Kirroughtree Forest is located approximately 3 miles to the east of Newton Stewart
and part of the Dumfries and Galloway National Park. It is pretty much a dream sort
of spot for anyone with any outdoor, nature or wildlife interests. The Kirroughtree
visitor centre is easy to find by following the A75 from Dumfries and turn right
at the village of Palnure and follow the signs for approximately 1 mile. The cottages
immediately before the visitor centre are known as Stronord I believe and we were
fortunate to be able to rent one of these during the first week of June 2008. And
what a cottage. One of the best we have stayed in, ever, and with the garden securely
fenced for the allowed dogs.
Supplied with 3 feeding stations and the food to keep them stocked, together with
nesting boxes in the garden and a squirrel feeder as well, it was superb externally
with constant entertainment from the Blue Tits with families using the boxes. The
red squirrels acrobatics were a joy to watch when using the bird table and hangers
instead of their own dedicated feeders.
Internally the cottage was spotlessly clean with laminated floors where it mattered
and a superb fitted kitchen with every tool you could want. Light and airy bedrooms
with comfortable beds just made it the ideal place to stay, or in fact, live. Surrounded
by all the main routes and nature reserves of Dumfries and Galloway certainly makes
this one special. Better still, its location can mean you never have to use the car
during your stay at all if you go well stocked.
Being based at Stronord gives access to a huge variety of countryside, from the surrounding
mountains and forests to an impressive rocky coast with sandy bays and beaches ideal
for swimming in the gulf stream washed bays. Try Mossyard, a few miles east from
the centre and just off the A75 (picture above).
For ourselves though, apart from a brief visit to the Red Deer and wild mountain
goat areas we found little need to leave the immediate area around the Kirroughtree
centre. The walks from here into the forest itself led to some wonderful spots such
as Little Bruntis Loch and the larger and more open Bruntis Loch with routes on main
forest roads or little marked trails offering great collections of forest flora and
fauna to spot. Stout boots or walking shoes are highly recommended here.
The forest itself is really full of surprises for those prepared to look, especially
the little “puddles” alongside the main forest roads as the wildlife both in and
around them is vast. One such “puddle” was well stocked with various water beetles,
skaters, toads, newts and damselfly larvae while around it flew Small Pearl Bordered
Fritillary butterflies, Common Blue, Azure Blue and Large Red damselflies and many,
many more smaller bugs and insects. All in a roughly 5’ x 3’ x 1’ deep water hole.
A much larger piece of wetland is alongside the approach road to the centre with
excellent access and a frequent haunt for the local heron.
During the week we were there the car park was never busy and often deserted as shown
in the picture here. An ideal spot for allowing the dogs a free run. But, please
be careful. At this time of the year as you could easily see the local Roe deer in
this area and they often have young fawns only a few days old and they are not at
their best to be chased.
I did take one day out, courtesy of my good lady, with Robin Hogg of a tour company
who organised a photography day for me. A 9am to 5pm day gave me an overview of the
area. Robin and friend Eric showed me some great spots for photography, both scenic
and for wildlife and even introduced me to my first sighting of an Adder. We also
visited the red deer and wild goat areas but the highlight (excepting the adder)
had to be following the Red Kite trail and the un-missable visit to the Bellymack
Hill Farm Red Kite feeding station and hide. Many thanks for a great day Robin!.
A few pic’s from the day:
But back to Kirroughtree and the area around Stronord. A lovely walk, mainly on metalled
road surface would be taking the renowned Seven Stanes mountain bike trail from the
centre or cottages and follow this to Little Park Farm, where the road ends, through
a couple of fields until you join the road again. Turn right over Craignine Bridge
and keeping right follow this road past the Bargaly Estate and to the junction with
The Old Bridge of Palnure. Turn right over the bridge and this will take you back
to the cottages or the centre and car park. We loved this walk and spotted much wildlife
and birds. Buzzards wheeled high here and we were privileged to see an Osprey gliding
over one evening. Roe deer were seen and on one late evening, too dark under the
trees for photos, we spotted an Otter from the Palnure bridge area.
Despite more evening and early morning forays here we didn’t see it again but a couple
of mornings later at approx 6am I did spot a wild Mink. The local farmers good lady
said that there had been none spotted in the area for a number of years!.
This walk also has some very very desirable properties along the way, a beautiful
but unused gatehouse in need of some TLC and a particular white cottage next to Woodend
Bridge spring immediately to mind. Houses dreams are made for bearing in mind their
location and the abounding amount of wildlife around them.
So, a great week in a great place. Excluding most insects I spotted and almost without
leaving the immediate area the spotted list read:-
Blue, great, coal and LT Tits, jays, rooks, jackdaws, nuthatch, chaffinches, greenfinch,
goldfinch, buzzard, osprey, sparrow hawk, red kites, dunnock, house sparrow, blackbird,
song thrush, pheasants galore, pied and grey wagtails, tree creeper, mallard, red
squirrels, mink, otter, adder, rabbits, red and roe deer, oyster catcher family,
wild goats, gs woodpecker, swallows, house martins, heron, wren, robin, gold crest,
variable, common blue, azure and large red damselflies, plover, shelduck, bullfinch,
kingfisher, Small pearl bordered fritillary butterfly, newts, toads, water beetles..........
I could go on. Most of these were seen in the garden or there abouts and none had
to be searched for as such.
More Kirroughtree photographs HERE