New driving route to take tourists on the road less travelled through the south of Scotland

It will  take people on the road less travelled through some of Scotland's most stunning spots.

The road to Mennock in Dumfries and Galloway sits on the new South West Coast 300 (SWC300) which aims to drive tourism into this lesser-travelled corner of Scotland. PIC: VisitScotland/Damian Shields.
The road to Mennock in Dumfries and Galloway sits on the new South West Coast 300 (SWC300) which aims to drive tourism into this lesser-travelled corner of Scotland. PIC: VisitScotland/Damian Shields.

Now, the country's newest driving route - the South West Coastal 300 - aims to drive more visitors to sample the scenic beauty and tranquillity of one of Scotland's more hidden corners.

Visit Scotland has announced it will spend £20,000 on promoting the route that links Dumfries and Galloway and the Solway Coast to parts of Ayrshire.

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The pretty village of Palnackie in Dumfries and Galloway is on the SWC300 map. PIC: VisitScotland/Damian Shields.
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The loop takes in rolling country side, atmospheric forests and dramatic moorlands and connects Scotland's most southerly point at Mull of Galloway to its highest village, Wanlockhead in the Lowther Hills.

Drivers will take in places such as Kirkudbright, Portpatrick and Sanquhar with little gems including Sweetheart Heart Abbey in New Abbey and the towns of Wigtown, Kirkmichael, Straiton and Moffat also included on the map.

Ian McAndrew, Chairman of Visit South West Scotland, said: “The South West of Scotland is a special place, it has so much to offer, especially to lovers of the great outdoors and that is a message we are working hard to get out there.

The route takes in dramatic views of the Solway Coast as well as forests, moorland and Ayrshire tourist towns. PIC: Visit Scotland/Damian Shields.

"As a trade organisation, collaboration is at the core of what we do, we rely on our members and our strategic partners to get behind our efforts to make a real difference to tourism in the South West.

"Therefore when VisitScotland agreed to support our promotional campaign for the South West Coastal 300, a touring route that encourages visitors to explore our region, we were delighted.”

The SWC300 was designed by Motorcycle Scotland and with the route adapted by Visit South West Scotland (VSWS) to take in more of the area's attraction.

VSWS said it hoped the route would allow more people to 'fall in love' with the area with those who appreciate scenery, landscape, nature and adventure sports being particularly targeted by the campaign.

Paula Ward, VisitScotland Regional Leadership Director, said: “With its stunning coastal and inland landscapes, peaceful atmosphere and fantastic attractions, the south west of Scotland is a great visitor destination and the SWC300 is the perfect route for experiencing it. I’m thrilled we were able to support this exciting new campaign and I can’t wait to see the outputs."

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Figures show that Dumfries and Galloway experienced a 24 per cent rise in total tourist trips between 2016 and 2018.

Of all overnight visits, 95 per cent were made by residents of Great Britain with the majority of travellers - more than a half - coming from England and Wales.

The top five attractions in Dumfries and Galloway are Gretna Green Famous Blacksmith Shop, Galloway Forest and Mabie Forest.

The new South West Coast 300 is the latest driving route set up in Scotland to kick start local economies and tourism that traditionally sit away from the visitors hotspots.

It follows on the popularity of the North Coast 500, which runs through the north and west Highlands, the Snow Roads through Perthshire and the Cairngorms and the North East 250, which runs through Aberdeenshire, Moray and Speyside.

A report published last year found that North Coast 500 provided a £22 million boost to the economy of the Highlands in one year.

The study by Moffat Centre for Tourism at Glasgow Caledonian University also found it resulted in 180 full-time equivalent jobs being created.

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The upsurge in visitors created by the driving route is also clear with a 16 per cent rise in business between

2017 and 2018 and occupancy rates at hotels moving from 52 per cent in 2014 to 78 per cent in 2018.

Despite the economic benefits, some locals have raised concerns about congestion, speeding and pressures on infrastructure on the route, which was re-branded in 2015.

At the Bealach na Bà road to Applecross in Wester Ross, a dramatic and high-altitude stretch of the route, concerns have been raised about increased traffic and damage to road.