Ravenglass to Dumfries / New Abbey to Stranraer / Girvan to Port Glasgow


Parts of the county are wild and desolate, but the coast is a mixture of dramatic headlands, wide bays and salt marsh estuaries. The name comes from Caer-Cuabrit, meaning the Church of St.Cuthbert.


New Abbey

Sweetheart AbbeyDriving directly south along the west bank of the river we arrived at the beautiful red stone ruin of Sweetheart Abbey - so named because Devorgilia Balliol (Lady of Galloway) had it built in memory of her deceased husband John. She carried his heart around in a casket until she died in 1290 when she was buried with it at the abbey.

Southerness PointThis place was very photogenic with lots of stone arches and extremely peaceful and well kept. South again and passing Criffel Hill on our right, at 1869 feet, the tallest hill around.

At Southerness Point there is an old lighthouse and a championship golf course - the first of many.

Sandyhills Bay

Sandyhills BayThe Solway Firth opens up to the Irish Sea past Southerness and there are some wide sandbanks and beaches. The bay has a caravan park and a very sandy car park where we stopped to take photographs. The tide was in so we didn't see the bay in its full splendour.


Around the coast in a cove owned by the National Trust for Scotland is Rockcliffe, where at low tide you can reach the bird sanctuary at Rough Island. This small area is worth a lengthier visit as there are some lovely walks here.

Loch ErncrogoWe crossed the River Urr at Dalbeattie and went to buy some camping gaz for the van and then on to our stop at a farm at Kilnottrie.

Our window overlooked Loch Erncrogo, towards the mountains of the Galloway Forest Park, which were capped in snow.

Castle Douglas

This is a cosy market town with straight streets designed by its 18th century owner, William Douglas. It was originally called Causewayend and then Carlingwark before getting its present name in 1792. We spotted a lovely campsite on the outskirts of the town by the loch before driving on in the sunshine to Threave Gardens.

Threave Gardens

Threave CastleThese gardens are the grounds of a Jacobean Mansion, which now houses the National Trust School of Horticulture. The 60 acres of garden and woodland are beautiful and we were lucky enough to visit on a sunny day when the daffodil bank and woodland bulbs were at their best.

Down the road is Threave Castle, built in 1370 for Archibald the Grim. The only access to the island on which it stands in the River Dee is by boat. You have to ring a bell on the bank for the ferry!

Balcary Point

Balcary BaySouth again through the smuggling haunt of Auchencairn to Balcary Bay with gorgeous views over the sand back the way we had come. It was warm and sunny, so we walked along the cliffs to Balcary Point.

A rather nice hotel overlooking the bay beckons us for a stay in the future - convenient for the area around Rockcliffe and in the centre of some rather splendid looking walks. Along the path we saw some highland 'coos' and at the headland we could see across to Whitehaven. On the radio we learned that snow had delayed cricket in Northampton!

Dundrennan Abbey

We had to take the A711 across to Kircudbright, as this part of the coast is a danger area belonging to the MOD, although the red flags weren't flying today. We passed Dundrennan Abbey, a Mary 'QOS' hiding place before she fled to Maryport in 1568.


CastlePronounced Kirkoobree and meaning 'The Church of St Cuthbert', this town deserves a longer stay. It featured strongly in the wars of Cromwell's time and the countryside around is dotted with monuments to battles, heroes and massacres. It is now home to a thriving artist community whose work can be seen in many small galleries.

There is a memorial to John Paul Jones at the Tolbooth, an 18th century slave trader who founded the American navy. Near the town centre, there is a picturesque marina and fishing boats were moored at the quay. McLellan's Castle is a focal point from the Dee Bridge.

Wigtown BayWe took the road to the west of Kircudbright Bay, stopping to photograph St Mary's Isle and the 'Devil's Thrashing Floor', before turning west through Borgue. All around the coast the map shows danger areas in the sea and there are multiple Cup and Ring Marked Stones dotted about the fields.

We crossed the peninsula to the east of Wigtown Bay, passing through Kirkandrews with a boarded up church. There are good views across the bay and to the Islands of Fleet. At low tide, you can walk to one of these, Ardwall, from Carrick. The yellow of the gorse was stunning.

Gatehouse of Fleet

Cardoness CastleTurning north again we joined the A75 in a snowstorm, but it was short-lived. The road crosses the estuary to the south of Gatehouse of Fleet overlooked by the square grey ruin of Cardoness Castle. Perched on the hill, this 15th century stronghold is a fortified tower house with dense walls and tiny windows. It was originally owned by the McCulloch family of Galloway, who abandoned the castle in late 17th century, following the execution of Sir Godfrey McCulloch for murder.

The tiny town of Gatehouse is home to the Mill on the Fleet, a former cotton mill that is now a local history museum. The cotton industry boom ended in 1850 and the mills fell into disrepair. Burns wrote 'Scots wha hae' in the Murray Arms Hotel.

