Great Scottish drive: South West Coastal 300
Scotland is a great place for a drive-and-see holiday, especially if you have the time to get off the beaten track to enjoy quieter routes. Perhaps you might choose to fly into Glasgow, where hiring a car at Glasgow Airport in advance is a good choice to start a driving tour to a number of beautiful locations in central and southern Scotland.
Scotland benefits from an amazingly varied landscape, including the lowland hills and valleys of southern Scotland to the majestic mountains and glens of the Highlands.
There is also a long and dramatic coastline, including numerous spectacular sea lochs and beaches. The coast features a wealth of islands, especially the many off the west coast of Scotland and also Orkney and Shetland to the north.
Scotland offers easy access to locations east, north and south of Glasgow. The roads are tarmac and mostly in good repair. The busier routes are those heading north, along the west side of Loch Lomond on the A82 and the M8 and then the M9 and A9 towards the north-eastern regions of the Cairngorms and Aberdeenshire.
There is no doubt you will enjoy the scenery in the north of Scotland but if you want a tip, I would head south. The region of Dumfries & Galloway is beautiful and is far less visited by tourists.
My favourite route to follow is the South West Coastal 300.
Driving the South West Coastal 300
The South West Coastal 300 (SWC300) is a new driving route in south-west Scotland that follows a circular route. The 300-mile driving loop heads through Dumfries & Galloway and dips into both South and East Ayrshire.
It reaches the most southerly point in Scotland at Mull of Galloway and visits the county’s highest village, Wanlockhead, located in the in the Lowther Hills at 1531ft above sea level.
The SWC300 features fabulous coastlines, including two low-lying peninsulas, and several traditional seaside hotspots of Ayrshire.
Inland, the route winds through green and pleasant rolling countryside, edges atmospheric forests and crosses high, remote-feeling moorlands.
While it would be possible to whizz around the route in one long day of driving, this would be missing the point of the SWC300.
There are so many pretty villages, historic towns and fascinating attractions to visit that a few days to a week would be a more suitable length of a holiday for the full loop.
Inevitably, there are some stretches of the SWC300 that are busier with traffic but the majority of the route is peaceful and picturesque.
My suggestion is that each day you decide on your destination (book ahead for accommodation) and then choose a few attractions to visit.
Highlight attractions on the SWC300
- The historic towns of Dumfries
- Kirroughtree, the artists’ town
- National book town of Wigtown
- The “Isle” of Whithorn, which is not actually an island!
- St Ninian’s Priory Church, which was founded by the pilgrim as the birthplace of Christianity in Scotland.
- Mull of Galloway Lighthouse
- The popular and pretty tourist harbour town of Portpatrick
- Culzean Castle in Ayrshire
- Electric Brae, a “gravity hill” in Ayrshire
- Alloway town and its many Robert Burns’ attractions
- The highest village in Scotland at Wanlockhead
- The tourist town of Moffat, especially the Moffat Toffee Shop
- The historic town of Lockerbie
- Sweetheart Abbey, near New Abbey.
- Rockcliffe beach near Dalbeattie.
Find out more about the South West Coastal 300.
Tips for the right car hire
- Book your car hire ahead, especially if you are travelling at a busy holiday time and if you want the best deals.
- Choose a car to suit your numbers. From mini cars, such as a Fiat 500, for one or two people, to saloons, such as the Volvo V40 for three or four travellers, to people carriers, like the Peugeot 5008, which will take seven people, there is a hire car to suit the size of your group.
- Budget should be considered when hiring a car. A quick glance at Discover Car Hire for a two-day weekend hire in mid-March reveals cars for prices as low as £17.41.
- Think about luggage. Picking up a hire car only to discover the boot is not big enough for all your suitcases will only get your holiday off to a bad start. It’s always better to hire a car that is slightly bigger than your needs than slightly smaller.
- Are you old enough? Some car hire companies require you to be a certain age before they will rent a car to you. You might need to shop around if you are under 21, for example.
- Check what is included in the costs and what waivers you will need to pay. Consider full coverage, it could save a lot more than it costs and would be a reasonable choice for driving with no stress.
- As you leave the car hire location look out for a garage so you know where you can fill up the car on your return.
- Check whether the car takes petrol or diesel. If you make a mistake it will be an expensive one!
- Relax and enjoy the drive. If you worry less about the traffic and take you time to enjoy the views an attractions you’ll find you have a much more rewarding holiday.