In a nutshell
Tents £10/night. Campervans £12/night. Adults £2.50/night. Children and dogs free. Bothy £45/night. Roundhouse £40/night.
Fairly basic (in a good way). Undulating site, short grass. Lots of fire pits dotted around the site (wood for sale on site). Attractive modern toilet block (unisex). Bothy and Roundhouse for hire. Bushcraft walks. No mobile phone reception.
What I liked:
Positive encouragement to have campfires. Informal site (too informal, in fact!). Galloway Dark Sky Park (lots of stars). Welcoming owners. Lots of fluffy, baby farm animals on site (ponies, puppies, rabbits, turkeys, hens). Hippy toilet block.
Not so wild about:
Limited camper information (no reception, no signs, no visitor information). Kind of scruffy. It’s a longer journey than you think.
I’d heard lots of recommendations about this site but hadn’t had a chance to visit until last weekend. It’s relatively new, with the owners operating the site since 2010 but it’s clear that it’s quickly built a reputation as a laid-back and informal site. The main draw for me was that campfires are positively encouraged; there are fire pits dotted all around the site. I was slightly sceptical reading the website which mentioned that campers sometimes sit around the campfire singing songs. But yes, on this occasion we were ‘treated’ to not one but two singing guitarists that evening …
Now I wouldn’t confess to knowing Dumfries and Galloway particularly well and have only made infrequent trips over the years for work. But one thing you should know is that it’s a big region. I underestimated the time it would take – a good two hours cross-country along some fairly tortuous roads from the M74 south of Abington and a full 2.75 hours back along the A75 via Dumfries to Glasgow. Now this might be fine if you’re planning on staying for a few days but for a ‘quick’ overnighter I hadn’t banked on the length of the journey. That said, the site is in a very peaceful rural location with great views of surrounding hills from the site and the access lane from the A75.
The other thing I hadn’t expected was how popular the site would be. While this was an English bank holiday most visitors appeared to be Scottish, with several large groups. We got there fairly late and managed to secure about the last free firepit. But for perhaps 80 to 100 campers that night I have to say that everyone was queueing for the two toilets and showers in the small (but very attractive) toilet block. If you’re looking for a quiet stay, my advice would be to avoid the busy weekends.
This site is definitely quirky. From the hippyish toilet block (lit with tea lights and sparkly LEDs at night) to the farm animals (rabbits, ponies, turkeys, puppies) freely milling around it’s certainly different from other sites I’ve been at.
But while this informal, chilled-out approach was endearing for a while I soon realised that this is actually the biggest issue with the campsite. We couldn’t find anyone to speak to when we arrived (no campsite office), so just found a pitch ourselves. Someone else asked me where they should put their rubbish (I had no idea since no one told me either), and the only two signs on the whole site are the one at the front gate (see below) and one asking campers to wash their hands after handling the animals. With no campsite office, no means of informing visitors about places to go or things to do nearby, and no regard for health and safety (think firepits and a shoogly trampoline) the initial appeal of the site’s informality soon formed an impression of a slightly unprofessional approach. Hobby campsites might have survived in the past but I’m afraid the world has moved on and expectations have increased. It wouldn’t take much to introduce a more professional approach; I hope the owners do this soon.
My other issue with the site is that it’s … well, quite scruffy. It is a farm after all and therefore you wouldn’t expect a tidily manicured site, but with free range hens in and around the toilet block and public areas I felt there could have been a little more regard for hygiene. The slighly bizarre ‘Ranch House’ (see photo below) seemed to double as the hen house as far as I could gather. I think it is probably intended as a wet weather shelter but I for one wouldn’t fancy spending my day in among the hen droppings ..! I guess what I’m saying here is that the owners could usefully clean up the site’s public areas, put the hens behind a fence and perhaps convert one of the (unused?) outbuildings into a wet weather cooking area and/or reception.
That said we enjoyed a great campfire (I think most firepits were in use that night) and loved looking up at the stars. This is one of the few places in the UK devoid of major settlements and light pollution is extremely low. Galloway Dark Sky Park is gaining popularity (there is an observatory nearby) and for me this is a major draw for coming to a site like this.
So all in all we enjoyed our stay. The animals were a big hit with my 9 year-old son and the campfire and stars the highlight for me. It’s kind of quirky and I think most people seem to like this but it would be even better if the owners made the transition from having a lifestyle business to running a tourism business.