Last year we brought you an exclusive interview with John Loader from the RSPB highlighting the charity’s campaign to further protect and raise the awareness of birds of prey, we reported on the campaign and how successful it had become raising people’s awareness.
Amongst other advantages of having birds of prey in the eco system, John showed us how birds of prey helped local economies by bringing tourists to an area. In this year of cuts, doom and gloom it is nice to be able to share the success story of the Galloway Red Kite Trail where humans are working with nature, and poignantly the red kite being one of those birds of prey we highlighted with John Loader.
The Red Kite was reintroduced to Galloway in 2001 after being hunted to extinction in the 19th century. It has a silver-grey head and distinctive reddish brown plumage on its body and wings. With a wing span around 6ft the Red Kite is an impressive site in flight especially as it is a sociable animal and often lives in communal roosts so it can be seen interacting with other Kites.
Seeing the Red Kite
The Galloway Red Kite Trail is a self guiding tour made up of a combination of interesting local business, activities and a number of leisurely bike and walking routes that have easy access to viewing points and hides. All routes are linked by roads for easy navigation via the car. Stretching 24 miles in the winter and 40 miles in the summer around the beautiful Loch Ken (Approx 20 miles from Dumfries, 55 miles from Carlisle and 90 miles from Glasgow) on the edge of the Galloway Forest Park, the Galloway Red Kite Trail provides plenty of opportunities for birdwatching. You can see birdlife such as wild geese, ducks, willow tits, pied flycatchers, buzzards and osprey in the beauty of the area dubbed “The Highlands of the Lowlands”. Since the trails creation in 2003 a staggering £21 million has been brought into the local economy.
There are many places on the trail where Kites can be viewed (Parton viewpoint, Bennan viewpoint, Raider’s Road and the RSPB Ken/Dee reserve.) Bellymack Hill Farm near Laurieston is a well publicised site where often over the winter months 30+ kites can be viewed (for a small charge) from a hide near to the farm’s feeding station. More information can be found on the Galloway red kite trail website.
The area where the Red Kite Trail is situated has many other attractions for the walker, camper and biker, most notable is the Galloway Forest Park, which is worth visiting in its own right, covering 377 square miles with mountain and costal scenery, the park also has numerous activities such as walking (including the Southern Upland Way), cycling (Mountain biking and recreational biking), bird watching sites such as,
- The ‘Papy Ha’ Bird Trail
- The Galloway Red Kite Trail
- Wood of Cree
- Mull of Galloway
- Ken – Dee Marshes
- Mersehead and Wigtown Bay
Bird watchers also have the chance of seeing White Tailed Sea Eagles which have been spotted in the area over the last year.
With a dark sky award, the only one in the UK, there is also plenty to see at night approx 3000 stars to be exact! In laypersons terms the Dark Sky Award means there is no light pollution and you can see the sky at night properly something less than 10% of us in the UK can see.
Go To Galloway!
We often forget about the lowlands of Scotland as opposed to its higlands, the Galloway Red Kite Trial shows that this “wilderness” is nearer than we think. Its only around a 3 hour drive from Manchester so its ideal for overnight trips for people living in the North West. With the trail having so many walks and Galloway Forest Park being so close, it is an ideal area for ,bikers and birders. In fact, Galloway is just over an hour from north of the Lake District, but offers a more tranquil and less crowded time. The Dark Sky status of the Galloway Forest park also brings new meaning to night and low light walks and with the the opportunity to see the red kite and other animals, Galloway and its area is a must visit. So why not grab your waterproofs and head over there!
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Due to the benefits of its dark sky, it is possible to see meteors storms more clearly in Galloway forest. For example the Geminid meteors showers due to occur aorund 14/12/10. For more info: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-south-scotland-11981413