Forget The NC500, Head To Scotland’s Forgotten Corner For Campervan Solitude

Forget the North Coast 500 this season and head to Scotland’s forgotten corner in the south west. The Rhins of Galloway peninsula is in the south western corner of Scotland, stretching 25 miles from north to south. The southern tip is the Mull of Galloway with it’s stunning lighthouse. This beautiful part of Scotland is often overshadowed by the NC500 but there’s lots of reasons to explore the area. For a route map and suggestions of places to wild camp read on…..

I spent nine days touring the area in my campervan in August 2020 (the year of lockdown and the year the NC500 was swamped with staycationers!). My expectations of the trip were that it would be exceptionally busy, campsites would be full and I’d struggle to wild camp. I couldn’t have been more wrong! I had inadvertently stumbled across a place for campervan solitude. Yes, each campsite I passed said fully booked but social distancing was being practised so actually there weren’t that many campers. The roads were blissfully empty of traffic and wild camping spots were fairly easy to find. In fact, a couple of days I had a whole bay to myself (that’s a coastal bay not a parking bay!).

Wild camping in Scotland at Killantringan Bay
Wild camping in Scotland at Killantringan Bay

After crossing the border from England in to Scotland I drove west, heading to my first overnight stop at Wigtown. However, as is they way I got distracted and took a slight detour (only about 30 seconds to be fair) to Cardoness Castle. It’s a minor detour off the A75 and can be seen from the road. Built in the 1400’s, it’s an impressive castle which can be visited from April to September.

Cardoness Castle
Cardoness Castle

Further along the A75 after the castle you’ll see a tea pot sign inviting you to visit The Skyburn Cafe. Do. It has lovely views over the water with lots of wooden tables and benches. My last stop before reaching Wigtown.

The Skyburn Cafe
The Skyburn Cafe

Wigtown is Scotland’s National Book Town and fabulous place to spend a day if you love books. Read my blog about Wigtown, A Scottish Campervan Road Trip To Book Heaven. I spent a rainy day book shopping, antique shopping and sitting in cafes for lunch and afternoon cake. There’s a Co-op and a butchers in Wigtown so a perfect place to stock up on supplies.

Wigtown
Wigtown, Scotland’s National Book Town

There is free camping a minutes drive from the centre of the town, simply head towards Wigtown Harbour. It’s a five minute walk back to Wigtown if you fancy a trip to the pub. Part of the harbour is a car park for parking and the grass section to the right is privately owned by a Wigtown resident who is happy for people to camp for free. That’s me on the left hand side of the photo on the harbour side in the blue camper, I only had one neighbour.

Camping at Wigtown Harbour
Camping at Wigtown Harbour

Seven miles further down the coast takes you to Rigg (or Cruggleton) Bay. There are lots of paths that lead down to the bay where seals are know to bask. The beach was completely deserted when I ventured there. Some kind soul has also put a tree swing up, perfect for watching the crashing waves. An afternoon can easily be spent exploring the area. Remains of Cruggleton castle can also be explored. This is simply a wonderful beach if you’re looking for peace and solitude.

Empty beaches in Scotland, Rigg Bay
Empty beaches in Scotland, Rigg Bay

A further 8 miles down the coast took me to The Isle of Whithorn which was one stop on my trip that was well worth a visit. I was welcomed by locals who were happy to have tourists back. The landlord of the local pub the Steam Packet Inn is so welcoming that he allows campervan’s to park for free on a plot of grass land near the harbour with wonderful sea views! He even provides a free toilet. Food at the Steam Packet Inn was absolutely delicious and should not be missed! They were fully booked but managed to squeeze me in as I was on my own.

A few minutes walk from the Steam Packet Inn camping field takes you to the Isle Head, with glorious views of the coastline and the lovely fishing harbour of Whithorn.

Isle of Whithorn
Isle of Whithorn

While cooking my bacon sandwich the following morning I ran out of gas! Some quick googling and a couple of phone calls later I discover that replacement gas bottles can be bought from Galloways in Whithorn 4 miles away. Turns out it’s a grocers that sells all sorts of food, alcohol and other essential supplies as well as gas. Result. The friendly guy in the shop installs my gas bottle and sends me on my way with a smile.

It’s raining bucket loads. The windscreen wipers on my old campervan were only just coping with the torrential downpour, but this doesn’t stop me heading to St Ninians cave a few miles away. The photograph below is taken by me from inside the cave sheltering from the horrendous rain and wind. I’m sure on a sunny day it would have been glorious, for what it lacked in warmth it made up for in wildness, bleakness and gloominess. The cave has been a place of pilgrimage since the early middle ages. There is a handy car park not far away and the walk is a pretty one.

