Often described as ‘Scotland’s forgotten corner’, Dumfries and Galloway is one of the country’s most under-explored areas. Bordered to the south and west by coastline and to the north by wild moorland and hill country, the region has for centuries been seen as a remote rural outpost.
Its peninsula coastline, sidelonging the Solway Firth and jutting into the Irish Sea, boasts a wide number of splendid beaches, with many of its best tucked away from the holiday crowds. If you know where to look, these little-known beaches can provide the perfect secluded escape.
Killantringan Bay is around 2 1⁄2 miles north of Portpatrick as the crow flies, easily accessed from the B738 by following signs to the Killantringan Lighthouse, which has been decommissioned and is now privately owned.
Next to it, though, is the wonderful bay, easiest to get down to at low tide, offering dramatic views northwards up the coast, and a great spot to come whatever the weather, either to enjoy the beach in the sunshine or to blow away the cobwebs in a blustery breeze.
The beach at Powfoot, a pretty holiday village built on the Solway shore at the turn of the 20th century, is easily accessible alongside its designated parking area. Here, you can enjoy the gigantic sky and views of the Cumbrian mountains, or take a walk out over the sands.
However, be aware of the tide times and do not venture out too far at the cusp of low tide; the Solway is notorious for its racing, treacherous tides. About 600yds from the shore, you can also see all that now remains of a tidal swimming pool.
St Ninian’s Cave
Tradition has it that here on this pebbly shore St Ninian would retreat to the cave at the end of this beach for personal prayer. A small enclave with a good view back along the beach and coast, it’s an ideal spot for quiet contemplation. Over the centuries many pilgrims have come to give thanks for a safe journey and in among the offerings from present-day visitors are 8th-century crosses carved into the walls.
Depending on when you come, look out for the house martins nesting above the entrance to the cave and the dainty purple thrift flower dotted along the edge of the beach; you may even spot some seals just off shore.
A few minutes’ walk from Arbigland House and Gardens near Kirkbean takes you to Powillimount beach, a lovely spot looking straight across the Solway. The beach offers excellent views to Southerness lighthouse, the oldest in Galloway, though sadly long since decommissioned. When the tide is out, there’s lots of space for a good walk, and if you head along it to the left you’ll reach the Thirl Stane natural sandstone arch.
Although the name Southerness may seem appropriate for the location, it is actually a corruption of Satterness, derived from Salterness, the saltworks of which were given by Roland, Lord of Galloway, in the 12th century to the monks of Holmcultram, on the other side of the Solway in Cumbria.
With views across the bay to the boundary between Dumfries and Galloway and South Ayrshire, this is a lovely sandy beach and a good spot for a picnic. Wildlife here is varied and abundant, and in spring the lower slopes of the surrounding hill are covered in daffodils.
By car, it’s only accessible by 4×4, but makes for a delightful scramble on foot down the path.
At this secluded spot, you have a great chance of seeing seals.
It’s a tricky one to reach as you’ll need to walk from either Corsewall Point further north or Dounan Bay to the south, but its craggy expanse is utterly breathtaking and well-removed from any crowds.
Though its entrance road is somewhat challenging, Ardwell Bay has a fine beach that is worth the effort; don’t let the potholes deter you!
Once you reach it, the bay is backed by gorse-covered hills and has lovely views of successive headlands up the western side of the Rhins. You might well have it to yourself, with the cry of gulls and the breaking waves the only sounds to be heard.
There’s much more of Dumfries and Galloway’s landscape to explore in our new guide: