If you’re looking for a Scottish wilderness adventure, you should go camping in Galloway Forest Park.
Galloway Forest Park covers an area of more than 300 square miles (770 sq. km), spanning the largest forest in the country and much of the Galloway Hills in south-west Scotland.
Despite being relatively easy to reach (only only 1 hour from Glasgow and 2 hours from Edinburgh by car), this beautiful corner of the country feels remote and totally unspoilt.
There are hundreds of miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, including two of the famous “7stanes” mountain bike trail centres. Climbing fans will find many excellent places for rock climbing and ice climbing in the wintertime.
Galloway Forest Park was designated as an International Dark Sky Park in 2009. It was the first place in the UK (and only the fourth in the world) to receive such recognition.
The park’s exceptionally dark night skies and lack of light pollution make it a fantastic place for stargazing. In fact, this is commonly said to be one of the best places in Europe for viewing the night sky.
And what better way to experience these phenomenal dark skies than by spending a night or two under the stars.
Camping in Galloway Forest Park is one of the best ways to experience, explore, and immerse yourself in the region’s wild and unspoilt natural beauty.
Whether you prefer tent camping, or sleeping in a campervan/motorhome, there are many fantastic spots within Galloway Forest Park and the surrounding area. This post describes some of my favourites.
If you’d like to try camping in a campervan, I’d recommend hiring one from Goboony. They have a great range of options and their customer service is excellent.
Alternatively, why not build your own campervan…!
Looking to see some more of Scotland? Check out this fantastic post by Laura (AKA the Eternal Expat) on how to spend two days in Edinburgh.
And don’t miss this post on my favourite UK hidden gems.
Map of Galloway Forest Park
If you need to hire a car for your camping trip, I’d recommend first comparing prices on rentalcars.com – in my experience, they usually find the best deals available.
You can also use this handy tool:
Campsites In Galloway Forest Park
Glentrool & Loch Trool
One of the best campsites inside Galloway Forest Park is Glentrool Camping and Caravan Site. It’s located just outside Glentrool village and is easy to reach.
This site offers attractive pitches for tent camping, plus a number of hard-standing pitches with electrical hook-ups and waste disposal facilities for caravans and motorhomes.
As well as the spotless shower and toilet facilities, there’s also a small shop on site.
Glen Trool itself is a beautiful remote valley nestled in the heart of Galloway Forest Park. It’s a fantastic place to base yourself when exploring the park, and there are several excellent hiking and mountain biking trails in and around the valley.
The Southern Upland Way – one of Scotland’s iconic Great Trails – passes through Glen Trool. You can incorporate a section of this into a pleasant (and fairly easy) day walk.
Alternatively, the Water of Trool Trail and the Loch Trool Loop are both excellent short-ish walks with beautiful scenery.
(Check out this article for the best walks in Galloway Forest Park.)
Mountain bikers: one of the world-renowned “7Stanes” trails passes through Glen Trool. See here for more information.
Another great place for camping in Galloway Forest Park is the Loch Doon Caravan and Camping Park.
Located on the banks of Loch Doon near Dalmellington, this is a larger campsite. There are around 50 hard-standing pitches with electric hook-up, plus a separate grassy area for tents.
The best thing about this site is its location, with stunning views out over Loch Doon and the Carrick Hills beyond.
Although the site does offer basic facilities – including drinking water and waste disposal – it does not currently have any toilet or shower facilities. (This is something they are apparently “working towards”).
Note: there are toilet facilities at the Roundhouse Café – located half a mile north along the loch shore.
Loch Doon is one of the most popular places for wild swimming in Dumfries and Galloway. Just be aware that there are strong under currents in places, so you should be very careful and not swim too far out even if you’re an experienced cold water swimmer.
It’s also a great place if you’d like to do a spot of fishing in Galloway Forest Park, and has some excellent brown trout.
Other activities in and around Loch Doon include kayaking, mountain biking, and hiking in the surrounding woods and hills.
Near the Roundhouse Café is a nest where ospreys breed. During the spring and summer months, you can often spot these magnificent birds circling overhead.
Glamping in Galloway Forest Park
Sometimes you just need a bit of comfort…
Whilst technically just outside the boundaries of Galloway Forest Park, Galloway Activity Centre on the shores of Loch Ken offers a wide range of excellent glamping options.
Take your pick from their selection of rustic safari tents (complete with elegant handmade furniture, two bedrooms and a seperate living area), cozy and luxurious glamping domes, or traditional (and awesome) yurts, imported from Mongolia.
Alternatively, check out these Luxury Glamping Pods. Located just north of Loch Doon, on the 3000 acre Craigengillan Estate, the pods are extremely comfortable and sleep up to four people. Each pod has an en-suite bathroom, basic cooking facilities, a dining area, and a little garden, with wonderful views over the loch.
Also, check out this excellent article on some of the other amazing glamping spots in Scotland.
You can also use this handy feature to check the availability of a few places in the area:
And if you’d rather stay somewhere even more comfortable, check out my review of the 10 best luxury lodges in Scotland.
Wild Camping In Galloway Forest Park
Can you wild camp in Galloway Forest Park?
For the adventurous – and well prepared – wild camping in Galloway Forest Park can be a fantastic experience. This is one of the best ways to really immerse yourself in the wilderness of south-west Scotland.
