Why had we decided to wild camp at Loch Doon and a little bit about the area. I’m sure you’ll see by the end of the post why this is not only becoming a popular camping area but also great for tourists and day visits.
Earlier in the year we had bought a new tent, the Vango Hudson 500 but had not had a chance to get it out and pitched so we could check it out before taking it away on a camping trip. It also gave us a chance to take my nephew with us to see what wild camping is about.
At 8 years old, he has camped plenty of times before but on sites, with EHU and shower and toilet blocks. Most of the time there are also parks or activities to keep him busy. He has often heard us talking about wild camping but didn’t really know what it meant. I thought it would be best to let him experience this with us rather than to try and explain.
I like to check out any new tent I purchase either at home or close by for a night. This is just to ensure that the tent has no faults after purchase and allows us time to familiarise ourselves with setting it up and getting things like bedrooms pods in place for the first time. With many larger tents, you can leave these attached and, in the tent, when it comes to packing the tent away.
Loch Doon is relatively close to where we live so if there were any issues with the tent there was no problem with us returning home if need be. We also love to camp at Loch Doon a few times a year as the scenery is nice and calming and it is great for a quick getaway on a Friday should we decide last minute to go camping and there is plenty to do once there.
As this was a large tent (not our little 3-man, lightweight, wild camping one), we were wanting to try it out we wanted to go before it started getting too busy with campers and fishermen. Essentially, we needed to secure a spot large enough to take our bigger tent and allow us to take our time pitching and getting to know the tent. As this was almost wild camping (for an 8 year old) and not pitches, I had decided that a pitch further down the road at Loch Doon would give us what we needed but we would need to be there early enough and keep our fingers crossed to this being available.
There was a little litter within the castle ruin which we lifted when we went to explore it. But there was also a larger area down beside the water, which was a mess, we also cleaned that up before leaving.
We set up and had a good nosey around the tent, checking everything was as it should be. All privacy curtain toggles were there, bedroom pod was placed as should be, all zips worked, etc.
You can read the review on the tent in our next blog post.
We then went a short stroll down to the water before returning to make dinner. We cooked dinner over an open fire we had going in our Gelert folding BBQ, we often use this as a fire pit so we leave no trace and don’t need to dig out an area to have a fire.
After this, we cleaned up and stoked up the fire so we could sit and enjoy a few drinks before retiring to bed for the night.
The following morning after breakfast we cleaned up and then started packing everything away. The tent was easily put away due to the oversized pack bag it comes in. This was ideal as there had been a little rain just after breakfast, so we were going to need to dry off the tent properly once home.
We had a great night away and was impressed with the Vango Hudson 500. For once it felt like a little luxury to have a wild camp in such a big tent. To be able to have our seats in the tent and be able to stand and get dressed, these are both what I miss most when away in the small tents.
It is also fair to say that my nephew had a great time and can’t wait to go wild camping again. In fact, he is now trying to talk his dad into taking him and his brother to Loch Doon so they can do a spot of fishing too.
About Loch Doon
Loch Doon is situated in Ayrshire, Scotland, and is a freshwater loch with water being fed to it by Loch Enoch via Eglin Lane. This makes this loch popular for fishing. The loch measures roughly 7 miles long. With a road running down the east side that is enjoyed by walkers, runners, and cyclists alike.
Loch Doon Castle ruin sits about 6 miles along this road. This castle was originally built on one of the larger islands on the loch but was moved due to rising water levels to help preserve it.
As the southside of this loch leads on to the top of Galloway Forest this area sits right on the edge of a Dark Sky Park. This is where light pollution is low and the chances of seeing not only an abundance of stars is high but also The Milky Way and auroras can be seen with the naked eye when on show in clear nights.
Wild Camping at Loch Doon
Loch Doon and the area surrounding it covers a huge area and there are many spots not only by the loch but also just off the road and a little further afield that are great places to wild camp or park up for the night if you have a camper. This area is patrolled by a ranger and campers and visitors who are not abiding by the Outdoor Access Code may be asked to leave.
