Scotland simply has the most stunning scenery and landscapes and it is no surprise that road tripping is very popular.
While many of the routes are ancient military roads and routes for normal people, it hasn’t stopped tourists flocking to these new ‘tourist routes’.
The NC500 may be the most well-known and the Aberdeen Castle Trail of the NE250 hugely popular. It is the ‘new’ South West Coastal route known as SWC300 we recently took a long weekend road trip around. (And when I say recently, I mean, it was the weekend before the UK went into Lockdown due to Covid-19, and we unfortunately had to cut our trip short to make sure we got home in time.)
The SWC300 is a breathtakingly scenic 300-mile circular road trip which is hugs the South West Coast of Scotland taking in its beauty and charm whether you want to explore history, enjoy nature of are an adventure seeker there is so much to discover down in this corner of Scotland.
The South West of Scotland is conveniently accessible from many parts of the UK and the circular route can be completed in either a clockwise or anti- clockwise direction.
For the purpose of explanation, we will guide you anti-clockwise, we headed south from Glasgow.
Ayr is a popular seaside resort with charming sea front as well as a town with shops and bars
18th century Dumfries House, designed by renowned architect Robert Adam was saved by Prince Charles on behalf of his Princes Foundation in 2007 for the sum of £45million. It is one of Britain’s most beautiful stately homes and grounds, built for William Dalrymple, 5th Earl of Dumfries, the house is rather special and contains much of its original furniture
Price | Tours of the house start from £8.50. The gardens are free entry
Sat Nav | KA18 2NJ
Visit Robert Burns, Scotland’s most famous poet’s birthplace ‘Burn’s Cottage’ and also the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum which houses over 5,000 Burns artifacts. Alloway is also a very pretty village and well worth a wander around
Price | Robert Burns Birthplace Museum £10.50 for adults (free for National Trust of Scotland members)*
Sat Nav | KA7 4PQ
A small fishing village which dates back to early 19th century, visit the ruined Dunure Castle and wander down to the small harbour. If you are a fan of Outlander then you may recognise Dunure from several scenes in season 3. To the south of the village you will see signs for ‘Electric Brae’ which is an optical illusion, where a freewheeling vehicle will appear to be going uphill when in fact it is rolling down hill
Price | Dunure Castle is free entry
Continuing around the coast and perched on a clifftop is the beautiful Culzean Castle, an 18th refurbished castle designed by Robert Adam is the former home of the Marquess of Ailsa, the chief of the Clan Kennedy. In 1945 the family gifted the castle to the National Trust for Scotland, with a condition of the gift stipulated that the top floor apartment was made available to General Dwight D Eisenhower, in recognition of his role during World War Two. The castle was built to impress and opulent to the extreme with planted trees, caves, pond and ice house, and a fruit-filled glasshouse. The castle is surrounded by a 260-hectare country park where you can spot deer, it has its own beaches, parkland and play areas. Culzean Castle and its gardens are wonderful, go on a tour of the castle and then stay for some lunch or afternoon tea
Price | £17 for adults (free for National Trust of Scotland members)*
Sat Nav | KA19 8LE
Blog Post |30 Best Castles In Scotland
Stay the night at the stunning Trump Turnberry Hotel, enjoying its spa, or stop off for afternoon tea. Or enjoy a walk to through the famous golf course to reach Turnberry Lighthouse which sits splendid on the coast, providing yet more beautiful vistas
Price | Afternoon tea from £35 per person. Hotel stay from £300 per night (look for discounts on www.itison.com)
Sat Nav | KA26 9LT
With the road hugging the coast and stunning views across to the volcanic Ailsa Craig its worth taking a slow drive through Girvan, and stopping at the harbour
Glenapp Castle is a 5* hotel set in manicured gardens. Visit for a delightful afternoon tea in luxury surroundings
Price| Afternoon Tea is £35 per person
Sat Nav | KA26 0NZ
Blog Post | Afternoon Tea at Glenapp Castle
Portpatrick is the main tourist town on the Rhinns, and consists of a cluster of cottages sitting around a pretty bay and harbour
Kirkmadrine Stones are some of the oldest Christian memorials in Britain dating back to the 500s AD, and are to be found at Kirkmadrine Church. The current church was built in the late 1800s. The stones are displayed behind a glass door on the church building and the views from the churchyard are outstanding
Price | Free (part of Historic Scotland)**
Sat Nav | DG9 park on side of road and walk for 5 minutes
Mull of Galloway
The Mull of Galloway is Scotland’s most Southerly Point and at the end of a narrow peninsula with stunning views in every direction is the Mull of Galloway Lighthouse Exhibition, the RSPB Visitor Centre and Reserve and the Gallie Craig Coffee House.
