While visitors head to the north of Scotland in their droves, I often feel the south of Scotland gets unfairly overlooked. I've lost count of the itineraries I've seen online that only venture north of Edinburgh and Glasgow despite the fantastic historic and scenic treasures that fill Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway.
I always think this is a shame, but on the plus side it does mean that the Mull of Galloway at the most southerly point of Scotland is a much quieter alternative to its counterpart in the north. However, that doesn't mean that it is any less rewarding to visit and I'd even go as far as saying it is more rewarding as it feels remoter, wilder and less commercialised.
It is also likely to remain that way as it is a destination rather than somewhere you pass through. Sitting at the end of a 5 mile long country road which heads south from the village of Drummore, it is often referred to as 'Scotland's Lands End'.
The Mull of Galloway is at the southern end of the Rhins of Galloway, a peninsula on the south-west corner of Scotland that is worth exploring over at least a couple of days. It also makes a worthwhile detour from Cairnryan for those travelling by ferry to or from Northern Ireland.
At the bottom of this post I've listed some of my other recommended things to do in the area if you do want to extend your stay.
Things to do in & around the Mull of Galloway
So what makes the Mull of Galloway so special and worth venturing so far south? I've listed some of the reasons why I love this part of the country below, and as usual, I hope it inspires you to consider a part of Scotland that might not have been on your radar until now,
Visit Drummore - Scotland's most southerly village
Drummore is the last village you pass heading south towards the Mull of Galloway. It is Scotland's most southerly village and you might be surprised to find out it is not only further south than the Scottish Borders but it is even further south than Newcastle!
If like me, you still enjoy sending mail the old fashioned way and not via virtual messaging then Scotland's first and last post office is situated here and makes a unique stop to send your postcards from. Across the road you can also stock up on supplies at Scotland's most southerly store.
Visit the Mull of Galloway Lighthouse Exhibition
As you continue south from Drummore, the scenery opens up and you are rewarded with a stunning view across to the Mull of Galloway Lighthouse in the distance, perched high on the clifftop.
Unlike many lighthouses in Scotland, this one is open to the public during the summer months and has a really interesting exhibition. You can even take your dog inside, which always gets an extra thumbs up from me.
For a small admission fee you can view various lighthouse objects, memorabilia and videos. The exhibition is located within the former fuel store, workshop and engine room so you also get a behind the scenes look at the workings of the lighthouse.
Built by Robert Stevenson, the lighthouse was first lit on 26th March 1830. It was automated in 1988 and is now remotely monitored from the Northern Lighthouse Board’s headquarters in Edinburgh.
Have a look in the grounds outside for the giant red foghorn which is the only operational foghorn on mainland Scotland. It is no longer used as a navigational aid but it is sounded for visitors on certain Sundays throughout the year!
Climb to the top of Mull of Galloway Lighthouse
One of the highlights of visiting the Mull of Galloway Lighthouse is being able to climb the tower. There are 115 steps to reach the panoramic viewing platform and on a clear day you can see Scotland, Ireland and England. I'm not sure there are many other places in Scotland where you can clearly view all three countries at once. You can also spot the Isle of Man which lies directly to the south.
The tower can be accessed on guided tours at weekends during the summer. There is a small admission fee and you can purchase a combined ticket that includes entrance to the exhibition. It is worth noting that four-legged friends are allowed in the exhibition but not up the tower.
Follow the dramatic cliff top walking paths
The cliff walks around the Mull of Galloway are as dramatic as any I've come across in Scotland. Sheer craggy rock faces are alive with seabirds while sea stacks and caves add to the theatrics.
There are signposted paths around the cliff tops and the Walkhighlands website details a 6.5 mile circular route which takes in some of the best scenery.
As you walk along don't forget to keep your eyes on the surrounding water for porpoises, dolphins and seals.
Enjoy lunch with a view at the Gallie Craig Coffee House
After all that climbing and walking I was in need of an obligatory tea and cake stop. Regular readers will know that I am a big believer in rewarding myself with a sweet treat after a busy day exploring - after all life is about balance.
The award winning Gallie Craig Coffee House is perfectly located for sitting outside and admiring the cliff top views while you enjoy a refreshment. If the weather isn't quite as nice as the days I've visited, then you can sit indoors and enjoy the scenery through the panoramic windows.
The cafe fits discreetly into the hillside thanks to it's turfed roof, resulting in minimal impact to the surrounding landscape. The family run restaurant has an extensive menu, with beef from their own farm featuring in some dishes. There is also a small gift shop.
I should add that for such a remote area I was pleasantly surprised to find they offer a free WiFi connection around the coffee shop and lighthouse - ideal for uploading those tea and scone photos to social media!
Explore the RSPB Mull of Galloway Reserve
The Mull of Galloway is also an RSPB Reserve and the area is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. A wide variety of birds can be seen as you walk around the lighthouse including guillemots, kittiwakes, fulmars, razorbills and even a small number of puffins which visit between May and July. Peregrines and kestrels can also be seen patrolling the skies around the cliffs.
Other things to look out for are wildflowers, rare butterflies and marine mammals in the water below so be sure to bring a camera and binoculars. A small viewing platform has been installed near to the lighthouse which provides access for wheelchair users and gives visitors a chance to look down onto some of the seabird colonies.
There is also a small RSPB visitor centre and on certain days they run guided walks.
Walk the Mull of Galloway Trail
If you have a little longer to explore the area and fancy a more adventurous holiday, then the Mull of Galloway Trail might appeal. The route which opened in 2012 is 37 miles long and runs between the Mull of Galloway and Glenapp in Ayrshire. From there you have the option to continue along the Ayrshire Coastal Path.
The route has been selected as one of Scotland's Great Trails, a list which includes Scotland's finest long-distance walking trails
Look for Red Kites
In recent times red kites were extinct in Dumfries and Galloway, which is why being able to see so many now is a special experience. On my drive towards Drummore I spotted quite a few of these impressive birds of prey circling and swooping along the road-side and neighbouring fields.
In 2001 a re-introduction programme was set up along with The Galloway Kite Trail which has now led to a healthy population in the area.
The trail was officially launched by the RSPB in 2003 and I was sad to read that they decided to step back from its management in 2019. I hope local businesses will continue to support and promote the trail which attracts many visitors to the region.
When you're driving around Galloway, don't forget to look up and you might be lucky enough to see some of these beautiful birds for yourself.
Things to do near to the Mull of Galloway
Although the Mull of Galloway is a worthy diversion in its own right, the surrounding area has lots to offer and I recommend spending a little longer in this part of Scotland to fully appreciate it.
Here are some of my other suggested places to visit -
If you have more time then I highly recommend travelling further east to Wigtown, Scotland's National Book Town, filled with characterful bookshops.
If one day in the Mull of Galloway just isn't enough then you could always book in for a self-catering stay at one of the 19th century Lightkeepers’ cottages.
Alternatively, I can highly recommend the Shepherd's Hut in the magical Glenwhan Gardens which can be booked through Airbnb. Get a discount off your first Airbnb booking with my personal referral.
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