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Kirroughtree Visitor Centre (Newton Stewart)

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Address: Palnure / Newton Stuart / DG8 7BE / Scotland

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      29.10.2009 14:09
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      A welcoming and relaxing place to visit.

      Kirroughtree Visitors centre is set amongst the forest of Galloway in South West Scotland. It's about 2.5 miles off the A75 just before you get to Newton Stewart.

      I was on holiday in the area with my Mum, as coincidence would have it, my son and daughter in law had been there the previous week and had raved about a patchwork quilt they had seen for sale there. I decided to investigate and possibly sneakily buy it as a christmas present for them!

      We went into the low whitewashed cottages that serve as cafe and gift shop. The cakes and biscuits were all home made and looked and tasted delicious. I ordered some coffee and my Mum attacked the gift shop! She collects cruet sets and was very taken with the selection there. I gave the gift section a fairly cursory glance, but enough to notice that the prices were reasonable. I got outside with the coffee quickly before my Mum insisted on taking me through every item in there. (Previous and numerous visits to souvenir shops meant that I had already run out of superlatives about tartan nick-nacks!)

      The toilets are in this area. They are clean and spacious.
      The seating area outside is lovely. Lots of picnic tables and benches and lots of dogs to admire or play with. A very cheeky robin was table hopping to try and charm bits of shortbread out of the visitors. By the size of him I'd say he had been very successful!

      The picnic area is in a large grassy clearing, tall trees and greenery meet the eye as you look around. It was quiet and restful. There is a great adventure play area for children set a little way from the picnic area. It has a floor of woodshavings to cushion any falls from the wooden climbing frames and fortress type building. I particularly enjoyed watching two children introducing their Labrador to the joys of ladder climbing! The dog seemed to be loving it, what the children didn't realise was that the dog could go up a ladder but there was no way it was going to go back down again!

      This place must get a better class of visitor than a lot because the dogs were good mannered and the children were too! One tot ambled over and hoisted himself up on the bench next to me. "Bicsit please!" I looked across at his Mum to see if it was okay. And she did the eye rolling thing perfected by the mothers of precocious and cute toddlers. I gave him my Mum's 'bicsit'. He climbed down, burped and said "Fanks big lady!" and promptly gave it to a dog! I did the eye rolling thing perfected by someone who gets conned out of 'bicsits' and by precocious and cute toddlers!

      The car park is large and if you have a disabled sticker you can drive up closer to the cafe buildings. Unfortunately I didn't notice this so my Mum had to struggle along the fairly uneven path through the car parking area. My fault, not theirs. Parking is free.

      The forest trails are popular with horse riders, we saw quite a few in the couple of hours that we were there. I was hoping that some of them would stop so I could admire (and pet) their horses but they didn't that day.

      Various cabins and small buildings occupy the far perimeter of the car park. One of them houses a classroom and education centre for visiting schools. That facility was by arrangement only. I had rather hoped their was a permanent exhibition there but I was out of luck.

      On site is a large cyclist's shop/centre that hires bikes and equipment out. With facilities for cleaning your bikes and cleaning and drying your clothes. We never got over to that part of the centre. (I don't think I could get my Mum on a bycicle unless I promised her 3,000 souvenir shops at the end of the trail.) It was easy to see though, that it was a hive of industry. Many cyclists were coming and going, in and out of the storage racks and cleaning areas. There is a sign asking cyclists to dismount when they get to the visitor centre but I think all the lycra and flashy helmets they were wearing did something to their eyesite. Either that or they were welded to their bike seats after ardous bike journeys. The place is obviously extremely popular with cyclists because of it's proximity to various designated cycling routes, notably the 'Seven Stanes'.

      Looking at all this health inducing activity, (not to mention the thighs and neat bums of the cyclists) forced me to go back into the cafe in search of my Mother and more biscuits!

      The patchwork quilts and other crafts were displayed around the centre. They looked very good against the whitewashed walls. I found the one my son had mentioned and it was fabulous! As it happened it was out of my price range but I would have loved to have bought it for them. The lady who ran the cafe also made the quilts and I spent some interesting time talking to her about them. As usual in this part of the world, no-one is too busy to spend time talking. The crafts on display were to a very high standard and even though I didn't buy, they really enhanced the area.

      The centre offers a lot of information for walkers and cyclists. Many walking routes and times are suggested and the drying rooms are a boon for those who get soaked. They can have a break and a hot drink to revive them whilst their clothes are dried. There is nothing more unpleasant than putting on walking gear that is still cold and damp from the day before.

      One of the walks takes in a route around a rather beautiful pond, it's a short walk and ideal for folk who aren't able to do the more strenous and demanding walks. It's great for kids too because there is a lot of wildlife to be seen there.

      Dogs are catered for with numerous drinking dishes and waste disposal bins. The dog owners seemed punctilious in their efforts to clean up after their dogs. I saw no fouling at all which was remarkable considering the amount of dogs about. 10 out of ten for the dog owners!

      The centre hosts various events throughout the year. Last month it was the turn of 'The Sealed Knot' to meet and re-enact various battles from the history of the area. I love seeing these historical types in action and was sorry to have missed it.

      Other events are listed on the Galloway Forest Park website.
      www.forestry.gov.uk/.../ScotlandDumfriesandGallowayNoForestGallowayForestPark.


      Open: Easter-Oct, 10.30am-4.30m (5.30pm peak season). Nov-mid Dec, Sat-Sun 11am-4pm.

      All in all it's a nice place to visit as a starting point for your exploration of the forests, or just to sit and have a picnic. It is a hive of activity for keen cyclists and it's inexpensive and accessible by car for families. The people running it are friendly and knowlegable. What more could you ask?

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