The Lighthouse at the Mull of Galloway is perched on the end of a 260 foot cliff and was built by Robert Stevenson and first lit in 1830. The Lighthouse remains operational and is managed and by friendly and knowledgeable staff at the Northern Lighthouse Board.
The exhibition is based in the fuel storeroom and engine room and you can watch the diesel engines in action and hear Scotland’s only remaining foghorn in action. View many interesting artefacts from previous Lighthouse Keepers. Then climb up the narrow spiral staircase with its 115 steps to the viewing platform, with amazing views across the Lake District, across the Irish Sea to the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland. Also look out to sea as you may just spot dolphins or even whales!
Price| Access to the Lighthouse Tower is by guided tour only. Combined visit to both the Lighthouse and Exhibition £5.00 adults
Sat Nav | DG9 9 HP
Isle of Whithorn
The village of Whithorn has a strong association with St Ninian, who brought Christianity to Scotland, while the nearby Isle of Whithorn is a pretty coastal village. Here you will find the 13th century St Ninian’s Chapel, Whithorn Priory and St Ninian’s Cave where Monks would use as a place of retreat, you can reach the cave by foot it is around 4 1/2 miles one way. Stay at the quaint The Steam Packet Inn in Isle of Whithorn and tasty range of beers and ales from the locally brewed Five Kingdoms Brewery
Price | Steam Packet Inn B&B from £90 per night
Sat Nav | The Steam Packet Inn DG8 8LL
Kirkcudbright & Dundrennan Abbey
Kirkcudbright is a thriving artist town located next to the water with rows of beautiful cottages. Visit the ruined 12th century Dundrennan Abbey, home to Cistercian Monks for 400 years and where Mary Queen of Scots spent her final hours in Scotland in May 1568
Price | £5 for adults (free for Historic Scotland members)**
Sat Nav | DG6 4QH
The island fortress of Threave Castle comprises of a 30-metre-tall keep or tower house that built in the late 14th century
Price | £5 adult (free for Historic Scotland members)**
Sat Nav | DG7 1TJ
Blog Post | Exploring An Island Fortress
Dumfries & Sweetheart Abbey
We already mentioned Robert Burns- the famous Scottish poet who was born in Alloway, now you can visit where he lived in Dumfries, in a museum dedicated to his life.
Visit Sweetheart Abbey, a gorgeous ruined Abbey and then enjoy a delightful afternoon tea in Abbey Cottage Tearoom which overlooks the Abbey. Stay overnight in a bunkhouse, or a yurt at Marthrown of Mabie
Price | Robert Burns House Free entry. Sweetheart Abbey £5 (free for Historic Scotland members)**
Sat Nav | For Sweetheart Abbey DG2 8BU
Caerlaverock Castle is the epitome of a Scottish Castle. It is a striking red sandstone, triangular Castle set on a moat. The ruined building is great for walking around and absorbing life as it once was
Price | £6 for adults (free for Historic Scotland members)**
Sat Nav | DG1 4RU
Take a detour from the SWC300 and visit Gretna Green, which is on the border of England. Historically famous for 16-year-old English lovers running to Scotland to get legally wed, and also a great for Outlet Village where you can get 60% off designer brands
Sat Nav | DG16 5GG
You’d think that Scotland’s highest village would be up North when in fact in South West Scotland and sits at 430 metres above sea level. In Wanlockhead visit the Museum of Lead Mining which has fascinating information into the local mining history. Drive through the stunning Mennock Pass to reach here
Sat Nav | ML12 6UT
* National Trust for Scotland annual membership from £62 per person
** Historic Scotland annual membership from £53 per person
*Please note that due to Covid-19 opening times may differ
Our trip around South West Scotland was organised in association with Visit South West Scotland, Mull of Galloway Experience and The Steam Packet Inn promoting the South West Coastal 300. As always, we will only recommend places we have enjoyed, and opinions are our own.