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Overnight Breaks, Travel

The Best Things to Do on the Rhins of Galloway

Are you planning a visit or holiday to the Rhins of Galloway? Here are some of my top suggestions of the best things to do in this amazing part of Scotland.

Covid-19 hasn’t really changed how we holiday. We’ve holidayed in the UK for years and years now. We normally visit Aviemore for our holidays or another part of the Scottish Highlands. However, this year, prices were incredibly high and availability was really low in the Highlands. Deciding where to visit instead, I recalled visiting the Rhins of Galloway as a teenager and really loving it. I was sure my kids would love the expansive sandy beaches and dramatic rocky landscapes that this area of Dumfries and Galloway enjoys. What was even better was that at relatively short notice, we were able to find lovely, reasonably priced accommodation. So we booked, and off we went!

We’re just back from a week’s holiday on the Rhins of Galloway, and while my mind is still fresh I wanted to write about all the places I’d recommend visiting. If you are looking to visit the beautiful coastal region of Rhins of Galloway then here are my top family-friendly suggestions of where to visit on your next trip.

Where Is the Rhins of Galloway?

Firstly, you might be thinking The Rhins of What? Well, the Rhins of Galloway is a 25-mile long peninsula in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. Jutting out into the Irish Sea, its southern tip is the Mull of Galloway, the southernmost point of Scotland.

This area includes the principal town of Stranraer and encompasses the villages of Ardwell, Cairnryan, Castle Kennedy, Drummore, Dunragit, Kirkcolm, Leswalt, Port Logan, Portpatrick, Sandhead, and Stoneykirk, as well as a number of other smaller hamlets.

The Best Places To Visit and Things to Do in the Rhins of Galloway

If you are looking to mostly get away from it all, then this sparsely populated area is for you. The Rhins of Galloway is renowned for its expansive sandy beaches and dramatic coastal landscapes, and unique plant life.

When we were booking our trip, I thought we might run out of things to do on the Rhins of Galloway. I had planned that we may have to travel further afield for things to do. However, we spent a week on the Rhins of Galloway, and managed to not leave it once! As we very thoroughly explored almost the whole area, here are my top things to do in the Rhins of Galloway.

Logan Botanic Gardens

Port Logan Botanic Garden entrance

It’s safe to say that Logan Botanic Gardens is unlike any botanic garden I’ve ever visited in the UK. I think it’s probably my favourite botanic garden now, and I’ve been to a few! In part, because its relatively remote location means it’s an incredibly peaceful and tranquil place to spend a day, away from crowds of people. But also in part due to the amazing array of tropical plant life. We got lucky and visited on a very sunny Sunday. The sunshine, warmth, and tropical plants made it feel like we had been transported to some far-off exotic land, rather than being on a peninsula in Scotland!

The gulf stream warms the Rhins of Galloway, and this enables plants from Australia, New Zealand, South, and Central America, and Southern Africa to grow here. You can walk through groves of Gunnera (this was my kids’ favourite part) and groves of beautifully scented eucalyptus trees, as well as through the tree fern forest. There’s also a stunning walled garden, full of exotic plants, and fish ponds. And then there are the conservatories as well, housing more sensitive tropical plants. It’s a treat for both eyes and nose!

Something interesting to also note is that parts of the original Wicker Man movie were filmed here. In the movie, the gardens acted as Lord Summerisle’s garden. While you won’t find a Wicker Man here, do look out for the giant Wicker dinosaur.

Wicker dinosaur at Logan Botanic Garden on the Rhins of Galloway

The on-site Potting Shed Bistro serves a delicious lunch, as well as an array of cakes. We sat outside and enjoyed watching the local wildlife, whilst we ate in the most beautiful surroundings. If you’d rather take your own lunch, then picnicking is permitted in the gardens.

What’s great is that kids under fifteen go free. Adults are a great value £7.50 each. We spent hours here, and it was well worth the money. If you’re travelling with dogs, then do note that dogs (with the exception of assistance dogs) are not permitted into any part of the gardens.

Glenwhan Gardens

Glenwhan Gardens on the Rhins of Galloway, Dumfries & Galloway

The stunning Glenwhan Gardens was another beautiful garden we visited whilst on the Rhins of Galloway. These gardens are relatively new, created around 40 years ago, but my, this garden is breathtaking.

We spent hours wandering around the garden’s meandering pathways, discovering beautiful plants at every turn. Two small lochans (lakes) create the focal point of the main garden. However, there are stunning vistas to be had and sculptures to discover in all the nooks and crannies of the garden. There’s also a 17-acre moorland walk to explore. We ran out of time to even scratch the surface of the moorland.