Some of the best wild camping spots in Galloway Forest Park include the shores of Loch Trool, Loch Doon, Loch Riecawr, Loch Dee, Loch Enoch, the Black Loch (Galloway), and the Carrick Forest.
In each of these places, you’ll be surrounded by beautiful, peaceful countryside and wild nature. There are many amazing spots to pitch your tent, you’re spoilt for choice.
As well as the world-class stargazing, wild camping in Galloway Forest Park is also a great way to get up close and personal with the local wildlife.
Keep an eye out for red deer, otters, black grouse, wild mountain goats, red squirrels, kites, nightjars, golden eagles, and ospreys.
Galloway Forest Park wild camping - is it legal?
Wild camping is legal in much of Scotland (unlike the rest of the UK), provided you follow some basic rules. These are set out in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, although most are common sense.
In short, you must be considerate, responsible, and (most importantly) leave no trace.
Practically, this means:
- keep well away from buildings and roads,
- don’t camp in fields where there are crops or farm animals,
- ideally don’t light a fire (if you must, be very careful and ensure it’s fully extinguished afterwards),
- take all rubbish out with you, including organic matter (even banana skins take up to 2 years to biodegrade),
- bury all human waste (hint: bring a trowel).
Unlike in Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, you do not require a camping permit to wild camp in Galloway Forest Park.
For more information on wild camping in Scotland, check out this article.
And here for my pick of the best tents for wild camping.
In short… One of the best tents that money can buy is the MSR Hubba Hubba 2-person tent.
For anybody who’s considering touring Scotland on a motorbike, I’d also recommend reading this excellent article by madornomad.com.
Galloway Forest – wild camping on the Raider’s Road
Suggested Packing List For Wild Camping In Galloway Forest Park
Because wild camping involves carrying everything that you need with you, it’s important to keep weight to a minimum, especially if you’re planning to cover lots of ground on foot.
That said, you need to carry enough equipment and other stuff to keep you warm, dry, happy, and safe while out in nature.
Everybody has their own preferences and thoughts on what amounts to “essential items” when wild camping, and you’ll probably refine your own list after doing it a few times.
The following suggested packing list should be a helpful place to start:
- large comfortable backpack with a waterproof rain cover (I usually use a 70 litre Osprey pack, though you could probably get away with a slightly smaller one, depending on how many nights you’re away for)
- decent lightweight tent
- warm sleeping bag
- sleeping bag liner (silk ones are best)
- Thermarest, or similar insulating mattress
- a few drybags
- lightweight clothes that are quick-drying (i.e. not denim or cotton)
- waterproof jacket & trousers
- comfortable hiking boots & decent socks
- flip flops for wearing around camp (you’ll be glad to be out of your boots)
- camping stove (Primus do great ones) & gas
- lighter/matches (in a drybag)
- lightweight cutlery, mug and plate
- enough food to last the trip (plus a bit extra, just in case)
- walking snacks (dried fruit and nuts, protein bars, etc.)
- large water bottle (or two, depending on where you’re going)
- water purification tablets or a filtration system (I really rate the Grayl Geopress)
- headtorch (don’t forget this!)
- first aid kit (including blister plasters)
- toilet paper (in a drybag)
- alcohol hand sanitiser
- lightweight trowel for burying waste
- biodegradable toiletries
- insect repellent (Smidge is great) & head net (especially if camping between May and September)
- bags for carrying out rubbish
- Ordnance Survey map(s) of the area(s) you will be in (get the old-school paper version – it won’t run out of battery)
- compass, if doing significant amount of navigation (especially in the mountains and moorlands)
It sounds like quite a lot of stuff, and it is. But I’d argue that all of these things are essential. That’s why you need to pack smart, and invest in high-quality, lightweight gear.
Bothies are found all over the remote, mountainous areas of Scotland, and Galloway Forest Park is no exception.
These basic shelters are typically old abandoned buildings, which provide protection from the elements although usually have very few (if any) facilities. Bothies are free to use, and can be a great alternative to tent camping, especially in bad weather.
Do bear in mind that bothies are very much first-come first-served. You can’t reserve a place in one, and you might have to share it with others. Worst case scenario, the bothy might be full, in which case you will need to sleep outside.
(Top tip: Although this tends to happen more in bothies in popular hiking areas in the Highlands – e.g. along the West Highland Way, Glencoe, etc. – you should still bring a tent and be prepared to camp, just in case!)
Be sure to follow the rules of wild camping (see above) when staying in bothies. Leave the place as you would wish to find it, be careful with fires, and take all rubbish out with you.
If you’re interested in giving bothying a go, I can wholeheartedly recommend the excellent Scottish Bothy Bible.
Galloway Forest Park Maps
Before setting out on your Galloway Forest Park camping adventure, I’d strongly recommend picking up an Ordnance Survey map (OS map) of the area.
These are some of the most detailed topographical maps in the world, and are incredibly helpful when planning walks and places to camp. They are particularly useful when scouting out good places for wild camping in Galloway Forest Park.
These are the three main OS maps covering Galloway Forest Park. The 1:50,000 scale map covers the whole park, whereas the (more detailed) 1:25,000 is split into two, each covering the North and South areas respectively.
Planning a trip but not sure where to start? It can be overwhelming, I know. But there is another way…
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