles and pristine beaches that dot the Rhins of Galloway to The Machars.

Hugely popular with cyclists and hikers, in Dumfries and Galloway you will encounter the SWC300 (South West Coastal 300), the 7stanes, and the Southern Upland Way. The county is also home to Scotland’s highest village, Wanlockhead, and its most southerly point, the Mull of Galloway. It’s a great place to enjoy a memorable holiday in Scotland. Why not read our wider guide to the best places to stay on the west coast of Scotland to see what lies just beyond Dumfries and Galloway?

Uncover the best places to stay with us. We have lots of places to choose from for your holiday cottage break in Dumfries and Galloway. Click on the button below to find your ideal Dumfries and Galloway property.

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Towns and villages of Dumfries and Galloway


The rooftops of Dumfries

Dumfries is the region’s hub with the largest shops, banks, and choice of amenities. It is located on the banks of the pretty River Nith within easy driving distance of the lush Galloway Forest Park (20 miles). Dumfries has the prettiest of aliases – ‘The Queen of the South’ – because of the town’s attractive location. The town’s football club has adopted the name as well. Perhaps the strangest thing about Dumfries is that it has experienced four earthquakes in the last 50 years, including two on Boxing Day (1976 and 2006). 

Dumfries is known for its association with the writer Robert Burns. There is a museum to commemorate Burns’ writing all about the town. The town is also famous for being the last place the graverobber William Hare (of Burke and Hare infamy) was seen alive. For evening entertainment, why not catch a live event at Scotland’s oldest theatre (established in 1792), enjoy a meal at one of the town’s great restaurants, or take in a film at Dumfries’ cinema? 

Good to know

  • Best pub in Dumfries: Lockards Farm is the best for a pint and a good meal 
  • Best restaurant in Dumfries: Visit Casa Mia for excellent European-style food
  • Best attraction in Dumfries: Go to see Queen of the South football team in a home game.   
  • Stay nearby: Studio Lodge | sleeps 3 

Newton Stewart

The river in Newton Stewart

As pretty as a picture, Newton Stewart is a small town on the road between Dumfries and Stranraer. It is the perfect place to stay if you are planning to explore the Galloway Forest Park to a large extent. A mere 4 miles away, the town is a handy place to stock up on supplies, or for pubs and restaurants. 

Newton Stewart is home to a museum, and gives access to some great historical buildings in the wider area (known as The Machars) that include Sorbie Tower, St Ninian’s Cave, Cruggleton Castle, Galloway Gardens, Torhouse, and Bruce’s Stone. In town, there is an arts centre for live events, a community-run cinema, a gallery, two annual book festivals, and if you love golf, there is a great course in town too. Why not read our inspiring blog of Scotland's golf courses? Film enthusiasts may recognise locations used for The Wicker Man back in the 1960s.

Good to know

  • Best pub in Newton Stewart: The Cree Inn is a quaint pub that sits on the banks of the River Cree 
  • Best restaurant in Newton Stewart: The Riverbank is great for Scottish-style breakfasts and lunches
  • Best attraction in Newton Stewart: Enjoy a round of golf at the local club  
  • Stay nearby: Heavenly Vale | sleeps 7 + 1 dog

Castle Douglas

The ruin of Threave Castle with foxgloves in the foreground

Castle Douglas is surrounded by stunning Scottish countryside that is characterised by Carlingwark Loch and its rushing rivers, bewitching valleys, and mysterious-looking hills. It’s a great base for nature lovers. There’s also plenty to do in the town, as there are some good restaurants and eateries to tempt you and confirm Castle Douglas’ growing reputation as a destination for gastronomes.

Local highlights include Threave Castle, where you can take a ferry ride across the River Dee to its remote island location. Also visit Threave Estate and Gardens, Ken-Dee Reserve, and Galloway Activity Centre.

Good to know

  • Best pub in Castle Douglas: Monty’s Bar is a lively evening spot for a friendly beer 
  • Best restaurant in Castle Douglas: Mr Pook’s Kitchen showcases the best of Dumfries and Galloway’s food 
  • Best attraction in Castle Douglas: Book a ferry to the iconic Threave Castle for a great day out  
  • Stay nearby: Rhonehouse | sleeps 8 + 2 dogs

Gretna Green

The Famous Blacksmiths Museum in Gretna Green with romantic sculpture

When most people think of Gretna Green, they think of runaway brides. Once upon a time, young couples would hop over the Scottish border from England to get married because you couldn’t get hitched if you were under 21 without parental consent (the Lord Hardwicke law of 1754). In Scotland, there were no such restrictions; because of Gretna Green’s proximity to the border, its chapel was inundated with ‘shotgun’ weddings for years before the laws were reviewed again in 1940. You can visit the Famous Blacksmiths Museum where you can learn all about the quirky marriage laws that made Gretna Green’s name. 

Gretna Green was also known during the First World War for its vast munitions factory where a concoction of explosives known as the Devil’s Porridge was made. There is a museum to visit too. Gretna Green is only tiny, but between the village’s two museums, you could easily spend an afternoon here.

