Castles and Country Houses in Ayrshire – Brodick Castle, Gardens and Country Park

Castles and Country Houses in Ayrshire – Brodick Castle, Gardens and Country Park

Brodick Castle, Gardens and Country Park

Did you know that on the beautiful Island of Arran (often called Scotland in miniature) you can find Brodick Castle (which is packed with treasures) along with its lovely gardens, woodland walks, adventure playground and waterfalls.  This is a must see during your visit to Arran.  (I’ll be writing another Blog post – All About Arran in the near future – so look out for that).

The History of the Castle

A fortress has been on the site of the Castle since at least the fifth century, when Gaelic invaders from Antrim expanded their kingdom of Dál Riata. By the tenth century Norse influence had grown, and Arran formed part of Sudreys or Súðreyjar under the control of the King of Norway. Over the next several centuries Brodick Castle was fought over by the Norse, the English and the Scots – eventually leading to James Douglas, Lord of Douglas, early in the winter of 1307 being able to dislodge the English from Brodick, one of the first castles to fall to him in his struggle to regain his country.

In 1406 Brodick Castle was badly damaged by an English force that had sailed into Brodick bay. Further destruction was inflicted by John of Islay, Lord of the Isles, in 1455.  At some point after 1470 the castle was granted by James III to his brother-in-law, James Hamilton, 1st Lord Hamilton. His son, James Hamilton, 2nd Lord Hamilton was created Earl of Arran in 1503 and rebuilt the Castle in the form of a Tower House in 1510.  Over the next several centuries the Castle had various incumbents – leading to in the nineteenth century, it becoming the residence for the eldest son of the 10th Duke, styled the Marquess of Douglas and Clydesdale.  In 1844, massive building work was undertaken at the castle, almost tripling the size of the building, under the architect James Gillespie Graham and in 1958 the Castle was acquired by the National Trust for Scotland and saved for all our benefits…..

All about the Castle

Brodick Castle is teeming with history and set in beautiful surroundings with mountains (including Goat Fell) to the rear and looking out over the Firth of Clyde to the Scottish mainland.  It is indeed very inch the quintessential island castle. When you go to explore the castle you can use the new self-guided visitor experience, which focuses on the fascinating stories of the people who lived there.  There are also several interactive activities, including the Victorian arcade where you can race a horse on the roll-a-derby or play other traditional Victorian games. All of these activities, combined with special lighting and audio, help bring the castle to life for everyone who visits.

Inside the Castle  dark wood, heavy Victorian colours and sporting trophies hark back to an age of aristocratic leisure and luxury.   Just some of the places you can visit and the things you can see in the Castle are:

Brodick Castle Drawing RoomThe Drawing Room – Entertaining and impressing illustrious guests would have been an important part of life at Brodick during the Victorian era. Built as part of the extension of the castle in 1844 this magnificent room with a grand and opulent interior definitely has the ‘wow’ factor. It houses many grand family portraits as well as an intricate Jacobean-style plaster ceiling, designed by skilled Italian stuccadores. Its pictorial heraldry tells us much about the Hamilton family who owned the Castle for many years.

Dodo Claret Jug at Brodick CastleThe Dodo Claret Jug – This beautiful object is connected to the 12th Duke of Hamilton, who had a penchant for animal-themed tableware. Many fascinating and unusual pieces from his collection can be seen in the castle. A number of these pieces were designed by the renowned craftsman Alexander Crichton, who was often referred to as the ‘fairytale silversmith’ because of his whimsical creations. Crichton based his animals on John Tenniel’s illustrations in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and it’s said that bringing these fantastical creatures to life was the triumph of Crichton’s career. They were one of the Duke’s most prized possessions – in fact, the dodo jug is completely unique.

The Castle also hosts an amazing collection of period furniture, silverware. Porcelain, paintings and sporting trophies so make sure you plan a visit….

Brodick Castle Gardens

View from The Garden at Brodick Castle

Wander around the beautifully kept gardens and explore the Silver Garden Trail and Plant Hunters’ Walk. Keep an eye out for fairies on the Fairies and Legends Trail, where you can also learn about the fascinating early history in a reconstructed Bronze Age roundhouse.

Flowers at Brodick Castle



Featuring a new border design and full of exotic and delicate plants, the walled garden provides a sheltered site in which to grow and develop plants that are rarely seen growing outdoors in Scotland. Built in 1710, it’s the oldest part of the gardens and has stunning views out over Brodick Bay. The walled garden also has a new centrepiece around the sundial, with sandstone paving reflecting outwards.



Bavarian Summer House


Built in 1845, the Bavarian summer house (equipped with a compact kitchen, so that tea could be served on sunny summer afternoons) was constructed as a wedding present for Princess Marie of Baden who moved to Brodick Castle from Mannheim Palace in Germany.  She made her mark by redesigning the gardens and building within them four picturesque wooden summer houses of which this is the only surviving one.  It holds a prominent position perched atop a rocky crag with a magnificent view over the coast road and Brodick Bay and the interior decoration is a delight to behold, created with hundreds of pine cones gathered from the castle gardens.

Brodick Castle Country Park

There’s so much to see in the country park, with over 10 mRed squirrel at Brodick Castleiles of trails to choose from. These pass by woodland, waterfalls and bathing pools, all helping to conjure up an island charm that will enchant children and adults alike.

The Island of Arran is a fantastic place to spot wildlife, and if you’re lucky, you may encounter all of Scotland’s ‘Big 5’ – seals, otters, red deer golden eagles and Red Squirrels.

In the country park there is a wildlife hide that you really want to check out to see those squirrels playing along with seeing various species of bird life.   To find the hide – follow the first signpost beyond the castle, and you’ll find yourself heading along a winding path, edged by a gushing burn and lots of exotic foliage. The hide itself is positioned in a magical grotto, which feels like a remote secret world. Here, if you are lucky (and very quiet), you’ll see the gambolling antics of these acrobatic creatures, attracted by squirrel ‘sweetie jars’. They often come quite close, so you may experience flicking tails, death-defying leaps and aggressive stand-offs over food. This is an experience not to be missed, so make sure to ask for directions!

Adventure Playpark

Adventure Playpark at Brodick CastleThe Isle Be Wild adventure play park is ideal for explorers of all ages to enjoy – one section is for toddlers and younger children and one is for older children. This epic woodland playground features zip wires, high towers, bridges across burns and jungle-style walkways – a real paradise for our younger visitors. The play park also includes the Red Squirrel Kiosk, perfect for tasty ice creams, hot dogs and hot/cold drinks.




I remember as a child how much fun I had in the play area – I never went home clean – but the memories lived on even if the mud had to be scrubbed off!!!  For several years at Easter time my family rented a cottage on the outskirts of Brodick and one of our favourite things was to hire bikes cycling round the Bay (usually past some seals basking) up the steep hill to the Castle.  Then we would have an amazing day out with a picnic – then looked forward to freewheeling back down the long drive usually with the Rhododendrons in full bloom – those were fun days and live long in my memories.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my blog – and can see that visiting Brodick Castle Gardens and Country Park is a must do – and even if you only visit Arran on a day trip it’s well worth the journey on the ferry – enjoy………


Castles and Country Houses in Ayrshire – Dean Castle and Country Park

Dean Castle Ayrhisre

Dean Castle and Country Park

Another lovely place in Ayrshire to visit is Dean Castle and Country Park which is nestled in the town of Kilmarnock in East Ayrshire and is a fantastic free day out for all the family. The Country Park, covering over 200 acres has something for everyone to enjoy.

All about the Castle

Dean Castle AyrhisreDean Castle dates from the 14th Century. It was built by the ambitious, influential and well-travelled Boyd family, the Lords of Kilmarnock.   The buildings and estate continued to be lived in and developed until the mid-1700’s, when a large fire devastated the site. The Boyd family moved on shortly after that and the site passed through the ownership of several important and influential people, until it was inherited by the 8th Lord Howard de Walden. 

