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, 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 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.
Campsites In Galloway Forest Park
One of the best campsites inside Galloway Forest Park is Glentrool Camping and Caravan Site. It’s located just outside the village of Glentrool 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 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.
Popular activities in and around Loch Doon include kayaking, fishing (excellent brown trout), 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 the Craigengillan Glamping Pods. Located just north of Loch Doon, on the 3000 acre Craigengillan Estate, these two luxury pods each sleep up to four people. Both pods come complete with en-suite bathrooms and basic cooking facilities.
Wild Camping 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.
There are many amazing spots for wild camping inside the park. Some of the best include the shores of Loch Trool, Loch Doon, Loch Riecawr, and the Carrick Forest.
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.
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).
For more information on wild camping in Scotland, check out this article.
And for anybody who’s considering touring Scotland on a motorbike, I’d also recommend reading this excellent article by madornomad.com.
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.