This guide also includes the nearby town of Dalbeattie and the coastal areas on the Solway Firth.
Various bus services get you to Castle Douglas including the 501/2 from Dumfries and Kirkcudbright and the 503 from Dumfries.
National Express / Ulsterbus 920 runs overnight from London Victoria via Luton airport, Coventry, Birmingham, Manchester airport and city, Preston, Carlisle, Dumfries, Castle Douglas, Newton Stewart, Stranraer, Cairnryan then by Stena ferry to Belfast.
The nearest station is some 18-miles away in Dumfries
The town is fairly compact and can be easily explored on foot; however a car or other means of transport is essential to explore the area around the town.
- 1 Threave Garden, Threave Estate DG7 1RX (A mile southwest of town), ☏ . April-Oct daily 10:00-17:00, Nov Dec to 16:00. Beautifully presented gardens over 1600 acres (647 hectares) run by National Trust for Scotland. The main garden has landscaped and themed areas; the Sculpture Garden has over 30 works by Scottish sculptors; and the nearby Nature Reserve (free entry, open all year) ranges from wetlands to woodlands. Wildlife includes bats, ospreys and various wildfowl. The House itself can be visited by guided tour May-Oct W-F & Sun only. The estate also hosts a School of Horticulture. Garden £9, plus House £15, NT / NTS free.
- 2 Threave Castle, Kelton Mains, Castle Douglas (Off roundabout on A75 west of town), ☏ . Apr-Sept daily 10:00-16:30, in Oct to 15:30. Threave Castle is a much-bashed but still massive tower built in the 1370s by Archibald the Grim, Lord of Galloway. It was the stronghold of the Black Douglases, too strong for King James II liking, so in 1455 he besieged and captured it. It was thereafter in royal control until 1640 when the Covenanters captured and partly demolished it, and it was abandoned. The castle is on an island in the River Dee, so you get there on a little boat, included in the ticket price. Adult £6.
- 3 Carlingwark Loch at the southwest edge of town is a shallow freshwater loch; it and its grassy surrounds have been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). A footpath makes a 3-mile circuit. The islets in the loch were crannogs - prehistoric dwellings on stilts in the water. A canal connects the loch to the river 1.5 miles away: it was used to bring in shell-marl to lime the fields, but it's long disused and now just a ditch. When toxic blue-green algae became troublesome in 2009 the loch was fitted with an expensive aerator, which was ineffective; then they discovered that chucking straw into the water solved the problem.
- 4 Dalbeattie is a village five miles east of Castle Douglas, formerly a major source of granite. It has a small museum, eating places and accommodation. Dalbeattie was the birthplace of William McMaster Murdoch, First Officer of the Titanic and in charge when it struck the iceberg; he did not survive.
- South of Dalbeattie, the River Urr opens into a sea inlet, and its east bank is dotted with holiday caravans and other accommodation.
- 5 Kippford is the main village. You can walk along the coast to Rockcliffe (though by car you have to double back onto A710). Here find the "Mote of Mark" a 5th C hill fort, an art gallery, and Rough Island a bird sanctuary. You can walk to the island at low tide, but access is closed in May and June when the oystercatchers are nesting.
- Spot the Red Kite (Milvus milvus), a raptor with a metre-plus wingspan that curves low over the fields in search of mice, small rabbits and carrion. They were once common but unloved in Britain: Shakespeare's King Lear compares his daughter Goneril to a kite, and suggests that the bird's only talent is for stealing panties off drying lines. Kites were harried to extinction in Ireland and almost to that point in Great Britain, but from the 20th C they were protected then re-introduced. The Dumfries and Galloway region was repopulated in 1992/93 with birds from Germany. So look out for them anywhere, but especially along the Red Kite Trail which has several feeding stations. The suggested route is 24 miles anti-clockwise round Loch Ken in winter, plus 16 miles of forest roads only open in summer.
King Street has a little string of shops. Tesco at the north end of town is open daily 07:00-22:00.
- 1 Sulwath Brewers, 209 King Street DG7 1DT (in back yard), ☏ . M-Sa 10:00-18:00. Castle Douglas' own brewery, where you can have a drink or buy off-sales to take home. Their Scotch Pies are highly recommended. Tours M & F at 13:00.
- 2 Laurie Arms, 11-13 Main Street, Hough of Urr DG7 3YA (on B794 four miles west of Castle Douglas), ☏ . M-F 12:00-15:00 & 17:00-22:00, Sa Su 12:00-00:00. Dog-friendly pub with real ales and restaurant with good local food.
- Anchor Hotel, Kippford DG5 4LN (off A710 south of Dalbeattie), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Traditional pub overlooking Kippford harbour, good food and has accommodation. Real ales, dog friendly. If the weather is fair it's a great place to sit outside and watch the world go by.
- Market Inn Hotel, 7 Queen St DG7 1HX, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Basic but friendly well-run small hotel. B&B double £75.
- 1 Douglas Arms Hotel, 206 King Street, DG7 1DB, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Old coaching inn, mediocre food, rooms and service, change of management in 2018 hasn't improved things. B&B double £70.
- 2 Lochside Caravan and Camping Site, Lochside Park, DG7 1EZ (North end of Carlingshaw Loch.), ☏ . 108 caravan stances, 73 of which are on hard standing with a separate camping site for 53 tents. Open all year. Caravan £21, tent for two £13.