Scotch Snap Part 2 – Dumfries and Galloway to Ayrshire

We woke underneath the ruins of Sweetheart Abbey to a misty and crisp clear morning. I hadn’t slept well and Kate made coffee before setting out for a run. That gave me time to sit and tidy for the day’s traveling.

We weren’t 100% sure about our route but we were thinking about maybe going to the Isle of Arran if we could. So we were torn between driving around the coast of the Solway Firth or driving through the Forest of Galloway – beaches or mountains?! So hard!
We decided to navigate using the force and turned left out of the Abbey. This took us to the beautiful Sandyhills beach. A spot beautiful for bouldering and in our case breakfast.

As we had found such an exemplary beach we felt we could abandon the coast road temporarily and I decided to take a road heading North towards New Galloway for the purposes of getting supplies and heading into the Mountains. With two shops (one shut) and a lovely cafe New Galloway made a very pleasant stop for caffeine if not for supplies, but we had enough for lunch (excepting an overflow community cucumber) and decided to head up before we cooked.

On day two we had already reached the usual roadtrip logistic level of ‘when’s the next meal’. Where’s the next bottle of water had happened the day before when we realised I hadn’t filled up the water tank and tried to replenish the 70litres using a 1.5litre bottle before giving in and going to a supermarket.

The road took us up into the Galloway mountain range along past the Clatteringshaws Damn where our first bit of phone signal and a gorgeous view prompted phoning home times; past the ‘Goat park’ (I have no idea but I didn’t see any goats) to a little layby where we pulled sharply in after shrieking ‘waterfall’. This had serious consequences for my earlier attempts at tidying – I will not learn! Luckily nothing broke…

After me scrambling around on rocks trying to get the right picture Kate had been advised of a circular walk we could do before lunch. This took us up above the waterfall to the heathland and an ancient bothy, where sometime past large heads had been carved into stones to watch over the occupants or the land, I would love to know which.

After further uphill and some traipsing through forestry tracks we came back down off the heath into the evergreen woods and back to spot the van hidden amongst the pines beneath the mountain. Beautiful.

Lunch in the van!

From the mountains we returned to the coast, following the coast path and desperately trying to spot Kites – we definitely saw one bird of prey that was of similar size to a Buzzard, but wasn’t a buzzard and I don’t think it was a Kite, but by the time I’d dug out the binoculars it had drifted off again.

We stopped for fuel and a chat to be warned of the road. Thus far the roads had been excellent so I wasn’t too worried. I should have listened. South Ayrshire is a beautiful rolling rumble of hills, stones and haybales but it’s roads are shit. More tidying required 😑

Through the pretty town of Girvan, over the ‘Electri Brae’, a weird uphill / downhill optical illusion we totally failed to notice, we were heading towards the small village of Dunure so I could hunt out some bouldering before the evening.


However we detoured to a brown sign to discover a very large car park and a farmhouse with signs to Culzean Castle. Unable but unsurprised to be unable to see the castle we decided to do a short walk down to the coastline. We had become used to a strange tendancy in the Borders for everything to be hidden. After driving through apparent wilderness you would suddenly find yourself amongst low bungalows and then drop down into a town hidden in a valley. Castles are behind tall trees or hill lines, churches hidden in valleys or river bends. Actually it’s not at all surprising when you think about the history of the Borders. Being missed by a large group of angry people who’ve gone 500m the wrong way was probably no bad thing.

On this occasion we were in fact mistaken. We realised, after I’d scrambled out on the rocks to find a way back to the path, that the Castle was really built to be seen from the sea.


We were happily distracted exploring the castle and grounds until the sun started to drop low.

This meant that by the time we arrived in Dunure the wind was picking up and the light was dropping leaving our second castle of the day in beautiful splendour.


Parking in the town was not really possible if we wanted flat ground so we overnighted off road up the hill. It seemed less windy than the town itself, until around 3am at which point I suspect it was just battering away everywhere.

Waking to the sound of wind and tapping rain at 6.30 my bouldering plans in Dunure looked to be properly scuppered.We’d had beautiful weather for two days but it looked rancid outside and I refused to get out of bed for some time. I had also had a second night of bad sleep and was exhausted still on waking.

We had realised the night before that our Isle of Arran plans were a little enthusiastic – the ferry nearby appeared fully booked (we looked up ferry times for Sunday and it gave us availability on Thursday) and the other ferry, 40miles distant, would take hours to get to due to it being on the wrong bit of land and 152 mile detour to actually get there.

Now we had to decide, face the weather and try to find bouldering in a cave in Dunure? Go climbing in Glasgow? Or get straight up to Loch Lomond and find somewhere we could park up, stay and explore…

I was looking for mountains again and despite the driving the North beckoned

Even too wet to boulder in the cave…

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