If on the remote chance that life gave us an expansive garden then it would certainly look like this. It was wonderful. I’d love to go back in different seasons to see how it differs across the year.

Adults are £6 each, and kids are £1.50 each, which again is a bargain. Unlike Logan Botanic Gardens, dogs are welcome at Glenwhan Gardens. However, something to note is that picnics are not allowed in the gardens.

There is a small tearoom here. However, it has strong 1980s vibes and overworked staff. The member of staff taking food and drink orders was also expected to handle ticket sales and plant sales for the garden. This probably works for most of the year, but in peak visitor season in a place where you cannot bring your own food meant that queues did build up. Despite this, the food was good, with vegans catered for via the daily specials, and the cake selection was A+. If I was visiting again though, I would consider taking a car picnic.

Mull of Galloway Lighthouse

Mull of Galloway lighthouse and nature reserve

The Mull of Galloway is Scotland’s most southern point. Here, perched on a 260-foot high cliff is the Mull of Galloway Lighthouse that is well worth a visit.

Unfortunately, due to Covid safety restrictions, you aren’t able to climb up to the top of the Mull of Galloway lighthouse at the moment. However, that doesn’t mean this stunning spot isn’t worth a visit. At the foot of the lighthouse is a beautiful RSPB nature reserve, that is free to access. Here you can walk around and admire the dramatic views from the clifftop over to Cumbria, the Isle of Man, Scotland, and Ireland. There is a host of wildlife to spot. These include puffins, porpoises, and dolphins if you are lucky. There are also beautiful coastal wildflowers to enjoy in spring and summer. We spent a really enjoyable and relaxing morning having a walk here, completely in awe of the surroundings.

It’s a really cheap visit. It’s free to park at the lighthouse and free to access the nature reserve.

When you’re done, there is a really amazing cafe – probably the best we visited in the Rhins of Galloway – next to the lighthouse. Here at the Gallie Craig, you can grab a coffee and a slice of cake, a cooked breakfast (vegetarian and vegan options are available), or lunch on top of the cliff, sit outside and admire the views. On a sunny day, like when we visited, then I can assure you that it’s utter perfection. I’d love to visit again on a stormy day. I’d sit inside with a steaming hot cup of tea, and appreciate the dramatic weather.

Alternatively, there are benches dotted around the reserve, and at the lookout point. Take a picnic and a flask of tea, and enjoy the 360° views.

Port Logan Beach

Port Logan beach

Port Logan beach is an impressive white sand beach in a sheltered bay. It stretches round in an arc from the harbour, with its mini stone tower, round to the Port Logan Fish Pond. Its sheltered nature makes it perfect for walking, swimming, paddling or any other beach-based activity you can imagine. There’s also a Victorian bathing pond and hut, next to the beach. It’s sadly no longer in use, but it’s worth a look. Despite visiting on a sunny morning, the beach was deserted, so if you’re looking for peace then you will hopefully find it in this heavenly spot.

Port Logan Fish Pond

Port Logan fish pond

I wasn’t expecting to enjoy a visit to the unique Port Logan Fish Pond quite as much as I did during our visit to the Rhins of Galloway. However, it turned out to be a firm family favourite.

Our satnav brought us to an old stone cottage perched on a cliff, that gives no clues as to what is to come. Inside the cottage are tanks housing a variety of small local fish. After an opportunity to look at these, and find out more about them, you are then taken down some stone steps from the backdoor of the cottage down to the main pond. This is a rock pool that 200 years ago was excavated into quite a deep hole, that is home to many species of marine life.

This fish larder, was in the Victorian era, used as a way of sourcing food and preserving fish until they needed to be eaten. Now it’s strictly educational.

The knowledgeable and friendly staff feed the fish. This encourages the different species to come up to the surface, where staff tell you about each one. After seeing many different types of fish local to the area, you can then enter a tiny aquarium inside a cave. Here you’ll find a variety of rock pool creatures, including Derek the 50-year-old lobster, and starfish and anemones. These were all fascinating to look at.

Due to Covid restrictions (particularly the potentially harmful interactions between fish and antibacterial hand gel), there are currently no opportunities to handle the wildlife. But still, getting to see flatfish, such as turbot, up close in such a fun and engaging way, was a real highlight.

It costs £10 for a family ticket, or £4 each per adult, and £3 per child.

