There are a great many thing to consider when holidaying with young children. As with every other aspect of your life you know that you will have to bow down to your tiny dictators and ensure that you can find enough suitable activities to minimise whinging, stimulate their little brains and create happy memories. It is not an easy task but it is possible to achieve all this with a bit of planning and by doing lots of mini road trips to new places.
For us, the South-west Coastal 300 provides endless day trips with a huge variety of interesting and beautiful places to suit all ages. Being able to do the entire 300 mile circular route in a full 2 week long holiday would be an absolute dream, but for us right now it is unfortunately not possible. But, since we are fortunate enough to live right on the route, we are able to have lots of days out and the occasional weekend break to do the SWC300 in little chunks.
A lovely stretch of this newly designed driving route is the 22 miles between Kirkcudbright and Sandyhills, along the Dumfries & Galloway coast and just over an hour away from Rigg House B&B. It is approximately 40 minutes between each point, but there are more than enough things to see and do in this small area to easily fill a weekend – we recently did just this but we we know there is still so much more to see.
Kirkcudbright is known as Scotland’s ‘Artists Town’, in part due to its association with the Glasgow art movement when several notable Scottish artists based themselves in the area between 1880 and 1910. Thankfully there are still plenty of reminders of this period throughout the town, notably the beautiful Broughton House & Gardens, the home of Scottish artist E.A Hornel and now managed by the National Trust for Scotland.
In all honesty I think the splendor of Broughton House was a bit lost on our children so this was actually a visit more for the grown ups really. We tend to bribe our kids with promises of trips to a playground or the beach if they behave in places that they wouldn’t choose to visit. By the time I selfishly insisted on ‘another quick look’ round the gallery, the kids had reached the point of rolling around on the floor, which is never a great look in National Trust properties. I’ll return here again sans little people and enjoy it all again at my leisure – the NT staff here were really helpful and knowledgeable and I’ve got loads more questions for them!
You can easily spend an entire day in Kirkcudbright as we did and still only manage to see a fraction of the town’s offerings. After our visit to Broughton House we picked up some sandwiches and found a little grassy spot in the shadow of MacLellan’s Castle, overlooking the water. The toddler and I had our own little mini adventure around the castle whilst the other two stayed and played ballgames in the sunshine and I even managed to cram in a look around some of the many art galleries and shops in the town. Unfortunately, even though it was a Saturday, many of the shops seemed to close at 4pm which meant that we didn’t get to see as much as we would of liked. Kirkcudbright definitely deserves many more visits.
Continue along the coast for about 10 minutes and you’ll reach the little village of Dundrennan with its impressive abbey ruin. Our children always enjoy visits to ruins as much as we do so these are places which we can all enjoy together.
Twenty minutes back inland takes you to the strikingly pretty town of Dalbeattie. We actually stayed here during our weekend break as it provided a good central point for all the places we wanted to visit in the area. We found a place to stay immediately opposite a playground and just a couple of minutes walk down to a nice pub restaurant – The Birchtree Inn – which did free kid’s meals. Double bonus points for Dalbeattie. We loved the bright grey of the granite which much of the town is built from, and we loved learning that Dalbeattie granite was once used to pave the streets of Manchester and in the building of Liverpool’s Albert Docks. We even found a lovely little cafe, Granite Kitchen, named in honour of Dalbeattie’s quarrying past. The town has a few nice little shops and everyone who we encountered incredibly friendly and helpful, especially a lady in the toy shop who gave us loads of great tips for places to visit in the area.
Ten minutes straight back down to the coast takes you to the beautiful boating village of Kippford. I had fallen in love with this place just from pictures on Instagram long before we actually visited and we were fortunate to visit on a bright September morning and found it to be a peaceful and serene place. We were pleasantly surprised at how many different places to eat there were in this small village – although one sign did make us laugh with its notice that lunch was served ‘between 12 and 1’. You really do have to be hungry in a specific time frame if you want to eat out in Scotland!
By the time we were ready to move on from Kippford it was only 11am so not yet within the designated lunchtime slot so we we continued along for another 10 minutes to the stunning little village of Rockcliffe. We made a plan to have a little play on the beach and then find somewhere to eat – but these were plans made with no research which is a bit of a mistake in Scotland in regards to eating out. As pretty as Rockcliffe was, it offered no amenities (as far as we saw) other than an expensive little tearoom and an ice cream van. It was a shame because by this time we were getting hungry so we didn’t explore Rockcliffe as much as I would of liked. We hot footed back to Kippford for a hearty pub lunch at the Mariner’s Inn – this was chosen due to its nice little playground which always placates hungry children!
Just 5 minutes from Rockcliffe takes you to the wide expanse of Sandyhills beach. This beach had been recommended to us by the lady in Dalbeattie as a good beach for ball games and she wasn’t wrong. In fact, this beach was the perfect safe running place for a toddler, with the added bonus of rocks and caves to explore. We spent the entire afternoon there and, in all honesty, I can say I was blissfully happy. Our visit to Sandyhills was the perfect end to our little holiday. It was only when it hit 5pm and we knew that it would soon be reaching ‘I’m hungry’ time when we forced ourselves to leave, but vowing to return as soon as possible.
I am desperate to do another little section of the SWC300, especially the Portpatrick to The Mull of Galloway stretch, which takes in the famous Logan Botanic Gardens and the Mull of Galloway Lighthouse. Hopefully we’ll be able to cram another South-west Scotland adventure soon!