Pease Bay

Pease Bay would be perfectly secluded if it wasn't for the large caravan site on the sand dunes behind it. Accessed by a quiet minor road with a small ford, this sandy beach is bordered by vegetated sandstone cliffs and looks best at low tide, when there's quite a lot to explore. Rock bands towards the western end conceal a number of surprisingly deep rock pools, harbouring fish waiting for the tide to return and some of the biggest crabs we've ever seen, hiding just out of reach of human hands. Despite the proximity of the holiday park, there were only a couple of other visitors around when we visited on a sunny, breezy Saturday morning in June. And on the landward side, Pease Dean Nature Reserve was even quieter. Not that we were complaining.

Name: Pease Bay ★★★☆☆
Location: Off minor road a mile east of Cockburnspath, G.R.: NT 793710 / rainbow croaking smile
Anything else: At high tide there's not much to see. Park in the tiny car park at G.R.: NT 795706 / voucher funn…

Glenluce Abbey

Glenluce Abbey occupies a peaceful spot near the banks of the Water of Luce, a few miles upstream from where it meets the sea at Luce Bay. Like many of Scotland's ruined abbeys it was established by monks from the Cistercian order in the 12th century, and was once an extensive site including a central cloister, chapter house, kitchens, living quarters and further outbuildings, and of course the church itself. Then came the Reformation, with gradual decline following. As you can see from the header photo, the abbey today is very much a ruin, but a characterful one with plenty to see. The chapter house is partly restored and still has its roof, while the layout of the main church can clearly be made out despite only surviving in small parts. There's also a little museum, and numerous ruined outbuildings - though details on what they all used to be for are sketchy.

Name: Glenluce Abbey★★★☆☆
Location: Minor road a mile north-west of Glenluce, G.R.: NX 185587 / cool irrigate song

Glenwhan Gardens

Several excellent gardens jostle for attention in the fertile Galloway lowlands. Alongside big names such as Logan Botanic Garden and Castle Kennedy Gardens, this 12-acre, hilltop alternative is easy to miss. In actual fact it would measure up more than favourably in any beauty contest. Paths spider away from a large, central pond bisected by a long bridge, with flower beds close to the water's edge and woodland behind. There's also a beautiful Water Garden, a couple of rocky knolls acting as natural viewpoints for Luce Bay 100 metres below, a rock garden and even a peacock or two strutting around Glenwhan House. Unaided by a beautifully drawn but totally inaccurate map, you could easily pass a couple of hours or more trying (not always successfully) to find each area listed in the key; it's a much bigger place than at first appears.

Name: Glenwhan Gardens★★★★☆
Location: Minor road end a mile north of Dunragit, G.R.: NX 152585 / asked scoop eternity
Open (2017): Daily, April…

Castle Kennedy Gardens

Gardens can be special for a number of reasons. Some are notable for their rare plant species; others are memorable for their sheer size, or for their intimate beauty. Others have some unusual, unexpected feature providing a unique centrepiece. But Castle Kennedy is special for having all of these qualities, making this one of the country's most wonderful gardens and a must-see attraction if you're visiting the far south-western corner of Scotland in late spring or summer. The ivy-clad ruin of Castle Kennedy itself forms the natural focus for 75 acres of landscaped grounds, backed by a large, walled garden on the sunny south side. To the north, immaculate lawns slope down to the Round Pond, full of Victorian water lilies, with the Baronial grandeur of Lochinch Castle a little further on. Elsewhere, there are dozens of tree-lined avenues (including 21 "champion trees" - the tallest or broadest of their type either in the country or the county), landform sculptures, n…

Aldouran Glen

Scottish woodland doesn't come much lusher than at Aldouran Glen: a shady oasis of semi-natural forest where wild garlic flourishes, red squirrels (apparently) scamper between tree trunks, and sun rarely penetrates through the canopy above. The narrow strip of greenery following the Aldouran Burn from west to east is the most rewarding part, and can be accessed either from a car park at the upper end or (as we did) via Aldouran Wetland Garden to the east. The Woodland Trust also advertise an iron age hill fort on high groud to the north, but this isn't worth the effort required to reach it: overgrown, tick-infested paths and thick vegetation obscuring any views.

Name: Aldouran Glen★★☆☆☆
Location (upper, western car park): G.R.: NX 006635 / flamenco waddle wasp
Open: Always
Cost: Free
Anything else? Paths within the glen are clear but narrow and a little muddy. It's just under a mile's walk between the west and east car parks, so double that for a return journey.

Aldouran Wetland Garden

Aldouran Wetland Garden is a hidden gem in the quiet northern half of the Rhins of Galloway, largely undiscovered by tourists (until now?). The garden was created by a community effort in or around 2005 and is a real labour of love, especially when you take into account the small size of the village. The site splits into several separate zones, including a sensory garden, large ponds and a sculpture trail. At its western edge, wetland gradually morphs into a wilder woodland zone, and finally into Aldouran Glen, separately managed by the Woodland Trust. This is well worth a visit in itself, or you could easily combine the two - the paths join up.

Name: Aldouran Wetland Garden★★☆☆☆
Location: Off B7043, west side of Leswalt, G.R.: NX 016638 / rebounds grace ratio
Open: Always
Cost: Free

Galdenoch Castle

The unloved ruin of Galdenoch Castle is found on the northern arm of the Rhins of Galloway peninsula, a few miles west of the village of Leswalt. This L-plan tower house dates to 1547, as evidenced by a plaque on the eastern side, and still nearly stands to its original height. Now here's the catch: the last part of the drive to it is along an excruciatingly sharp, stony track with a worryingly high camber. Worth it? Just about, though if you end up with a puncture you might disagree.

Name: Galdenoch Castle ★☆☆☆☆
Location: End of track to Meikle Galdenoch, off B738 3 miles west of Leswalt, G.R.: NW 974632 / playing parsnips dividing
Open: Always (exterior only)
Cost: Free
Anything else? The last half-mile to the castle is along a rough track with sharp stones and quite a high camber - not recommended for vehicles with low ground clearance.