Headline photo

Headline photo
Rockcliffe and Kippford from South Glen Brae: Ed Iglehart [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Introductory text

Kippford and Rockcliffe are on the East Stewartry Coast, an unspoilt National Scenic Area with two other NSAs in close proximity. It is in Dumfries & Galloway, South West Scotland, a region known for it's wonderful scenery, biodiversity, turbulent history, smugglers and black and white 'belted' cattle known as Galloway Belties. This stretch of coastline has many names. Known locally as the Colvend Coast or the 'Secret Coast' (due to the peace and tranquility) it is often referred to as the 'Scottish Riviera' due to it being the holiday resort of choice for Victorian millionaires and having a Gulf Stream influenced microclimate: evidenced by palm trees in some gardens. Castle Douglas, the food town is a short drive away and Kirkcudbright, the Artists Town is over the next headland.

This a scenic and unique part of the world and we started the blog to share the experience of living in this wonderful place. We hope that it will be of interest to others who live here and give those planning to visit the area a taste of all it has to offer.

The blog has a correspondent in both Kippford and Rockcliffe village, you can also follow their Twitter feeds on the right of the page. If you would like to get involved we look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Where are they going?

For the past week we have seen Herons heading West each morning. Why? What are they doing? Where are they going? They are usually in pairs or small groups. If anyone could enlighten me I would be grateful. I have a mental image of a really happening rave somewhere out East, with Herons partying all night long.

Yesterday afternoon the Canada Geese on White Loch were getting flirty and pairing off - maybe they had been to the same party?

Branta Canadensis courting By JerryFriedman (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Or... maybe it's just that time of year?

Sunday, 26 February 2012

New events page... Spring Fling inspired!

This week I have added a new page to the blog. The link to it appears in the line of text/links above Ed Inglehart's stunning landscape shot of Kippford and Rockcliffe - above. (Thanks' Ed for making that shot Creative Commons, it's a gorgeous photo)

It is a summary of the the exciting festivals and events held across D&G throughout the year and shows just what a diverse and fascinating region this is. Before putting it together I didn't realise just how many events and festivals there were. All added incentives (if any were needed) to visit the area. 

I just love the idea that these events and festivals add to the mix so that everyone in a family or group will have something that suits them on their visit to D&G as, after all, it's unusual for a whole group to have all the same interests. You may get an avid birder on holiday with a book worm or an active young family who want to cycle and canoe with a foodie Mum or a Dad interested in the Arts. These specialist events mean that everyone will be happy. I will update it as new ones come to my attention so keep checking back.

I was prompted to add the new events page by all the excitement being generated locally by this years Spring Fling. For those who are not familiar with it the Spring Fling is an Open Studio event across the region held annually in June. (For more info go to the D&G Events page or visit: http://www.spring-fling.co.uk/. It always creates a buzz but this year is the 10th Anniversary and promises to be even more exciting.
Spring Fling encourages everyone to get behind the scenes of the studios of some incredibly talented artists and makers in the region and even, in some cases, try your hand at new skills. The idea is you pick up a map and hop from studio to studio at your own pace. There is some superb work on sale from a wide range of artists and makers from painting, wicker structures, ceramics, hats and jewelry to photography, glass, gilding, sculpture and mosaics to name but a few (but no pressure to buy) and usually some tasty refreshments. It's a great way to spend a day.... or two.

Painting by Val Macadam: www.valmacart.com

During last year's Spring Fling I visited two of my particular favorites Ailsa Black (Example of Ailsa's work and short bio) and Val Macadam (Examples of Val's work and short bio) who live just along the coast from Rockcliffe and Kippford and really capture the spirit of the area in their colourful, quirky and original work. We were made very welcome and had a chance to chat with the artists, view their works and (in Val's case) see where she worked. Val's humorous take on the famous Galloway Beltie is illustrated above and includes an example of a local Galloway cottage. She has lovely views from her studio window, no wonder she is so inspired by the region.

Ailsa was working on a new piece at Kirkbean Village Hall, you can see the touching finished work below. It was so interesting to see how she developed the painting and the media she used. I also got to chat with her 'model'. A special thanks go to the volunteers who served a selection of delicious homemade cakes.

I fell in love with a painting called 'Follow my Master' and bought a print as a gift for a friend. It reminds me of the spit at Mersehead with the shorebirds at the high water roost. Ailsa is so talented! I am looking forward to discovering some new talent this year... have an explore and find your own favorites this June.

Painting by Ailsa Black: www.ailsablack.com

Sunday, 19 February 2012

A chilled Chablis of a day...

It was such a beautiful day we just could not resist getting up and getting out. Visibility was superb, the sun bright, the sky a cerulean blue and the air intoxicating. It was a morning as crisp, clear and bursting with flavour as a glass of chilled Chablis - every sight, sound and scent, fresh, vivid and clear. Paradoxically, it was what I think of as the perfect Autumn day.

