When the Scottish Caravan, Motorhome & Holiday Home Show invited me to take a motorhome on a road-trip, I jumped at the chance. I’m always up for new adventures, and “wild camping” in a motorhome in January definitely fell into the new adventure category. Most of Scotland’s campsites close for winter, so electric hook up probably wouldn’t be an option. After poring over maps, we decided that January was as good a time as any to do the South West Coast 300.
The South West Coast 300 is a circular driving route that winds its way through Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway. It takes in rugged coastline, heather clad hills and fertile farmland. With pretty villages, gorgeous beaches, fascinating historical sites and lots of lovely space for hiking, biking and pretty much every outdoor activity you can think of, the 300 mile route has something for everyone.
We spent three days (two nights) travelling round the route. This post focuses on the highlights of our trip. It omits some popular SWC300 stops that already feature on the blog. I’ve added links to those posts, to give a more detailed account of the route.
Day 1 – South West Coast 300 (Ayr to Drummore)
When the day of our trip arrived, we excitedly headed to BC Motorhomes in Prestwick to pick up our motorhome. After a run through of how everything worked, we were ready to hit the road. “Wild Camping” in a vehicle with a double bed, kitchen, lounge area and shower room/toilet wasn’t exactly going to be a hardship. We had gas for hot water and cooking, and a leisure battery for lights and TV.
The beauty of the South West Coast 300 being circular, is that you can start it anywhere. As we were in Ayrshire, and it was the 25th of January (Burns Night in Scotland), our starting point was obvious.
Happy Birthday Rabbie (Alloway, Ayrshire)
On 25th January 1759 Robert Burns was born in the Ayrshire village of Alloway, in a cottage built by his father.
We’d planned to take it in turns to visit the cottage, but The Wee White Dug was invited inside as it was quiet. He was in his element, and listened intently as our guide gave us a fascinating insight into the early life of Robert Burns.
I was in my element too, blethering (talking) about Scots literature, and another subject close to my heart – the Scots language. Ma mither tongue.
Our visit to Burns Cottage ended with a recital, of the poem ‘John Anderson my Jo’. It was my request, but I should have known better than to request a poem that makes me greet (cry). Turns out it makes the nice lady at Burns Cottage greet too.
After a potter around Alloway, we grabbed a take-away lunch, which we ate at the dining table of our motorhome. Absolute luxury, after years of eating lunch in the car on chilly days.
The boy made himself at home as we dined, settling in his bed for a snooze.
Leaving Alloway, we headed south down the coast. Rain and a thick sea haar prevented any further stops in Ayrshire. We did stop briefly at Electric Brae to see if the motorhome would roll uphill – it did.
Portpatrick (Dumfries and Galloway)
By the time we reached Dumfries and Galloway, the weather had improved, so we stopped at Portpatrick for a leg stretch.
I was mesmerised by the colour of the sea. It was a yucky January day, but the water was jade green.
The Mull of Galloway Lighthouse (Dumfries and Galloway)
Leaving Portpatrick, we continued south towards Scotland’s most southerly point on the Rhins of Galloway Peninsula.
The Mull of Galloway is home to an RSPB nature reserve and the Mull of Galloway Lighthouse. The lighthouse which was first lit in 1830, was built by Robert Stevenson. Today, it houses an exhibition and can be climbed if you have a good pair of lungs and a head for heights.
We arrived in time to catch a lovely, pink sunset.
With the lighthouse closed for winter, I’d planned to spend the night there in blissful isolation. And I would have, if a strong crosswind hadn’t battered our motorhome. Having cliffs on either side of us, wasn’t calming my anxiety any. We were soon back on the road, looking for a less scary home for the night.
Haggis, neeps & tatties in Drummore (Dumfries and Galloway)
We found a good spot on the outskirts of Drummore (Scotland’s most southerly village).
We arrived in perfect time for dinner. A roaring fire and friendly welcome greeted us inside the dog-friendly Queen’s Hotel. There was only one dish we’d be eating on Burns Night. Haggis, neeps and tatties – in honour of Rabbie.
It was delicious and just like the simple dish I enjoyed as a child. No frills – just a hearty dollop of all three ingredients.
After dinner, we spent a relaxing evening watching TV, listening to music and making plans for the following day.
I thought sleeping in a motorhome in winter would be cold and uncomfortable. It wasn’t – we woke at 7am the next morning, having slept comfortably throughout the night.
Day 2 – South West Coast 300 (Drummore to Dundrennan)
We may have been “wild camping”, but with gas at our disposal we were able to have a hot shower and cooked breakfast before leaving Drummore.
Kirkmadrine Stones (Dumfries and Galloway)
We didn’t get far before my first history geek stop of the day – the Kirkmadrine Stones.
The stones are on display in a chapel near Sandhead.
There are eight stones, three of which date to 500 AD. They’re some of Scotland’s oldest surviving Christian stones.
I’ve seen many carved stones on my travels, but the Kirkmadrine Stones are beautifully unique.
Glenluce Abbey, Dumfries and Galloway
Continuing our journey north, we swapped one set of old stones for another.
Glenluce Abbey was founded in the late 12th century, and for 400 years it was home to an order of Cistercian monks.
Robert the Bruce stayed at the abbey in March 1329, during a pilgrimage to St Ninian’s shrine in Whithorn. It was his final pilgrimage. He died a few months later on 7th June.
Abbey explored, we hopped back in the motorhome and headed south towards Whithorn on the Machars Peninsula.
