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!).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ………
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.
The farmer is happy for you to have a bbq or fire as long as it’s in a fire pit.
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.
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.
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.
An hours walk up the coast will take you to Killantringan Lighthouse and Bay.
Killantringan Bay is simply stunning. In my opinion the best camping spot in this area.
I had the whole bay to myself for a day and night. Overnight camping is above the bay not far from the lighthouse.
Sunset over Killantringan Bay.
Need a shower? There is a secluded waterfall next to the beach a few minutes scramble from the camping spot.
Check out my video of Killantringan Bay.
Again the coastal walks from here are stunning. Northern Ireland can be seen on the horizon.
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.
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.