Newton Stewart, famous for its salmon and trout fishing, is a quiet market town on the west bank of the River Cree, which used to form the county boundary between Kirkcudbrightshire and Wigtownshire. As the largest town within easy reach of the Galloway Forest Park, with some excellent accommodation choices and good bus connections, its a popular choice as a base for hikers and cyclists.
The Machars is the name given to the triangular peninsula of rolling farmland and open landscapes south of Newton Stewart. Its title comes from the Gaelic machair, which is the name for the low-lying sandy grasslands by the coast. In recent years, Wigtown has successfully reinvented itself as Scotlands National Booktown and you could easily while away an hour or two in the towns many bookshops. In late September each year, the town plays host to what is billed as the nation's most intimate book festival, offering a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with a selection of the UK's best-loved writers and performers. Fifteen miles south of Wigtown is Whithorn, a one-street town which nevertheless occupies an important place in Scottish history, for it is thought that here in 397 St Ninian founded the first Christian church north of Hadrians Wall.
West of the Machars, the hilly, hammer-shaped peninsula at the end of the Solway coast, known as the Rhinns of Galloway, encompasses two contrasting towns: the port of Stranraer, one of the main entry points to Scotland from Northern Ireland, and the beguiling seaside resort of Portpatrick. At either end of the peninsula are two lighthouses: one stands above Corsewall Point, and is now home to a luxury hotel, the other stands on the Mull of Galloway, a windswept headland at the southwest tip of Scotland, which is home to a vast array of nesting seabirds.