Calm the mind in Cally Woods
The cares of the world seem to drop away in this tranquil woodland on the edge of picturesque Gatehouse of Fleet. The oak, birch, sycamore and beech that make up the woodland are relatively young, but they already make a fine forest of peaceful beauty.
In early spring there are splendid drifts of snowdrops, and Cally is part of Scotland’s annual snowdrop festival. Later in the year you can find primroses and bluebells, and watch for red squirrels, buzzards and treecreepers.
You’ll find public toilets and places to eat in Gatehouse of Fleet.
Wander through the deciduous woods along the Bush Burn to a 12th century stronghold at Cally Motte.
Firm gravel surface throughout with some slightly uneven sections. Includes some short steep slopes and two bridges 0.9m wide.
¾ miles / 1.1 km Allow ½ hours
Back in the 1100s, there was an Angle-Norman stronghold on the Motte. There are several mounds like this across Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders: they would have had a fortified tower on top, probably with enough space inside to shelter local villagers in times of trouble.
Bush Bridge Trail
An enjoyable exploration of the Bush Burn and the varied woodland of the Cally Estate. Ash, oak, beech and sycamore all shelter a carpet of wonderful wild flowers.
Firm gravel surface throughout. Occasional section may be uneven or muddy. Includes several short steep slopes and two bridges.
1 ¼ miles / 2.0 km Allow ¾ hours
The Bush Burn once drove a water-powered sawmill in the village in the 19th century.
A longer loop through bird-filled oak woods to the 18th century walled garden that used to supply fruit and vegetables for Cally House.
Firm gravel surface throughout with some slightly uneven sections. Some steep slopes. Includes two bridges and a gate. Look out for vehicles on the road to Cally Gardens.
2 ¼ miles / 3.5 km Allow 1½ hours
Mountain biking trails
Take a longer route
Cally’s open, mainly level trails are good for leisure cycling as well as walking and horse riding. For a longer outing you can follow the Cally Drive past Cally Palace Hotel, through Laundry Wood and Cally Mains Wood all the way to Sandgreen beach. An Ordnance Survey map of the area will help you find your way.
The Long Distance Cycle Route between Inverness and Sunderland passes through the forest.
Cally horse route
If you'd like to explore Cally Woods on horseback, follow the waymarked Cally horse route. The 4km/2.5m route is lovely at all times of year and will take around an hour to ride. It has a mixture of firm, wide paths, and narrow earth paths which can get muddy after rain. Keep an eye out for local wildlife as you make your way around, from the soaring buzzard to the humble snowdrop.
In 2014 funding was received from the Heritage Lottery Fund and others to conserve the eighteenth century building known as the Temple, helping to maintain the important heritage features of the Cally woods. For more information about this community led project visit the Gatehouse of Fleet website.
The woods were once the grounds and open parkland of Cally House, now the Cally Palace Hotel. The grounds were laid out as a designed landscape in the mid 18th century by the local landowner, James Murray of Broughton. The old walled garden is now home to Cally Gardens, a nursery dedicated to interesting and unusual plants: you can pass it on the Coronation Trail.
You can still see the remains of old field dykes winding their way between the trees, and some of the estate features have been restored by the Gatehouse Development Initiative. The Motte Trail will take you to the remains of a Norman castle that was here long before James Murray laid out his gardens. If you feel like exploring the woodland for yourself, try finding the eerie remains of the Temple, an 18th century folly.
Visit Scotland has details of the annual snowdrop festival.
How to get here
From the centre of Gatehouse of Fleet, follow the B727, signposted for Borgue and Kirkcudbright. The entrance to Cally is about ¼ mile (400 metres) along this road on the right. Go in past the gatehouse and follow the avenue for about 100 yards (90 metres) to reach the car park at grid reference NX 605 560.
DG7 2DB is the nearest postcode.
There is a bus stop at the main entrance to Cally, served by buses to Gatehouse of Fleet. Visit Traveline Scotland for details.
Barrhill Woods, just outside Kirkcudbright, is another charming woodland with wildflowers in spring and summer, and fine views.
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