The South West Coastal is an amazing road trip in Scotland that is only starting to be widely recognized, as till now everyone had considered the North Coast 500 to be the ultimate Scotland road trip, the Scottish route 66! Read up on why you should go for this road trip route instead, taking in the beautiful region of Dumfries and Galloway. Check out our Scotland road trip planner, and then get the engines running and partake in this trip yourself.
Why go for the SWC 300?
Consider the South West Coastal 300 to be the younger, more shy sister of the bold North Coast 500. The SWC 300 is less known, not due to the quality of the route, but it has simply managed to stay off the tourism radar. This allows you to enjoy more peace on the route, particularly if your Scotland road trip itinerary takes place over the busy months of summer. It is also the best choice of the Scotland driving tour routes for those on a tighter schedule. You’ll see that in our NC 500 route, it can take up to 2 weeks to complete. The South West Coastal can take 3-4 days if you’re in a rush, or you can take your time and enjoy it leisurely in just over a week. It is a stunning route, allowing you to enjoy mainland Scotland as well as the coast, along with numerous castles and lochs along the way!
Before your Trip
There are plenty of things to consider before you start driving in Scotland, and undertaking this gratifying road trip. These include:
Possible weather. If you’re travelling in winter, consider the possibility of snow and what equipment this could require. If you’re travelling in summer, will you need a fan? A fridge to keep drinks cool? If you’re expecting rain, you’ll benefit from a good pair of wellies and an awning to sit under - as well as some things to keep you busy inside!
Do you know the rules for driving in Scotland? If not, read about them before heading out.
Download any road trip apps you might require for your trip, such as for finding campsites, the cheapest petrol prices and more. If you prefer a good old-fashioned map, then go for it!
Choose the vehicle for your trip, you’ll find plenty of motorhome hire in Scotland on Goboony.
Getting to the SWC 300
You can start the road trip at any point, given that it is circular. If you’re flying in to Scotland, it would be best to begin in Stranraer, where there is a direct railway line from Glasgow. It is also close to the terminal for the Belfast Ferry. You can also start in Alloway near Ayr, for road and rail links from Glasgow. Sanquhar has a rail service to Carlisle, Newcastle and Glasgow. And finally Dumfries, which is close to the A74 AND M6. For the purpose of this Scotland road trip itinerary, we’ll be beginning in Ayr, but you can just follow it from your starting point!
Start your first morning of the SWC 300 with a fresh buttered roll and heading to Ayr. As you’re in the home of the renowned Scottish poet, Robert Burns, you can expect to be visiting a lot of related sights. You can visit Burns Cottage, the 18th century family home of Robert Burns, which is now a museum with self-guided tours. And you can head to Burns Monument, commemorating his great life and works. The Brig O’ Doon, also known as the Auld Brig or the Old Bridge of Doon, is a late medieval bridge that will provide a gorgeous view and an ideal picnic spot! Your afternoon can either be spent at Heads of Ayr Farm Park, enjoying the animals and rides, or relaxing and strolling across Ayr Beach.
Staying at: Ayr Craigie Gardens Caravan Club Site. You’ll be camping on the grounds of Craigie Estate with access to the River Ayr. It is close to all the sights of your day, so you won’t have to travel far to get home! £6.20-8.50 per adult/night.
(Consider a detour to the Isle of Arran!)
Ayr - Sanquhar
Heading further inland on the A77, you’ll drive half an hour to Galloway Forest Park. Here you can enjoy a spectacular morning filled with hiking through tranquil valleys, heather-clad hills, rugged rock faces and more. You’ll spot a variety of wildlife, such as red and roe deer, as well as mighty birds of prey soaring above. Head to Kirkmichael for a late lunch, enjoying this picturesque village. You can walk off your meal along the cobbled streets, lined with cottages over 200 years old, and pop into the village store for any supplies you may need. You can either stop in Straiton to enjoy one of their many spectacular walking trails- which all start and end in the village- or you can head on to Sanquhar.