Good to know


Moored up boats in Stranraer harbour

Stranraer is a tiny town located on the isthmus that joins the Rhins of Galloway to the Scottish mainland. It is also at the head of Loch Ryan, where ferries embark to Belfast most days. Standing at the gateway of a T-shaped peninsula, the Rhins is far off the beaten track and is a lovely way to spend some quiet time away at the end of the world. 

Local attractions include the 16th-century Castle of St John, which stands at the heart of the town. There are also some excellent places to eat, drink, and shop in Stranraer. You can easily reach Scotland’s most southerly point, the Mull of Galloway, from Stranraer (21 miles) for awesome views.  

Good to know

Best things to see and do in Dumfries and Galloway

Galloway Forest Park 

Galloway Forest Park's pine trees profiled by distant lake and peak

Britain’s largest forest park is as dramatic a visitor attraction as they come. Described as the ‘highlands of the lowlands’, Galloway Forest Park attracts those who love walking, fishing, and cycling in beauty spots. 

The park has three visitor centres: Clatteringshaws, Kirroughtree, and Glentrool. At the latter two, you will find two of the local 7stanes mountain bike trails. Look out for red deer and wild goats by the loch or come after sundown to stargaze. Galloway Forest Park was Scotland’s first Dark Sky Reserve.

Good to know

  • Where is Galloway Forest Park? Creebridge, Newton Stewart, DG8 6AJ 
  • What facilities does Galloway Forest Park have? Three visitor centres, parking, WCs, gift shop, cafes, kiosks
  • How much does it cost to visit Galloway Forest Park? Entrance is free. There may be parking charges at some locations
  • Stay nearby: Cree Hideaway | sleeps 2 + 1 dog

The 7stanes 

Lone mountain biker in a pine forest

The 7stanes are world-famous mountain biking centres that are based in Southern Scotland. Of the seven centres, five are located in Dumfries and Galloway: Ae, Mabie, Dalbeattie, plus Kirroughtree and Glentrool (in Galloway Forest Park). Stane is the Scots word for ‘stone’ and there is a stone sculpture at each of the biking trail centres. 

If mountain biking is your thing, the chances that you already know of the 7stanes are high. You can also walk to the stone sculptures too if you don’t fancy riding your bike.

Good to know

  • Where is 7stanes? Various locations. Visit the 7stanes website for more details on locations, opening times, and prices.  
  • Do I need a mountain bike to visit the 7stanes? No, there are walking trails at each location, so you can reach the sculptures on foot. 
  • Stay nearby: Treetops Coastal Retreat | sleeps 2 + 2 dogs

The Cocoabean Chocolate Factory

Chocolate making with a whisk

Chocoholics rejoice! If it’s interesting and tasty chocolate you seek, then head for the Cocoabean Chocolate Factory in Twynholm. You could book a chocolate-making workshop for all the family, or choose some sweet treats in the shop. There are also indoor and outdoor play areas on-site for your kids to enjoy. 

Good to know

  • What is the Cocoabean Chocolate Factory’s address?  Ashland, Twyholm, DG6 4NP
  • What facilities does the Cocoabean Chocolate Factory have? Workshops, cafe, shop, parking, play areas, WCs
  • How much does it cost? Prices for chocolate-making courses, visit the website for details
  • Stay nearby: The Smithy | sleeps 2 + 3 dogs

Dalswinton Trails

A Scottish glen on the Dalswinton Estate

The network of pathways on the Dalswinton Estate gives visitors superb access to unspoiled countryside. There are two main walks – a one-hour circular and a two-hour one with several off-shoots from both to make them longer.  

Both walks pass by the small Dalswinton Loch and the site of Comyn’s Castle. Other points of historic interest are the site of a Roman marching camp, and a Roman Fort, as well as several churches and old bridges. 

Good to know

  • Where is Dalswinton Estate? Dalswinton Estate, Dalswinton, DG2 0SX
  • Where can I find a map of Dalswinton’s paths? You can find maps on their website
  • Stay nearby: The Classroom | sleeps 2 + 1 dog

Galloway Activity Centre 

Female paddleboarder on calm lake

Booking a day out at Galloway Activity Centre is a must. The place offers a host of adventurous activities and some easy-going ones for more wary visitors. Options include paddleboarding, windsurfing, kayaking, combat laser tag, archery, mountain biking, climbing, motor boating, and much more. 

You can also book tuition on 1-2-1 or group courses. Set in beautiful surroundings, Galloway Activity Centre is a superb way to spend time on your holiday in South Scotland.

Good to know

  • What is the Galloway Activity Centre’s address? Loch Ken, Parton, Castle Douglas, DG7 3NQ
  • How much does it cost to visit the Galloway Activity Centre? Prices vary depending on the course you choose. Visit the website for details 
  • Stay nearby: Loch Carlingwark Lodge 2 | sleeps 4 + 1 dog  

Best places to eat and drink in Dumfries and Galloway

Best restaurant for fine dining in Dumfries and Galloway – 1610, Dumfries | £££  

A meat dish being served to a table of diners by person in chef's whites

One of two Michelin-starred restaurants in Dumfries and Galloway, 1610 at The Globe Inn was once a haunt of Scotland’s most famous poet, Robert Burns. Nowadays, you can imbibe some of the 300 available whiskies and some superior food made with fresh Scottish produce. Need we tell you that booking is essential?

