South West Coastal 300
The South West Coastal 300 (SWC300) is one of the newer road trip routes in Scotland and located, unsurprisingly, in the quiet south west of the country and covers a 300 mile loop that allows you to join at any point.
It's ideal to cover in a few days but can easily be stretched out to a full week thanks to the vast number of things to do and see in the area. Read on in our guide to the South West Coastal 300 for a slice of the sights and activities the route has to offer.
Dumfries to Kirkudbright
Dumfries is a great starting point on the SWC300, especially if you come in from the south as it's on the eastern side of the route and only 23 miles from the motorway. It's the largest town in South West Scotland with the nickname "The Queen of the South" and a plethora of things to do.
This includes it's links to Robert Burns, Scotland's National Bard, where you can follow in his footsteps along the River Nith, visit his home, or visit his favourite places such as the Globe Inn. You can also visit Moat Brae which is the house and garden that inspired JM Barrie to write Peter Pan or the world's oldest Camera Obscura which was installed in 1836 as an astronomical instrument.
From Dumfries you then head south to New Abbey, a picturesque village that is famed for Sweetheart Abbey which is now in ruins. It was built by the widow of King John Balliol in 1273 and is a lovely quiet place to stop off at as it's nestled between Criffel Hill and the Solway Firth.
Continuing south will take you to the Solway Coast with runs along the Solway Firth, the water border between Scotland and England, and on a clear day you can see as far as the Lake District. Sandyhills Beach is along an expansive beach when the tide is out with lush sand dunes which makes it the perfect spot to walk the dog or take a leisurely stroll.
Kirkudbright to Wigtown
Another 40 minutes along the route brings you to Kirkudbright, also known as Scotland's Artists Town. It's a harbour town that sits on the mouth of the River Dee and hosts a selection of events across the year which includes the Floodlit Tattoo, the Jazz Festival, and the Kirkudbright Festival of Light.
Many artists have flocked to the town hanks to it's quality of light including at least one of the Glasgow Girls and several of the Glasgow Boys. E.A. Hornel lived in Broughton House on the high street which is now a National trust property that you can visit along with its hidden Japanese garden.
There's also the Johnston Centre which is home to the Dark Space Planetarium and the Dark Art Gin Distillery. The Dark Space Planetarium which has state of the art custom-made interactive exhibits that look at space exploration, the solar system, and space technology. Meanwhile the distillery offers tours and a tasting session of their Sky Garden Gin.
From Kirkudbright you continue to head west and through places such as Creetown, which is home to the fascinating Gem Rock Museum, until you arrive at Newton Stewart. From here it's easy to visit Galloway Forest Park, the UK's first dark sky park and was only the fourth dark sky park in the world when designated.
Heading south will take you to Wigtown.
Wigtown to Portpatrick
Wigtown is Scotland's National Book Town with 30 book related businesses in the town and its sister villages Bladnoch and Kirkinner. It also holds the Wigtown Book Festival each year which celebrates literature and culture.
Wigtown is also home to the largest Local Nature Reserve in the UK, Wigtown Bay Local Nature Reserve. You can see an array of wildlife all year round including migratory geese in winter and breeding water birds such as curlews and oyster catchers in the summer months.
Continuing south from here will take you through the Machars Peninsula until you reach Isle of Whithorn. It's most famous for its connection with St Ninian and as Scotland's Cradle of Christianity although in more recent years it's gained a solid reputation as a hub for artists and crafters.
St Ninian's Cave is a great visit and had been visited in the past by Scottish Kings and Queens and thousands of pilgrims. It's a short walk through a wooded glen to a pebbled beach where you can have views of the Isle of Man.
Journeying north again takes you through Port William, another harbour town, and Auchenmalg before rounding onto the Rhins of Galloway, another peninsula. Travelling through the tranquil and peaceful Rhins will eventually take you to Mull of Galloway, Scotland's most southerly point.
The Mull of Galloway Experience allows you to climb the 115 steps to the top of the lighthouse, visit the Exhibition of Lighthouse History, experience the vintage engines and foghorn, and walk around the RSPB Scotland Nature Reserve.
Driving back up the Rhins will pass Port Logan where you could stop at Logan Botanic Garden, Scotland's most exotic garden. It's warmed by the Gulf Stream which allows plants from Australia, New Zealand, South America, Central America, and Southern Africa to grow and thrive.
Portpatrick to Sanquhar
Driving back up the opposite side of the Rhins of Galloway peninsula will take you Portpatrick, one of the most popular holiday villages in the area, on the coast of the Irish Sea. On clear nights you can see the lights of Northern Ireland in the distance.
It boasts amazing cliff paths in both directions for any walkers which will take you past the ruins of Dunskey Castle in the South or up to Killantringan Lighthouse in the north. For Golfers you can visit Portpatrick Golf Course which is in the top 100 courses in Scotland with an incredibly scenic 13th hole.
A short drive north will bring you to Stranraer which lies at the bottom of Loch Ryan. The Castle of St John is a tower house built around 1500 in the town centre whilst the North West Castle Hotel was the first hotel to have an indoor curling rink which is still open between October and April. Take your pick of gardens to visit with Castle Kennedy Gardens and Glenwhan Gardens within reach of the town.
Driving north again will take golf lovers to Turnberry, home of the Trump Turnberry course that has hosted four open championships in its time. You can also stop at the historic Culzean Castle and Country Park as you make the short trip north to Ayr.
Whilst the route itself doesn't take you directly into Ayr it's a great place to stop, especially if you're travelling as a family. As well as the sandy beach it's also the birthplace of Robert Burns, you can visit it at Alloway which is just south of the town.
From Ayr you're taken up into the rolling hills and can also access Galloway Forest Park from the opposite end as previously mentioned. Places like Straiton are ideal to set up for wild camping for a day or two to take advantage of the walking trails that start and finish in the village.
Sanquhar to Dumfries
Continuing your journey east takes you to Sanquhar, one of the first Royal Burghs in Scotland. It's home to the world's oldest Post Office, which was opened in 1712 and is still operational today! The River Nith runs by the town and is one of Scotland's top salmon rivers. It's a great place to set up camp if you're looking to explore further into Upper Nithsdale and an ideal area for cyclists.
Sanquhar is also known for its distinctive knitting patterns which are mainly used for gloves in black and white. You can learn more from places like the Tolbooth museum but also A' The Airts which is a community Arts and Crafts Centre. Just outside the town is the Crawick Multiverse, a landscape art project designed by Charles Jencks.
Not far along from Sanquhar will take you to Wanlockhead which is Scotland's highest village at 1531 feet above sea level. Lead hills is also nearby and both are mining villages with a rich heritage where you can learn more at the nearby mining museum.
From here you'll follow quiet country roads towards Elvanfoot before re-joining the busier B7076 towards Lockerbie. You could stop here to take a look at the Garden of Remembrance or Lochmaben Castle or visit Applegarthtown Wildlife Sanctuary just before you reach the town.
From Lockerbie, a short 12 and a half mile drive will take you back to Dumfries, completing your journey around the South West Coastal 300.