South West Scotland Road Trip: Itinerary, Attractions + Map

South West Scotland locations. Image 1: loch with mountain. Image 2: books at shop. Image 3: tower on top of hill

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When you think of road trips in Scotland, your mind automatically goes to North Coast 500 or the classic route to the Isle of Skye, right? Well, what if I told you there is a corner of the country that’s untapped and untamed? This guide details an itinerary for South West Scotland, which we have personally driven in our camper, Dita Van Tease.

Disclaimer: This South West Scotland travel guide has been created over several trips. We continue to update it whenever we visit the south. Our partners, Scottish Hostels, commissioned the Dumfries and Marthrown of Mabie section. As always, Two Scots Abroad Travel Guides created ridiculously useful information, and any opinions expressed are our own.

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Book Bench Wigtown, Scotland

South West Scotland Itinerary 

This itinerary will follow the stops and attractions on this map.

South West Scotland Road Trip Map

Edinburgh or Glasgow to Dumfries and Marthrown of Mabie (80/77 miles)

The first leg of the journey takes you from Scotland’s biggest city, Glasgow, to the market town and former royal burgh, Dumfries, then to a very unique accommodation in a forest, Marthrown of Mabie.

Since this is a road trip, you will want to add the scenic route via Grey Mare’s Tail Nature Reserve to your journey to drive through rolling hills and visit one of the UK’s highest waterfalls.

Remember, cash for parking.

Next up is the Queen of the South, Dumfries, which has a couple of restaurants and pubs for food, including the Cavens Arms serving hearty meals including an extensive vegan menu.

Dumfries is the biggest town in South West Scotland, and one of its biggest claims is that Scotland’s National Bard, Robert Burns, lived here.

Also, Greyfriars Kirk in Dumfries is where Robert the Bruce and his rival, John ‘Red’ Comyn, arranged to meet on February 10, 1306, to negotiate how Scotland should be ruled.

Comyn didn’t come out alive but it has never been confirmed how he died.

Vintage shop Rabbie Burns image Dumfries

Marthrown of Mabie (6 miles)

Just a 20-minute drive from Dumfries, an eclectic campsite with luxury yurts and an Iron Age roundhouse hides among the Mabie Forest track roads.

Pam and Mike own and manage the campsite.

They took over the land and started building family-friendly yurts in 2006.

You have to stay at Marthrown of Mabie to believe it.

The first stop is the reception car park, where you will also find two cottages, a kitchen space, and a large indoor social area.

From here, you drive along the dirt tracks to your special accommodation, whether that be a luxury yurt, roundhouse, campsite area for tents, or one of the other hundreds of years-old cottages located on a historic drovers’ passing place.

The accommodation is spread out over the grounds and discreetly covered by large trees.

We stayed in a luxury yurt overlooking the Solway Coast.

As soon as the stable-like yurt door opens, you are hit with a warm cuddle and the sweet smell of a wood stove fire.

The circular room includes everything you need for a comfortable stay.

Wooden bed Mathrown of Mabie yurt

Amenities include a double bed and an additional bed for the family, a kitchen with a four-ring hob and the top section of the wood stove acting as the oven, plates and utensils, a sofa, bedside tables, a TV and DVD player, and plugs for electronics.

Each yurt also has a bench and BBQ area.

There’s even free wood for the stove, which you usually have to pay for when glamping in Scotland.

There’s even reliable WiFi!

All you need to remember to pack is your own towels.

A one-minute walk from your yurt is a covered section where the fridge and microwave are stored and another where you will find a hot water shower.

Tip: Pack a pair of wellies and flip flops/Crocs.

What about the toilets?

Just two minutes’ walk from your yurt is the ‘loo with a view’!

It’s a composting toilet which means there is no running water down the toilet, you use sawdust to cover up.

Don’t worry, the drop is far down so you don’t have to look at anything aside from the countryside views provided by the carved out space in the wooden toilet walls!

The walk to the toilet really isn’t bad since you have a canopy of stars above to look at after nightfall.

Marthrown of Mabie is in the same region as the Galloway International Dark Sky Park.

Mathrown of Mabie Dumfries at night moon

There are three recreational areas at Marthrown of Mabie.

The first is a challenge assault course, and Mike dares you to try to get around it without touching the ground.

The second is the marquee space, where catering can be put on for events.

Hot tub in garden at Mathrown of Mabie

Finally, there is an outdoor wood-fired hot tub and indoor sauna room.

The hot tub uses clean spring water and recycles it.

It is a wood-fired hot tub, so it is very hot, but you can control the temperature by using a cold tap.

Wood fired hot tubs don’t create bubbles by the way.

Remember to pack your Crocs or flip-flops and clean your feet before you enter the hot tub or sauna.

The sauna comes with scents such as eucalyptus, magic for clearing the airways.

The area is lit by firesticks, giving it a Game of Thrones vibe!

Marthrown of Mabie has been built with love, and this was picked up by the E4 TV show Don’t Tell The Bride when a young couple got married there in 2012.