8.30am saw us at the RSPB Mersehead Reserve at Southwick. The Visitor Centre (a converted traditional, whitewashed Galloway cottage) looked pretty as a postcard in the morning sun.
We decided to head East for a change as the sun was still so high. (Later in the day it's better to set off West) Despite the sun, last nights' frost spangled the grass and made artwork of the puddles as we strode out along the lane towards the Sulwath centre and the two hides. (It was a day made for striding - Brisk and invigorating).
Recent hedge trimming had revealed the remains of a last years Long Tailed Tit nest along the lane, there is a healthy population of them around here and I love it when around 12 - 15 all try to get on the same fatball. It always makes me laugh as it looks like some outlandish Xmas tree decoration.

We decided to visit Meida hide as you can usually spot Deer to the East of the wetland area in front of it so set off through the woodland. Unfortunately we didn't see the Treecreper who is usually about (maybe he was having a lie in?)

From the point when we left the car we had Barnacle Geese flying sporadically overhead. Their distinctive calls, described by some as like a dog barking, punctuating the whole 2 hour walk. Large numbers of the Svalbard population arrive at Mersehead in the Autumn and can be seen grazing the wet areas in densely packed flocks throughout the Winter months. I am always sad to see them go. There are 9,000 Barnacle Geese this year, a lower number than last year but still a fantastic spectacle. Not to be missed.   
After 20 mins in Meida Hide where we spotted all the usual suspects (waterfowl) we then went out onto the beach, Murphy's favourite place. Being a stick hound he loves the wide open space where he can chase sticks to his hearts content. The view was amazing. The East Stewartry Coast from Southwick along to Castle Point at Rockcliffe at the end of the long sandy beach. The dunes are very special and protected along with the rest of this coastline which is designated as a SSSI and a National Scenic Area.
Our bird list this morning included Barnacle Geese, Curlews, Phesant, Pink Footed geese, Chaffinch, Green Finches, Yellow Hammer, Snipe, Mallard, Widgeon, Teal, Pintail, Coot, Gadwall, Mute Swans, Lapwing, Skylarks to name a few.  It was a fantastic walk, one I will not forget. You can see the route here:
You can do the circuit in about an hour but today we lingered and savored the day. At the Visitor Centre you can get Fairtrade coffee and tea and Chocolate Muffins and Brownies to go with it or even a tub of delicious Cream O' Galloway ice cream. There are a couple of big squadgy sofas where you can sit in the sunshine and watch the birds on the feeders or borrow Binis' to look out over the Lapwing nesting area. The team of permanent and volunteer staff on the reserve are always on hand and are a great bunch of people. They do a fantastic job so a big thank you to them for all their hard work.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

First sign of Spring?

Walking along Sandyhills beach at dusk we heard our first Song Thrush. Not in full voice, just warming up, but glorious none the less. Is this our first real sign of Spring? The snowdrops around the lodge have been eagerly pushing up for a while now so must be due to bloom soon so maybe it is. 

Later, as the sun had just set and a candy pink line traced the horizon while everywhere else was coloured hues of purple, graphite and black so we could hardly see the dog swimming in the stream below, we saw our first 'Norah' (Batty) of the year flitting around the bridge that spans Barnhourie Burn where it meets Sandyhills Bay. It seems that Spring has officially arrived along the Colvend Coast.

31 degrees: No wonder it's called the Scottish Riviera

What a difference.. today the sky is blue, big, white fluffy clouds line the horizon and the sun is beating down. The visibility is fantastic but I can't quite see the Isle of Man today yet. I am typing this blog entry in a vest top and have the door open for some, cool, air. Dundrennan weather station (just along the coast) says we have a temperature of 10 degrees but when I popped my own indoor weather station out side in the sun (out of the wind) it registered a whopping 31 degrees centigrade. How brilliant is that? Bikinis out ladies! The solar collectors are registering 57.7 degrees on the roof: amazing... think of all that hot water and it's only early February. 

As you can see on this solar radiation map of the UK (below) Kippford, Rockcliffe, Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbright and most of Dumfries and Galloway are in the yellow area and so benefit from the same amount of solar radiation as towns much further south. (Contrary to the popular belief in England that the weather in Scotland is cold, wet and miserable.) It's no wonder that the coast here is known as the Scottish Riviera and palm trees can be seen in local gardens.

During the cold snap last week, when much of the UK was crippled by snow and ice, here in Dumfries and Galloway we had no snow, very little ice and relatively mild temperatures. Talking to friends in Devon and Gloucestershire on the phone is always amusing as they assume, without fail, that they are having better weather than we are - how wrong they are!

