In the absence of Munros, the mountains of 3000ft or more that attract ambitious 'peak baggers' and without the hoards that invade Wainright's beloved Lake District, the Galloway Hills remain, almost totally unspoilt.
They offer the walker a wealth of opportunity to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of rolling hills, countless lochs, picturesque burns and waterfalls, and an abundance of plants, bird and animal life.
The walker has a choice of over 40 summits of 2000ft or more, many presenting quite a challenge, whilst lesser hills and forest trails offer a more leisurely pursuit with ample opportunity to appreciate the beauty of magnificent scenery and varied wildlife.
The Galloway Hills form part of the Southern Uplands but are generally contained in a fairly compact arrangement of six distinct groups:
Despite the general compactness of the Galloways, the absence of trains and scarcity of public transport makes the walker very much dependent on his/her own vehicle for access to the hills. Also, with the proliferation of forestry, a knowledge of suitable access points, forest roads and paths is essential; these are not generally publicised or easily obtained.
The walker should note, with the possible exception of the popular tourist path to Merrick and the picturesque Gairland Burn path, clear paths are very few and far between. Deer, goat and sheep trails can often be used to advantage but all too frequently the way lies across grassy, heather- strewn, bracken covered, or rocky surfaces and the multiplicity of burns, albeit extremely attractive, can present a problem after heavy rain.
An obvious need is for substantial footwear, suitable clothing, first-aid kit, a whistle and emergency rations. A compass is also a must, plus relevant maps and the ability to use both in all weathers. The maps should preferably be of the scale 1:25000 which give details of forestry roads and fire- breaks. The use of gaiters is strongly recommended, not just as a safeguard against adders (not really a great problem) but as a protection against heather and excessive damp, and a walking pole can be handy for checking the depth of marshy ground or snow. Essential too, for emergencies or enforced long stays in the hills is a 'bivvy bay' (survival bag) and walking crampons for crossing ice fields in winter.
Mountain bothies do exist and offer shelter, but these are few and far between, and are all on lower ground.
We do not apologise for stressing the need for care, for whilst the Galloways lack the sheer ruggedness of the Scottish Highlands they are fairly remote. Weather conditions can change rapidly. We strongly recommend posting a Route Card with a friend or, if staying in local accommodation, your hotelier.
The walker is also reminded of the need to take special care to prevent the outbreak of forest fires, to avoid damage to property, to close gates (particularly during lambing season in the spring), to take litter away, and to generally preserve the unspoilt nature of our beloved Galloway Hills.
Duly advised however, the visitor is able to enjoy complete freedom, to roam at will and sample the delights of one of the most beautiful parts of Scotland, if not the whole of the British Isles.
The climate too, being influenced by the warm Gulf Stream, is generally mild and compares favourably with many districts south of the border.
So, whether for the pleasure of viewing the wonderful scenery, observing the flora and fauna, or just for the exercise, the walkers of Galloway's hills will not be disappointed.
Welcome to Bonnie Galloway - 'Scotland's Best kept Secret'.
On the evening of Saturday 23rd February, GMRT were called out to 3 walkers who had become disorientated on Cairnsmore of Fleet. The missing people were located by Team Members and supported off the hill. They were cold and tired but otherwise fine.