Camping In Galloway Forest Park: Beautiful And Untouched

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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.  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.

Stargazing-whilst-camping-in-Galloway-Forest-Park
Be sure to do some stargazing while camping in Galloway Forest Park

And what better way to experience these phenomenal 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 sets out 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.

Map of Galloway Forest Park

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-and-Loch-Trool-hiking
Glentrool is rugged and beautiful

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.

Loch Doon

Camping-on-shores-of-Loch-Doon-Scotland
There are plenty of tranquil spots to pitch a tent on the shores of Loch Doon

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 site.  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.  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 forests 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.

Click here for the latest prices and more details.

Wild Camping In Galloway Forest Park

Can you wild camp in Galloway Forest Park?  

Yes!

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.

Some of the best wild camping spots in Galloway Forest Park include the shores of Loch TroolLoch DoonLoch RiecawrLoch DeeLoch Enoch, the Black Loch (Galloway)and the Carrick Forest.  There are so many amazing spots to pitch your tent in each of those places, you’ll be 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.

Walking-in-Glentrool
Immerse yourself in the wilderness - wild camping in Dumfries and Galloway

Galloway Forest Park wild camping - is it legal?

Yes!

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 warmdryhappy, and safe.  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:​

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

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.

Kilsharg-bothy-Glen-Trool
Spot the bothy

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.

See below for the latest prices:

Planning a trip but not sure where to start?  It can be overwhelming, I know.  But there is another way…

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