The Galloway Heartland is rich mixture of landscapes that changes dramatically from the rolling farmland, sandy coves and estuarine mudflats of the coastline to the glassy lochs, wooded hills and bare, rounded peaks of the Galloway Hills to the north. The key resort is the charming town of Kirkcudbright (pronounced 'kir-coo-bree'), halfway along the marshy Solway coastline. Once a bustling port thronged with sailing ships and subsequently an artists' retreat, Kirkcudbright is now a tranquil, well-preserved little 18th- and early 19th-century town with a rich artistic heritage that's easy and enjoyable to explore.
The Colvend coast, twenty miles or so east of Kirckcudbright, is probably one of the finest stretches of coastline along what is known as the 'Scottish Riviera'. Kippford is a tiny lively yachting centre strung out along the east bank of the Urr estuary. At low tide you can walk over the Rough Firth causeway to Rough Island, a humpy 20-acre bird sanctuary owned by the National Trust for Scotlandand home to colonies of terns and oystercatchers.
Contrasting with the essentially gentle landscape of the Solway coast is the brooding presence of the Galloway Hills to the north whose beautiful moors, mountains, lakes and rivers centre on the 150,000-acre Galloway Forest Park. Few people actually live here but the park is a major draw for hikers and mountain bikers, who are both well catered for with lots of trails clearly marked out. Newton Stewart and New Galloway are ideal bases for exploring the park.
In addition to the Forest Park, the area is dotted with formal gardens and country parks that are perfect for day trips. Foremost amongst these is Threave Garden and Castle, the premier horticultural sight in Dumfries and Galloway. Threve is a pleasant mile or so's walk or cycle south of Castle Douglas, along the shores of Loch Carlingwark. The garden features a magnificent spread of flowers and woodland covering more than sixty acres.
Loch Ken, which runs between New Galloway and Castle Douglas, is a haven for the watersports fans, with waterskiing, powerboating, rowing, sailing, windsurfing, angling, birdwatching and more on offer. The loch's wooded banks are particularly stunning in autumn.