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27 Jun 2022

Summer at its finest

A beautiful white sandy beach, with small grassy dunes and turquoise sea under a blue sky.
A white sandy beach on Iona | Image by Kevin George/Shutterstock
Long days, picnics and family adventures outdoors: summer is here at last! Here are some wonderful places to enjoy the sunny season at its best.

Grey Mare’s Tail

The hills of Grey Mare’s Tail are a great bellwether of the changing seasons. As summer progresses, the hills shift from luscious greenery dotted with wildflowers to the rich purple of blooming heather. And if you’re lucky, you’ll be joined on your explorations of this beautiful nature reserve by some of the local wildlife! Feral goats also plod the paths, while peregrine falcons and ospreys soar and swoop overhead.

The easiest walk here is a five-minute wander from the car park to the viewpoint for the spectacular waterfall, but for the more adventurous there’s also the option of tackling a full circuit of the hills around beautiful Loch Skeen, with views over to the Lake District and Cheviot Hills.

Rockcliffe

Island escapes don’t have to involve boats. Rough Island, an uninhabited tidal island just off Rockcliffe on the Dumfries and Galloway coastline, is a wildlife haven that can be reached by foot at low tide. In May and June, we ask people to stay away for nesting season, but from late July onwards it’s a wonderful place to see local birdlife, and sometimes seals and porpoises too. Keep an eye on our website and social media feeds for details of guided walks, and if you’re heading out without a guide, remember to check tide times for your return journey along the causeway.

Back on the mainland, there are several trails to be explored at Rockcliffe, all revealing the quiet beauty of the Solway Firth. Enjoy meadows rich in butterflies, coastal strolls and the views from the Mote of Mark hilltop fort.

Hill of Tarvit

Sports days don’t need to involve eggs, spoons or sacks. The Edwardians preferred to entertain themselves with lawn tennis, putting, golfing and croquet, and you can try all these pursuits at Hill of Tarvit. The upstairs, downstairs lifestyles of the well-to-do and their staff in the early 20th century are on full display inside the house, but those who’d prefer to spend a day outdoors will find plenty to do in the grounds, including some fantastic picnic spots. Tarvit Hill offers grand views out across the estate and beyond, while alternative routes lead through the woodland and landscaped garden. Stay around until dusk and you could be rewarded with the chance to see feeding bats, roe deer, barn owls and even badgers.

Read more: Kingarrock Hickory Golf at Hill of Tarvit

Iona and Staffa

Whales and dolphins, royal burial sites and a cluster of sacred places telling the story of Christianity’s development in Scotland… Iona packs a lot into a tiny island. Summer offers the best chance to make the most of it. Watch out for the local marine life on your ferry journey over from Mull, then set off on a walking tour in search of Macbeth’s final resting place and other key landmarks.

From Iona, you can take a boat across to Staffa for puffin- spotting and astounding volcanic landscapes. Get in quick though: the island will be closed to public access from mid-August until March 2023 while we embark on an important project to upgrade the jetty and improve the island footpaths.

Falkland Palace

The tennis court at Falkland Palace has a history to rival Centre Court at Wimbledon! It has enjoyed the presence of many a royal, is one of the sport’s most historic venues, and to this day still receives visitors from around the world. It’s just one of the many fascinating sights at the occasional summer home of Mary, Queen of Scots, who herself enjoyed a game of tennis while staying at Falkland.

Summer brings stunning colour to Falkland Palace’s beautiful formal garden and to the wildflower meadow and orchard. Inside the palace, there’s also a new Jubilee exhibition exploring the historical connections of Falkland to the Queen that will run until 31 October 2022.

Read more: A Jubilee exhibition at Falkland Palace

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