The South West Coastal 300 is a new Scottish driving route that is perfect for a campervan or motorhome trip. Extending some 300 miles through the tranquil and scenic south-west region of Scotland, the circular road route takes in numerous attractions.
Holidaying on the South West Coastal 300
The SWC300 drive could be completed several days while on holiday in Scotland in a campervan or motorhome hire. But there is so much to see and do that it would be better to enjoy the journey over a week.
This guide to the South West Coastal 300 splits the journey into four sections.
South West Coastal 300 in a nutshell
The 300-mile-or-so South West Coastal 300 (SWC300) is located in a quiet corner of Scotland in the south-west area. It heads through Dumfries & Galloway region and Ayrshire.
The driving loop reaches the most southerly point in Scotland at Mull of Galloway, as well as passing through Wanlockhead, in the Lowther Hills.
The SWC300 features fabulous coastlines, including two lowland peninsulas, and several traditional seaside hotspots of Ayrshire.
Inland, the route winds through a delightful rolling countryside, edges atmospheric forests and crosses dramatic moorlands.
The SWC300 sticks as much as possible to quiet country roads although inevitably there are some shorter stretches that are busier with traffic.
It’s possible to start anywhere on the circular route. Most people will access the SWC300 from major routes, including the M74 and M77.
Section 1 of South West Coastal 300
Dumfries to Kirkcudbright, Dumfries & Galloway
The historic town of Dumfries offers a good starting point for a holiday driving the SWC300. Before setting off, why not take a stroll about the town, which is closely associated with Scotland’s bard, Rabbie Burns.
A walk of 4.5 miles in Dumfries follows in the footsteps of the famous poet along the banks of the River Nith and through the town centre. Other attractions to visit include Robert Burns’ House and Dumfries Museum.
From Dumfries, the SWC300 heads south to reach a picturesque village called New Abbey. It is famed for beautiful Sweetheart Abbey, which is now in ruins. It was built in 1273 by the widow of John Balliol, a prominent figure on Scottish history. It’s a peaceful place for a picnic, or enjoy a light meal or snack at the neighbouring café.
The route travels further, joining the Solway Coast with fabulous views. On a fine day you might see as far as the Lake District. The Solway Firth is the watery border between Scotland and England.
A short detour at the village of Kirkbean reveals one of Scotland’s oldest lighthouses at Southerness. The views from the top are a lovely but you need to be lucky to find the building open to the public.
If it is closed, don’t worry, because the SWC300 soon reveals further coastal views as it continues, hugging the coast and passing through Sandyhills with its beautiful beach.
At Colvend, it’s well worth detouring to Rockcliffe. The superb rocks-and-sand bay is the perfect place for a walk or just sit and enjoy the view.
The SWC300 continues to Kirkcudbright, where a possible overnight is found a little way on at Solway View Holidays. You might like to pop in to visit the 12th century Dundrennan Abbey before arriving in Kirkcudbright.
Kirkcudbright sits on the banks of the River Dee and is the only town on the Solway coast with a working harbour. It’s an pretty town with medieval, Georgian and Victorian buildings. Kirkcudbright became a magnet for Scottish artists in the late 19th century and is now know as The Artists’ Town. You discover plenty of galleries and artist shops to visit.
Section 2: Kirkudbright to Portpatrick
From Kirkudbright, you can follow the quiet and narrow B727 or the A755 to head west on the SWC300.
Both end up joining he A75, a busier rad, as you skirt to the south of Gatehouse of Fleet. Allow yourself to be diverted by tourist signs for
attractions such as Laggan Outdoor activity centre or Creetown Gem Rock Museum.
The landscape grows more rural and luscious green fields, like plumped up duvets, roll and billow towards a shoreline of pebble beaches and a turquoise sea.
Heading towards Newton Stewart, the SWC300 route takes a turn south again and on to what is known as the Machars Peninsula.
A little further on, Wigtown, Scotland’s book town, is a popular stop off place, especially if you enjoy browsing traditional book shops. There are plenty of cafes, too.
Close to Wigtown is another popular attractions, the ghoulish sounding Martyr’s Stake.
Journeying by campervan further south the views are of lowlands farmland and shoreline as you head towards the intriguing Isle of Whithorn. Strangely, despite its name, the picture-postcard sea port harbour settlement is no long an island after a causeway was built in the late 18th century. It is also the location of the ruined 13th century Saint Ninian’s Chapel.
Nearby is the village of Whithorn, where St Ninian built a priory that is now acclaimed as the birthplace of Christianity in Scotland.
At another harbour, Port William, I there is a delightful statue of a man at his leaning post looking out across moody Luce Bay. It’s surely a perfect place to rest for eternity.
The South West Coastal 300 rounds on to another peninsula called the Rhins of Galloway. The coastline is sublime with rugged headlands and sandy bays lapped by the sea.
Eventually, the route joins a single-track tarmac road going south to the Mull of Galloway. On the west side of the narrow stretch of land are steep cliffs and inlets of crashing waves, while to the east, the landscape is softer landscape with many sandy beaches.
