I have a habit of being over-ambitious with holiday plans. We had one day to explore the Galloway Forest Park with our one year old son, and I always manage to create a list of things I want to see and do that would take much longer than we actually have (my husband likes to remind me of how adamant I once was that we had enough time to travel across China by train – which of course we didn’t).  So when planning our first family holiday last October in southern Scotland I yet again lived up to my reputation and we had to revise my original ‘must-visit’ list.


We decided to visit the Red Deer Range and the Red Kite Feeding Station to coincide with feeding times for red deer and red kites, but then had difficulty trying to work out how to fit in a walk or bike ride, as well as a detour along an off road forest drive called Raiders Road (which the owners of our holiday cottage had suggested).  We decided to see where the day took us – thankfully it led us down the unforgettable Raiders Road.

Breath-taking drive

If you only have a short time in the Galloway Forest Park, I would recommend you pay the £2 to journey along this ten mile road from Bennan to Clatteringshaws (open April to October). It is truly breath-taking, and gives you the chance to really soak up the forest scenery.  Although we’d driven from Kirroughtree along The Queen’s Way to New Galloway and then south towards Laurieston, it was on Raiders Road that I felt I truly experienced the beauty of the Forest Park.

We came onto the road just north of Mossdale after watching the sky colour with over eighty red kites (also highly recommended) and followed the old road, which winds alongside the Black Water of Dee.  With the sun’s rays highlighting the lovely autumn colours splashed across the landscape it was even more spectacular. As we drove, the inky river twisting through mountainous, forested terrain made memories of Canada resurface in my mind.

Lazy afternoon

We stopped midway at the Otter Pool – an idyllic picnic spot where I basked in the beautiful views.    With the shallow river running over large granite stones, it is perfect for children to explore and paddle.  The owner of our holiday cottage (the gorgeous Cutlar’s Lodge on the Orroland Estate near Kirkcudbright) had told me how much his family love going there, especially in the summer months when they can make the most of this natural playground.  What made it special for me: the wide river lined in autumn shades; the way the lazy afternoon light flickered through the trees; a pregnant stream weaving through the forest; the tranquillity of a quiet autumn moment.

The river snaked ahead through the hills and into the open countryside.  When we found ourselves at Clatteringshaws I wondered if I could persuade my husband that we had time to drive back along the forest road again… I don’t think I could tire of those views.


Emma Gibb explores and enjoys self catering in Dumfries & Galloway for EmbraceScotland.