Next week sees the start of the 15th Newton Stewart Walking Festival, for what promises to be another excellent week of walking.

The popular annual event, which this year runs from May 5-11 is offering a programme of over 30 guided walks and other events exploring the wild hills, rugged coastline, rolling countryside and dark skies of Galloway.

Chairwoman of the organising committee, Joan Mitchell, said: “This year’s programme once again emphasises the huge variety of walking opportunities in our corner of south west Scotland. Newton Stewart’s branding as “The Gateway to the Galloway Hills” and as a “Walkers Are Welcome” town makes it a natural base for exploring the area. Routes offered at this year’s festival range from easy rambles of a few miles to full day mountain adventures in the wildest corners of the Galloway Hills.

“We also have several coastal routes around the Rhins and Machars and a range of lovely walks exploring the rolling countryside of South Ayrshire and the Stewartry. Those taking part will have the opportunity to learn more about the history, geology and wildlife of the area and we are even offering a night time walk which will allow an exploration of Galloway’s famous Dark Skies Park in the company of a local astronomer.”

Loch Trool and, above, Cairnsmore of Fleet. Pictures: Bill Mitchell.

Joan added: “Already some of our most popular walks are fully booked, and remember, we are offering a full day out with a local guide and all your transport included for only £10.”

As well as the daily walks, there is also a programme of evening events. An evening talk by well known local historian David Kirkwood will explore smuggling and other clandestine activities in Wigtownshire through the years, while there will also be the opportunity to learn more about the work of Galloway Mountain Rescue Team, and even visit their new headquarters.

The full festival programme is available on the festival’s new website HERE as well as on the festival’s Facebook page, and in the printed brochure, which is available in the usual range of local outlets. Alternatively, you can call the festival booking line on 01671 404500, or pop into the booking office at WRDC Business Centre, Queen Street, Newton Stewart.