From about 1905, De Walden set about re-building areas of the Castle that had fallen into disrepair. He used the Castle to display his collections of Arms and Armour, and early Musical Instruments. In 1974, the 9th Lord Howard De Walden gifted the Castle, estate and collections to the people of Kilmarnock under the stewardship of the local Council.  The venue has operated as a visitor attraction ever since, and is managed by East Ayrshire Leisure Trust. 

The Dean Castle site comprises a number of historic buildings set around a central courtyard. These are:

The Keep at Dean Castle at Kilmarnock
The Keep – the original home of the Boyd family
  • The Keep – completed around 1350, the Keep is the oldest permanent structure on the site. It was the original home and stronghold of the Boyd family, As well as being a domestic residence, the work of the Lords was done here. It contains a Great Hall, private chambers, Minstrel’s Gallery, a dungeon, a guardhouse, and kitchens. 
  • The Palace (or Place) – this building was finished around 1460 and was designed to accommodate the expanding role that the Boyd Family held in society and within political circles. It is made up of a large banqueting hall, private chambers, kitchens, and has many large windows which (did you know…..) indicate a move toward a less defensive, more diplomatic society and a method of displaying the family’s wealth and power…
  • The Gatehouse – built in the 1930’s by Lord Howard de Walden, the style and materials used are in keeping with the rest of the buildings. Originally a janitor’s house, this building now serves as office and storage space. 
  • The Courtyard – this is made up of an enclosed courtyard, with a curtain wall topped with walkways. 
  • Conservation Unit – this is a collections conservation lab. It is situated in old laundry buildings that are positioned outside the main courtyard and historic buildings. 

Dean Castle is home to collections of objects that are of international significance. From the exquisite craftsmanship and rarity of the musical instrument collection to the Viking sword that fires the imagination.  The entire Dean Castle collections – as well as the buildings themselves – represent over 150 years of collecting and over 1,000 years of the history of Ayrshire, its people, and beyond. 

At the time of writing this blog (March 2021) the Castle and various buildings within it were closed and undergoing renovation and restoration with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic Environment Scotland – and the collection of artefacts had moved temporarily to the Dick Institute nearby.  Keep an eye on the website to find out when the Castle is reopened to visitors.  But in the meantime take in the beautiful Country Park.

Explore the Country Park

Map of Dean Castle Country Park

Pop into the Visitor Centre as your first port of call where you can pick up a trail map.  You’ll also be able to get advice here on the best routes to take if you fancy a wander in the park.  The visitor centre has large screens to show footage of wildlife throughout the country park. This includes an interactive camera which allows you to zoom in and out and span across the quarry pond watching the ducks, herons, squirrels, geese and other pond visitors. The Visitor Centre is also home to the Treehouse café – somewhere to chill with views over the Country Park (with outdoor seating too to enable your 4 legged friend to join you).  There’s also a Gift shop where you  can pick up a souvenir of your visit. 



Here’s just some of the things you can do in the park….

Go and visit the Rural Life Centre where you can learn more about sustainable living. 

Duck at the Quarry PondTake in some beautiful Woodland walksThe extensive path network involves a few strenuous climbs and some steps. The trails can be walked in their entirety or in bite sized sections to suit.  The Countryside Trail curves up to run high above the river, passing through an area of magnificent old trees and  rhododendrons which add a splash of vivid colour in the Spring.  The two rivers – the Fenwick and Craufurdland Waters – are a major feature of the park and they join to form the Kilmarnock Water near the main entrance.  There are over 7km of trails to explore – from formal designed landscapes of parkland lime trees and ornamental pines, through native woodland dwarfed by great oaks to open farm land surrounded by grazing horses and buzzing hedgerows.  Take a stroll past the Quarry Pond and see what wildlife has made its home there……  and in the park you can also see the fallow deer herd and fawns.

Children can run wild in the adventure playground (inspired by the 14th century castle and it’s surroundings, the space has been designed to encourage freedom, choice and excitement within a natural setting and is deliberately different from the urban play parks throughout various towns and cities).

Bagot Goat and kid



You can also explore the Urban Farm  where they are working towards becoming a Rare Breeds Centre preserving traditional British breeds of farm animals, which are no longer used in modern intensive agriculture  and meet the Manx Loaghtan sheep, Bagot goats, Eriskay ponies and Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs. 





The Country Park has an extensive events programme throughout the year too – from pond dipping and nature walks with the Countryside Rangers to Harvest Festivals, family fun days and more! And interesting fact no 101 – Dean Castle Country Park and the Castle and surrounding area was used as a filming location for S2 of the hit TV series Outlander….

Hopefully some of these things in my blog have whetted your appetite to visit..  We enjoyed a lovely day out at the park (despite the Castle not being open) – it has something for everyone… enjoy……and thank you to East Ayrshire Council for allowing me to use some of their images and text within my blog …

Castles and Country Houses in Ayrshire – Dumfries House

Photo of Dumfries House - Ayrshire

Dumfries House and surrounding area

All about Dumfries House

Photo of Dumfries House - AyrshireDumfries House is a beautiful 18th century stately home designed (like Culzean Castle) by Robert Adam. It is set within 200 acres and houses an unrivalled, fully documented collection of rococo furniture by Thomas Chippendale and three 18th Century Scottish cabinetmakers. It is located within a 2000 acre estate, around 2 miles west of Cumnock, East Ayrshire and was built for the 5th Earl of Dumfries in 1759.  It remained a family home from 1760 to 1993 when the last occupant Lady Eileen, Dowager Marchioness of Bute, passed away. The house remained in the hands of the 7th Marquess of Bute who ensured that it was maintained, although not used as a primary residence before it was offered for sale at auction in 2007 when it was saved for the nation by HRH,  Prince Charles, The Duke of Rothesay (as The Prince is known in Scotland) who led a consortium of organisations and individuals in a passionate campaign for its rescue ensuring it was revitalised and has purpose in the community and just so you know – HRH Prince Charles regularly stays at the House – so keep your eyes peeled…….

Under the auspices of The Great Steward of Scotland’s Dumfries House Trust, and since 2018 The Prince’s Foundation, improvements have been made to the grounds and gardens, historic outbuildings have been brought back to use and the estate is a focus for a range of training opportunities for young people and traditional skills and crafts. The transformation of Dumfries House has brought many employment opportunities to the local area, which was greatly affected by the demise of the coal mining industry, and stands as a prime example of heritage-led regeneration.  

Dumfries House is available to view on organised tours (which need to be booked in advance) and is well worth seeing.  It contains a variety of beautifully presented rooms – designed with specific roles in mind – some of which are listed below……..

  • The Entrance Hall which is clearly influenced by the interior design of Palladio’s villas in Veneto, Italy.  
  • The Family Parlour which as the name suggests it would have featured at the very heart of family occasions and gatherings.
  • The Blue Drawing Room – where you take your first step back  into the 18th century and where you will find unique furnishings and fine art depicting the members of the house (painted by Sir Henry Raeburn). 
  • The Picture Gallery – which is home to a large set of 17th-century Dutch paintings acquired from the renowned collection of the 3rd Earl of Bute, who was Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1762 under King George III.
  • The Family Bedroom which is a true statement of Lord Dumfries’ wealth, taste and social standing.The Tapestry Room which was specifically designed to house four stunning  early 18th-century Flemish tapestries, acquired by the 5th Earl of Dumfries. 
  • The Pink Dining Room. A favourite of HRH The Prince of Wales, it is the most preserved room of the house, with the least alterations made since its inception.  

The Gardens and surrounding area

In addition to visiting beautiful Dumfries House – the gardens and surrounding area hold so much interest it would be wrong to pass them by……here’s just some of the attractions you can take in on your visit……

Visitor Centre & Shop. An ideal first port of call on your visit to Dumfries House.  Here, you can pick up a map of the Estate, book your tour of the House and find out what you can get up to on the Estate that day…. 

Coach House Café. It’s situated in a beautifully converted coach house and stables alongside the Visitor Centre and serves a range of delicious hot and cold refreshments.  It’s a great place to chill for a wee while and has an expansive patio for dining al fresco when the weather permits!! 

