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An epic drive around Southern Scotland

An epic drive around Southern Scotland

From the Lothians to the beautiful Scottish Borders, through lovely Dumfries and Galloway to the wilds of Lanarkshire and islands of Ayrshire, South Scotland makes for one epic 500 mile road trip. Here is how to road trip around Southern Scotland. 

A South of Scotland Road Trip 

  • Start –  This southern Scotland road trip starts in Edinburgh. It can be driven clockwise or anti-clockwise, it’s up to you. Let’s go.
  • Total driving time/distances – this route around Southern Scotland is 500 miles and will take around 13 hours to drive the route in total without stops.
  • Days needed – minimum of 5 to 7 days
    • Day 1/2 – East Lothian
    • Day 3/4 – Scottish Borders
    • Day 5/6 – Dumfries and Galloway
    • Day 7 – Ayrshire and Lanarkshire

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Read more: how to plan a road trip in Scotland

Read more: how to visit Dumfries and Galloway

Southern Scotland Road Trip Map

Southern Scotland road trip – Days 1/2 – Explore the East Lothian Coast 

With over 40 miles of stunning coastline, 30 spectacular castles, 22 golf courses, and some of the best seafood (and whisky!) in Scotland, why not start your southern of Scotland road trip in beautiful East Lothian. Here are my favourite places to stop, stay and eat on day 1 and 2 of your Southern Scotland road trip.

  • Visit the seaside town of North Berwick – head down to North Berwick Harbour where you will find the Lobster Shack where chips are served with fresh North Berwick grilled lobster – and even served with champagne! 
  • Explore dramatic Tantallon Castle – towering over Bass Rock, Tantallon Castle is one of Scotland’s oldest castles. After your visit, head to pretty Tyninghame for coffee at the Tyninghame Smithy.
  • Choose your favourite East Lothian beach – find Seacliff with its tiny harbour and castle(£2 to get through the barrier) or head to Tyninghame for views of Bass Rock or Yellowcraigs for tales of treasure on Fidra Lighthouse. 
  • Don’t miss Bostock Bakery – for amazing cakes, bread and coffee at Bostock Bakery near East Linton or on the High Street in North Berwick.
  • Visit Archerfield Estate – between the villages of Gullane and Dirleton is Archerfield Walled Garden a cafe, shop, children’s play area, a regular street food market and the Archerfield Fairy Trail, a collection of fairy houses hidden in Archerfield Wood which kids love.
  • Read more: Things to do in East Lothian
South Scotland - St Abbs

Where to stay in East Lothian

  • For a little luxury – Whitekirk Hill – stylish eco-lodges, leisure club, luxury spa, children’s Play Barn and the Orangery & Walled Terrace cafe. Stay in The Weir (1 bed)* with hot 2 person tub or The Telfer (2 bed) or The Irvine (3 bed)* with family hot tub.
  • For foodies – The Bonnie Badger, Gullane is a restaurant with rooms from Michelin starred chef Tom Kitchen or stay at the The Watchman, Gullane.
  • Discover one of my favourite East Lothian villages from The Old Aberlady Inn – great for exploring Aberlady Bay and Beach.
  • Love classic Scotland? Stay at Greywalls and Chez Roux restaurant for a bit of old school luxury
  • Another of my favourite spots, stay at The Crown in the lovely village of East Linton with its reiverside walks, bookshop and lovely pubs.
  • Looking for lots of places to eat, drink and shop? Stay at the Nether Abbey Hotel in North Berwick

South Scotland Days 3/4 – Discover the Scottish Borders 

Scotland starts here! Stretching from Berwickshire in the east to the Pentland Hills in the west, and bounded by the English border in the south and the capital of Scotland in the north, are the Scottish Borders.

With beautiful historic towns, ancient abbeys, castles and tower houses, rolling peaks and a stunning coastline, the Scottish Borders are the perfect introduction to Scotland. Here are my favourite places to stop, stay and eat on day 3 and 4 of your Southern Scotland road trip.

