The South West Coastal 300 Road Trip – For the Lovers of Nature, History, Adventure & Scotland

The South West Coastal 300 (SWC300 for short) is a spectacular and adventurous circular road trip that takes you round the wonderful south western corner of Scotland.

The quiet and scenic country road trail traverses the dramatic coastline, rolling countryside, ancient forests, natural landscapes and history of Dumfries & Galloway and Southern Ayrshire. Stop and enjoy the many impressive sights, historic castles, ancient monuments and the diverse nature. There are many mini adventures to be be experienced that this exciting route offers.

The SWC300 (actually 320 miles & 515 km) passes almost by our holiday cottage at Destination Balcary and various sections of the route can be experienced on the way to our self catering farmhouse itself.

If travelling from the North you can pick the route up from near Elvanfoot. If you are heading from the South, start from Lockerbie or Dumfries. Get yourselves right into the holiday mood, take the slow road and stop at any of the following highlights on the way:

Caerlaverock Castle

Caerlaverock Castle

First Up – Caerlaverock Castle

As a warm up to the SWC300 route, just 15 minutes south of Dumfries is the impressive Caerlaverock Castle. It is located on the other side of the River Nith from Sweetheart Abbey (see below) is a striking, moated and unique triangular castle and the epitome of a medieval stronghold.

Dumfries to Auchencairn & Destination Balcary

Southerness Lighthouse

Southerness Lighthouse

Once you have joined the South West Coastal 300, travelling from Dumfries, then here a few places to stop off on the way down to Destination Balcary.

  1. Sweetheart Abbey – 8 miles along the route is a splendid red-sandstone ruin of the late 13th century Cistercian monastery close to the pretty whitewashed cottages of New Abbey Village
  2. Powillimount Beach is great for a picnic, rockpooling and exploring the interesting rock formations. Southerness Lighthouse is the second oldest lighthouse in Scotland. Great views on clear days over the Solway Firth across to the Lake District.
  3. A short drive further on is the shallow waters and wide stretch of sand that makes up Sandyhills beach
  4. Head further along and you can walk across from Rockliffe beach over the tidal causeway to the nature sanctuary at Rough Island. Except May to June due to breeding birds.
  5. At Auchencairn you will leave the official trail of the SWC300 and head down towards your holiday destination at Destination Balcary. You can pop up to Balcary Point and get great views across to Hestan Island. This can be reached at low tide from Almorness Point which is across the other side of Auchencairn Bay.
  6. If you are early then grab a drink or bite to eat at Balcary Bay Country House Hotel.


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10 Great Highlights along the SWC300

Having completed this shortish appetiser section of the SWC300 you are now have the main course awaiting you. Here are a few more of the key highlights that could be on the menu of this wonderful road trip. All of which can be done in sections or as a whole. The best advice is do not rush it, plan your stop off points and be prepared to take unscheduled stops. Most importantly, take your time to explore and enjoy.


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These are 10 of the key highlights a short selection of many great places to explore and experience, there are many others too.

  1. Kirkcudbright (pronounced kir–coo–bree) at the mouth of the River Dee is as vibrant town and an artists haven full of independent art galleries and craft shops.
  2. Mull of Galloway Lighthouse – Climb the 115 steps for some of the best views in Southern Scotland. This spot on the Rhins of Galloway peninsula is Scotland’s most southerly point, a completely unspoilt paradise due to its remoteness. It is one of the best places in the UK to view dolphins, porpoises and many breeds of sea birds.
  3. Portpatrick – A picturesque seaside village and harbour on the west coast of the Rhins of Galloway. This pretty village has a small bay of pastel coloured houses is set against a dramatic cliff top backdrop.
  4. Ailsa Craig – This uninhabited and iconic granite rock island set in the Firth of Clyde is home to seal colonies and thousands of birds. It is also home to the world’s best known quarry producing 2/3rds of the best curling stones in sporting use.
  5. Dunure Castle – Although ruined for over 300 years, was once the main fortress of the powerful Kennedy family. This imposing historic landmark overlooks the small harbour of Danure.
  6. Electric Brae – Watch your car roll uphill here at this mysterious location providing an optical illusion or is it a magnetic or electrical force? A weird experience and sensation.
  7. Galloway Forest & Dark Sky Park – One of the best places in the UK to enjoy the dark night skies and where on a clear night you can expect breathtaking and rare stargazing conditions. Over 7,000 stars and planets are visible with the naked eye,  including the bright band of the Milky Way. By day you can explore the rolling Galloway glens and hills to discover picturesque forest trails and wonderful wildlife including red deer, red squirrels, red kites, ospreys and even eagles.
  8. Crawick Multiverse – Is an amazing land art installation. Interested in cosmology, science, art or just want a fascination walk savouring the beautiful landscape. This land art project near Sanquhar in Dumfries and Galloway was transformed from a former coal mine into an incredible outdoor space.
  9. Wanlockhead & Mennock Pass – Surprisingly the highest village in Scotland can be found not in the Highlands but at a 467m altitude in Dumfries & Galloway. The spectacular and scenic Mennock pass heads out from Sanquhar past the Lowther Hills ski centre up to the lofty village of Wanlockhead.
  10. Grey Mare’s Tail Nature Reserve – Step into the great outdoors a dramatic waterfall with a plunging 60 metre drop and cascading pools. The path is steep, there a viewing platform overlooking Loch Skeen or admire the views from White Coomb. You may spot peregrine falcons, feral goats or even ospreys as you stop along the trail


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Where to Stay to Enjoy the South West Coast 300 Road Trip

The SWC300 adventure trail and route has opened up this beautiful corner to many more visitors to find the many hidden delights across Dumfries and Galloway. Our holiday cottages at Destination Balcary and Ross Bay Retreat are only a few miles off the SWC300 road trail and can be added to list of hidden delights. They both provide the ideal base to head off and explore this wonderful route.

Come and find out for yourself and see how many of these highlights you can tick off en-route.

We look forward to seeing you.

Potterland Hill

Potterland Hill looking across to Hestan Island & The Solway Firth

Useful Information & Additional SWC300 Information


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