We took 3 days to do our Scotland road trip from Edinburgh to Dumfries and Galloway. We started with two days in Edinburgh to get us started in the Scottish swing of things, and then hired a car from Enterprise at Waverley Station to drive all the way to Kirkcudbright.
It’s only 2.5 hours as the crow flies, but of course there are lots of interesting places to see along the way…
Seeing as Scotland was named as Rough Guides readers’ ‘Most Beautiful Country in the World’ in 2018, I thought it was time to explore the country a bit more. I’ve been to Edinburgh before, twice. Once for sightseeing and once for the New Year Hogmanay celebrations, but this was the first time I’d taken a road trip through Scotland.
Here’s our route, and what we did on the way, with a few suggestions for more things to do in Dumfries and Galloway that we just didn’t have the time for.
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Scotland road trip itinerary
Day one: Edinburgh to Kirkcudbright
CLICK FOR THE: Google Map of Day One
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Edinburgh to Moffat 1 hr 33 mins
Stop off in Moffat, just a few minutes drive off the A34, and you’ve officially arrived in Dumfries and Galloway.
It’s an easy drive, past shopping centres, through mountain passes and along gorgeous views. It was a wintry March day at Easter when we ventured out, so we’d pass through sprinklings of snow and look out over valleys of mist.
Moffat is a former wool trade and spa town now famous for its Moffat Toffee, sold at the Moffatt Toffee Shop. We went in, just for a look, and ended up with bags of pik n mix and fudge. Some much needed fuel for road trip snacks. This is a good spot to pick up some Scottish souvenirs from your trip.
We walked round the town, enjoying a coffee at Cafe Ariete and popping into the jumble sale at the town hall. If you’ve got more time you can check out the Moffat Museum, the Golf Club and St Andrews Church.
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Moffatt to Dumfries 36 mins
Dumfries town is the administrative centre of Dumfries and Galloway. It’s a typical Scottish town with a few of the main High Street shops, a few Greggs, some nice looking coffee shops and the famous Globe Inn. Once upon a time it was frequented by local hero Robert Burns, but now it offers up bargain food and drink, and a tour too. If you want to see a raw and traditional Scottish pub, filled with locals and a bit of live music, then pop along.
After finding out that Moat Brae House was the inspiration for Peter Pan, and that JM Barrie played in the house as a child, I just had to see it. Unfortunately it’s currently in the very early stages of restoration, and so we couldn’t even get close. If you’re reading this years from now though, please go and check it out. Joanna Lumley is patron, and with £5.7 million for restoration it’s going to look great, in time.
Option: Dumfries to Caeverlock Castle 20 mins
Unfortunately we didn’t have time to go to Caeverlock Castle, but I just wanted to add it in here to point out it’s only 20 minutes from Dumfries. It’s a moated triangular castle first built in the 13th century on the edge of the Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve.
If you’re looking for more beautiful places to visit in Scotland, take a look at this list from Global Grasshopper. There are lots of facts and great things to see and do across Scotland.
Option: Dumfries to Sweetheart Abbey
Sweetheart Abbey is 700 years old, and was originally named Dulce Cor (Latin for Sweet Heart). It was built by Lady Dervorgilla as a tribute to her late husband John Balliol. She was so pained by his death she kept his embalmed heart in a casket of ivory and silver for the rest of her life. Strange back then weren’t they?
Their son, also John, became King of Scotland, for a short time. Visit Sweetheart Abbey to learn more about his tragic reign.
Make sure you check all the opening hours, many things close at 4pm.
Dumfries to Kippford 33 mins (or Sweetheart Abbey to Kippford 26 mins)
Kippford is a very pretty Scottish seaside town. Apparently the thing to do here is eat fish and chips looking out to the horizon, confirmed by the couple sat next to us in the car park who were doing exactly that.
It wasn’t dinner time yet so we pulled up to admire the boats, and then got out for a walk. There are lots of walking trails here, and there’s the Anchor Hotel if you fancy a drink or some seasonal food.