Woodland Adventure Playground. Situated next to the Coach House Café is the Woodland Adventure Playground, which provides fun for kids (and grown-ups) of all ages.  If you’re not feeling particularly active, you can relax with a cup of coffee as the young ones let off steam. Toddlers can also have a run around in the toddlers’ play area at the front of the Coach House Café.

The Temple Gate - Dumfries House


The Temple Gate.  This Category A listed structure was doomed from the start as a day to day part of the Estate, as access from it to the main road was denied by the owner of the interceding land. As it no longer had a ‘practical’ use, it began to be referred to as a Temple and simply became a decorative feature. It has since been used as accommodation and latterly, it fell into disrepair. The stonework and masonry were still pretty much in place and restoration of it was completed in 2016.


Photo of The Chinese Bridge at Dumfries HouseWoodland Walks and The Arboretum. There are magnificent, mature policy woodlands that make the perfect place for a wander – with various bridges including the beautiful Chinese Bridge to help you cross the Lugar Water which meanders through the estate.  The Arboretum hosts more than 500 specimens of trees and a range of shrubs and woodland flowers. To the east of the site are two newly created lochans, which will be a haven for a wide range of wildlife and at the centre of the Arboretum sits the woodland shelter, a magnificent structure created by the students of The Prince’s Foundation.


The Maze at Dumfries House


The Maze. Lose yourself at Dumfries House in a whole new way – by surrendering to the yew hedges of the bespoke maze that opened in Summer 2016.  Almost 2000 6ft-high trees were planted during its construction and were mature enough to get lost inside straight away. Over time, the hedges will develop to enhance the labyrinth even more.



Beautiful Orange Rose at Dumfries House Walled Garden


The Queen Elizabeth Walled Gardens. In many ways this is the flagship project of the Dumfries House Estate restoration where extensive work has seen this garden being transformed from a derelict dumping site to a magnificently restored garden with a mixture of terraces, new greenhouses, formal areas and a one and a half acre Education Garden. We just love having a wee stroll around here and interesting Fact 101 – While we were sitting taking in the smell of the beautiful roses in the Walled Garden last September HRH Prince Charles popped by and said “Hello – hope you’re enjoying the garden”……….so be sure to keep an eye open for him……..)


When you feel you have seen enough of Dumfries House and the adjoining gardens then make time to visit these places nearby:

New Cumnock Town Hall which The Dumfries House Trust has rejuvenated   Its much-needed face-lift is spearheading a master plan for heritage-led regeneration in the village that hopes to inspire the local community.

The Tamar Manoukian New Cumnock Pool which was fully refurbished by the Dumfries House Trust in June 2017. This lovely sheltered outdoor swimming pool, opposite the New Cumnock Town Hall, is for the wider community to enjoy.  (There’s nothing quite like having an open air swim in the Scottish rain – we know – we did it!!!)

Hopefully some of these things in my blog have whetted your appetite to visit. Dumfries House and the surrounding area really has something for everyone… enjoy…….






Castles and Country Houses in Ayrshire – Culzean Castle

View of Culzean Castle in the sunshine

Culzean Castle and Country Park

View of Culzean Castle in the sunshineAll about The Castle

Come and visit beautiful Culzean Castle (probably my favourite Castle ever…)  It was designed by Robert Adam in the late 18th century and built for the Kennedy family, one of the oldest clans in Scotland, whose ancestry can be traced back to Robert the Bruce.  It’s perched on an Ayrshire Clifftop just 12 miles South of Ayr and exploring the Castle and the Country Park make for a great day out……

This stunning 260 hectare Castle and Estate was once the playground of David Kennedy, the 10th Earl of Cassillis – a man who was keen to impress with his wealth and status and the Castle is filled to the turrets with treasures that tell the stories of the people who lived here – from the imposing entrance hall, which boasts one of the largest collections of British military flintlock pistols in the world, to the elegant rooms and bustling kitchen, all filled with the artefacts of Culzean Castle’s history.  The sweeping Oval Staircase with its soaring colonnades and grand oil paintings, as well as the unique Round Drawing Room, which has panoramic views over the Firth of Clyde are something to behold….

The Country Park

The Country Park surrounding the Castle has something for everyone….it’s opulent to the extreme and is planted with conifers and beech, sculpted around miles of sandy coastline dotted with caves, and finished off with a Swan Pond, an ice house, flamboyant formal gardens and fruit-filled glasshouses.  Here’s more about what you can explore……..

  • Beautiful pink flowermixed woodland of 120 hectares managed for shelter, production, amenity and wildlife conservation. 
  • around 17 miles of pathways allowing you to walk through mature deciduous stands,  a conifer plantation, small clearings, glades, quiet glens and down to the beautiful Culzean  beach close to the village of Maidens…..
  • the Walled Garden – which is one of the largest in Scotland. It consists of two sections divided by a spine wall – the pleasure garden with stunning flowers and the kitchen garden which supplies fruit and vegetables to the catering facilities within the Castle and Country Park. This was once one of the most innovative gardens in Scotland – and (interesting fact number 101) the onion ‘Ailsa Craig’ (named after the granite island just off the Ayrshire Coast) was bred by a gardener working at Culzean in the 1870s:) The team who manage the garden use a range of horticultural techniques and skills from the Victorian age to the present day and it’s a beautiful location to have a wander around….
  • the Deer Park which is home to a small herd of red deer who share their living space with some llamas.
  • the Swan Pond – This man-made pond is a popular spot for visitors (with plenty seating and space to picnic) – it’s surrounded by a footpath and is sheltered on three sides by mature woodland – it’s a beautiful spot for watching waterfowl, moorhens, swans and ducks just get on with life and it’s lovely in late Spring to see the ducklings and cygnets etc.   In the warmer months it’s the place to enjoy an ice cream from the parlour at the pond!
  • If you’re visiting with youngsters they will love Adventure Cove and Wild Woodland play areas – where there are lots of thrilling features to explore, including soaring towers, treehouses, slides, climbing walls, a maze house and zip slides and because it’s right beside the Swan Pond – you can keep an eye on the them whilst enjoying a family picnic at the pond.
  • View of Maidens Beach at CulzeanThe Beach – Almost 3 miles of cliffs, rocky shore and sandy bays add the final touch to Culzean’s diverse surroundings. I never tire of the views across the Firth of Clyde to Arran, Kintyre and Ailsa Craig from the cliff walk and usually manage to capture some lovely photos. Paths lead down to the rocky lava platform where rockpools abound and endless hours can be spent on Culzean beach searching for ghost prawns, sea urchins and starfish, or semi-precious stones including agate, jasper and even amethyst. North of the castle the terrain changes to warmer old red sandstone and sandy bays and directly beneath the castle, and accessible from the beach, are a series of very large caves, which are a Scheduled Ancient Monument, and part of a volcanic cliff formation that’s 350 million years old. There’s evidence that people lived in these caves from Neolithic times – demonstrating that even then people knew how special Culzean was.

I hope this Blog article lets you see just how special Culzean is to me – and you’ll want to go visit yourself…. 


South West Coastal 300 – from Ayr to Dumfries

Sunset over Loch Trool - on the SWC 300 route

SWC300The South West Coastal 300 is a stunningly scenic 300 mile road trip around the South West of Scotland. If you are looking for breathtaking scenery, enchanting coastlines and new things to see and do, this is the road trip for you.

Whether you are a Nature Lover, an Adventure Seeker, if you’re into History and Heritage or Arts and Culture, if you’re looking for family fun or would like a Taste of the South West – I’m going to make some suggestions for things you might like to do when travelling the SWC 300 from Ayr to Dumfries……enjoy…

Head off from Ayr on the A77 South (signposted Stranraer)

The first village you will come to is Minishant – just after it turn left onto the B7045 and the next place you’ll come to is Kirkmichael – with the village of Straiton just 5 miles further on.