Portpatrick

Portpatrick beach, Dumfries & Galloway

Portpatrick is a charming little seaside village situated on the Rhins of Galloway. Here, rows of pastel-coloured cottages jostle for space along the rocky harbour, and amongst the vertiginous cliffs. At low tide, a small sandy beach appears in the harbour, making it a sheltered place to catch some rays or let the kids play under the shadow of the lighthouse.

Along the picturesque seafront, you’ll find hotels, restaurants, and bars aplenty, all with harbourside seating. Portpatrick is also well equipped with play parks and picnic areas, and an impressive rocky harbour to explore. Or if you fancy a walk, there are a couple of clifftop walks you can take. There’s one that takes you to the ruins of Dunskey Castle, and another that marks the start of the Southern Upland Way. We didn’t do these, as clifftop walks with young kids felt a little too nerve-wracking. However, I have added them to my list of things to do when we visit the Rhins of Galloway again.

There is no shortage of places to eat in Portpatrick. However, if you’re vegetarian or vegan then I found the best place to eat in Portpatrick, with its array of choices, is the Port Pantry. The other places tended to offer just one or two not particularly inspired options.

Kirkmadrine Stones and Church

A beautiful walk in the dappled shade of an atmospheric avenue of trees brings you out at the Kirkmadrine Stones and Church. Here you’ll find intricately carved stones from 500AD demonstrating evidence of early Christianity in Britain. Even if you aren’t religious, like me, or aren’t Christian, it is a fascinating site to learn more about the history of Britain.

Sadly you aren’t able to access inside the tiny church. This is a shame because it looks beautiful. However, you can spend some time reading more about the stones, walking around the churchyard, and take in the stunning views.

Of all the places we visited on the Rhins of Galloway, this was unexpectedly felt like the busiest!

Sandhead Beach

If it’s one thing, then the Rhins of Galloway doesn’t hold back on beaches. Sandhead Beach is a vast and EXPANSIVE beach. It’s particularly great to visit with kids due to the playpark next to the beach, in case your kids get bored by the sea and sand. On sunny days it appeared to get quite busy (for Rhins of Galloway standards). If it’s peace and tranquillity you are after then this probably isn’t the beach for you. When the tide is out, then it’s also an incredibly long walk to reach the sea. Do check your tide times before visiting.

I managed no photos of this beach, but I promise, it is very beachy!

I hope you can see why the Rhins of Galloway might just be one of my very favourite corners of Scotland. It really is perfection in one small area, with so many different things to do. I am looking forward to so many more visits here. If you’ve been, or if you do go, then be sure to let me know of any spots that I missed on this trip! I’ll be sure to add them to my list of places to visit and re-visit!

Overnight Breaks, Travel

The Best Sustainable Camping Gear & Tips For Eco-Friendly Campers

Got a camping trip planned for 2021? Let’s chat about eco-friendly sustainable camping gear and tips to help minimise your impact on the environment.

With restrictions in travel still expected to be in place this summer, and the advice continuing to be not to go abroad this year, it’s likely that the boom that we saw in camping last year will continue well into 2021 and beyond.

The problem is that 2020 saw a rapid increase in environmental problems related to camping. So, as well as having a look at the best sustainable camping gear out there, as well as some tips for minimising your impact on the environment when you do camp.

In order to help support the running costs of Moral Fibres, this post contains affiliate links, denoted by *. Moral Fibres may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to readers, on items that have been purchased through those links. In the interests of disclosure, some brands have also paid to be featured in this article. This is denoted by **. This income helps keep this site running.

The Best Sustainable Camping Gear

The most sustainable camping gear is always the stuff you already own or can borrow from a friend, or can buy secondhand. Ask your friends if you can borrow their gear, and if not, try Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace, or eBay. You might come across some real bargains.

If you can’t find what you want secondhand, then here are some suggestions of sustainable camping gear that you may want to invest in. I’ll try not to make it too in-tents…! :)

The Most Sustainable Tents

Vango recycled tent - part of my guide to sustainable camping gear

No camping trip is complete without a tent, as each trip starts and ends with a good-quality tent that can protect you from the elements. That’s why finding the right tent is a must before you head off on any adventure, be it wild camping, glamping, or a campsite holiday. Here are the most sustainable tent options for your camping trip:

Rent A Tent

If you can’t borrow a tent, or find one secondhand, then another super sustainable option is to rent a tent. Many companies allow you to hire one of their tents. Simply tell them when you are going camping, and how long your trip will be for, and they will send out a tent directly to your door. They will even arrange the collection of the tent for when you get home. Other companies may allow you to pick up and drop off their tent.

