Wild Routes

Water, Water Everywhere

Water, Water Everywhere


The Stewartry district of Dumfries & Galloway, in the centre of the region, contains a large number of lochs - some formed naturally, others the result of human intervention and all offering stunning vistas and a fabulous range of wildlife.  They can be linked as part of a day-long itinerary but with each stretch of water presenting opportunities for walks and the chance to visit nearby attractions, this wild route is best enjoyed over a 2 or 3-day break. 

Water, water everywhere is a circular route around Loch Ken but it extends east from the top of the loch to the hidden gem of the Scottish Wildlife Trust's Knowetop Lochs reserve and west to the mountain-girdled Clatteringshaws Loch.  At its southern end the itinerary includes the National Trust for Scotland's Threave Castle Estate and the RSPB reserve of Ken-Dee Marshes.  

The route is about 55 miles by car and can be picked up from any point along the way but the description which follows starts from the market town of Castle Douglas.

The Itinerary

Carlingwark Loch, a stone's throw from the centre of Castle Douglas, is a large freshwater loch encompassed by a circular footpath with a wildlife viewing hide on the path known as Lover’s Walk on the east shore. The area is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest for the range of plant and animal species which can be found in and around the loch, including Mute swans, little and great crested grebe and various species of ducks, some of which are only present during winter months.

Outside town, on the northern side of the A75, is the National Trust for Scotland’s Threave Castle Estate with a car park and visitor centre half a mile up an old farm track at Kelton Mains.  This wetland site, straddling the floodplain of the River Dee, offers a great variety of attractions at different times of the year around a mile and a half walk that links a number of strategically positioned bird hides. From April to early September ospreys can be viewed coming and going from their nest across the river.  In winter months it is a prime location for viewing Greenland white-fronted geese, swans, ducks and various species of waders.

Follow the A713 along the east bank of Loch Ken, the largest body of freshwater in southern Scotland, formed by the damming of the River Dee, and look for laybys / viewpoints along the road.  Towards the northeastern end of the loch the Galloway Activity Centre affords stunning views over the water and up the Glenkens and offers café facilities plus camping and chalet style accommodation.  

Loch Ken provides established winter roosting sites for Greenland white-fronted and Icelandic greylag geese. Other bird life that has been observed includes whooper swans, woodcock, snipe, goldeneye and a variety of ducks.  Red kite can usually be seen flying overhead and, if you are really lucky you might spot an otter on a Wilderness Kayak trip organised by the centre.

Three miles further along the A713, just before the Ken Bridge Hotel, turn right onto the A712 and look for the entrance to the Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve of Knowetop Lochs on your right after about 4 miles.  This magical wetland site features 2 lochans linked by just over a mile of boardwalks and woodland paths.  It contains a rich variety of wildlife, including breeding birds such as the Sedge Warbler, Willow Tit and Water Rail, but is best known for its butterflies and dragonflies.

Head back to the A713, cross the Ken Bridge and continue on the A712 into New Galloway.  Just before entering the high street, take the second right turning - signposted Newton Stewart - and follow the road for about 6 miles to the Forestry Commission for Scotland visitor centre on Clatteringshaws Loch.  

This vast loch, on the opposite side of which can be viewed the Rhins of Kells ridge of hills, is also a reservoir whose dam can be viewed just a few hundred metres further along the road.  The visitor centre has been newly refurbished and interprets the natural history of the loch and the Galloway Forest Park which surrounds it.  The area is also deep within the recently designated Dark Sky Park and, on clear nights, affords unparalleled views of the stars above.

The northern entrance to the Raiders' Road (open from April to the end of October) is just a mile west of Clatteringshaws. This 15-mile Forestry Commission for Scotland toll road follows the River Dee on unmade track through hundreds of acres of conifer forest to join the A762 on the western shores of Loch Ken.  Along the way are several laybys with visitor facilities which provide access to the river and, towards the southeastern end, to beautiful Loch Stroan. Walks start from the side of the road along the track of the former Dumfries to Gatehouse railway, around Mossdale Loch and to the location of 'secret' release cages used in the local reintroduction of Red Kites.

Once on the A762, head south for about 5 miles to the B795 Kirk Road and turn left (east) to Glenlochar.  Along the way the road passes the entrance for Bellymack Farm, the site of the Red Kite feeding station with feedings daily at 2pm.

At Glenlochar turn left just before the barrage bridge onto a single track road and continue carefully for about 4 miles to the car park for the RSPB's Ken-Dee Marshes reserve.  The footpath from the car park runs for a couple of miles along the edge of the marshes which fringe the southern end of Loch Ken.  Along the way are a viewing platform for overwintering geese and two large bird hides overlooking the marshes themselves.

From Glenlochar, continue along the B795 to rejoin the A713 and return south to Castle Douglas.  

Castle Douglas

Isla Cottage, Springholm

Nestling in the village of Springholm, Isla Cottage, a 4 star B & B provides the perfect base to begin exploring Dumfries & Galloway’s varied wildlife.  Red Kites and much more can be seen from the two well appointed ensuite guest rooms.  Wonderful countryside views and a breakfast of locally sourced products make for a memorable stay.

Contact:  Caroline & Stewart McKean, Isla Cottage, Springholm, Castle Douglas DG7 3LP

Tel: 01556 650275 / Mob: 07974782145

Galloway Activity Centre Loch Ken

The Galloway Activity Centre (GAC) is located on Loch Ken. This 11 mile stretch of water provides an experience for all, bird watching, walks, picnic areas or just a pleasant drive around the Loch. GAC offer Wilderness Canoe and Mountain bike trips as well as quirky accommodation in their Loch-side Cabins or Mongolian Yurts.

New for 2014 Loch Ken Eco Bothies are situated in the heart of southwest Scotland on the shores of Loch Ken. They are beautifully equipped and well-furnished each with their own log burning hot tub. Sit back after a day out on the water or sampling the activities in the area and enjoy a glass of wine whilst relaxing in perfect peace overlooking the shores of Loch Ken.

Tel: 01644 420 626

St John's Town of Dalry

Brookford B&B

Situated in the picturesque village of St. Johns Town of Dalry, on the edge of the Galloway Forest & Dark Skies Park , Brookford B&B  offers 4 star, dog friendly, ensuite bed and breakfast accommodation to visitors wishing to experience the unspoilt natural beauty and wildlife of The Glenkens area of rural Galloway.

Contact: Ronnie Bradford

Tel: 01644 430512 / 07855 501 398

Castle Douglas

New Galloway

Galloway Kite Trail

  • This trail joins up several of the sites mentioned in Water, Water Everywhere and provides more information on the natural history and reintroduction of the Red Kite into Dumfries & Galloway.

Look for local nature-based events and walks to enhance the enjoyment of your stay by clicking here.

Other Information

Public Transport