Straiton and Kirkmichael

Straiton and KirkmichaelStraiton and Kirkmichael are both conservation villages on the South West Coastal 300.  Straiton with its wide village street and attractive stone built cottages is neatly placed 100 yards above a sweeping bend of the winding Water of Girvan. The village is on the edge of Galloway Forest Park – the largest forest in the UK and makes an excellent base for exploring the delights the park has to offer.

Straiton features in the 50 Most Beautiful Villages in Scotland book and was the main location of the film “The Match” due to its resemblance to a highland village. Nearby Blairquhan Castle also doubled as Balmoral Castle in the film “The Queen”. starring Helen Mirren.  In Straiton itself, St Cuthbert’s Church is well worth a visit. The church dates back to the 13th Century and has a particularly interesting graveyard with some unusual and beautifully carved headstones.

For walkers, there are 5 waymarked trails all starting from the village where there is an information board on the walks. Enjoy the waterfalls, river banks and quiet woods. Possibly the most spectacular walk takes you to the summit of Craigengower Hill (Hill of the Goats) and the impressive monument to Sir James Hunter Blair which dominates the view from the village. On a clear day you can see as far as Ben Lomond, Arran and Ailsa Craig.

Fishing permits for a 3 mile stretch of the river can be purchased (in the town) for a chance to catch trout, sea trout or salmon.

For cyclists, Straiton is within the Ayrshire Alps Cycling Park and there are also miles of forest track for mountain biking.

From Straiton head West to Dalmellington


DalmellingtonAs you enter Dalmellington, the sign says “A Village in the Stars”. Dalmellington is at the edge of Galloway Forest Park, famed for its dark skies. Just a few miles from the village you will find the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory – a great way to find out about the stars (booking strongly advised).

The view of Dalmellington from a distance is dominated by the high tower of The Kirk of the Covenant. The building dates back to 1846 and commemorated the Covenanters who lived and died there. The red door of the church symbolises the blood spilled. The Water of Muck flows through Dalmellington and joins the famous River Doon a few miles downstream.

Dalmellington makes a great base for exploring the stunning scenery of Galloway Forest Park. It is only a few miles from Dalmellington to Loch Doon – home to the spectacular ruins of Loch Doon Castle which is thought to have been built in the 1200’s by either King Robert the Bruce or his father. Have a speciality tea  or a light lunch at Dorinnes Tea Room, visit Just to Say Gifts and Flowers and also Elizabeth James Creations – just a few of the small businesses in Dalmellington.

Walking – There are many walks to be done in the stunning countryside surrounding Dalmellington including a circuit of Loch Doon for the really fit. A sign in the village centre displays options for several routes.

Carrick Forest Drive

The Forestry Commission describe the Carrick Forest Drive as ” a taste of wilderness” and an easy way to discover remote and splendid mountain scenery. The drive is 6 miles on unsealed road from the southern tip of Loch Doon to Stinchar Bridge near Straiton. The road is suitable for most vehicles and is open from 7 May to October. There is a small toll fee.. There are picnic areas and a childrens adventure playground about half way along the drive at Loch Riecawr. Hillwalkers will enjoy Cornish Hill which can be climbed from Stinchar Bridge at the end of the drive. The walk takes about 2 hours and also passes the remote Cornish Loch. 

If you would prefer to do some mountain biking there are mountain bike routes in Galloway Forest Park, between Barr in Ayrshire and Loch Doon – where the routes are at high level much of the way so they enjoy good views.  They start from the village of Barr in Ayrshire, and reach Dumfries and Galloway at Loch Doon. The hills tend to be steeper and longer at the east (Barr) end of the route.   There are four different circular possibilities, most of which use public roads to link up circular routes. These could be linked in a number of ways. The part between Loch Doon and Loch Braden is linear only.

On your travels around the Carrick Forest, you may see much wildlife including Black Grouse, Red Deer, Roe Deer, Buzzard, Golden Eagles and Peregrine Falcon.  If you’re driving – the Carrick Forest Drive may be incorporated into a circular route from Dalmellington to Straiton along the B741 which also forms part of the SWC300 then left at Straiton to head south on a minor road to Stinchar Bridge where you pick up the Forest Drive to Loch Doon then back to Dalmellington.  If you fancy a bite to eat – the Roundhouse Café at Loch Doon is open 7 days a week April to October and, weather permitting at weekends during the rest of the year.

On leaving Dalmellington head further west and through New Cumnock (where there’s an Open Air Swimming Pool), before turning onto the A76 (signposted Dumfries) passing through Kirkconnell, Kelloholm, Crawick and coming to Sanquhar.


SanquharSanquhar was one of the first Royal Burghs in Scotland and the town also has the world’s oldest Post Office, opened in 1712 and still operational.  Sanquhar is on the River Nith – one of Scotland’s top salmon rivers and makes a great base for exploring Upper Nithsdale and beyond. When you think about Scotland’s highest places, most wouldn’t consider the south of Scotland but Sanquhar is less than 10 miles away from the two highest villages in Scotland – Wanlockhead and Leadhills where you can immerse yourself in the rich mining history of gold and lead and visit the Lead Mining Museum.  

Crawick MultiverseAlso nearby to Sanquhar is Crawick Multiverse – a landscape art project designed by Charles Jencks It’s an amazing land art installation for you to explore and enjoy.  Whether you are interested in cosmology, science, art or just want to wander around and savour the beautiful landscape you will be warmly welcomed.


Continue South on the A76 til just after Mennock where you’ll turn left onto the B707 – heading to Wanlockhead.


WanlockheadWanlockhead is Scotland’s highest village and is situated in the Lowther Hills. It’s a former lead mining village near the head of the Mennock Pass and on the Southern Upland Way walking trail. Sitting at an altitude of 467 metres, Wanlockhead is the highest village in Scotland..

The Museum of Lead Mining in Wanlockhead tells the story of the local industry and allows the opportunity to go down a former working mine. The Miners’ Library, founded in the 18th century, houses detailed records of mining operations and carries a fascinating photographic collection.  Food is available at the tearoom.   At the Straitsteps Cottages you can experience what life was like for a miner in the 18th and 19th centuries. The artefacts on show illustrate how the people of Wanlockhead lived and worked.

The Leadhills and Wanlockhead Light Railway is Britain’s highest adhesion railway, reaching 1498 feet above sea level. It was built to take refined lead to Scotland’s central belt, but closed in 1938. Now a length of gauge track has been re-opened between Wanlockhead and Leadhills, with trips available at weekends during the summer.

Turn back onto the B707 and continue to Leadhills where you’ll take a right turn onto the  B7040 – leading to Elvanfoot where you’ll turn left (heading North-West) on A702 towards Station Rd.  In 1.3 miles turn right onto the B7076, then at the roundabout (0.4 miles) take the 1st exit and stay on the B7076.  Continue on the B7076 for 7.1 miles then turn left onto the B719 and in 3 miles Turn Right onto the A701.  In 2.2 miles at the roundabout take the turning to Moffat.  


Devils Beef TubMoffat lies just beneath the striking natural grandeur of the Devil’s Beef Tub (The Devil’s Beef Tub is a deep, dramatic hollow in the hills north of the Scottish town of Moffat. The 500-foot (150 m) deep hollow is formed by four hills, Great Hill, Peat Knowe, Annanhead Hill and Ericstane Hill – and it’s worth seeing).

MoffatIn local historian Emillio Dicerbo’s fantastic book “Memories of Moffat” we read “In the seventeenth century, Moffat’s transformation from a poor ‘Brigadoon’ – like village to the beginning of a popular Spa town occurred”.  The sulphurous waters of Moffat Spa were believed to have healing properties and as more and more people flocked to Moffat, the “healing waters” were piped from the well to the “Baths Hall”  (now the Town Hall). The town began to grow and more accommodation was required to cater for the thousands of annual visitors.  

The hills above Moffat are one of the two main sources of the River Annan and the town is also the home of the world famous Moffat Toffee.

