Dumfries and Galloway is not a region of Scotland that seems to get as much attention as the likes of the Highlands or the Lothians. So I headed down to check out what I hoped would be not only its most scenic corner, but also one of the most remarkable parts of Scotland, the epic Rhinns of Galloway. I was not disappointed.
The Rhinns of Galloway is the peninsula that slips down from Loch Ryan and the port town of Stranraer south towards a dramatic denouement at the Mull of Galloway. The Mull is Scotland’s southernmost point and the Rhinns offer up around 50 miles of rugged, wildly unspoilt Atlantic coastline, split between rocks, cliffs and mile up mile of sandy beach.
My base was ideal at Knockinaam Lodge. Not many places manage to boast both a Michelin star restaurant and also be genuinely family friendly, but here they pull it off. Adults can enjoy a lavish fine dining feast laced with local halibut and delicate cooking, while books, toys and even bath toys are on hand for the wee ones.
The nearest town is Portpatrick and I decided to take the cliff walk north from Knockinaam. This is a brilliant three mile adventure. I pushed up hills, wandered through fields and climbed over stiles, all the time accompanied by the Irish Sea glistening off towards Ireland on the horizon. I was mercifully alone without the drill of mobile phones or the drone of car engines.
Portpatrick itself for me is one of the prettiest coastal settlements in Scotland. A line of pastel hued and whitewashed houses hug around the harbour. The days when ferries trundled off to Ireland are long gone and in their place are little fishing boats and a motley flotilla of pleasure craft. The local seafood is excellent and I enjoyed a feast of lobster, crab claws and mussels in a cream broth at the waterfront Crown Hotel.
The Rhinns are great for walking and Portpatrick marks the western starting point of the Southern Upland Way. I rambled off north on its first section, which takes in a swathe of spectacular coastal scenery on the jaunt to Killantringan lighthouse. Here once again I was totally alone with just the Atlantic and the birds for company.
As I was lucky enough to visit on a scorching weekend I made for the immaculate beaches of the south of the Rhinns. Dumfries and Galloway has some stunning beaches and they don’t come any better than the Sands of Luce. This massive expanse of sand spreads its tentacles for miles and is seriously unspoilt.
I ended my Rhinns of Galloway adventure on the very tip not only of Dumfries and Galloway, but Scotland, at the legendary Mull of Galloway, part of which is now protected as an RSPB reserve. Anchored against the sturdy might of one of the Stevensons’ finest lighthouses I gazed south towards Ireland and England. On a really clear day you can see the Isle of Man. I didn’t need to as I had found plenty to keep me occupied in one of Scotland’s less explored, but massively rewarding corners.
Thanks to Destination Dumfries and Galloway for the Luce Sands and Portpatrick photos.