This is bourn out by the guests that stayed in Riverview Lodge last weekend. They left a lovely note on departure which read  "we have had a good birdwatching weekend despite the foggy weather (It's much warmer here than in Yorkshire) we will have to come in the summer.I hope they do!

Not that chilly weather is a problem in the lodge, our guests say that the wood burning stove keeps it really cosy and warm, as examples of comments left in the guest book by recent visitors testify:
"Enjoyed the log burner"  September 2011
"Log burner kept us toasty warm"  October 2011
"A warm, cosy and comfy cabin with a wonderful view." October 2011
"Arriving to find the fire lit and the Christmas lights on was welcoming indeed. Cabin is cosy and warm." December 2011

We love reading the guests comments as it's always nice to hear that visitors to the area have enjoyed themselves. One guest, who stayed with us in 2010, loved the area so much they bought their own holiday home in Kippford shortly after. I hope they enjoy it for many years to come.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

A mizzy day in Dalbeattie forest

Perhaps on the face of it not the most auspicious day for the first real post with mizzy weather and a chill in the air but we were to be proved wrong. Wrapped up well with hats, scarves and gloves  we set off from Richorn Trail Head, just outside Dalbeattie (the Dalbeattie 7 Stanes start point and carpark - just 4 miles from the lodge). 

The air was sharp and fresh and sounds in the forest had a muffled quality due to the low lying cloud but gave the trees a secretive air. It proved to be an eventful hour and a half.

Several groups of mountain bikers in coloured lycra and waterproofs passed us en route, Murphy (the wonder dog) said an enthusiastic hello to several chums (including a blind Labrador - I kid you not - but that's a story for another day) and two very cheery walkers greeted us going in the opposite direction. Dalbeattie Forest is a great place to get to know people, especially if you have a dog with you!

At Plantain Loch we stood awhile and watched the Heron showing early signs of getting flirty. It's harsh calls cut through the sea fret and sounded almost tropical. The mist, the half frozen lake, the dark fir trees and the Heron made a striking image - almost in monochrome.

A lone Canada goose passed overhead at one point, flying NE, it's unusual to see a single goose which made it remarkable.

The woods were very atmospheric and alive with people, dogs and wildlife which just shows what a good walk can be had, even on a mizzy day.  It is noticeable that there are suddenly more people around for the first time this year - probably due to the school half term.

Before heading home for a well deserved Hot Chocolate we had a peek at the site work going on at the cottage at the edge of the forest by the main entrance - they have just got planning permission to open a cafe and tea room so we are watching the progress eagerly. A good tearoom/cafe close by will make a perfect end to a good walk in the forest... watch this space!

Saturday, 11 February 2012


For the first post I want to tell you a little about why I've set up this blog. If you are all sitting comfortably... I'll begin. 

I visited Kippford and Rockcliffe from being a small child so I jumped at the chance to move here several years ago. I love this scenic part of the world that has such an abundance of wildlife and so many special places. When I first visited Riverview Lodge with a view to buying it: I stood on the deck, took in the wonderful scenery and the views out to sea and Heston Island and decided that this was the property for me. It was perfect for me: a cedar lodge with two bedrooms, a double and a twin, panoramic estuary views, a cosy wood burning stove, a 'Little House on the Prairie' style covered balcony and a large deck area. 

I now let out Riverview Lodge as a holiday lodge. For those who want to see it here is a link to the website: www.holidaycottagekippford.co.uk

There is private parking and a spacious garden making it ideal for kids and dogs. Pets are welcome and there are fantastic beach, coastal, woodland and hill walks close by so dogs love it here. It is the ideal place for a romantic break, a family holiday, a base for an adventure holiday or simply somewhere to chill out with friends. 

Set in a wooded, rural location the lodge looks out over the Urr Estuary (with the Solway Yacht Club moorings) to Screel and the forests beyond and is situated in a National Scenic Area (NSA). One of the big plus points for me was that the private, spacious garden is regularly visited by a host of native birds and red squirrels, and occasionally deer, badgers and foxes. Guests who bring nuts, fat balls and bird seed are well rewarded by regular visits. 

Once in the lodge you get the feeling of a rural retreat yet it's only a 12 minute walk down to the quaint, well known sailing village of Kippford (with it's sailing club, local pubs, sea front walks, gift shop and deli and RNLI lifeboat station) and a 30 minute walk to the picturesque Victorian seaside village of Rockcliffe. Richorn Trailhead, the start of the Dalbeattie 7 Stanes mountain biking trails are only a few minutes away and there is even a 9 hole golf course just over the hill - there really is something for everyone around here, it's no surprise that Dumfries and Galloway is described as 'Scotland in Miniature'. 

With such a wealth of things to do, places to go and sights to see I decided to start the blog to share this part of the world with others and provide information for anyone thinking of visiting or wanting to plan their stay.