If walking is your thing….this is the perfect place for walkers. On the scenic Southern Upland Way and the most northerly point on the Annandale Way, you’ll find Moffat offers a stunning landscape for your walking holiday and a warm and friendly place to rest awhile. The town is also a perfect base for visiting the Grey Mare’s Tail – a spectacular 60 metre waterfall which flows from Loch Skeen. The walk to Loch Skeen via the Grey Mares Tail  has been listed as one of the UKs finest half day walks and you also have the possibility of seeing a herd of mountain goats. The walk to Loch Skeen takes about 2 – 2.5 hours.  For the more adventurous walker, one of Scotland`s Corbetts, White Coomb can be climbed from Loch Skeen while two other Corbetts, Hart Fell and Broad Law are nearby.

If you fancy staying over or stopping for a lovely lunch or dinner  – check out the Black Bull Inn in Moffat – a luxurious 15 bedroom boutique hotel, bar and restaurant.  Dating back to 1568, the ancient Inn was famously frequented by The Bard, Robert Burns, who enjoyed many a raucous party in the establishment – a history which remains intertwined into the very fabric of the hotel to this day. As well as being rich in Burnsian history, the Inn also has a macabre past as it was commandeered by The Earl Of Dundee and his company of Dragoons as the headquarters from which they carried out their relentless persecution of Scottish Presbyterians.  Today The Black Bull Inn is family owned and has been transformed into a calm, tranquil, quirky hotel with cosy bar and intimate bistro.

After leaving Moffat – you can head on  the A701 South – before taking the B7076 just after Beattock.  Continue on the B7076 until you reach Lockerbie – then take the A709 towards Lochmaben.


LochmabenLochmaben is a small town that boasts three lochs and is 8 miles from Dumfries. The lochs in and around Lochmaben – Kirk Loch, Castle Loch and Mill Loch – provide excellent opportunities for sailing and fishing. Lochmaben is also on the route of the Annandale Way long-distance walking trail. The town isn’t far from the popular 7stanes mountain biking centres at Ae forest and Mabie forest if you fancy some cycling.  Lochmaben has a long and intriguing history that dates back to the 13th century. Lochmaben Castle was the home of Robert the Bruce when he was Lord of Annandale and a statue of Bruce stands before the town hall. Lochmaben was also the birthplace of William Paterson, the co-founder of the Bank of England. 

From Lochmaben continue along the A709 – which takes you back to your start point in Dumfries…..

I hope my Blog has given you some insight into the beautiful South West Coast of Scotland – and let you plan a future  trip here around the South West Coastal 300 route……….enjoy…..

South West Coastal 300 – all about Ayr……..

View of Lochranza Castle, Arran

Whether you are a Nature Lover, an Adventure Seeker, if you’re into History and Heritage or Arts and Culture, if you’re looking for family fun or would like a Taste of the South West – I’m going to make some suggestions for things you might like to do when having a break for a few days in the beautiful seaside town of Ayr on your journey around the South West Coastal 300……enjoy……

All about Ayr……

Ayr New BridgeWith a street plan dating back to the 1200s and many fine buildings from the centuries since, Ayr is an attractive town with a real sense of its history. When you add a river that was first bridged 800 years ago, a harbour that for centuries was the most important on the west coast of Scotland, a racecourse dating back (on an earlier site) to 1770 and all the trappings of a seaside resort, you end up with a town that has something for everyone.

Ayr BeachNowadays Ayr is a popular seaside resort, complete with charming sea front, leafy suburbs and range of places to stay.  It has a fantastic esplanade with a long sandy beach which is perfect for walking and vistas directly to the beautiful Island of Arran. 

Scotland’s national bard, Robert (Rabbie) Burns, was born in Alloway, on the outskirts of the town – check out  the many visitor attractions in town all about him.  Also – Ayr Racecourse, dating back to the 18th century but now relocated elsewhere in the town, runs many Flat and National Hunt meetings throughout the year and is particularly famous as the venue of the Scottish Grand National, the Ayrshire Handicap and the Ayr Gold Cup.

There is also good shopping and some lovely Bars and Restaurants in Ayr and some great leisure facilities including three public golf courses: Belleisle, Seafield and Dalmilling and several private courses nearby where visitors are made more than welcome.

Below are suggestions for things you might like to see and do while staying for 3 or 4 days in Ayr.


Find out about Rabbie Burns..

Explore all about Robert (or Rabbie) Burns, the Ayrshire ploughman who become one of the world’s best known poets.

The Robert Burns Birthplace Museum is made up of six sites within the village of Alloway (within the town of Ayr), all within easy reach of each other and offer a truly unique insight into Scotland’s favourite son.


  • Burns Cottage – the cosy 3-room cottage where Burns was born and lived until the age of 7
  • Monument and Gardens – designed by Sir Thomas Hamilton, complete with nine pillars from Greek mythology
  • Brig O’Doon – follow in Tam O’Shanter’s footsteps across the 15th century cobblestone bridge over the River Doon
  • Poet’s Path – an attractive pedestrian pathway connecting Burns cottage with the main museum site
  • Alloway Auld Kirk – visit the graves of Burns’ father and sister in this 16th century church ruin – ‘where ghaists and houlets nightly cry’
  • The Museum – listen to his words, handle objects connected to the man, play games that unravel his mysteries and enjoy visual artworks as well as enjoying a welcome break for sustenance in the restaurant

Visit Dumfries House

Dumfries HouseDumfries House is an 18th Century Robert Adam designed stately home, which houses an unrivalled, fully documented collection of rococo furniture by Thomas Chippendale and three 18th Century Scottish cabinetmakers. It is located within a 2000 acre estate, around 2 miles west of Cumnock, East Ayrshire and after being threatened with sale and dispersal in 2007 Dumfries House was saved for the nation by HRH, Prince Charles, The Duke of Rothesay (as The Prince is known in Scotland) who led a consortium of organisations and individuals in a passionate campaign for its rescue.  It has beautiful gardens, a visitor centre, restaurant, cafe and shop – there really is something for everyone………


For Family Fun – younger visitors will enjoy……

Heads of Ayr Farm Park and undercover Play N’Wild adventure barn is only 4 miles South of Ayr on the A719 coastal road and whatever the weather there is always something to do there – with activities for all the family!


Ayr Beach and Playpark will keep those young (and those young at heart) entertained for hours. In addition to the stunning safe sandy beach which goes on for miles there’s a great playpark and for younger children Pirate Pete’s is just next door. Pirate Pete’s is Scotland’s biggest indoor adventure play as well as Scotland’s first mini championship putting course. There is also a traditional seafront tearoom and kids outdoor funpark. 



For all the family – take a day trip to the beautiful Island of Arran – which has long been called ‘Scotland in miniature’

The Isle of Arran

For an island only 20 miles long and 10 miles wide it packs in a lot!  It’s a great day away – catching the early ferry from Ardrossan (only 20 miles north of Ayr) to Brodick – where you can either jump on a seasonal bus tour around the island or take your car or bike with you.

Amongst the many things to see and do are:

Taste your way around the Island  – for a relatively small island, Arran packs in lots of flavours and you can sample them as you travel around.  It offers creamy cheeses, refreshing beers, traditional oatcakes, tempting chocolates and delicious ice cream. Book a tour at the Arran Distillery to discover the secrets behind the distilling process before sampling a dram of malt whisky or the creamy liqueur Arran Gold.

Explore the Arran Heritage Museum in Brodick or take part in the many outdoor leisure pursuits on offer, from climbing Goatfell (at 874 metres it is the highest point on the island), to playing golf at one of the 7 courses Arran has to offer, to cycling (bikes are available for hire) and pony trekking – there’s plenty for everyone to see and do!

Again for all the family – take a day trip to Glasgow 


Glasgow is a vibrant port city on the River Clyde in Scotland’s western Lowlands. It’s famed for its Victorian and art nouveau architecture, a rich legacy of the city’s 18th–20th-century prosperity due to trade and shipbuilding. Today it’s a national cultural hub, home to institutions including the Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet and National Theatre of Scotland, as well as acclaimed museums, a thriving music scene and brilliant shopping.  It’s only a 50 minute train or bus ride from Ayr – the people are renowned for being very friendly and Glasgow is well worth a visit!