Kippford to Kirkcudbright 33 mins
And finally, for the first day of your Scotland road trip – Kirkbudbright (pronounced kir-coo-bree).
Kirkcudbright is the pretty artist’s town of Dumfries and Galloway. It’s surrounded by stunning coasts and beautiful hills and dates back to 1455, supported by the fishing trade. It’s a lovely, colourful town and a real gem on the coastline with unique shops, galleries and museums to explore.
We stayed at The Selkirk Arms Hotel. A modern take on a traditional Scottish hotel. We had a flat, with a bedroom, lounge and bathroom. Basically with the comfort of a hotel, but the space of an apartment, I thought it was great.
It was well located on the High Street just a few minutes walk from the harbour.
– ^ Pic from booking.com
On our first day we were booked in for dinner. I went for a chicken risotto dish with a crumble dessert, and breaded squid for a starter. The staff were lovely, the food all local, and the dining room cosy after a day outside in the Scottish spring time.
The Selkirk Arms is one of the highest rated places to eat in Kirkcudbright, and I can definitely see why.
The hotel had a cute bar with a roaring fire to relax and enjoy an after dinner wine or, of course, some Scottish whisky.
Night sky tour
That night we went on a star gazing tour with Elizabeth Tindal, a freelance ranger with a special interest in our stars and skies. Scotland has some of the darkest skies in Europe and Galloway Forest Park is one of the darkest places in Scotland, it’s one of only four places in the Western World that’s been awarded a Dark Sky Park award.
I’d never actually even heard of Dark Sky Parks before but it’s a huge movement where cities are trying to limit their light pollution to ensure we can see and learn about our skies.
– from the road trip, no pics of us sitting in a field in the dark unfortunately
Unfortunately for us it was a bright full moon the night we went out, so we didn’t actually manage to see many stars. But with the help of a few apps and Elizabeth’s enthusiasm we learnt about the work she does with children to inspire interest in the stars, and the interest that other countries have in coming over to Dumfries and Galloway, especially to see their skies.
Find out more about Elizabeth’s work as a freelance ranger here.
Day two: Dumfries and Galloway
Kirkcudbright to Mossyard 19 mins
I was up and out early to try and catch the sunrise over Mossyard, a beach just a 20-minute drive away. Unfortunately I wasn’t quite up early enough, and it was super cloudy anyway. Still, a nice drive and a pretty beach which I bet is just lovely in the summer.
I passed Cardoness Castle along the way. It wasn’t open but I could see it from the road. I also went to check out Gatehouse of Fleet, a pretty little village. From there I was enticed into a huge driveway which brought me out to the Cally Palace Hotel and Golf Club.
And all before breakfast.
Can’t visit Scotland and not order some Scottish Kippers for breakfast, well I can’t anyway. Ben went for the Full English, all from ingredients produced locally. Delicious way to start up the day.
8 minutes away
Dhoon Beach is a sandy and secluded beach near the hotel great for swimming. Didn’t get chance to go but just wanted to point out, you could.
7 minutes away
Brighouse Bay is one of Scotland’s top environmental Parks set in a quiet, secluded peninsula, with magnificent views over the Irish Sea and surrounded by 1200 acres of impressive walking country. Again, didn’t go, but it’s close.
Galloway Activity Centre
Selkirk Arms to the Galloway Activity Centre 30 mins
Instead we went to the Galloway Activity Centre to cycle through the wilderness. We took a little boat over from the centre to mountain bike on some interesting terrain. The activity centre does all kinds of things, mainly involving water, which didn’t really appeal to us Southern Fairies in March. There were plenty of people out on the paddleboards and sailboats though.
We were safe and dry on our bikes cycling up and down hills and round the lake. The sun even came out for a short time, and on the way back we saw Kites circling in the sky. I think they were after the little sausage dog currently cowering under the person next to me’s legs.
We came back to the centre for some tasty tomato soup with a cheese toastie on the side, complete with my new favourite, Irn Bru.