The Robert Louis Stevenson-designed lighthouse, the most southerly in Scotland, was completed in 1830 and sits atop a 260ft high cliff. It feels perfectly wild and far-flung and as the sun begins to set the drama of this location is accentuated.
To reach Portpatrick, you must make the return journey north on the Rhins – the views are as beautiful heading north and they are going south – where you might choose to stop for a night.
The peninsula is also home to Logan Botanic Garden, which is well worth a visit if you have time.
Portpatrick is a lovely harbour town with pastel-coloured houses, a wide bay and a backdrop of low cliffs.
Section 3: Portpatrick to Sanquhar
Continuing in a clockwise direction, the SWC300 leave Portpatrick to travel the west coast from Dumfries & Galloway to South Ayrshire. Before leaving the tourist town you might like to take a walk on a stunning clifftop path to Dunskey Castle.
It would be easy to rush north along the A77, imaging that the only attraction is the omnipresent view of the island of Aisla Craig. It is a mesmerising sight in the Firth of Clyde but there is so much more to this coastline.
It’s fun to follow the direction of a few such as towards the beautiful beaches, of Ballintrae, Girvan, Maidens (past Trump Turnberry) and Dunure.
Historic Culzean Castle is positioned on top of high cliffs along this coastline. The National Trust for Scotland property would easily provide entertainment for a half day. Alternatively, you and enjoy a coastal view of the castle from the shoreline by visiting Croy Shore and walking along the beach towards Culzean.
Another interesting place to visit is the Varyag memorial, at Lendalfoot, which honours those that died when the Russian cruiser sank nearby in 1920. Meanwhile, the “gravity hill” Electric Brae is acclaimed for its mystery. A freewheeling vehicle will appear to be drawn uphill on this road, a section of the A719, by some strange attraction.
If you are travelling as a family, the Heads of Ayr Farm Park is a must-visit.
Heading further north the landscape becomes increasingly rugged with high hills on one side of the road and a sandy-rocky shoreline on the other. The SWC300 sends drivers east just before reaching the town of Ayr, although you might like to visit the seaside town and enjoy the various shops and tourism attractions here.
More attractions are dedicated to Rabbie Burns at Alloway, which was the poet’s birthplace. It would be easily possible to spend a day delving deep into the poet’s life and works, with visits to Burns Cottage and Burns Birthplace Museum.
The rest of this section provides a rewarding drive through glorious rolling hills and moors and into the Galloway Forest Park, the largest in Britain. Two beautiful conservation villages, Kirkmichael and Straiton, arrive one after the other.
Straiton would also make a great base for a day or two of walking or just an hour or so. There are five short walking trails that start and finish in the village.
A hike from Straiton climbs to a hilltop obelisk memorial, dedicated to Lt Col James Hunter Blair.
The village of Dalmellington is reached via the B741. It is a former centre for weaving and mining but is now better known for the nearby Scottish Dark Sky Observatory, located on a fantastic hilltop setting on the edge of the Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park.
A good overnight spot might be Sanquhar and nearby.
Section 4: Sanquhar to Dumfries
The SWC300 returns to Dumfries & Galloway at Sanquhar. The historic town boasts the world’s oldest post office. A sign reveals the PO dates back to 1712.
Sanquhar is also famous for the Sanquhar Pattern, a world-famous geometric-style of knitting pattern.
There is a host of places to visit nearby, too, including Crawick Multiverse, the art project by the landscape architect and designer Charles Jencks, and Wanlockhead, which claims the title of Scotland’s highest village.
The SWC300 heads into the Lowther hills to Wanlockhead and also to nearby Leadhills. Both are famed for their mining heritage, including gold and lead, and a small museum is worth a visit.
Wanlockhead is the highest village in Scotland at 1531ft above sea level. It seem remarkable that a village in southern Scotland claims this title.
In the summer, Leadhills & Wanlockhead Railway volunteers run Britain’s highest narrow gauge adhesion railway, reaching 1,498ft above sea level.
The SWC300 route descends though a superb remote-feeling road with rounded grassy hills to reach Elvanfoot, where the road turns south to follow the recently born River Clyde.
The drive is along amazingly empty roads, the B7076 and then the B719 and A701, that run mostly parallel to the motorway, to reach Moffat.
The historic spa town of Moffat is a popular place for tourists with a number of places to visit including Moffat Toffee Shop, cafes, independent shops and a museum.
The route continues on the A701 to rejoin the B7076 heading south for Lockerbie. The large town is, of course, known to most people for the Pan Am flight disaster in 1988 when a bomb exploded bringing down the plane and killing all passengers and crew, as well as 11 residents.
The disaster is remembered in a number of ways with stained glass windows in the Town Hall displaying the flags of the countries whose nationals were killed, a Garden of Remembrance and Lockerbie Air Disaster Memorial.
From Lockerbie, the SC300 turns west heading towards the coast again and heading back towards Dumfries.
Book a campervan hire early
Open Road Scotland has a range of campervans and motorhomes to hire in Scotland and conveniently located close to Glasgow Airport in Central Scotland. If you plan to visit Scotland this summer we recommend you book your hire as early as possible to avoid disappointment.