Tent hire organisations to try include:

Refurbished Tents

If you’d rather buy your own tent, then try Camping Recycled. This is an initiative set up by Vango to sell tents and caravan and vehicle awnings that function as intended but can’t be sold through their retail partners. These include samples, demo kits, and refurbished products. This helps divert stock from landfills and has the added bonus of being a bit kinder on your pocket too. Your consumer rights aren’t affected – unless otherwise stated, Vango accepts returns within 28 days of delivery.

Tents Made From Recycled Materials

Vango has also introduced a National Trust Collection, which is a collaboration between Vango and the National Trust. Their collection of tents in this range is made from Sentinel Eco™ fabric – a fabric made from recycled plastic bottles which come from waterways, streets, and landfills.  I’d like to see all of Vango’s tents being made from this material, as a single eco range does not make for a sustainable brand, but it’s a solid start.

Plastic-Free Tents

The investment eco option is a canvas bell tent. Plastic-free, 100% cotton canvas bell tents have better breathability than conventional tents, and, being stronger, have a longer lifespan.  However, you have to be very careful with canvas bell tents. You should never put the tent away damp as mould and mildew can take hold and damage and rot the tent. I’ve never bought a bell tent so don’t have any recommendations for suppliers, so it’s best to ask around, as these can be pricey investments.

The Best Eco-Friendly Sleeping Bags

eco-friendly sleeping bags for camping

There are a few sustainable sleeping bags on the market to add to your sustainable camping gear kit bag. I’ve specifically looked for sleeping bags made from recycled materials that are PFC-free. PFC stands for per- and poly-fluorinated chemicals, that are used to weatherproof outdoor gear. This sounds innocuous, however, these chemicals accumulate in the environment, and for some PFCs there is evidence that they cause harm to both the hormonal and reproductive systems in both humans and animals, as well as being carcinogenic. Greenpeace has written more on the issues of PFCs if you wish to find out more.

Exped Litesyn Sleeping Bag

The LiteSyn sleeping bag from Exped* (£177.56), pictured above, is perfect for camping trips from late spring to early autumn, with its -2°C comfort rating. This one is a good sustainable choice for any camper. Here’s why

  • Its synthetic fibre filling is made from recycled polyester.
  • The fabric is certified as bluesign approved. This is an independent verification that certifies that in each step in the textile supply chain only approved chemicals, processes, materials, and products are used. This means these products are safe for the environment, workers and customers.
  • It carries the STANDARD 100 Oeko Tex label. This means you can be certain that every component of this product, i.e. every thread and zipper has been independently tested for harmful substances. This assure you that the sleeping bag is non-toxic.
  • It’s PFC-free.

Marmot Idlewild Sleeping Bag

The Marmot Idlewild Sleeping Bag* (£129.95) is made from recycled polyester and is filled with a recycled synthetic fibre filling. Reassuringly, it’s also PFC-free. This one is suitable for summer camping trips, so has a shorter usage window than others.

Nordisk Mummy Sleeping Bag

The Nordisk Mummy Sleeping Bag* (£123.95) is a three-season sleeping bag, with a -5°C comfort rating. It’s PFC-free and made from recycled polyester.

The Ethical Rucksacks

Millican ethical rucksacks for camping

Of course, you need somewhere to transport your clothes and camping gear.

In terms of ethical rucksacks, I really rate Millican rucksacks. The 25L Smith The Roll Pack** is produced from 100% recycled polyester yarn made from post-consumer waste, on both the outer and lining fabric. This makes it a great sustainable choice when upgrading your camping gear.

What’s more, even the hardware is made from infinitely recyclable aluminum, rather than plastic. A repair service is also offered. This ensures that your rucksack stays in tip-top condition year after year, camping trip after camping trip.

If you are looking for something smaller to take on hiking trips or other everyday adventures, Millican’s core collection** is worth looking at. Take 10% off at Millican with the discount code MORAL10 – valid until 30th September 2021.

You can also see my post on ethical backpacks for more ideas.

Environmentally Friendly Camping Stoves & Cooking

A sustainable alternative to a gas-powered fossil-fuel camping stove is a wood-fired camping stove. I came across this Biolite Camping Stove (£225) that is powered by wood. What’s more, the heat generated by the stove also charges up your mobile phone. SO handy!