If you’re into having an active break take a look at some of the suggestions below:

Hiking – if you enjoy hiking while taking in nature at its best – parts of the Ayrshire Coastal Path run both North and South from Ayr (I’ll be featuring the full path in a future blog) – and the following sections can easily be walked getting public transport back and forward to Ayr..  

Girvan to Maidens a walk of 8.1 miles on pavements, minor roads, farm tracks , rough gravel and sandy shore with three short Tidal Stretches.  For those of you who enjoy nature there is the opportunity to see Seabirds, seals and basking sharks, off Dipple Shore and Turnberry Point. 

Maidens to Dunurea walk of 6.2 miles via sandy beaches, park paths, rocky outcrops, field-edge paths with one tidal stretch.  On this walk you can take in specimen trees in Culzean Country Park,  woodland and coastal birdlife,  seals and basking sharks in Croy Bay. In terms of geology there are raised beaches, agates and yellow sandstone cliffs with smugglers’ caves.

Dunure to Ayr – a walk of 8.9 miles taking in rocky escarpment/fields, livestock, rocky outcrops and shore, cliff top field path, railway track, sandy beach and eventually promenade. Nature to be seen on this part of the walk includes roe deer. raptors. finches and warblers. 

Ayr to Troon – an easy walk of 7.8 miles on promenade, pavements, paths and sandy beaches sometimes taking in the seals basking just off the shore in Troon and in Troon Harbour.

There are also beautiful walks in the Carrick Hills (just South of the town) providing an amazing vista looking all the way down the coast and taking in Ailsa Craig, Arran, the Mull of Kintyre and sometimes even Ireland……


If Horse Riding is your thing then get in touch in advance of your trip with Blackstone Clydesdales – and book a 2 hour ride on Ayr Beach on these beautiful gentle giants.  If you’re maybe not as confident as to ride on the beach or just want to try riding then get in touch with them and they can arrange that for you.




3rd hole PSNIf Golf Is your passion – in addition to 7 Council Courses in Ayrshire – you should check out some lesser known gems including  Prestwick St Nicholas Golf Club – where there is a sea view from every hole.  If you’d like to find out more about golf in Ayrshire – take a look at a previous blog my husband Andy Marshall – who’s a PGA Professional put together for me on his top 10 golf courses in Ayrshire.


Walking/Jogging/Running – If you’re a Parkrun participant then there are 3 great events in the area where you can be a Parkrun tourist – Rozelle Park in Ayr, Troon Promenade, Troon and Eglinton Parkrun in Irvine – all events start at 9.30am on a Saturday morning.


If you’re a connoisseur of good food – you can find plenty of opportunities to sate your tastebuds at many lovely restaurants in the area.  Below are some that I have sampled myself – but this isn’t an exhaustive list…..

The WaterfrontThe Waterfront – Situated on South Harbour Street, Ayr, The Waterfront has spectacular views across the River Ayr towards Arran and includes a beautiful outdoor terrace . The interior provides a luxurious, comfortable setting for either a quick bite to eat, dinner or a perfectly chilled glass of Champagne.  It prides itself on its endeavours to use as many local Ayrshire suppliers as possible sourcing and delivering daily to ensure the food is made from the freshest Scottish ingredients. 



ScottsAnother restaurant not to be missed is Scotts at Troon Yacht Haven.  With a stylish interior, seasonally changing menus and tempting wine list – it serves everything from 

bar nibbles and oysters to delicious sharing platters, freshly-landed lobster to prime Scotch steaks, Scotts refreshingly diverse drinks menu is equally impressive, with a cocktail list that has been inspired by some of the world’s most iconic bars, a carefully curated wine list, and a selection of artisan gins and craft beers from closer to home.  The views out towards the Isle of Arran and Ailsa Craig across the marina make it a lovely place to chill.


If you enjoy Thai food – there is a lovely Thai restaurant right in Ayr renowned for amazing food  called @home.  This restaurant does lunch and dinner and prepares the freshest, tastiest thai food you could ask for so is constantly sought after – therefore be sure to make a reservation in advance.



If you fancy something lighter – there is an Artisan Bakers – Bhaile Craft Bakery right in Ayr baking the most yummy sourdough bread and other goodies – there’s a cafe to sit in or you can pick up and take-away whatever you fancy.

If you fancy just stopping somewhere for a nice coffee when you’re out and about there are numerous lovely cafe’s on Prestwick’s bustling High Street – (the next town up the coast from Ayr) including Bramleys and Costley’s.

Hopefully some of these things have whetted your appetite to come and explore the South West Coastal 300 – spending some time in Ayr in particular.  In the next blog I’ll have suggestions for things to do while travelling between Ayr and Dumfries………………and please if you have any feedback I’d love to hear it……..






South West Coastal 300 – from Portpatrick to Ayr

Book and stay at a luxury Loft apartment in Ayr and visit Turnberry Loghthouse

The South West Coastal 300 is a stunningly scenic 300 mile road trip around the South West of Scotland. If you are looking for breathtaking scenery, enchanting coastlines and new things to see and do, this is the road trip for you.

Whether you are a Nature Lover, an Adventure Seeker, if you’re into History and Heritage or Arts and Culture, if you’re looking for family fun or would like a Taste of the South West – I’m going to make some suggestions for things you might like to do when travelling the SWC 300 from Portpatrick North towards Ayr……enjoy…

Portpatrick HarbourPortpatrickPortpatrick is a seaside town on the western shore of the Rhins of Galloway peninsula.  It’s a pretty town of pastel-coloured houses, set around a small bay with cliffs forming the backdrop. A former port for transportation to and from Northern Ireland, Portpatrick is now a peaceful holiday resort.  Sea angling is a popular pastime in these parts, as is walking, with options including a short stroll along the cliffs to Dunskey Castle. The Southern Upland Way starts here and continues for 212 miles, all the way to the east coast.  For the golfers amongst you there is a beautiful course here – Portpatrick Dunskey – and a lovely clubhouse (open to golfers and visitors alike) where you’ll be made more than welcome if you stop for some refreshments.  Portpatrick also holds a 3 day Folk Festival which takes place in September.

Take the A77 across the headland from Portpatrick to….  

StranraerStranraer is the largest coastal town in Scotland to the South of Ayr.  The town has recently become focused on Marine Leisure and Music.  It’s town centre is dominated by the Castle of St John (an early 16th-century L-plan tower house which was built by the Adairs of Kilhilt c.1510), but with many cafes lining the streets – should you fancy a wee break. It is situated on the shores of Loch Ryan – a sea loch, has a long and level promenade which is ideal for a leisurely stroll and a lesser known fact is it’s home to the first hotel in the world to have its own indoor curling rink.  Stranraer also has a lovely Golf Course (designed by James Braid) – and welcoming club house.


When you leave Stranraer you continue on the A77 in a North Westerly direction and soon come to….. 

Cairnryan6 miles North of Stranraer you’ll find the town of Cairnryan – again on the shores of Loch Ryan.  It’s noted for its large modern ferry port – from here you can take a ferry to Northern Ireland.  The village has a proud maritime history but the modern port dates from the Second World War when it was developed to build the famous floating Mulberry Harbours which were used on the Normandy beaches on D-Day.   




The A77 after Cairnryan heads North and inland leading across the headland.  Approx 11 miles on you’ll come across …… 

BallantraeBallantrae – Ballantrae is an attractive coastal village in South Ayrshire – dominated by the ruins of Ardstinchar Castle, once home to the Kennedys of Bargany.  The village offers great fishing opportunities not only in the River Stinchar at the mouth of which Ballantrae is situated, but in the many rivers and lochs nearby. If you fancy stopping for a coffee or a bite to eat – Craigiemains Home and Garden Centre has a coffee shop, gift shop, children’s play area, miniature train, farm shop and Visitor Information Point. 