If you are watching the re-run, Marthrown of Mabie looks a little different a decade later, there are less trees making room for clearer views!

Weddings and events still occur here today, and many people opt to rent out the Iron Age Roundhouse for ceremonies and parties.

It comes with an outdoor stage, kitchen and campfire.

The campsite is close to 7Stanes, which is popular with mountain bikers.

Check availability at Scottish Hostels.

New Abbey (5 miles)

New Abbey is a cute historic village in Kirkcudbrightshire.

It has a similar feel to Culross in The Kingdom of Fife, with well-preserved buildings, some painted in pastel shades.

One of the main attractions in New Abbey is Sweetheart Abbey, which you can see when you enter the picturesque village.

After a stay at Sweetheart Abbey in 1300, King Edward I of England is said to have proclaimed, ’ If this is Scotland, I want more of it’.

Unfortunately, today, you can’t spend a night at the abbey founded by Lady Devorgilla in 1273 to commemorate the death of her husband, John Balliol, as it is a ruin, but you can admire its architecture from the graveyard.

You can also visit New Abbey Corn Mill and hike one of the trails that range from moderate (Airds Point) to strenuous (Criffel).

There are also lots of biking opportunities around Dumfries and Galloway.

New Abbey Corn Mill white building with bike at New Abbey

We cycled to New Abbey and Drumburn Viewpoint at Nith Estuary with Warren from Galloway Cycling Holidays.

Galloway Cycling Holidays is an award-winning tour company run by Warren and Esther, who have cycled worldwide.

They aren’t just cyclists, though.

They are also photographers with backgrounds in ecology and art, so there is never a dull moment during the conversation.

Warren also loves coffee, so you are guaranteed a scenic coffee stop or two during your trip!

The couple also support the development of gravel biking in South West Scotland, so contact the team if you plan a trip for multi-cycling.

Our start and end point for the cycle was Loch Arthur Farm Shop, where you should stop for lunch and try the cakes.

It isn’t just a food spot popular with locals and a community campus that works with people who are learning differences throughout the farm, gardens, creamery, bakery, craft workshops, farm shop, and cafe.

Castle Douglas (18 miles)

If you are looking for a town with many food options, there are plenty of cafes in Scotland’s Food Town, Castle Douglas.

Cream of Galloway is not only a Scottish ice-cream maker in the area, it’s also a day out!

The farm has crazy golf, an adventure park and nature trails. 

Cream o Galloway Wigtown, Scotland

Gatehouse of Fleet (14 miles)

Cardoness Castle signals the entrance to Gatehouse of Fleet; you can’t miss the 15th-century tower from the road. 

This six-storey tower was built by the McCullochs, and it contains a ‘pit prison’ where the family’s enemies spent some time. 

Attached is a smokehouse specialising in salmon. 

There’s a grassy area by the castle with picnic benches. 

Cardoness Castle South West Scotland_

We only stopped to stretch our legs at Gatehouse of Fleet, but I instantly messaged my friend to tell them this would be a lovely weekend trip location for us.

It’s a nice size with interesting architecture and a few pubs.

There’s an 18th-century cotton mill called The Mill on The Fleet with an exhibition centre, cafe and bookshop. 

If you like beaches, check out the six bays of Cardoness Shore. 

Like to hike? There’s a 7-mile (4-hour) Laghead To Lagg loop. 

If visiting in May, don’t miss Carstramon Wood for the bluebells that take over the ancient woodlands.

Red squirrels can be spotted all year round.

Wigtown (24 miles)

The next stop on your South West Scotland itinerary was a highlight for me: Wigtown, Scotland’s National Book Town.

The town centre is surrounded by wonderful bookshops, including The Book Shop, the country’s biggest second-hand book store.

You’ll identify it behind the stacked books statues at the entrance. 

The Bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland
Scotland's National Book Town Sign Wigtown, Scotland

Wigtown hosts an annual book festival where creatives meet and present to audiences.

This unique Scottish town doesn’t just sell stories, it has some of its own.

Pick up a map of the Wigtown Women’s Walk to find where influential women have left their mark. 

Wigtown Gardens Bowie, Scotland

I personally recommend Reading Lassies for food.

You can dine alongside the books inside or beside the pink cafe walls in the small garden.

Readinglassies Food Platter Book Shop Wigtown Scotland

Bladnoch (1 mile)

Just before you drive over the bridge out of Bladnoch, you’ll find Bladnoch Distillery tucked in the corner behind you and the Bladnoch Inn over the road from the distillery.

Bladnoch Bridge South West Scotland

The distillery is only one of a handful of lowland distilleries in action and has produced a single malt since 1817. 

You can take a distillery tour of the 200-year-old estate and enjoy lunch at the cafe.

Alternatively, grab pub grub across the road at the Bladnoch Inn.

Bladnoch Inn South West Scotland

Port William and Luce Bay (10 miles) 

The still water of Luce Bay was like a sheet of glass as we drove past the posh summer houses on the other side of the road.