Newton Stewart

Newton stewartTo the west, the road skirts the mud flats of Wigtown Bay before cutting up to Newton Stewart (pronounced Nwt Stwt), a small market town on the River Cree, famous for its salmon and trout fishing. It was founded in the 17th century by William Stewart, youngest son of the 2nd Earl of Galloway.

It is a popular place for hikers heading for the Galloway Hills and the Southern Uplands Way beside Glen Trool.

The Galloway Forest Park is an area of magnificent scenery, Bruce's Stonewonderful walking country and midges by the million - we had sampled them before when we were camping at Caldons campsite one August!

Beside Loch Trool is a cairn commemorating Robert Bruce's early victory in the Scottish Wars of Independance. The view from here was amazing.


We left Newton Stewart and entered the old county of Wigtownshire, travelling south for 10 miles before reaching the coast again in the Machars. Sometimes called West Galloway, this is remote county with a long coastline, no large towns and a warm climate. There are some hilly moors behind the good beaches and it is an extremely pleasant place.



Wigtown memorial

We were expecting this county town to be interesting, but found it a bit dull - maybe because the sun had disappeared temporarily. Apparently it has been chosen as 'The Scottish Book Town'.

Town HallThe things that stood out in the spacious main street were a big red council building and an obelisk commemorating two martyrs, both called Margaret, who were tied to stakes and drowned in 1685.

The Wigtown Bay Nature Reserve has the largest area of saltmarsh and mudflats on the outer Solway.


Garlieston BayOur caravan club site was at the sandy Garlieston Bay. This is a quaint little harbour village but as the tide was right out it did not look as pretty as it might, boats were perched at awkward angles many feet below the harbour wall. The campsite is in two halves, one overlooking the harbour and a more secluded part. As high tide was at about 2a.m. we wouldn't see the sea, so we opted for the quiet part.

Garlieston Bay

We walked through the little village to a water mill and then along a footpath towards Cruggleton Castle ruins. The footpath had fallen into the sea so that put a stop to our wandering and we settled for watching the sun set over the harbour. There is a large disused mill by the harbour that now houses 'The Trading Post' - a 'buy cheap things here' warehouse that seemed to be open every day, although who the customers are in such a remote place, we weren't sure.


Isle of WhithornAnother glorious sunny morning and we set off south to The Isle of Whithorn. This pretty place was the first foothold of Christianity in Scotland.

It isn't an island but a tiny seaport holding the remains of the tiny 13th century St.Ninian's Chapel. St.Ninian's shrine is in a nearby cave and pilgrims to it crossed the Solway Firth and landed here.

Witness CairnWe walked up to the highest point and sat in the warm sunshine looking out over the Isle of Man. It was completely snow covered and shining in the sun - an impressive sight - but we were told that some of its roads were blocked by snow.

St.Ninian's ChapelNearby is the Witness Cairn, one to which visitors are invited to add their stone. There were some stones with memorials painted on them.

Whithorn PrioryWe decided to take a small detour inland to visit The Whithorn Dig, an archaeological exhibition and ruined priory set in a small town with a wide street. In 397 AD, Saint Ninian founded the first Christian church north of Hadrian's Wall. He daubed his tiny building in white plaster and called it Candida Casa, translated as Hwiteme by the Picts - hence Whithorn.

The priory was built in the 12th century to service his shrine and for generations the rich and royal visited until pilgrimages were banned during the Reformation.

Luce Bay

Barnalloch PointAt the very south of the peninsula, the road turned west at Barnalloch Point and we stopped for lunch overlooking a bay called Port Whapple. The view to the west, south and east was of turquoise blue sea (marked with danger areas on the map), and we could see rocks called Big Scares and Little Scares. There are steps down to a sandy beach that stretches 20 miles to the north-west where it widens at Luce Sands.

Port William

The A747 runs right along the flat shore and in the sunshine, it was a gorgeous drive. It was high tide and there were numerous places to park by the water.

Just past the little town of Port William is Chapel Finian, which once offered a place of refuge for Irish pilgrims on their way to St Ninians Shrine.

Cistercian AbbeyWe got a fine view over the 8 mile stretch of Luce Sands from Stairhaven and at the head of the two main peninsulas lies the little town of Glenluce and an impressive railway viaduct.

Cistercian AbbeyA short country lane beneath the arch, took us to the 12th century Cistercian Abbey. This is an impressive ruin sacked by Cromwell's troops and never rebuilt. There is an air of calm and peace and the acoustics are so good that opera singers sometimes practice here.

The Rhinns of Galloway

Sandhead This is a hilly hammer shaped peninsula with the southern most headland of Scotland at its point. The southern road sweeps in round the Luce Sands but the area is out of bounds - MOD property again - and today the red flags were flying.

ArdwellThe coast is sand dunes and gorse bushes, interspersed with military roads with gates and warning notices. On the right is an airfield with a spherical building that can be seen from some distance. I suppose they have to play their war-games somewhere, but it does seem a shame to clobber such lovely scenery.

