Wild Routes

Wild Water of Fleet

Wild Water of Fleet


Taking the visitor completely off the beaten track, this itinerary includes an extraordinarily  diverse range of habitats – from moorland cliffs to wildflower meadows and sea crags - all within a short distance.  The majority of the itinerary is within the Fleet Valley National Scenic Area as well, so the views are terrific.  

The Wild Water of Fleet itinerary, as the name suggests, follows the Water of Fleet river from just south of its headwaters, under the looming bulk of Cairnsmore mountain, down through wooded valley scenery to form a muddy, marshland estuary at Gatehouse. Further south, rocky inlets – with sandy beaches –reach out to a series of stranded, seabird-ridden crags which at high tide become the Isles of Fleet.

The itinerary runs for about 15 miles from mountain to coast -  see map – with the option to break the journey in picturesque Gatehouse of Fleet or even to use the town as a base from which to explore the area at leisure.

The Itinerary

From the centre of Gatehouse take the B796 (the Old Military Road) north, climbing for about 6 very scenic miles to a junction with the minor Creetown to Dromore road.  Turn right, following signs for the Cairnsmore of Fleet Visitor Centre at Dromore, another mile and half down an increasingly broken track.  A dramatic view very quickly opens over the whole valley, including the Big Water of Fleet Viaduct in the middle distance.

The visitor centre at Dromore is a surprisingly modern facility, built in refurbished farm buildings, with an excellent, informative exhibition on the natural and social history of the area.  There is also good car parking outside, toilet facilities within and picnic tables at which to sit and take in the remote surroundings. 

Walks from the centre include a circular, 3.5 mile ‘Inbye’ trail under the adjacent cliffs as well as a level walk along the access track and through the viaduct arches with the opportunity to picnic by the river.    In spring and summer, look out for peregrine falcons around the cliffs, various species of moorland birds and dragonflies by the river.

Return to the B796 and head back towards Gatehouse.  After about 3 miles look for a sharp turning to the left onto a single track road which descends steeply to a narrow stone bridge.  Over the bridge is the Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve of Castramon Wood.  Turn right and park in the first layby on the left, near a map marking one of the entrances.  The paths into the woodland from here are good but steep.

Castramon Wood is one of the best bluebell woods in Dumfries & Galloway and is usually carpeted with flowers in May to early June.  However, its vibrant birdlife and giant, ancient oaks and beeches, plus the chance to spot red squirrels and foxes, make it an enjoyable destination all year-round.  

Back on the B796 return to Gatehouse and, at the high street (Fleet Street), turn right and go through the town towards the A75.  On the way, on a bend at the end of the street, is the entrance to the National Trust for Scotland property Venniehill.  This is a wildflower meadow with good views from the former hill fort at the top. 

Continue to the A75, turn left and, after another mile, turn right and follow directions for Cream o’Galloway, just under 2 miles further along.

With its organic ice cream, children’s adventure playpark and BMX track, Cream o’Galloway may seem an odd choice for a nature-based itinerary.  But take the time to look more carefully – the site boasts several miles of nature trails created from former farmland which make it an ideal location for family walks.  There are two peaceful lochans set in secluded woodlands – host to swans, geese and various species of ducks and wading birds - a river trail through ancient woods and a great viewpoint over the Fleet valley. Look out for adders basking under the hedgerows along the way.  All this and an ice cream as a reward at the end!

Exit the car park, turn right and continue for half a mile to a junction signposted for Carrick.  Turn right here and, after another 2 miles or so, turn right  again at a triangular junction just in front of the Knockbrex Estate.  This takes you out onto a coastal road where, after another mile, it reaches a beachside car park at Carrick Bay. 

This pebbly beach reveals fine sand at low tide, shallow bathing in the right weather and a dramatic view over to the Isles of Fleet – Ardwall Island is directly in front and the chain of rocks piercing the water to the right are the Murray Isles, in the ownership of the National Trust for Scotland.


The Waterhouse

The Waterhouse boasts three traditional properties: a handcrafted wooden eco lodge (the Waterhouse Lodge) which sleeps 4, an eco glamping style chalet/log cabin (the Boathouse) which sleeps 2, and Westwater Lodge which sleeps 4. Naturist optional in all 3 Lodges and gardens. 3 miles from the coast, it nestles in an acre and a half of densely planted cottage garden, a wildlife sanctuary teeming with bird species.

Tel: 01557 331266

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