Wild Camping at Loch Doon

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.

Decisions, Decisions.

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.

Loch Doon Castle Camping

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.

Loch Doon Castle Ruins

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.

Loch Doon

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.

Scottish Dark Sky Observatory

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.

Rounhouse Cafe at Loch Doon

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.

Loch Doon Touring Park

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.

Water Sports

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.

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19 thoughts on “Wild Camping at Loch Doon”

  1. Amazing article. I really liked how you described everything in detail. I am far too busy right now but I love nature and I would like at some point to go camping. I had never heard of this specific place but from your photos it looks amazing and there seems to be some interesting places to visit around. Overall a great read and I would like to thank you for sharing it.

    • Thanks for your kind words. We are fortunate enough to live where you are allowed to camp almost anywhere, Scotland really is a beautiful country and there are little gems like this everywhere.

  2. Thanks for writing this article on wild camping at loch doon.i must commend you for taking your time to write this article and all your wonderful experience at loch doon. You really have a nice time at loch doon and I feel I can have the same experience in the nearest future at loch doon. Even if this is my first time of hearing about loch soon but reading this article I really feel it a good place for camping and above all it a secure place 

  3. Just to note that you were not wild camping – you were camped next to a road, with a car nearby. This is “car camping”.

    Furthermore, camping in a scheduled ancient monument is with a large tent is not the way to teach your child about respect for the environment.

    Wild camping i snot just about taking litter home with you, it is about minimising impact – a stonking great big tent, in an ancient monument, next to your car parked in the road does not count.

    • Hi Corran,

      thanks for your correction. Firstly we do wild camp in this area, when ourselves in our small tent. This was the little ones first time out and our trial pitch of a new tent, too big to carry far from the road. So I included this in blog, maybe I shouldn’t have but it was more about highlighting the area.
      The site where we pitched, in the castle ruin was left in a much better state than when we arrived and due to size of tent as stated earlier we couldn’t go to far from a road. Just as well as there were very few places we could have pitched near the road side for litter.
      We did not have a fire due to our location, we cleaned up as best as we could around the area we stayed and we now have a little one who is keen to try proper wild camping, off the beaten track with us since he wasn’t endangered on that camp he feels safer to try something more adventurous. Little steps for little ones is important.

      So apologies for it not being “wild camping” but introducing a young one who will camp respectfully and with minimum impact in the future is what matters most to us.


    • wow corran I bet you are the life and soul of a party!

      well I enjoyed the article very much and found it really helpful I cant wait to “wild camp” next week in my campervan

      • Hi Craig,

        I hope you enjoy your stay. There are a few nice little bits great for campervans. We like taking our van down too. Mind your midge repellent 🙂

  4. Michelle, spot on! Thanks for the info. We also have a larger tent than usual this time for camping so this spot would be ideal. Wild or not your still camping ??

      • We are looking to spend 3 night fishing and pitching tents up. Having read your article in regards to the ruins we was thinking of going on the other side of the loch as we dont want it ruined by youths getting drunk and stoned, and was wondering if there is a road that runs close as we will have quite a bit of stuff to carry

        • Hi Keith, sorry for the late response been off grid a few days myself. If you are looking to go at this time of year you shouldn’t be bothered by such offenders. I would simply allow a little extra time for you to drive through the road and scout for a perfect spot to accommodate your tents and gear. There are a few good fishing spots not far from the road that would only take a few minutes walk. Most places on the other side of loch means long walks or taking a boat across. Though as I said this time of year you should be ok to use main side. Also as a heads up the café will still be open weekends just now.
          Hope this information helps and is not received too late.

          Enjoy your visit.

          • Hi Tatiana, I am pretty sure that NO permit is needed for Loch Doon, with brown trout, perch, pike and artic char in the water it is a favourite fishing spot for many. If you are in any doubt you can always call into the cafe and ask. Brian is very helpful.


  5. Thanks for the reply , I should have made it more clear we are thinking of going in may next year. Hope you can give us some feedback on this

    • Hey Keith, check weather and go a drive round to get your bearings and see who all about. It really can be a hit or a miss with campers at this time of year and many of the good fishing spots are too long a walk for the anti-social campers i.e. not at the roadside. There are a great variety of spots that should be suitable for your party and many other fishermen will point you in the right direction of good spots for both camping and fishing.

    • Hi, you can access the other sidenof the loch it is forestry land so im not sure of the xamping rules, i use to go to my papas “hut” for holidays on the other side and we walked over from drumjohn long but beautiful walk. Like i said not sure what the camping rules are for that side. x

  6. Hi Michelle loved reading about your adventure! We just love wild camping and are keen to get back to it soon. You mention hiring small fishing boats where is this please do you know the name of the company
    Thanks for all the info xx

    • Hi Sharon,

      If you go halfway along the loch you should see signs for the Loch Doon Fishing Club. You may see some boats already out on the water or laying on the grass in front of the club too. Loch Doon also has a campsite now near the entrance to forest drive. Craigmalloch Loch Doon Outdoor Activity/Camping Centre also provides some kayak hire and fishing gear hire although I am not 100% sure if you can hire equipment if you are not staying on the site. The campsite is pretty new and I haven’t had a chance to visit yet with lockdown restrictions.
      You could get in touch and ask by using the following link https://www.craigmallochlochdoon.com/contact.
      I really hope that this answers your question and when you do get out you have a fab time in a stunning area. You never know, we may even see you there.


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