There is a small resort just to the south called Sandhead, but it houses nasty caravan sites and is rather tatty, but Ardwell has a nice picnic spot by the shingle beach. There is also a garden to visit. There are pretty sheltered bays all the way down this east-facing coast with views over the Machars

Kirkmadrine ChapelKirkmadrine StonesWe walked up a long wooded path to find the Kirkmadrine Stones which is the oldest Christian site on the Rhins. The collection of eight old Christian stones are protected in a glass fronted shelter and date from the 5th to the 12th centuries.

They suggest there may have been a large monastery here, but by the 13th century it was a simple parish church which later fell into ruin. At the end of the 19th century, Lady McTaggert of Ardwell built a private family-vault chapel, incorporating part of the old church.

New England Bay

New England BayNew England BayWe stayed at a caravan park right beside the beach with gorse bushes between camping spots - it is the best site we have been to yet. The tide was out and we went for a walk along the sheltered beach. We didn't see anyone and it was glorious.

Logan Botanic GardenThe next morning we went to visit the nearby Logan Botanic Garden, an outpost of Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Garden and built round a ruined castle. It is noted for its tree ferns and cabbage palms.

The Gulf Stream keeps the Rhinns almost frost free with a climate that can support sub-tropical plants. It was a very different garden to Threave, being subdivided into walled, bog and woodland areas.

Mull of Galloway

DrummoreThe last fishing village that we came to was Drummore, which proudly boasts the furthest store south and the 'First and Last' Post Office. (The last information centre was firmly locked up).

We had to make a decision as to whether the road to the lighthouse would be good enough for the van as we suspected reversing would be pretty impossible.

Mull of Galloway lighthouse

The sight of the lighthouse in the distance was enticing and we decided to go on. As we rounded the bend past the last turning place, the road was blocked by an accident. We waited half an hour while two breakdown trucks and several policemen loaded the cars up. Then, followed by several more cars, we all set off in convoy to the end of the wiggly road.

Mull of GallowayThe wait was definitely worth it as the views were breathtaking. I have never seen such blue water around Britain. We could see Cumbria, Ireland and the snow covered Isle of Man, while all the fields around us were green and mown into wide stripes. The lighthouse, which like all the others is now automatic, was painted in the usual livery of shining white, yellow and black and looked immaculate, standing 270 ft above the sea..

Port Logan and Portpatrick

Port LoganThe nature of the hills means that there is no road along the west coast, so we drove north through the middle on narrow country lanes with little farming hamlets.

Port LoganWe got as far as Port Logan before reaching the west coast where there is a lookout tower on the harbour wall and ankle deep muddy sand on the beach. The BBC films the series '2000 Acres of Sky' here.

At Kirkmadrine, a narrow footpath leads up to the chapel, where a group of interestingly carved standing stones are housed in a glass case.

PortpatrickWe again followed muddy, farm roads to reach the charming resort of Portpatrick where the Southern Uplands Way begins. The coast is very craggy and there is a small harbour.

PortpatrickSeveral attempts were made to build a pier and lighthouse, but the stormy weather defeated them. This was a main embarkation point for N.lreland before sailing boats were replaced by steam and traffic rerouted to Stranraer.

Loch Ryan

lrish SeaThe country road now goes directly north, with glimpses over the fields and cliffs of the lrish Sea and Ireland. Just before turning east at Balsarroch, we saw the Larne Ferry at sea.

Corsewell PointThe northern point of the Rhinns is marked by Corsewell Point where the lighthouse is now a hotel.

Quite soon we were travelling south again and just through the small village of Kirkholm we stopped beside Loch Ryan at a bay called The Wig. There is a large beach of shingle with huge numbers of oyster shells. The fishing of oysters is prohibited as they appear to be privately owned !!!!!

The Scar

We took a walk along the shingle beach to a spit called The Scar, that stretches well into the loch and is a nesting area for terns, eider and oystercatchers.sign

There was a constant stream of ferry traffic from Ireland to Stranraer, but although there were notices warning of the swell from the boats, we were still surprised to see how big the waves were, sometimes washing right over the spit and cutting us off.

Out to sea, like a guard at the loch entrance we could see our first view of Ailsa Craig. Although the island looks close, it is still 50 miles away.


StranraerAt the south of the loch stands the ferry terminal Stranraer. It is a grimy port and far from attractive and the A77 passes right along the wide shore.

P&O ferry serviceThere is the Stena Sealink Catamaran service to Belfast that takes 1½ hours and a vehicle ferry to Lame that takes 2¼ hours. A heritage centre in the old castle tells the story of law and order.

Cairnryan5 miles up the side of the loch at Cairnryan, there is a P&O ferry service using what was a World War ll military port.

Just north of this point, a picnic site is situated directly opposite The Wig and it is just possible to see it with the naked eye.