The South of Scotland not only flaunts incredible natural landscapes, but also a rich cultural heritage and history. Turn your Raiders Gravel experience into a weekend getaway by exploring this beautiful region. This Wigtownshire and the Rhins of Galloway itinerary highlights some of the gems to visit and places to stay as you come or leave Gatehouse of Fleet, our event village.
For every mile you drive south and west beyond Gatehouse you go back in time by a year. The pace of things slows as the roads narrow. Close links with Ireland rather than Edinburgh make this lush green part of Galloway a special experience. Take the whole loop or part of it, and perhaps stay a night, and head for the Mull of Galloway where, just for a moment, you can be the most southerly person in Scotland and see six countries on a bright clear horizon day. Cliff walks, remote beaches, and history at every turn. Stone circles and the best waterfalls in the area at the Wood of Cree, and the feeling that you have this bit of Scotland to yourself.
Scotland’s ‘Book Town’ was planned as a project to revitalise a fading community, and it has worked spectacularly. The town has a buzz about it and more than enough excellent cafes. And yes: a lot of bookshops. It feels loved and cared for now, thanks to the book festival and the energy of locals and those who have been drawn to the small town. There are great walks out to the coast for views back along the Solway to the high hills of Galloway Forest.
One moment there are no active distilleries in Galloway, and now there are two! At its peak, the site had six washbacks and an annual production of approximately 230,000 litres of alcohol, which cemented its status as the “Queen of the Lowlands”. It is proud of doing things slightly differently with a wonderful somewhat left-field campaign and a great visitor experience.
Kings and Popes used to be frequent visitors of this town as part of pilgrim routes across Scotland. The town was the location of the first recorded Christian church in Scotland, Candida Casa, the ‘White (or ‘Shining’) House’, built by Saint Ninian about 397. The visitor centre and replica iron age roundhouse are exceptional and deserve a visit.
If you wanted to break the route into two, this peaceful harbourside village would be a great place to stop. St Ninian’s Chapel is worth a visit, but the village is best enjoyed by just sitting and watching the boats come and go, which you can do from the Steam Packet Inn.
The area beyond here is some of the finest landscape in Galloway, with the road hugging the coast. Take a break here at the best cafe for miles, sitting back and enjoying the sea view. Drumtroddan Standing Stones and the nearby cup and ring marked stones should be visited. Cup and ring marked rock art occurs all over Dumfries & Galloway in great numbers, but it is often covered by a thick layer of grass and almost unvisited and unsigned. They should be world-famous and here is your chance to pay a visit.
The Abbey is – as one of the reviews puts it – ‘a photographer’s dream’, as well as one of the most haunted places in Scotland. The valley of the Water of Luce takes you inland and is only a short deviation away from Airyolland Farm, home to Kitchen Coos and Ewes. If you want to see and photograph Highland cows for that perfect social media moment, this is your place.
The Wood of Cree is the largest area of ancient woodland in Southern Scotland, and an RSPB nature reserve. A walk climbs up through the trees, giving some good open views and leading to waterfalls and an otter pool on the River Cree. This is a much undervisited gem with some of the best and most intimate waterfalls in the South of Scotland. Divert from the route as you near Newton Stewart, and continue to Glentrool too. With the darkest skies in the UK, Glentrool’s Dark Sky Park is a star-watcher’s dream.