Good to know

  • What is 1610’s address? The Globe Inn, 56 High Street, Dumfries DG1 2JA
  • How much does it cost to dine at 1610? £65+ per person based on three courses and one drink
  • Stay nearby: Braco Farmhouse | sleeps 8 + 2 dogs

Best gastro pub in Dumfries and Galloway – The Crown, Portpatrick | ££ 

The Crown and Portpatrick as seen from the breakwater

If you love a pub meal by the waterside, then The Crown in Portpatrick should be high on your list. We love its location on the harbour front. There is a vast array of ales and beers to choose from, as well as wine and whiskies. The menu is characterised by its fresh seafood dishes and gorgeous sandwiches at lunchtime. It’s situated on the Southern Upland Way, so it’s a good way station if you are planning a trek. 

Good to know 

  • What is The Crown’s address? 9 North Crescent, Portpatrick, DG9 8SX
  • How much does it cost to dine at The Crown? £40+ per person based on three courses and one drink
  • Stay nearby: Pinminnoch Cottage | sleeps 5 + 2 dogs  

Best pub in Dumfries and Galloway – The Harbour Inn, Garlieston | £

A pint of dark ale with unlabelled bottle, and a bowl of mixed nuts

If you’re looking for a cosy, authentic Scottish pub, then The Harbour Inn on The Machars peninsula fits the brief easily. Sitting on the quayside, it’s a good place to hunker down and enjoy a slow drink by the roaring fire. There are traces of its heritage in all of the rooms; it was once busy with scallop traders centuries ago, but now it’s much quieter and relatable. You can pick up the coastal path here to Garlieston Castle or Rigg Bay from the front door.

Good to know

  • What is The Harbour Inn’s address? 18 South Crescent, Garlieston DG8 8BQ
  • How much does it cost to dine at The Harbour Inn?  £20+ per person based on three courses and one drink
  • Stay nearby: Ocean View Retreat | sleeps 3 + 1 dog  

Best restaurant for international food in Dumfries and Galloway – Spice India, Moffat | £

The rooftops of Moffat as seen from the fields.

The food at Spice India is delicious and is a big hit with the locals in Moffat. If you love Indian cuisine then you will adore the range of dishes on offer here. There are special deals to be found such as some tempting dine-for-two promotions as well. On sunny days there is outdoor seating and takeaway is available too.

Good to know

  • What is India Spice’s address? Lower Craignelder, High Street, Moffat, DG10 9HL
  • How much does it cost to dine at India Spice? £20+ (based on one dish, with a side and a drink)
  • Stay nearby: The Bishop | sleeps 4 + 1 dog 

Best cafe in Dumfries and Galloway – Brambles Cafe, Dalbeattie | £

Dalbeattie seen across the village's rocky bay

The very popular Brambles Cafe next to Dalbeattie Woods is a treasure. Warm up with some fresh coffee, and treat yourself to some homemade cake. The salads and other light lunch options are to die for. It’s a wonderful place to refuel after a refreshing walk, run, or cycle in the woods nearby. The highlight of the menu is the all-day breakfast with options for vegetarians and vegans. 

Good to know

  • What is Brambles Cafe address? Craigendarroch, Colvend Road, Dalbeattie, DG5 4QU
  • How much does it cost to dine at Brambles Cafe? £15+ (based on one meal and a drink)
  • Stay nearby: Loch Cottage | sleeps 4 + 1 dog  

Best fish and chips in Dumfries and Galloway – Moore’s Fish & Chips, Castle Douglas | £

Fish, chips, mushy peas, a quarter of lemon, and a small dish of tartare sauce arranged on mock newspaper

Holidays are the best time to enjoy a bag of battered cod and chips. A trip to the local chippy is a must and almost a dietary requirement when you are away from home. Moore’s Fish & Chips in Castle Douglas has been serving their goodies to the public for over 30 years and you can taste why. They use the highest quality produce from Scotland’s top suppliers, and it shows. Delicious!

Good to know

  • What is Moore’s Fish and Chips address? 254 King Street, Castle Douglas, DG7 1HA
  • How much does it cost to eat at Moore’s Fish and Chips? £12+ (based on a bag of cod and chips)
  • Stay nearby: The Castle at Craignair | sleeps 10 + 2 dogs  


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Stay at a self-catering holiday cottage in Dumfries and Galloway

Visit gorgeous Dumfries and Galloway; we have a large collection of self-catering holiday cottages for you to pick from. Spend the day touring this lovely area of Southern Scotland and then retire to your home from home to relax and rejuvenate for another day of exploration. View our range of Dumfries and Galloway cottages and all across Southern Scotland today.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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