One of the wildest places in southwest Scotland, but still surprisingly accessible, Cairnsmore is a paradise for walkers. There are wide-ranging views and a patchwork of muted colours from the low-growing vegetation that ekes out its living here. Watch out for peregrine falcon, red and black grouse, red deer and feral goats.
Dominated by an imposing granite hill, shaped and sculpted by the elements, NatureScot's Cairnsmore nature reserve offers a true taste of the Scottish wilderness, with superb views over the Cree Estuary and stretching across the border towards the Lake District in England. Cairnsmore's mixture of wind-clipped summit heath, heather moorland and blanket bog supports a range of wildlife. This includes some of Scotland's most iconic birds, such as red and black grouse, the occasional golden eagle and an intriguing plantlife that manages to eke out an existence in the harsh conditions.
Whether you want to go on a sculpture treasure hunt, wander around the reserve or explore the pond area near the visitor centre that's alive with frogs and damselflies, there's plenty to see and do at Cairnsmore.
There are several trails across the Fleet Valley, some of which cross the National Nature Reserve. The most accessible of these is the 'In-bye' trail, which starts at NatureScot's Visitor Centre at Dromore and includes information boards covering local flora and fauna, as well as the Reserve's history and geology. Other longer trails lead up to the escarpment and the Clints of Dromore, where the ground can be rough and these should only be attempted by experienced, well-equipped walkers.
Facilities: Small information centre, public toilets with disabled access, farm walk, parking and cycle rack at Dromore Farm. The small car park for the summit path is just off the A75.
Further Information: NatureScot, Cairnsmore of Fleet Reserve Office, Dromore Farm, Gatehouse of Fleet, Castle Douglas DG7 2BP. Tel: 01557 814435.
From Newton Stewart, take the A75 south to Palnure. Take the first left after Palnure Burn Bridge to cross the Graddoch Burn then follow the signs to the car park.
From Creetown, take the B796 for 7 miles to Dromore Farm (turning onto the minor road after Gatehouse Station) where parking is available.
From Gatehouse of Fleet, take the B796 to the former Gatehouse Station and after 6 miles turn right at the T junction.
By Public Transport: The nearest bus stops are at Palnure (0.9 miles), Creetown (5.1 miles) and Gatehouse of Fleet (5.7 miles) on the Newton Stewart - Gatehouse of Fleet route.
By Bike: The Glen Trool to Gatehouse section of NCN Route 7 (Glasgow - Carlisle) passes the reserve. To take the summit path, leave the route on the Palnure side of the Graddoch Burn then follow the signs to the car park at Cairnsmore. Alternatively, leave the route at Gatehouse Station and follow the track to Dromore Farm. Bike racks are available at Dromore Farm.
On Foot: The Bargrennan to Craigenbay (Clatteringshaws) section of the Southern Upland Way (Portpatrick - Cockburnspath) passes nearby the Reserve.