Known as Scotland’s Land’s End, the tip of the Rhins Peninsula ends spectacularly at the Mull of Galloway with its lighthouse and nature reserve and undulating walk of two contrasting halves. On the south coast hike above precipitous cliffs that plunge into the wild Atlantic Ocean then return along the gentle, sheltered bays of the north coast to explore the fascinating lighthouse complex at Scotland’s most southerly point with views stretching to the Isle of Man, Ireland, and Cumbria (first published in The Times, Scotland).
Start from the car park and take the signed cliff path through the gate in front of the café to walk above dramatic greywacke cliffs and churning seas. Swirling bird colonies add noise and colour here during spring and summer. Continue on the grass path above a series of hidden inlets, past Kennedy’s Cairn (visited by a short detour inland), to reach West Tarbet Bay. Take the signed footpath left around the Bay. Head down into Mill Glen, bear left at the bottom, over the bridge near the shoreline, then ascend the path that undulates through small bays and mini-ravines to reach the clifftop. After a gate, follow the field edge and turn inland at the waymark. Head through a gate and along the track towards West Cairngaan Farm. As the main track veers to the farm continue ahead on the grass path towards buildings at East Cairngaan, taking the grass path on the right just past the gate (before reaching the barns). Continue alongside hedgerows down into Cairngaan Glen, turn right at the junction, go through a kissing gate then left through double gates and walk through the Glen to reach the road.
Return on the north side of the peninsula by turning left over Barrack Bridge then right onto the signed path that follows Kirk Burn to the pebbly shore at Portankill. Turn right across the pebbles and take an undulating grass path, indistinct in places, along the coast to East Tarbet beach. The quay and derelict stone building were once used to land and store paraffin and other supplies for the lighthouse keepers. Walk behind the building and follow the fence-line to find the path above gentle slopes and eventually reach the stone wall of the lighthouse compound. Take the stile to the right and ascend to the car park.
Explore the Mull itself by heading into the lighthouse compound, follow the marked circular walk for spectacular views and visit the RSPB visitor centre or climb the lighthouse tower (seasonal). Otherwise head straight the Gallie Craig Café for a Galloway ice cream as you watch for whales and dolphins (summer) in Luce Bay from this turf-roofed cliff-top building once featured on TV’s ‘Grand Designs’.
Why this is blue space special
The Clyde Sea Sill is a Marine Protected Area which stretches from the Mull of Kintyre to Corsewall Point on the Rhins of Galloway. Below the surface in this region, the water shallows dramatically where the North Channel (between Scotland and Northern Ireland) becomes the Firth of Clyde at a distinctive sill on the sea bed. The sill causes the much cooler, saline waters of the North Channel to mix with the warmer, less saline waters of the Clyde, and this distinct gradient in habitat means a range of animals adapted to thrive here taking advantage of the productive waters. Clam shells and polychaete worms live beneath the sediment while fish, starfish, brittlestars, sea mice and hermit crabs roam the surface looking for food. The Mull of Galloway is also a nature reserve with spectacles of wildlfowers and breeding seabirds in the spring and early summer and amazing migrations of songbirds through the reserve and huge rafts of Manx shearwaters gathering offshore in early autumn
Need to know
Full route map click here
Distance: 10.5 km
Map: OS Explorer 309 Stranraer and The Rhins; OS Landranger 82 Stranraer and Glenluce
Terrain A generally waymarked circular walk on an undulating grassy cliff top path and field margins with some easy route finding. Spectacular cliff scenery, seabird colonies and far reaching views
Start Mull of Galloway Lighthouse car park, Drummore, DG9 9HP. Grid ref. NX 1551 3047
Getting there A77 S of Stranraer; then A716 to Drummore, follow signed single-track road to Mull of Galloway
Pitstops Gallie Craig Café next to start point; Tel.01776 840558; more info here.
Other info RSPB Visitor centre, tel. 01988 402130; Lighthouse tours, tel. 01776 840535 or 07507919978; find more info here
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