St Ninians Cave
St Ninians Cave

In need of warmth and somewhere to dry my wet gear I head up the coast to The Cock Inn at Auchenmalg. Situated on the coast with stunning sea views. I enjoy a delicious homemade meal of fish and chips. A few locals along the way have told me about a beach that I can camp on near the Mull of Galloway. That’s where I head ………

Camping near the Mull of Galloway
Camping near the Mull of Galloway

It’s a beautiful bay and you can park next to the rocky beach. It’s owned by the local farmer and he comes down every evening to collect the ‘rent’ as he calls it. A very friendly guy who loves to natter with the campers. He charges £2 per person which is an absolute bargain! There are no facilities just a lovely bay.

Camping beach near the Mull of Galloway
Camping beach near the Mull of Galloway

The farmer is happy for you to have a bbq or fire as long as it’s in a fire pit.

BBQ by the beach
BBQ by the beach

Meander over to the Mull of Galloway lighthouse, for stunning 360 degree views, it’s a 25 minute walk. There’s a great cafe there too.

Mull of Galloway Lighthouse
Mull of Galloway Lighthouse

Nine miles further up the coast sits Port Logan a sandy beached village and the home of Port Logan Fish Pond. This is a very unusual and unique place. Created in the 1790’s as a fish larder, a place to store live fish for the needs of Logan House. Created from a natural tidal rock formation complete with fish keepers cottage.

Port Logan Fish Pond
Port Logan Fish Pond

The main town in the area is Port Patrick, which is filled with cafes and pubs. There’s fantastic coastal walks in both directions. Head south for 0.6 mile and you’ll arrive at the ruins of Dunskey Castle. Head north and you’ll find two wonderful secluded bays. The only shop is the post office which sells lots of food supplies. If your campervan doesn’t have a shower you’ll be pleased to know that there’s a super clean free public shower available on the harbour.

Port Patrick
Port Patrick

An hours walk up the coast will take you to Killantringan Lighthouse and Bay.

Killantringan Lighthouse
Killantringan Lighthouse

Killantringan Bay is simply stunning. In my opinion the best camping spot in this area.

Killantringan Beach
Killantringan Beach

I had the whole bay to myself for a day and night.  Overnight camping is above the bay not far from the lighthouse.

Camping at Killantringan Bay
Camping at Killantringan Bay

Sunset over Killantringan Bay.

Sunset at Killantringan Bay
Sunset at Killantringan Bay

Need a shower? There is a secluded waterfall next to the beach a few minutes scramble from the camping spot.

Waterfall at Killantringan Bay
Waterfall at Killantringan Bay

Check out my video of Killantringan Bay.

Again the coastal walks from here are stunning. Northern Ireland can be seen on the horizon.

Walking to Port Patrick
Walking to Port Patrick

The route I took actually makes up part of the SWC300 (South West Coastal 300 route), the shorter unadvertised alternative to the North Coast 500. This route can easily be done in four days or if you like a more leisurely pace then a week. For a route map complete with places to stay and things to see and do visit: www.visitsouthwestscotland.com.

The map below shows the complete route for the SWC300.

South West Coastal 300 Map

For more inspiration for your Scotland road trip check out Martin Dorey’s book: Take the slow road: Inspirational journeys round the highlands, lowlands and islands of Scotland by camper van. Don’t forget your Ordnance Survey Map, invaluable for finding those secluded bays with caves and waterfalls.

Am I glad I did the South West Coastal 300? Yes! It’s not the North Coast 500 (which is absolutely amazing) but certainly worth exploring for it’s beautiful rugged coastline with rocks, caves and waterfalls. I was welcomed by locals wherever I went and they even encouraged wild camping. In a time where we are hearing of how overwhelmed the NC500 is, it came as a wonderful pleasure to experience this quiet peaceful corner of Scotland. For me it certainly provided campervan solitude.

Enjoy!

The Campervana

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25 Comments

  1. August 18, 2020 / 8:14 am

    Well written informative article. You clearly leave no ‘footprint’, which is the way to enjoy Scotland. We too are staying clear of the NC500 meantime.

    • TheCamperVana
      Author
      August 18, 2020 / 11:16 am

      Thanks Nick. Hope you enjoy your travels this year!

  2. Richard Sharp
    August 18, 2020 / 7:22 pm

    Excellent article, thank you. Just my kind of area. Good travels.

    • TheCamperVana
      Author
      August 20, 2020 / 10:06 am

      Thanks Richard, just wanted to show people how wonderful it is in the south west. Enjoy your travels.

  3. August 22, 2020 / 12:32 pm

    Ana thank you for this. I just love Scotland, inspiring, keeping away from NC500 this year we spent 7 days touring round the Rhins in 2019 will return Sept 2020 again thank you. Safe travels.

  4. Bill
    August 24, 2020 / 9:44 am

    Good read. We are lucky enough to live in the Southwest and have long known how suitable it is for camping. It’s great to see such a good review, but now even more people know! Safe travels,
    A motorhomer.

