Continuing my journey on the new South West Coastal 300, the second part of the journey takes me from the pretty seaside tourist town of Portpatrick, through Ayrshire to Sanquhar. To find out about the first part of my travels on the SWC300, see Kippford to Portpatrick. The third part of the blog series is Sanquhar to Kippford.
What is the SWC300?
The third driving route to be established in Scotland, the SWC300 follows the North Coast 500 and the North-East 250.
The SWC300 is a circular driving route that travels through Dumfries & Galloway and into South Ayrshire and East Ayrshire.
Section 2: Portpatrick to Sanquhar
Continuing in a clockwise direction, the SWC300 leaves Portpatrick to travel the west coast from Dumfries & Galloway to South Ayrshire.
Did you know?
- The extinct volcanic island of Aisla Craig is acclaimed as having “the best granite for curling stones”.
- In nearby Stranraer, North West Castle is the first hotel, not just in Scotland but in the world, to have an indoor curling rink.
- Electric Brae provides an optical illusion. The “gravity hill” causes your brain to think you are rolling uphill.
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 fantastic – and famous – sight in the Firth of Clyde but there is so much more to this coastline.
Signposts reveal names of settlements and beaches that, on a whim, I turn off for a closer view.
I visit Ballintrae, Girvan, Maidens (past Trump Turnberry) and Dunure.
Historic attractions include Culzean Castle and Country Park, owned and managed by the National Trust for Scotland. It’s a great place to visit, especially if you have half a day to explore.
Instead, for a different perspective, I turn off the main road a little further north and follow a winding road as it descends to Croy Shore.
I walk a sandy coastline and enjoy wide-sweeping views of the castle, which is positioned atop high cliffs. From here, Ailsa Craig is easily spotted in the near distance and, on a clear day, the Isle of Arran rises dramatically on the horizon.
Further on, my curiosity is piqued by signs for Varyag memorial, at Lendalfoot. I learn that the memorial honours those that died when the Russian cruiser sank nearby in 1920,.
The landscape becomes increasingly rugged with high hills on one side of the road and a sandy-rocky shoreline on the other.
From coast to countryside
Just before the seaside town of Ayr, I follow the SWC300 route notes and turn easterly away from the coast. (Of course, you might want to pop into the town Ayr, especially if you like wide sandy beaches and seaside town attractions.)
Many people who visit Ayrshire come to find out about Scotland’s famous poet, Robert Burns, and the SWC300 neatly passes through Alloway, Rabbie’s birthplace. The Burns Cottage and Burns Birthplace Museum offer great insight into the bard’s life and works.
Driving on, through glorious rolling hills and moors and into the Galloway Forest Park, the largest in Britain, I come upon two beautiful conservation villages, Kirkmichael and Straiton, one after the other.
Straiton would 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 hilltop obelisk memorial to Lt Col James Hunter Blair beckons walkers who enjoy a loftier hike. See James Hunter Blair walk.
Another village, Dalmellington, is reached via the B741. It is a former centre for two once thriving industries, 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.
I am tempted to stay a while, sit tight in Bluebelle with a tartan blanket for warmth and wait for darkness to arrive. The lack of man-made light pollution in this area means that star gazing is a highly rewarding activity. A friend who lives locally often posts photos on social media of the Northern Lights (this far south!).
Instead, I give in to the urge for a G&T and the comforts of the four-star Blackaddie House Hotel at Sanqhuar in Dumfries & Galloway. The chef owner Ian McAndrew was once the youngest Englishman to attain a Michelin Star. In 2016, he was named Scottish Chef of the Year 2016. Ian runs the hotel with his wife, Jane.
The evening meal was superb and rounded off a lovely day on the SWC300.
Other things to do:
- Walk the clifftop path from Portpatick to Dunskey Castle, at the start of the long-distance southern Upland Way
- Visit Heads of Ayr Farm Park with your family.
- Look out across Loch Doon and see the ruins of Loch Doon Castle
See more info at South West Coastal 300.
Read my post about travelling the SWC300 from Kippford to Portpatrick and from Sanquhar to Kippford.