Alternatively, if you want a decidedly more budget-friendly wood-burning camping stove for your sustainable camping gear kit bag, then try this Robens Wood Burner Camping Stove (£27). It simply cooks your food without fossil fuels, which is all you could possibly need from a camping stove.

To light your stove, say goodbye to plastic fossil fuel-powered lighters or soggy matches with a Fire Stick, such as this Wildo one. This is a fool-proof and fun way of lighting a stove. Simply strike the striker off the flint for sparks to light your stove with. I bought my partner one a few years ago, and he loves it.

Sustainable Camping Tips

Even if your camping gear isn’t sustainable, it’s arguably more important that you act like a sustainable camper. Having an understanding of the Countryside Code is key. However here are a few more environmentally friendly camping tips to consider.

Consider Where You Camp

Official campgrounds are the best places to camp. This is because they are set up to cater for campers, and often have bathroom facilities and facilities for cooking, washing, and refuse collection. Wild camping – where you camp on public or private land without permission – is allowed in most places. However, the rise of irresponsible wild campers means wild camping is gaining a bad reputation. And not only that – many remote communities don’t have the infrastructure to deal with an influx of waste caused by tourists. Consider if the area you are camping in can support wild camping before rocking up with your tent.

Food

For short trips, it’s a great idea to bring your own pre-prepared meals that you can warm up on a camping stove. Food that travels and reheats well includes soup (I’ve got loads of vegetarian soup recipes here) and pasta. Alternatively, you can decant shop-bought food into reusable containers. This means that should there be no bins where you are camping, or no recycling facilities, then you won’t leave any waste.

If you do need to take food with you, do consider its disposal. If your campsite doesn’t offer composting, then for short trips, try to bring your food waste home with you (in a sealed jar, for example). And if the campsite doesn’t offer recycling facilities, again try to bring that home with you rather than putting it into landfill. And if where you are camping has no bin (if you are wild camping, for example), then be sure to bring all of your waste home with you.

Cooking

Be mindful of where you are cooking. As well as being not great for the environment, disposable barbeques can cause fires. It’s therefore important to take extra care not to cause a fire when you are cooking.

The best advice is to cook using a stove, rather than lighting an open fire or a disposable barbeque. If you do need to light a fire, then the Scottish Outdoor Access Code offers good advice. They say:

“Keep it small, under control, and supervised – fires that get out of control can cause major damage, for which you might be liable. Never light an open fire during prolonged dry periods or in areas such as forests, woods, farmland, or on peaty ground or near to buildings or in cultural heritage sites where damage can be easily caused. Heed all advice at times of high risk. Remove all traces of an open fire before you leave”.

Using designated barbeque areas is also important, as it keeping a bucket of water nearby at all times.

How To Do The Toilet Outdoors Responsibly

If you are wild camping, then it’s important to be a considerate toilet goer. The most sustainable advice is to know in advance the location of public toilets, or establishments that may let you use their bathroom facilities.

However, even the best-laid plans can see us caught short. If you’re outdoors with no access to toilets, then there is some general advice that you should follow.

Weeing Outdoors

If you need to urinate, you should do so at least 30 metres from open water or rivers and streams. Always bag and bin toilet roll – never leave it on the ground, as it takes a surprisingly long time to decompose.

Pooping Outdoors

If you need to poo, you have two options. Bag it and bin it, as you would do with dog poo. That means you should be prepared to carry the bag until you find a suitable bin to dispose of it in. Carrying some compostable dog poo bags* in with your sustainable camping gear kit is, therefore, a really good idea in this circumstance, even if you don’t have a dog.

If you don’t have a bag to hand, then the Scottish Outdoor Access Code says you should do so as far away as possible from buildings, from open water or rivers and streams, and from any farm animals. Once you are done, you should bury the faeces in a shallow hole and replace the turf. It’s good practice to carry a small trowel with you if you are wild camping for this purpose. I think this is good advice to follow, whether you are camping in Scotland or elsewhere in the UK.

Don’t bury toilet paper, wet wipes, or period products. These should be bagged and binned when you find appropriate facilities.

Leave No Trace

Finally, when it’s time to come home, then bring home everything at the end of your trip. Even if your tent breaks, or there are no bins, or the bins are overflowing, it’s no excuse to dump rubbish. Take it all home, and dispose of it in your own bin.

Any more sustainable camping gear recommendations or tips for being a responsible camper? Do share! You can also check out my posts on the best ethical outdoor gear and ethical coats and jackets in case of rain!

Eco-friendly camping advice