This leg was one of those ‘lucky to be alive’ moments you often get during a road trip: a genuine appreciation for what Scotland offers.

Port William South West Scotland

There isn’t much going on in Port William, but there is a waterfront cafe, a few points of interest, including a bronze fisherman looking out to sea by the award-winning sculpture Andrew Brown, and signs pointing to different parts of the UK and Ireland. 

Fisherman Statue by Andrew Brown 1999 Luce Bay Port William

Portpatrick is a busy wee town packed with locals looking for a pint, even on a rainy day.

There are plenty of outdoor seating is spread out over the three harbour-view pubs, and dogs are welcome.

We dined on pie at The Crown Hotel before a walk around the harbour.

Another popular walk is to the 16th-century Dunskey Castle. 

Portpatrick boat in water

Stranraer (8 miles) 

Take on the bends of the hill as you drive to the big town of Stranraer.

This town has a well-used waterfront called Agnew Park, which has swans, a play area and a waterfront cafe. 

Boat Stranrear South Scotland_

Tor of Craigoch and Agnew Monument, Leswalt (5 miles)

If you are camping or campervanning, consider North Rhinns Campsite.

Just outside the site, you can point out the Isle of Arran in the distance!

The campsite itself is very chill. We had a nice big spot next to the shower and sink.

Campsite South West Scotland

This secluded campsite is close to Tor of Craigoch, where you will find the Agnew Monument.

It’s a steep five-minute climb to the top, but the panoramic views are worth it. 

Parking is available at the bottom of the path.

Tor of Craigoch Agnew Monument South West Scotland

Galloway Forest Park in Dumfries and Galloway (33 miles)

Galloway Forest Park, not to be confused with Galway in Ireland, is a UNESCO Biosphere reserve known for its dark skies and secluded spots throughout its 300 square miles of forest and hills.

Since there is minimum obstruction from town lights, you can see up to 7000 stars on a good night.

Loch Doon Galloway Forest Park South Scotland_

Coined ‘the Highlands of the Lowlands, ‘ this area offers plenty of outdoor opportunities, including watersports and hiking. 

You will enter the park again during this SW Scotland road trip! 

Be prepared for an invasion from wee beasties as dusk falls during the midge season (May-September). 

If you plan a road trip to SW Scotland, here’s our packing list and road trip hacks.

Loch Doon From Camper Galloway Forest Park South Scotland_

Murray’s Monument, Newton Stuart (34 miles)

Atop a mossy hill is a tall statue called Murray’s Monument, built in memory of a local shepherd boy called Alexander Murray.

There is parking to the side, and the steep hike up takes around 10 minutes.

Clatteringshaws Loch in Galloway Forest Park

Clatteringshaws Loch is a busy bus tour stop where you can grab a snack and sit by the loch looking at the highest hill in the Southern Uplands, Merrick. 

Here, you can also see Bruce’s Stone commemorating a spot where King Bruce had taken a rest.

The hike to get to the stone is an easy one mile.

Earlstoun Loch (10 miles) 

As you drive along A713, you can get lost in the low hills and heather, depending on what time of year you travel.

It’s a distinct difference from the high rolling hills of Scotland’s west coast, which you usually see in adverts for Scottish tourism.

Earlstoun Loch stopped our travels, we hopped out the camper to take some photos of the greenery. 

The stark white Cumnock Knowes Country Retreat, bouncing off the lush green fields, might also interest photographers. 

Earlstoun Loch Scotland

Dalmellington (18 miles)

As mapping goes, you could pop into Dalmellington before entering Galloway Forest Park but we spent the morning here instead. 

Historically, it was an old market town, but today, it has a larger village feel with cafes and takeout shops.

Its history is shaped by its involvement in textiles, the railway, ironworks and coal mining.

The Dalmellington Inn has indoor and outdoor seating.

Dalmellington Inn Scotland pub building

Close to the inn is a play park and green space that is part of King George’s Fields, named in memory of King George V.

There are over 400 of these fields in the UK, and you can see the lion on the plaque as you enter.

There is a unicorn on the other side of the entry. 

Loch Doon (7 miles)

Close to Dalmellington is the sought-after photo spot during Scotland’s lockdown, Loch Doon! 

You got to love the Scottish banter. 

Loch Doon Sign Galloway Forest Park South Scotland_

South West Scotland Map

Please find a link to the above SW Scotland itinerary map here. It is free for you to use and adapt.

Save for later! Pin to your Scotland planning board

The South West Scotland 300 road trip is a quieter alternative to the NC500 and takes in popular Portpartick, foodie Castle Douglas, Galloway Forest Park and the unique book town, Wigtown. Here are the best places to visit including lochs, hikes and towns.

Final Words

If this is your first time or a repeat trip and you are wondering where to visit in Scotland, SW Scotland is well worth considering for its expansive landscapes, quiet beaches, history and its UNESCO Biosphere.

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