Continuing up the beautiful West Coast you’ll come to the next village of ……..

Lendalfoot – 6 miles North of Ballantrae you will find Lendalfoot – a village on the coast located on the curve of Lendalfoot Bay, a sandy beach where you can enjoy stunning views of Arran and Ailsa Craig.  In addition to being close by the designated Special Area of Conservation of the Lendalfoot Hills Complex, the ruined remains of the 15th century Carleton Castle can be found south of the village.  If you fancy stopping for a meal or snack here the Spindrift Bistro is found within Bennane Shore Holiday Park (just South of Lendalfoot) and offers meals, refreshments and home baking. Here you will also find Pebbles Spa and Leisure, where you can book in advance to enjoy relaxing pampering treatments and a fitness suite. 




Travelling on North up the coastal road you soon arrive in the town of ……..

Girvan – Girvan is situated on the Ayrshire coast, just over 6 miles North of Lendalfoot.  The coastal scenery from Girvan includes the island of Ailsa Craig lying just under 10 miles offshore.  Ailsa Craig is reknowned for blue hone granite which has long been quarried to make curling stones.  The now uninhabited island is formed from the volcanic plug of an extinct volcano and is home to a wide variety of  sea birds including puffins – you can book a boat trip from Girvan to see Ailsa Craig.



Girvan’s attractions include the Stumpy Tower, originally built as a prison and today displaying fascinating historical exhibits. The McKechnie Institute is also found in Girvan’s town centre.  This is Girvan’s cultural hub, featuring a permanent display of artefacts highlighting the town’s heritage.  It also hosts a regular programme of exhibitions, events and activities. Visit the McKechnie, to see Girvan through time including:

  • Geology, fossils, the history of Ailsa Craig and its granite
  • Maritime history and model ships
  • Bronze Age Cinerary Urns dating 2100-1500 BC  

Girvan during the summer is quite a vibrant town with a variety of restaurants, cafés and shops to enjoy and a colourful harbour to visit.

Leaving Girvan take the A77 North for 6 miles before turning left onto the stunning A719 coastal route to Ayr.  This initially takes you past the Trump Turnberry Hotel (set high on the hill on your right) – with the world famous Open Golf Venue of Turnberry (on the left) where one of the most memorable sporting contests of modern times, the 1977 Open Championship saw Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus, (by many considered two of the best players in the history of golf at that time), battle for the title in front of record-breaking crowds in the infamous ‘duel in the sun’.  If you’d like to organise some outdoor activities while you’re in the area – check out Turnberry Adventures for a variety of options.

Just a short distance along this road (A719) you can take the opportunity to park on the left and walk out to the stunning Turnberry Lighthouse – it offers breathtaking views across the Irish sea to the Isle of Arran and beyond and offers the chance of a light snack – as it’s now been converted to a luxury ‘halfway house’ for golfers and those tourists who would like to visit.  Just along from where you park to go to the Lighthouse you can find Little Turnberry Farm on the right which is a working Farm.   They are open to the public every Saturday and Sunday 10am-4pm, along with their Farm shop where you’ll find home baking, fresh duck and hen eggs from their free range poultry, local cheeses and other local produce, along with a variety of things to stop for a lovely lunch. They also have plenty of animals for you to get up close to………

Further along the A719 you’ll come to the beautiful village of …….

Maidens – has a quaint little harbour traditionally used for fishing and today used for pleasure boats and a long sandy beach with grassy foreshore.  It’s a wonderful place to relax and enjoy breathtaking scenery including views of Ailsa Craig and on a clear day, the Mull of Kintyre.  If you take a stroll along Maidens beach in a northward direction you’ll uncover the pathway which leads into Culzean Country Park leading to Culzean Castle. Maidens beach is a popular destination for watersports, and whilst relaxing at one of the picnic areas it is likely you will spot horse riders galloping along the sand.  Maidens is also home to one of the best fresh fish restaurants in the area – Wildings which is located on the sea shore close to the harbour.  It’s advisable to book in advance for a confirmed reservation.

Culzean CastleWhen you leave Maidens and continue along the A719 north towards Ayr you’ll soon reach the entrance to Culzean Castle and Gardens – an amazing National Trust of Scotland Property.   Culzean Castle has a dramatic clifftop setting, Robert Adam architecture, fascinating history and beautiful surroundings and is one of Scotland’s most popular visitor attractions.  It is surrounded by Culzean Country Park, an extensive estate encompassing lush woodland, landscaped gardens and rugged coastline.  This 18th-century Scottish castle couldn’t be better placed for a family day out.  You could easily spend an entire day exploring the country park alone, but with so many treasure-filled rooms to see inside the castle, it’s well worth making time to enjoy both elements of this magnificent historic attraction.

Younger visitors will enjoy discovering the amazing adventure play park – Adventure Cove where they can  climb, swing and explore Archibald the Wicked’s Dungeon, the hidden smugglers’ caves, play in the boats on the beach, climb up the Eisenhower tower and see it all from the height of the viaduct – then see the places for real as they explore Culzean. 

Electric BraeHeading from Culzean towards Ayr – turn left onto the A719 and follow the coast road – you’ll soon come across the Electric Brae – where although the road appears to be running uphill, a suitably free-running vehicle will slowly move off from a standstill – an optical illusion where your car looks as if it is going uphill when actually, it is rolling down hill.  (We have a beautiful print of the Electric Brae at sunset in our apartment – The Loft @ The Granary – taken by a wonderful local photographer – Samuel Quinn)

A further 2 ½ miles up the road take the turn left off the A719 to the scenic village of ………







Dunure – Dunure is a small fishing village which dates back to the early 19th century and is home to many places of interest including Dunure Castle where the roasting of Alan Stewert took place. Today this ruin has a picnic area and car park facilities, and nearby is Kennedy Park with a skate park, children’s play area and toilets.



One of the first locations used for Outlander season 3 filming, Dunure was used several times. The best known is the harbour which was transformed in to the port where Jamie and Claire once again meet Jared, and board the Artemis for their journey to Jamaica. However, the beach and castle next to the harbour, were used for the scenes where Claire and Jamie watch young Ian swim out to Silkies’ Island. And the surrounding countryside was also believed to have been used for scenes set near Ardsmuir prison.  Check out more information on the locations used here on Youtube.


After leaving Dunure head back onto the A719 North and the next place you’ll come to is the beautiful county town of Ayr – where its worth planning to spend 3 or 4 days – and in the next blog I’ll let you know just how many things there are to see and do from there…….

Hopefully some of these things have whetted your appetite to come and explore the South West Coastal 300 – in the next blog I’ll have suggestions for things to do while staying in Ayr – I hope you can join me………………and please if you have any feedback I’d love to hear it……..





South West Coastal 300 – from Dumfries to Portpatrick

Book and stay at a luxury Loft apartment in Ayr and visit Rockcliffe

The South West Coastal 300 is a stunningly scenic 300 mile road trip around the South West of Scotland. If you are looking for breathtaking scenery, enchanting coastlines and new things to see and do, this is the road trip for you.

Whether you are a Nature Lover, an Adventure Seeker, if you’re into History and Heritage or Arts and Culture, if you’re looking for family fun or would like a Taste of the South West – I’m going to make some suggestions for things you might like to do when travelling the SWC 300 from Dumfries west towards Portpatrick and Stranraer……enjoy……

Places to Visit…….


Sandyhills Bay – This might look like the work of an artist, but an oil seascape this is not; it’s actually a photograph of Sandyhills Bay, near Dalbeattie. The tide goes far out into the Solway Firth, making the sea appear like a distant mirage. Near this sheltered beach is holiday park which accommodates tourers and tents. Bring a picnic and (on a warm day) enjoy a swim at high tide.



Auchencairn Bay – Once a hub for smugglers, the pretty village of Auchencairn is now a quiet coastal spot filled with whitewashed stone cottages. Beachcomb as you wander along the shoreline of Auchencairn Bay and gaze across to Hestan Island.