  5. Ian Brae
    January 28, 2021 / 5:38 pm

    We moved to the Isle of Whithorn just over a year ago and yes the area is stunning and wild around the coast. We have been touring Scotland in our MH for many years and did overlook this area until we explored and decided to move from the south. Brilliant in the winter to visit but during the summer it gets rather crazy with the free car park becoming a permanent campsite for tent campers and MH’s plus day visitors in cars, very very crowded so be warned if you expect to turn up and find peace and solitude.

    • TheCamperVana
      Author
      January 28, 2021 / 7:53 pm

      Hi Ian – the Isle of Whithorn is just lovely. You’re so lucky to live there! I can’t wait to visit again when lockdown eases. Bet you can’t wait to get exploring in your MH again!
      Happy travels, Ana

      • Ian Brae
        January 30, 2021 / 6:21 pm

        Yes very lucky indeed and feel some what blessed. Our views are of the Isle of Man – Cumbria – Galloway hills and down to the harbour tower so very spoilt. Local people (I’m one now) are so friendly and like you I’m looking forward to getting out of lockdown and mingling again. You have my email address and I have a large garden with plenty of space so you are welcome to come and pitch up, water waste and EHU available my own little CL.

        • TheCamperVana
          Author
          February 4, 2021 / 2:34 pm

          Hi Ian
          Aww that’s so nice of you to offer! Thank you. It is a wonderful part of the world. You are incredibly lucky to live there.
          take care, Ana

  6. Allan
    April 25, 2021 / 6:39 pm

    Well done very informative article. Certainly given us some ideas when our campervan arrives.

  7. TheCamperVana
    Author
    April 26, 2021 / 11:39 am

    Hi Allan – many thanks for your feedback. Hope you enjoy your new camper! The south west of Scotland is just spectacular. Happy travels!

  8. Ian Knaggs
    May 9, 2021 / 10:37 am

    Visited there over thirty years ago it was beautiful the fishing was fantastic and my children loved it. Will be coming back this year to do the circuit as I am now retired.

    • TheCamperVana
      Author
      May 12, 2021 / 11:05 am

      Hi Ian, I’ve just got back from a ten day trip, it was lovely. Hope you enjoy your trip! Ana

  9. Karen
    May 18, 2021 / 1:03 pm

    You’ve inspired me.. I was wondering where to go on my week off at the beginning of June, now I know! I followed the link and purchased the OS maps too! Cant wait to get going now 🙂

    • TheCamperVana
      Author
      May 18, 2021 / 2:12 pm

      Hi Karen, Thanks for your comment. So pleased you feel inspired to visit the south west of Scotland, it’s just beautiful! I hope you have a fabulous time. Happy travels, Ana

  10. Susan Blackwell
    May 29, 2021 / 9:28 am

    Really great, informative piece. How is it managing without electric for fridge, or did you buy fresh food daily?

    • TheCamperVana
      Author
      August 6, 2021 / 10:24 am

      Hi Susan – I have a gas fridge. But I find that I only actually need a fridge in really hot weather. I managed for years in my camper with only a cool box.

  11. Ruth
    August 5, 2021 / 3:22 pm

    Great tips, thank you! And I just had a wonderful birthday meal at The Steam Packet Inn thanks to your blog, so much appreciated! They are very busy there atm, so for anyone else wishing to eat there I’d recommend booking in advance. In fact we found most good places to eat were fully booked this week.

    • TheCamperVana
      Author
      August 6, 2021 / 10:23 am

      The food at the pub is fabulous! Glad you enjoyed it!

  12. Alan
    August 22, 2021 / 10:13 pm

    That lovely series “Two Thousand Acres of Sky” was set in and around Port Logan. It was a lovely series and is worth repeating.

    • TheCamperVana
      Author
      September 3, 2021 / 10:53 am

      Hi Alan

      I haven’t heard of that series, I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for the recommendation!

      Ana

  13. Mike
    September 4, 2021 / 8:37 am

    Dumfries & Galloway is a really lovely corner of Scotland, with plenty more to explore once you’ve been to the Rhinns.
    You missed the National Botanical Gardens at Port Logan – which is a spectacular and peaceful place.
    By the way, you cannot “wildcamp” in a vehicle without the landowners permission – the access rights do not apply to vehicles. Check the details here:
    https://www.outdooraccess-scotland.scot/

    • TheCamperVana
      Author
      September 9, 2021 / 12:35 pm

      Hi Mike
      Thanks for your comments. It really is beautiful in the south west. Camping in a campervan has certainly got more confusing recently. Thanks for the link.
      Ana

  14. Dick Wall
    September 6, 2021 / 6:05 pm

    Excellent article thanks.
    Just a wee advisory.
    I believe the area at Gatehouse of Fleet is the Skyreburn not Skyburn.

    The roads that lead off to the north of the A75 are also worth a detour. The smaller the better with all sorts of interesting cycling, hiking and history.

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