Solway Coast Heritage Trail
|Solway Coast Heritage Trail|
|Distance:||180 miles (289.7 km)|
|Meets:||A75, Galloway Tourist Route, Burns Heritage Trail|
|Old route now:||B6357, B721, B724, B725, A781, A780, A710, A711, A755, B727, B796, A75, B7079, A714, A746, B7004, A747, A75, B7084, A716, B7041, B7065, A716, A77|
The Solway Coast Heritage Trail is a tourist route from the A75 at Annan to Stranraer, running along the southern coast of Scotland and exploring a wide range of sites and sights along the way. Generally speaking, the route follows the closest classified road to the shore, although there are a couple of deviations particularly at the western end to visit other places of interest. The route is signed with a symbol of an old stone Christian cross.
Annan - Dalbeattie
The trail officially starts a wee bit to the east of Annan, on the A75, and follows the B6357 into town. However, with the Galloway Tourist Route starting at Gretna, and more closely following the coast than the A75 into Annan, this is possibly a better way to start the trail. Annan is a pretty town on the east bank of the River Annan, and the starting point for the River Annan Path, as well as the hub for a series of cycle routes in the area. The town centre is well supplied with shops and services, and there is a wide range of accommodation in the surrounding area for those wishing to set off bright and fresh in the morning!
The trail leaves Annan on the B721, and quickly turns left onto the B724. This is a rather unremarkable road through the flat coastal zone, but somewhat distant from the shore. However, near Ruthwell, the trail turns left again, onto the B725, which is a far more interesting route as it heads west to Caerlaverock. This scattered community is home to a vast coastal nature reserve with walks and hides for nature lovers. If your interest lie elsewhere, perhaps the intriguing triangular Caerlaverock Castle will entice you to stop and explore a while.
Beyond Caerlaverock, the B725 heads north, often close to the shore with expansive views across the Nith Estuary, through Glencaple and into Dumfries. The county town of Dumfriesshire is the largest in the south west of Scotland, and has a wide range of shops and services should you need them. There are also riverside parks to enjoy, and plenty of old buildings to seek out in the town centre. The Solway Trail is reunited with the Galloway Tourist Route through the town, but they part again to the west, with the Solway Trail taking to the A710 whilst the Galloway Route takes the more direct A711 to Dalbeattie.
The A710 is not a fast route to anywhere, but as it winds its way south down the Nith Estuary, the promise of the spectacular and romantic ruins of Sweetheart Abbey draw you on. The Abbey lies in the pretty village of New Abbey, and has an interesting history. The road continues on, bypassing the holiday park of Southerness away out on the coast, and turns westwards with some fine views out across the Solway Firth to the distant Cumbrian Mountains in good weather. There is a short stretch of the road which runs close to the shore, before it turns inland again on the long meandering route to Dalbeattie.
Dalbeattie - Newton Stewart
Dalbeattie itself is a small town with limited services, overshadowed by nearby Castle Douglas. However, Buittle Bridge is the lowest crossing point of the Urr Water, so there is little alternative to passing through. After crossing the bridge (where the route is shared for the final time with the Galloway Route), the Solway Trail turns south again onto the A711, and takes the long way round to Kirkcudbright. The route is never particularly close to the coast, but there are still plenty of good viewpoints, both along the way and from the many lanes that lead towards the shore. The large Auchencairn Bay can be reached from the village of the same name, and further west the A711 passes through the pretty wee village of Dundrennan, home to another ruined abbey.
Just before reaching Kirkcudbright, the A711 reaches the shore of the Dee Estuary and turns north for a brief coastal run before entering the town. Kirkcudbright is a former county town and home to many brightly coloured terraces, along with a ruined castle near the wharves on the river bank. There is plenty to see and do to while away an afternoon, before continuing along the trail. We now turn to cross the interesting concrete Kirkcudbright Bridge, and so follow the A755 westwards towards Gatehouse of Fleet. This small town is reached after crossing the A75 on the B727 and B796, which follow the old main route through Gatehouse. The town, like so many in the area, has pretty terraces of brightly painted houses with churches and other stone faced buildings interspersed here and there.
Beyond Gatehouse, the trail quickly reaches the A75 and follows it. For the first time, the trunk route is following the coast, and often closer than the trail has managed thus far. It first runs south west above Fleet Bay, and then turns north west along the shore of the Cree Estuary. Creetown is now bypassed, with the main road crossing the coastal marshes, but the town is more of the same, so it is up to you whether you choose to deviate into the town. The A75 continues northwest, before crossing the Cree just short of Newton Stewart, whilst the trail continues into town on the B7079.
Newton Stewart - Stranraer
Newton Stewart is a fine and interesting old town sat astride the Cree, although to be precise the settlement on the eastern bank is Minnigaff. The old Bridge of Cree connects the two, with a good selection of shops and services in the town centre on the west bank. The trail leaves town on the A714, and crosses the A75 as it heads south to Wigtown. This former county town is now known as Scotland's Book Town, with a large number of bookshops dotted around the large green in the centre of the town. Continuing south, the A714 becomes the A746 thanks to a quirk of history and leads to Whithorn.
A few miles south of Whithorn is the famous Isle of Whithorn, one of the earliest Christian sites in Scotland, and reputedly the first diocesan see since the late 4th Century. The harbour here is still a pleasant spot, with fine views across the Irish Sea to England and the Isle of Man. Back in Whithorn, the long wide main street is a haven for tourists in the summer months, and the ruins of the old Priory / Cathedral lie hidden up a side street. Returning to the trail, it quickly picks up the A747 an heads north west to the pretty coastal village of Port William. The village has more the feel of a West Highland village than many of the towns in the area, with low rise terraces clustered around a small harbour.
A long run along the coast, with views across to the Mull of Galloway, leads to Glenluce, with its ruined Abbey just outside the village. A short run on the A75, and then fork left onto the B7084 starts the run down to the Mull, the most southerly point of Scotland. The vast Luce Sands can be reached from Sandhead, and then the A716 and B7041 take us to the Mull, the final couple of miles now being an unclassified road. There are walks around the Mull, passing the lighthouse and visitor centre, whilst also reaching small coves and high cliffs. There are also spectacular views on a clear day across to England, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man
The final leg of the trail doubles back before taking the B7065 via Port Logan and the western coast of the peninsular before returning to the A716 and following it, then the A77, into Stranraer. However, not visit to this corner of the country would be complete without a detour out to the stunning harbour of Portpatrick. This historic crossing point to Ireland has a fabulous natural harbour, with busy pubs and hotels making the most of the view. Stranraer, on the other hand, has a somewhat more utilitarian feel, largely owing to its long recent history as a ferry port, now usurped by Cairnryan. And so, after nearly 200 miles, this varied route reaches an end at the southern end of Loch Ryan. There is plenty more to explore in this corner of Scotland, but from here the route is yours to choose!