  • Visit the Berwickshire Coast with a trip to St Abbs and Eyemouth – head for crab butties and to hike the coastal path at St Abbs before heading out to see on a RIB from Eyemouth.
  • Eat at: Ebb Carrs Cafe, St Abbs or Oblo Bar in Eyemouth.
  • Visit the beach at Coldingham Bay – great for surfing.
  • Explore Kelso, the gateway to the Scottish Borders – visit Floors Castle, Scotland’s largest inhabited Castle and the family home of the 11th Duke of Roxburghe before visiting Kelso Abbey. Founded in 1128 by monks, Kelso grew to be one of the wealthiest abbeys in Scotland. 
  • Stroll to Scotts’ View – said to be Sir Walter Scott’s favourite view overlooking the Eildon Hills before lunch and shopping at the Main Street Trading Company in St Boswells.
  • Visit Abbotsford and Melrose Abbey – Melrose has a small town charm and is home to one of the Scottish Borders four famous Abbeys and Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott. 
  • Read more: how to visit the Scottish Borders

Where to stay in the Scottish Borders

Southern Scotland Day 5/6 – Dumfries and Galloway

Whilst South West Scotland might be well known to those arriving off the ferries from Northern Ireland, to many visitors (and locals!) the delights of Scotland’s secret south west corner – from the Solway Firth to Scotland’s most southerly point, and the dramatic mountains of the Southern Uplands – are a true hidden gem. 

Here are my favourite places to stop, stay and eat on day 5 and 6 of your Southern Scotland road trip.

  • A stroll around New Abbey – and visit the famous Sweetheart Abbey and a pretty Cornmill both run by Historic Scotland. 
  • Caerlaverock Castle – Scotland’s only moated, triangular castle, Caerlaverock is nestled on the Solway Firth south of Dumfries in its own National Nature Reserve. 
  • Walk between Rockcliff and Kippford –  walk the Jubilee Path between these two lovely coastal villages.
  • Threave Castle – perched out on an island, Threave Castle is only accessible by boat.
  • Visit Kirkcudbright and Broughton House – arty and cute, the village of Kirkcudbright is home to Broughton House, the home of one of the famous Glasgow Boys and a hidden Japanese garden.
  • Hike to St Ninian’s Cave – stroll down to the Solway Firth to find a beautiful pebble beach and a curious cave once used by monks.
  • Visit Wigtown – Scotland’s first book town, and a thriving hub for literature in Scotland with over a dozen book shops and an annual book festival.
  • Logan Botanic Garden – a botanic garden complete with palm trees, Logan Botanic Garden was also the set of the famously creepy movie the Wickerman. 
  • Visit Scotland’s most southerly point – and climb the 100 stairs to the top of the Mull of Galloway Lighthouse.
Castle South Scotland

Where to stay in Dumfries and Galloway

Southern Scotland road trip – day 7+ Ayrshire and Lanarkshire 

Ayrshire is a land of vast vistas, sweeping coves, granite island and incredible views. Ayrshire is most famous for being the birthplace of Rabbie Burns. Further west, the Southern Uplands of Scotland might not have any Munros, but the Merrick and its neighbours are great hills for a stroll on a good day – giving views over the Galloway Forest Park all the way to the Solway Firth.

Here are my favourite places to stop, stay and eat on day 7 of your Southern Scotland road trip.

  • Culzean Castle – explore this giant National Trust for Scotland castle and estate perched out on the edge of the Ayrshire Coast, high on a cliff. 
  • Dumfries House – gorgeously restored by the Prince’s Foundation, Dumfries House is chock full of Chippendale furniture and has beautiful grounds.
  • Galloway Forest Park, the largest forest park in the whole of the UK is one of my favourite places to walk in Scotland. By day, take a hike around beautiful Loch Trool to find Bruce’s Stone under the towering mountains, or the short stroll up the gorgeous Ness Glen near Loch Doon.
  • Crawick Multiverse – a huge art installation designed the late Charles Jencks, visit Crawick for a stroll around the universe.
  • The Lead Mining Museum – a true hidden gem, take a journey into the Lowther Hills to hear about Scotland’s gold rush.
Culzean Castle - South Scotland

Where to stay in Ayrshire and Lanarkshire

Let’s road trip!

Read more: Scotland’s most epic road trips

Visit: Scotland Starts Here for more info on planning your trip to Southern Scotland

Read more: how to visit Dumfries and Galloway