Galloway Activity Centre to Threave Castle 20 mins
Once upon a time (1369) this was a famous tower house and forbidding fortress built by Archibald the Grim. Nowadays it’s the nesting site for Osprey birds, meaning nothing more can be done to the site and no one can touch it. Ospreys are protected and so now the castle is too.
Go and have a look though, it’s a nice walk in the Scottish countryside to get to it and you get a little boat ride too.
Cocoa Bean Chocolate Factory
Threave Castle to Cocoa Bean Factory 11 mins
It was Easter and we were in need of some chocolate so after finding out about the ‘Willy Wonka Factory’ up the road, we went. Unfortunately on arrival it was pretty obvious that it was a place meant for children, not for us, and that the information about it being Scotland’s answer to a Willy Wonka Factory were a tad exaggerated.
Still, we found a spot and ordered this, a huge hot chocolate mocha with marshmallows and a chocolate brownie to share on the side.
Cue the Easter sugar rush we’d craved.
Cocoa Bean Factory to Kirkcudbright 8 mins
The last night, and after four days of intense travel in Edinburgh and Dumfries and eating out for every meal, we decided to make the most of our lounge at the Selkirk Arms and get fish and chips in.
After an aperitif at the Masonic Arms, just by our hotel that is.
Polarbites Fish and Chip shop is well known as a foodie highlight in Kirkcudbright. So two fish and chips and some tonic from the CoOp later, to add to the Edinburgh Gin we’d picked up, and we were happy in our Selkirk Arms lounge.
The fish and chips were DELICIOUS.
Also, the walk there past the boats as the sun set over the water was lush too.
Thirsty for another Scotland road trip?
How about going camping in the Western Isles next time?
CLICK FOR THE: Map of day three in Scotland
After another breakfast – this time a Full English with the haggis substituted for beans – we were packed up and ready to go.
Selkirk Arms to the Annandale Distillery 1 hour 2 mins
Depending on what you’ve chosen to do and leave out on the previous days, this could be a good opportunity to stop off at one of the places you’ve missed out on the way. You could fit in the Sweetheart Abbey and Caeverlock Castle here, but it was chucking it down with rain for us so we carried on to the distillery.
The Annandale Distillery produces Single Malt Whisky, but is fairly new in the whole grand scheme of whisky distilling. Go along for the 45-minute tour to find out more about past owners, get a few samples, and to find out more about their plans for the future.
The Annandale Distillery is the latest addition to the distillery repertoire up in Dumfries. There’s also a cafe with some incredible looking cakes and sweet treats but after yesterday’s chocolate brownie indulgence I stuck with the
Annandale Distillery to Drumlanrig Castle 51 mins
From our Google research, this looked like the fanciest Castle around, and after 10 minutes traversing the long winding drive and still not even spotting it, it kinda confirmed what we thought.
– better, official pic from the website
Unfortunately we were tight on time and there wasn’t another tour leaving for a while so we had a quick look around the impressive gardens, and then went in for a tasty sandwich lunch at their cafe / restaurant.
I spotted a sign saying that they run yoga classes in the grounds, imagine!
Drive back to Edinburgh Airport
Drumlanrig Castle to Edinburgh Airport 1 hr 31 mins
We drove the scenic route back to the airport, not the one via Glasgow, and it was stunning. My favourite of the trip.
In our March time Easter weekend trip we had the pretty sprinkling of snow coming towards us as we curved round the mountain roads. For much of it we were the car on the road. I loved it. I haven’t driven much in the UK in the last few years, but the wide open spaces and winding roads made it a pleasure.
Our weekend in Dumfries was chilly – it was March after all, and March in a particularly cold snap in the UK. I loved the moody effect of the lighting and skies though. The views from the high points down into the valleys were just amazing. You could see for miles past the green fields and brown trees, little houses dotting the skyline.
I really enjoyed seeing more of Scotland on our road trip, and would recommend this little venture to see more of the ‘Most Beautiful Country in the World’ to anyone!
I was in Scotland thanks to VisitScotland, and their partners. As the experts they organised most of my trip for me, and made recommendations which I combined with my own research. If you’d like any help planning your Scotland road trip itinerary, just let me know!