Set in the heart of the Galloway Hills, Penninghame Estate is ideally located for avid walkers and hikers. The Merrick, a mountain in the Range of The Awful Hand, a sub range of the Galloway Hills, is the highest mountain in Southern Scotland and attracts visitors from far and wide to accomplish its summit.
However there are numerous other peaks and ranges to discover, and varying levels of difficulty and ability to match. Whether you’re looking for a challenging climb or simply walking to enjoy the beautiful Galloway landscape, you can be guaranteed a route suited to you.
The most recent walk we encountered is a favourite among locals of the area, Murray’s Monument and Grey Mares Tail. A relatively easy walk, however there are a few steep sections to contend with.
The monument was erected in 1835 in memory of Alexander Murray, a local shepherd boy who later became Professor of Oriental Languages at Edinburgh University. With little more than one year at school, Murray was self-taught in languages and worked as both tutor and farm labourer before being admitted to Edinburgh University. In 1812 he was appointed professor of oriental languages and on July 17 received his degree of doctor of divinity.
The 80-foot stone obelisk to his memory sits prominently on the hillside overlooking his birthplace, Dunkitterick Cottage, which itself can also be visited.
To get there from Newton Stewart you must follow the A712, known as the Queens Way towards New Galloway. This 17 mile stretch of road takes the driver along a captivating forest road, with breathtaking scenery. A particular highlight of this route is the Glen of the Bar, a viewpoint to a tree clad gully which stretches for a mile. It’s a magnificent view to witness first hand.
Further along the road is a quick turn to the left, signposted as Grey Mares Tail Carpark. Upon parking, follow the red route which takes you up a rather steep trail to Murray’s monument itself. The views from here are quite spectacular, with the northern slopes of Cairnsmore of Fleet commanding over this beautiful valley.
Scan to the left of the view from up top and you might see some of the wild goats which reside on the ragged hillside. The Galloway Forest Wild Goat Park is particularly popular with children, bring some carrots or apples and they will happily nibble them from your hand!
Before reaching the monument itself, a path diverts to the right. Once you have enjoyed the spectacular views from the top, return to this path which takes you through a taster of the Galloway forest. At the next junction, turn right again, joining onto the famous 7 Stanes Mountain Bike route.
There are two paths from here, equally deserving of a little time to observe. Straight ahead and over a small concrete bridge takes you to the Black Loch. Wildfowl are often found on the loch and it is a great spot for avid birdwatchers. For those interested in landscape art works, the impressive Eye stands on the shore of the loch. This unique structure was created by Colin Rose in 1997 and gets its name from the small eye hole within the work where you can see through to the other side.
Backtrack to the small concrete bridge, and take a left (follow the red waymarker post). This path leads you to some old drystane sheep pens. Keep your eyes peeled for the carved stone heads hidden in the historic walls, another little surprise on this short but interesting walk.
As you follow the path along the burn, the path climbs a small hill before descending back down to the car park from which you started. Before leaving this beautiful area, remember to take the short trail to the attractive Grey Mares Tail, a small but charming waterfall nestled in the hill you previously came down.
Each year sees host to Newton Stewart Walking Festival, typically held in May, this week long festival with over 30 events caters to all levels of fitness. Due to Covid 19 restrictions, the festival has been cancelled for the past two years, however 2022 has been confirmed and it promises to return with a bang!
Surrounding Penninghame Estate is a plethora of walks and hikes to suit everyone’s ability and interests. Whether you are a bird watching enthusiast, a casual stroller or looking for something quite challenging, staff at Penninghame Estate have invaluable knowledge of a wide variety of local routes and would be happy to guide you or simply point you in the right direction. A new trail each day of your stay could be attained with ease, and what better way to recover than relaxing in our first rate accommodation and recharge for the nexts days adventure! Visit us at www.Penninghame.com to book your Galloway experience.