Staying at: Newark Farm. This award certified campsite is both sustainable and stunning! You’ll adore the spacious grassy pitches and working farm. £12 including electrical hook up, and an extra £1 for an awning!
Head to town for the morning, and perhaps try a traditional Scottish breakfast! A full breakfast would contain eggs, back bacon, link sausage, buttered toast, baked beans and tea or coffee. It could also have Scottish elements such as black pudding, Lorne suasage, Ayrshire middle bacon and tattie scones! Head to Sanquhar Tolbooth Museum to let your food digest, and then it is time for some sightseeing. Visit the 13th century Sanquhar Castle and then Crawick Multiverse, a land art project by the landscape architect and designer Charles Jencks.
Staying at: Newark Farm again! If you’re not pressed for time, we would recommend staying here an extra night just to enjoy the area around the site at your own leisure. You can enjoy the Newark Farm Trail, walking trails around areas of interest and wildlife habitats. You can also go fishing or swimming in the nearby lake, or rent mountain bikes for a day of thrilling exercise!
Leave Sanquhar early and head onto the B797, within twenty minutes you’ll reach Wanlockhead. This is Scotland’s Highest Village and is famed for their mining heritage, which you can learn about in the Museum of Lead Mining. Next you can head back onto the quiet road for a half hour until you reach Moffat, to enjoy their newly refurbished museum. Then it should be lunch time! If the weather is pleasant, head to Rumblin Tum to enjoy their outdoor seating and delicious seafood and home cooked meals! Or if you’re feeling something sweet, you might prefer Jack & Rachel’s Tea Room for a cuppa and treat! This bustling town is your ideal shopping stop, and also has many walks to enjoy. Once you’re done you can finish the drive to Dumfries, and head to Caerlaverock Castle, one of Scotland’s great medieval castles. Or if you’re not done fan-girling over Robert Burns, you could visit his house!
Staying at: White Sands West. A nice free overnight parking to help you stick to your budget, and located only 500m from the centre.
N 55.06693, W 3.61213
Dumfries - New Abbey
Start your morning by walking down to Devorgilla Bridge, with scenic views across the River Nirth. Pack up and drive the 20 minutes to New Abbey. On the way you can stop at Mabie Farm Park, which is ideal if you’re travelling with young ones! At New Abbey you can visit Sweetheart Abbey, the ruins of a historic Cistercian abbey dating to the 13th century. There is also the popular 18th century corn mill, which has been fully restored and has become a famed tourist attraction. Then it is certainly time for a treat, with a visit to Abbey Cottage Tea Room! They serve food all day, including homemade soups, home baking and food to go. Their bags of homemade mini shortbread hearts are a delight for any drive! Enjoy the best afternoon tea in the region for only £10.75 per person, served in this cosy little cafe with the friendliest service!
Staying at: If you need a break from your van for the night, then Rosewall is the ideal escape for you. This picturesque cottage is not only romantic, but comes fully equipped and can allow you to enjoy a quiet night, walking distance from the main street and a Netflix account provided! Happy in your van? Then overnight park in the village car park, which has a toilet building for daytime hours.
Rosewall: 54.981155, -3.617713
Village Car Park : N 54.98042, W 3.61962
New Abbey - Newton Stewart
On the road to Newton Stewart, you’ll take a slight detour to Southerness, to visit one of the oldest lighthouses in Scotland. You can either choose to stroll along the peaceful sandy dunes surrounding it, visit the bustling market town, or get back on the road. If you opt to keep driving, you can always stop at the beautiful beaches of Sandyhills, and visit the popular town of Kippford. There is a popular coastal walk here, of about 2.5 miles, after which you can enjoy a pub lunch in Kippford! Follow lunch by returning to the A710 till Dundrennan, which is famed for its abbey. This abbey was built in the 12th century and is known for being the shelter for Mary Queen of Scots final hours in Scotland. You then drive past Kirkcudbright - Scotland's Artist’s Town and home to a great gallery- until you reach Newton Stewart. After this busy day, I’m sure you’ll be eager to settle into your SWC 300 accommodation for the night!