Kircudbright – Known as Scotland’s Artists Town, Kirkcudbright is a chirpy place, with its blend of medieval, Georgian and Victorian buildings and a busy working harbour. There’s plenty of independent galleries to browse as well as the newly opened Kirkcudbright Galleries and the 18th century Broughton House, (more detail below) once home to Scottish artist EA Hornel. In the summer months, you’ll usually find a packed programme of events.


Whithorn – To say Whithorn is rich in history is an understatement; it’s here you can discover a past of Vikings, early saints and royal pilgrimages. Delve further back in time through the finds from archaeological digs carried out in the area and visit the reconstructed Iron Age roundhouse.



Monreith – Lying south east of Port William on the Mull of Galloway is the tiny village of Monreith. Wander along the coastline above the church and see if you can spot a bronze otter. Sculpted by Penny Wheatley, this stands as a memorial to author Gavin Maxwell, who penned the novel Ring of Bright Water.



Things to see and do on the SWC 300 between Dumfries and Portpatrick/Stranraer

Rockcliffe – The South West Coastal 300 is a road trip around the South West of Scotland that allows you to escape back to nature amongst other things.  It features 200 miles of stunning coastline, including National Trust for Scotland Rockcliffe which is one of Scotland’s most beautiful coastlines, stretching along the Solway Firth on the southern edge of Dumfries and Galloway.  Part of a National Scenic Area, this nature reserve is fringed with wildflowers and dotted with sailing villages. Further inland the shells and shingle give way to patches of ancient broadleaved woodland and meadows, rich with flowers, butterflies and birds.


Threave Garden and Estate – If you would like to visit ‘A garden for all seasons and a haven for wildlife, with an osprey platform and bat reserve’ then you need to visit Threave Garden and Estate – approx 20 miles West of Dumfries.  Here you can enjoy stunning views over the Galloway Hills and the Ken/Dee valley, and keep an eye out for soaring ospreys, red kites and peregrine falcons over the wetlands nature reserve.  


Broughton House and Gardens – If art is your thing – at Broughton House and Gardens step into the Edwardian home and studio of Scottish artist E A Hornel.  Admire the large display of Hornel’s paintings, as well as those of his Scottish contemporaries. Learn how Hornel amassed one of the  world’s largest collections of works by Robert Burns and wander through the beautiful garden with its colourful blend of Eastern and Western horticulture. 


Galloway Forest Parkis one of the must sees for Nature Lovers on the SWC300. Explore the rolling Galloway glens and hills to discover picturesque forest trails, three friendly visitor centres, wonderful wildlife and a long and colourful history.

Here you can enjoy great walking, easy family cycling, exhilarating mountain biking or just sit back and soak up breathtaking loch and mountain views and starry night skies. The largest forest in the UK and the UK’s first Dark Sky Park, it has extremely low light pollution, so fans of astronomy can enjoy the night sky as never before. The park is also home to the breathtaking Loch Trool and the Wood of Cree, the largest ancient woodland in southern Scotland, it’s an enchanting place for a walk. 


For the more adventurous of you……

If you love adventure Scotland’s South West Coastal 300 is the road trip for you. Whether you’re a pro or a novice, you can try cycling, hiking, sailing or horse riding at various venues.. Or maybe you’re brave enough for an adrenaline filled ride down Scotland’s longest zipwire at Laggan Outdoor Centre.

Cycling – You’ll find five of the world class 7stanes mountain biking centres within easy reach of the route and have trails that cater to all skill levels.

Hiking – For hikers there is a wealth of choice too. Challenge yourself to

  • Climb the Merrick, Southern Scotland’s highest summit – with access from Glen Trool –  an 8 mile moderate level walk for those with country walking experience and average fitness level
  • Walk the Mull of Galloway Trail –  a 35 mile fairly strenuous walk for experienced country walkers with an above average fitness level
  • Threave Garden & Estate Circular Walk – a 2.5 mile easy walk for everybody to enjoy with minimal difficulty
  • Walk along Glenluce – Auchenmalg – a 9 mile moderate level walk for those with country walking experience and average fitness level

History and Heritage

If you’re into History and Heritage – The South West Coastal 300 is a road trip steeped in the rich history of Scotland. 


Follow in the footsteps of Mary Queen of Scots to Dundrennan Abbey where she spent her final night in Scotland before fleeing to England never to return. 



Or visit Loch Trool where Bruce’s Stone sits at the top of the hill on the north side of Loch Trool.  This massive granite boulder commemorates Robert the Bruce’s first victory over an English army in 1307 during the Scottish Wars of Independence.  For the more active, the stone is also a recommended starting spot for the challenging walk up Merrick (2764 feet), the highest mountain in southern Scotland.      


Taste of the South West

The South West Coastal 300 road trip will give you a real taste of the South West of Scotland. From the award winning Gin and Whisky distilleries, to the fantastic restaurants and cafés you will find some of the best places to eat and drink in Scotland!

This area is extremely proud of their local produce, from world class smoked salmon and seafood, to award winning cheeses and ice cream! You will find this fantastic produce in a lot of the hotels, cafés and restaurants across the region. You can also visit the local producers or stop by one of our outstanding farm shops or farmers markets and experience for yourself the delicious flavours of South West Scotland. 

Hopefully some of these things have whetted your appetite to come and explore the South West Coastal 300 – in the next blog I’ll have suggestions for things to do between Portpatrick and Ayr – I hope you can join me………………and please if you have any feedback I’d love to hear it……..just leave a reply below…..


South West Coastal 300

Book and stay at a luxury Loft apartment in Ayr and visit Portpatrick Harbour

You may have heard of the North Coast 500 but have you

heard of the South West Coastal 300???? 

The South West Coastal 300 is a stunningly scenic 300 mile road trip around the South West of Scotland. If you are looking for breathtaking scenery, enchanting coastlines and new things to see and do, this is the road trip for you.

From rolling hills and forests to magical coasts and lochs, the beauty of South West Scotland will captivate you from the moment you arrive. Whether you’re a nature lover, an adventure seeker or a history buff, there is much for you to discover along the South West Coastal 300 and some beautiful places to stay along the way…………

SWC 300 Map


The roads of the SWC300 are suitable for both cars and campervans, with many sections also suitable for cyclists.   It is a 300 mile loop so you can join at any point and stop off for a short break to explore the area at any point. For the purposes of this Blog I’ve begun in Dumfries which is just a short drive from Gretna Green and Carlisle along the A76 and below are some of the towns you might want to consider visiting or staying at:

Dumfries Town Centre


Dumfries – the historic market town and former royal burgh of Dumfries – located in the southern region of Dumfries and Galloway (just off the A76 from Gretna/Carlisle) and connected by lovely russet-hued sandstone bridges which straddle the banks of the River Nith, this former royal burgh has an interesting history and special connection to Scotland’s National Bard Robert (Rabbie) Burns.



Portpatrick Harbour


Portpatrick – The beautiful seaside town of Portpatrick – full of pastel-coloured houses, set around a small bay and fishing harbour with cliffs forming the backdrop with plenty lovely places to stay and eat.





Stranraer – which is the gateway to the Rhinns of Galloway and lies on the shores of Loch Ryan was for more than a century a busy ferry port for services between south-west Scotland and Northern Ireland.  The town’s main attraction is the Castle of St. John, a ruined four-story tower house built around 1500, which sits on a green in the main street. There are several eye-catching artworks in the area surrounding the castle and Stranraer Museum can be found in the old town hall.



Ayr Beach


The county town of Ayr which has a fantastic esplanade with a long sandy beach with the beautiful Island of Arrran as a backdrop.  It has many lovely bars and restaurants and an abundance of high quality accomodation to stay in including the stunning Loft @ The Granary.  It also has the Robert Burns Museum, Robert Burns Cottage  and many other local areas of interest.





So whether you are a Nature Lover, an Adventure Seeker, if you’re into History and Heritage or Arts and Culture, if you’re looking for family fun or would like a Taste of the South West I’m going to explore in more detail each of these in the next several Blogs – I hope you can join me……….


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