St Ninian’s cave, Dumfries and Galloway
With rain forecast, we were keen to do some walking before it arrived. We decided to visit St Ninian’s Cave near Whithorn. The cave is reached via a mile long walk that cuts through a wooded glen, then along a pebble beach.
The glen was easy to navigate, the pebble beach not so much.
Mr G carried the boy, as he doesn’t like walking on pebbles.
St Ninian’s Cave is said to have been Saint Ninian’s hermitage. It’s not known if he actually visited the cave, but carved crosses inside suggest the cave had religion links.
The boy miraculously regained the use of his feet when we reached the cave. He’s not usually a fan of caves, but he shot into this one. His eagerness surprised me. It turns out the wee scunner wanted to eat bird poop inside.
Large raindrops began to fall as we were heading back to the motorhome. The rain was torrential by the time we reach it.
Isle of Whithorn, Dumfries and Galloway
The harbour village of Isle of Whithorn seemed like a good place to stop for lunch. Anyone with common sense would have hurried straight indoors, but there was another ruin I wanted to visit first. Mr G hates banking fewer steps than me, so he joined me for a nosey round St Ninian’s Chapel.
The chapel was once a stopping-point for pilgrims heading to Whithorn Priory. The sea was wild during our visit, so I can’t imagine it was fun arriving by boat.
The Steam Packet Inn was toasty and warm inside. The boy cooried by a radiator, as we tucked into a hearty bowl of lentil soup each.
It was a dreich day, but the village looked cheery with its painted houses, and colourful boats bobbing in the harbour.
Leaving Isle of Whithorn we continued our journey round the Dumfries and Galloway coast.
Cairn Holy Chambered Cairns
The rain had stopped when we reached Cairn Holy Chambered Cairns near Carsluith, so we seized the opportunity to get outside.
Cairn Holy Chambered Cairns are a pair of burial cairns which date to the 4th millennium BC. They were excavated in 1949 and fragments of pottery, an axe head and other interesting artefacts were found.
Cairn Holy I is the most impressive of the two cairns. It looks like a haphazard stone circle, but much of what stands today would originally have been buried, or incorporated into a semi-circular courtyard wall.
Cairn Holy II lies a short distance from Cairn Holy I.
According to legend, Cairn Holy II is the final resting place of the mythical king Galdus.
The rain started again as we were leaving the cairns, so it was time to drive another chunk of the route.
With daylight fading and hunger kicking in, we stopped at the fish and chip shop in Kirkcudbright (the artists’ town) for take-away.
Suppers scoffed, we left Kirkcudbright in search of somewhere to settle for the night. We found a good spot at Dundrennan, and enjoyed a second relaxing night in the motorhome.
Day 3 – South West Coast 300 (Dundrennan to Ayr)
Dundrennan Abbey, Dumfries and Galloway
After breakfast the next morning, we stood and watched the sun rising over the ruins of Dundrennan Abbey. It was cold and bright, and shaping up to be a gorgeous day.
Like Glenluce Abbey, Dundrennan was once home to an order of Cistercian monks. It fell into decline after the Protestant Reformation, but a visitor in 1568 secured the abbey’s page in Scottish history books.
On 15th May 1568 the deposed Mary Queen of Scots spent her last night on Scottish soil at the abbey, before fleeing to England. The rest is history.
We still had lots of road to cover to return our motorhome to Prestwick for 3pm, but there’s always time to visit another castle.
Orchardton Tower, Dumfries and Galloway
Orchardton Tower is Scotland’s only round tower house. It’s located in a quiet, rural spot.
With a clear blue sky overhead it felt like the most idyllic place in Scotland.
The 15th century tower looks remarkably well-preserved, but inside it’s open to the elements.
You can still reach the top of the tower via a narrow turnpike staircase. The Wee White Dug likes narrow turnpike staircases as much as he likes pebble beaches. I explored as far as his retractable lead would allow (the first floor).
Sandyhills Beach, Dumfries and Galloway
The boy had been as good as gold all weekend, so before heading back to Prestwick we took him to Sandyhills Beach on the Solway Coast.
He had fun charging around on the sand. With blue sky and golden sand it looked like a warm summer’s day. The cold nipping at my nose, reminded me it wasn’t.
Sandyhills is without a doubt, one of the prettiest little corners of Scotland.
From coast to hillside, Dumfries and Galloway
The blue sky stayed with us as we left the coast and headed inland, travelling through hill and glen. We passed the villages of Leadhills and Wanlockhead (Scotland’s highest village) nestled in the Lowther Hills, before snaking our way through the breathtaking Mennock Pass.
Yes, this is what the South of Scotland looks like. So, if you’re planning a trip to Scotland, remember – it’s not just the Highlands that are drop dead gorgeous.
New Cumnock, Ayrshire
Our road-trip started at the birthplace of a handsome Ayrshire laddie. Fittingly it ended at the birthplace of a handsome Ayrshire laddie too.
On the 21st July 2012, The Wee White Dug was born on a hill farm overlooking the Ayrshire town of New Cumnock.
The Scottish Caravan, Motorhome & Holiday Home Show
We had a ball touring the South West Coast 300 in a motorhome, and loved every second of our trip (including the rainy bits).
The Scottish Caravan, Motorhome & Holiday Home Show is on at the SEC, Glasgow from Thursday 7th to Sunday 10th February. Pop along if you fancy booking a motorhome adventure of your own.
Thanks to the Scottish Caravan, Motorhome & Holiday Home Show for making this trip possible. Thanks also to BC Motorhomes for allowing us to spend a weekend touring in one of their motorhomes. Although our vehicle hire was provided on a complimentary basis, all opinions are my own.
Until next time …….