Staying at: Drumroamin Farm Caravan & Camping Site. It’s been a few nights since we’ve enjoyed the cosy atmosphere of a campsite, so tonight you’re resting your weary head here. This secluded campsite has views over Wigtown Bay and the Galloway Hills, and lovely walking paths for an evening stroll. £16 for two people/night.
N 54.83140, W 4.42425
Newton Stewart - Whithorn
Heading south on the A714, you come across Scotland’s Book Town- Wigtown- renowned for their book shops and cafes galore. Then you can either stroll across the shores of Wigtown Bay, or take a small detour to another beautiful coastal village which is famed for the Mulberry Harbours, which aided in bringing an end to WW2. I then recommend heading southwards to the Isle of Whithorn, where you can enjoy lunch by the pretty harbour. Head to the nearby Whithorn to learn about the earliest Christian community in Scotland. Start by visiting the Whithorn Visitor Centre and Museum, to learn about the sights to come. Walk a few metres to the Whithorn Priory, a tranquil area with free guides to help you learn about the ancient history of Whithorn. Then drive to the shore to visit St. Ninian’s Cave, where you can take the small trek into the cave. Be warned, it is very wet and slippery! Follow this, by watching the sunset over the pebbled beach - what an end to a day!
Staying at: Burrowhead Holiday Village. This family owned holiday park is pet-friendly, featuring a family bar, cafe and on-site shop. The remote location ensure you’ll get a peaceful night stay, and you’ll surely be kept entertained by the heated swimming pool, crazy golf, amusement arcade and more! Price per pitch is dependent on season, £20-36.
Whithorn - Stranraer
The final day of the South West Coastal 300 should begin nice and early, plenty to see and do! Drive about forty minutes to Sandhead, a beautiful route hugging the coast. Here you can stroll around this picturesque village and visit Sandhead Bay. Head south to the Mull of Galloway, built at the most southern tip of Scotland! This is a view you cannot miss during your your Scotland road trip, and will be a breathtaking sight. Heading north again, you can stop at “Scotland’s Most Exotic Garden”, also known as Logan Botanic Garden. Then head further north to Dunskey Castle, the stunning ruins of a 12th century tower house or castle with views across the bay. You can visit the gorgeous village of Portpatrick next, and have a delightful lunch at Campbells, for your last batch of fresh seafood! From Portpatrick, follow the A77 and turn left at Lochans to head to Stranraer.
Spend your final day of SWC 300 exploring Stranraer, and hope for good weather to start your trip right! You can walk around the Castle Kennedy Gardens, which is described as ‘one of the showpieces of Galloway’. It is one of Scotland’s most important historical landscaped gardens, with a collection including numerous rare species. It is situated by the ruins of Castle Kennedy, your next stop. If you feel like continuing this castle trend, you can head to the Castle of St. John, a Stalwart 16th century tower house which now houses a museum. Grab your first lunch of the trip, we recommend Fig & Olive for delicious, fresh food and a killer coffee! Then you can take in the first loch of many, with Loch Ryan, a sea loch that acts as an important natural harbour for shipping and ferries. If you’ve brought the little ones along, you’ll probably want to head to Agnew Park so they can use up some energy, before heading to your first campsite!
Staying at: Aird Donald Caravan Park. This campsite is the ideal first stop, given that it is surrounded by beautiful landscapes and rich Scottish history, ensuring wonderful views to wake up to. They have spacious, grassy pitches, and you’ll have enough room to ensure privacy and a good night sleep! £18 for two adults/night.
And now we have reached the end of the Scotland road trip planner, providing you with one of the best Scotland driving tour routes there is to offer! The SWC 300 is ideal as you can really tailor the length to your desires, making it as long or short as you’d like. You’ll run into less fellow tourists, and get to enjoy your lovely motorhome hire in bonny Scotland!