As wild camping is free this means that you need to be more prepared when going as there is no tapped in water supplies, no public toilets apart from at the café, which are for customers, and few bins along the route.
We are very fortunate here in Scotland that we are able to just get up and go wild camping let’s keep it that way by following the rules. As someone who enjoys wild camping, I cannot express this enough. Whatever you take in MUST be taken out! Leave no trace. No rubbish, no remains from fires or firepits either. If there is not a firepit already available where you camp, please learn how to have one without leaving a trace or take a collapsible one with you.
This is a wild and natural area and there are 2 things I will warn you about if you are thinking of going.
Firstly, the midges! Due to the amount of water in the area and not just the loch midges are abundant here at certain times. Now as you know the weather can determine just how active these little blighters can be. So, check the weather and maybe be worthwhile taking a midge head net and some repellent.
Secondly adders! There are adders in this area so extra care should be taken if you are out walking or if you have pets with you. Normally these are rarely seen unless you are looking for them. Adders do hibernate from October until around March and it is more common to see them as they come out of hibernation. At this time, they will be hungry and looking for food. Adders are poisonous snakes and can bite but normally only when provoked or stood on. Bites are rarely fatal but medical treatment should always be sought as soon as possible and they can be painful.
Scottish Dark Sky Observatory
The Scottish Dark Sky Observatory opened in 2012 and is open to visitors through pre-booking for events. The Observatory has 2 telescopes and an educational area. There are events on throughout the year, you can get more information by visiting their website https://scottishdarkskyobservatory.co.uk/ please not the road to the observatory is rough and steep in places so care should be taken if going to visit.
The Roundhouse Cafe
The Roundhouse is a small café situated near the loch and is open 7 days March till October and weekends out with these months. The café sells a wide selection of food and snacks as well as tea and coffee. The one thing this café offers that many don’t is its camera link to the Ospreys that nest in the area during the spring and summer months. This is mainly live camera footage of the birds and their nest and is a real privilege to view.
New for this year is the added viewing area to the Roundhouse. This is a place where you can take your café purchases and sit and enjoying viewing the footage on screen. The viewing area also a large viewing window out across the loch.
Loch Doon Touring Caravan Park
Loch Doon now also has touring and caravan park; this is situated just a short walk from the edge of the loch giving great views of the loch and surrounding area. With 22 pitches, tapped water, EHU, and chemical waste disposal this is a very basic site. The site will also take tents although most pitches are hard standing. This would make a great base for exploring the area. At £15 per night per unit, it won’t break the bank and the café is only 500m away for a great morning coffee.
New Campsite and Activity Centre at Loch Doon in 2020
A new activity centre and campsite opened within the area of Loch Doon in August 2020 called Craigmalloch. The campsite would benefit those who like the feel of wild camping and taking in the views of the area who also like to have facilities to hand. There are showers, toilets and fire pits are allowed on site. There are also some activities on site which you can book such as archery, hire of kayaks, fishing equipment and mountain bikes that you can use to explore the area.
There is an area where you can hire small fishing boats and there are areas where you can enter the water with your own canoes, kayaks and such. Please note however that all precautions should be taken, and safety checks carried out before you enter the water. You should be confident in your own abilities and those with you before partaking in such activities.
If you like walking there is plenty to keep you going in this area. There is Ness Glen which will take you a walk down along the route of the river to a gorge where another path will take you back to the starting point through a higher wooded area. The walk is only 2 miles so great for all ages.
There are also several hills for walking in the area, these are – Craiglee Hill, Wee Hill of Craigmulloch, Shalloch-on-Minnoch, Kirriereoch, Merrick, Carlin’s Cairn, and Corserine. A few of these are Corbets with some stunning views down to and across the Loch.
So, would I recommend Loch Doon for camping?
Definitely, I love going here as for me it has everything I want and need. Plenty of walks and nice scenery, dark skies for enjoying the stars and some much-needed peace and quiet to enjoy some downtime.
Just remember – if you take it in, please take it out and if you can pick up a few bits too. We can all do our bit to help keep the country clean and tidy.