Loch Doon

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Loch Doon is situated about 3 miles east of the town of Dalmellington, 18 miles east of Ayr. The car park, as seen below, is just over 1 mile east of Dalmellington next to the road signed A713 to Castle Douglas & Dumfries. From here, it is about two miles to Loch Doon Dam, about seven miles to Loch Doon Castle on the far southwest side of the loch. This is a popular walk, cycle or drive on a narrow hill road.

Loch Doon is fast becomming a tourist hotspot with the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory that opened in October 2012, a new Cafe by the dam that is open 7 days a week, ospreys nesting by the cafe, new Touring Caravan Park, and free camper van and camping spots that are patroled by a Ranger.

The area has a popular riverside walk and four hill ranges with hills from 1,000 ft to 2,766 ft. Five hills are above 2,500 feet, known as Corbetts.

Loch Doon Map. 24 Large Images

Loch Doon Entrance Car Park image

The road winds its way steadily uphill for about 1 mile. Where it levels out, you get a good view of Craigengillan Mansion and Estate on the right hand side.

The Scottish Dark Sky Observatory was built by Craigengillan House, left in the image below. The estate also offers Pony Trekking, Mountain Biking, River Fishing, Canoeing on the River Doon, and Holiday Cottages.

Craigengillan Estate image

The Scottish Dark Sky Observatory opened in October 2012. The Observatory is situated in the only Dark Sky Park in the UK, one of only 8 in the world. The night skies here are some of the best - countless stars, the Milky Way stretching from horizon to horizon, shooting stars, planets, comets, and the Northern Lights are visible. The observatory is open to everyone.

The Observatory was dammaged by fire in 2021, is expected to be restored in the next year or two.

scottishdarkskyobservatory . Phone: 01292 551 118. Map .

Scottish Dark Sky Observatory image

About two miles from the car park you reach Loch Doon Dam. The dam was built in 1935 for generating hydro-electricity. This is the largest inland loch in Southern Scotland, about 7 miles long. The water for the Hydro System leaves the loch from the east side, left in this image, through a large pipeline out through the hill to just north of Casphairn village. That water flows down to other lochs with Hydro Power Stations between Casphairn and Dumfries.

Loch Doon Dam image

The Roundhouse Cafe is situated close to Loch Doon Dam. The cafe is open 7 days a week, most of the year. The popular Ness Glen riverside walking trail starts here. The path down Ness Glen is one of the most impressive and scenic in Scotland. You can go down through the gorge and back up over the top via well maintained paths, with a number of seating areas. Ness Glen Photo Tour.

The 1,062ft Glessel Hill sits high above the Roundhouse Cafe. This is a great short hike for some of the best views of Loch Doon. The hike starts from the right side of the cafe and follows a good trail to the top. Many hikers go up to Glessel Hill, over to the Dark Sky Observatory, then walk up Ness Glen back to the cafe.
Glessel Hill Photo Tour.

A nest is situated across the loch from the cafe for a pair of Osprey that have been frequenting Loch Doon for a few years, they had their first chicks here in 2014. You can use a large scope at the cafe to watch the birds, or to view the Rhinns of Kells mountain range down the southeast side of the loch.

Update: the ospreys have established a permanent nest opposite the roundhouse and return every year, we have set up a live camera feed to the nest which can be observed in the roundhouse. We are in partnership with the forestry commission which made this project possible. With their help we intend to add another 2 cameras to the network for next year (2017) which will allow greater coverage of the ospreys at Loch Doon, giving all visitors a fantastic experience. To top this the roundhouse is investing a considerable amount of effort not to mention money in developing a covered osprey viewing platform, which will provide all round protection from the elements. Both Birds returned in March 2021 and 2022.

Roundhouse Facebook Page

Roundhouse Cafe Loch Doon image

In front of the Roundhouse Cafe is a camping site, free of charge. There is also space for a few camper vans in this area. There are a few campsites like this along the loch that are now patrolled by a Ranger to make sure they remain tidy.

The Osprey nest is top right in this image. Large Image of the Ospreys.

Loch Doon Camping image

The shingle beach at the Roundhouse Cafe is ideal for launching small boats or canoes. You have to bring your own vessel just now, but it is expected there will be boats or canoes for hire here soon.

There are a number of bank fishing spots all along the loch. Brown Trout are the main fish in the loch.

Loch Doon shingle beach image

The only caravans allowed at Loch Doon just now are at the new 50 pitch Touring Caravan Site, a few hundred yards south of the Roundhouse Cafe. The park is run by the Loch Doon Caravan Club and has about 22 pitches for visitors. Website at: Loch Doon Caravan Club

Loch Doon Caravan Club image

About half way along the loch is where they store boats for the Loch Doon Fishing Club. Large Image.

Loch Doon Fishing Club image

Loch Doon Castle is almost at the far end of the loch. The castle was originally built on an island in the loch and had connections to King Robert the Bruce. It was moved to this spot next to the loch before they built the dam to raise the water level.

There is a plaque inside giving the history of the castle. Large Image of the Plaque.

There is a car park at the castle and a well marked trail from the left side of the castle to the 1,716 feet Craiglee Hill, and the Wee Hill of Craigmulloch, as seen above the castle.

Large Image of Castle . Castle Photo Page .

Loch Doon Castle image

The first part of the trail up Craiglee Hill is a fairly wide man made track with a number of seating areas. After about half of a mile, the trail splits into two narrow walking trails. The route to the right takes you onto the Wee Hill of Craigmulloch, great for views over Loch Doon. The trail to the left leads over a small wooden bridge, then up through trees to a small rocky hill as seen below. From the rocky hill, you get the first clear view of Craiglee Hill.

Craiglee Hill image

The view below is from the top of Craiglee Hill looking down to Loch Doon Castle, at the strip of land stretching out into the loch. The ground between the small hill and Craiglee is a bit wet in places. Was not bad in the summer but could get quite wet in winter. In winter it would be best to go up the Wee Hill of Craigmulloch first then cross over to here via a rocky ridge.

Large Image . Image of Craiglee Summit .

Craiglee Hill view to Loch Doon image

The view below is from Craiglee Hill down towards the Wee Hill of Craigmulloch. If it is wet, you can go down to the left here following the rocky ridge and cross over at the narrowest point.

Wee Hill of Craigmulloch image

Below is a view from the Wee Hill of Craigmulloch looking down to Loch Doon, Loch Doon Castle and the car park. This hill gives great views all along the loch. There is a narrow path down to the main trail from here through deep heather.

Large Image.

Loch Doon from Wee Hill of Craigmulloch image

The wide view below shows the other three ranges at Loch Doon. The range on the right contains the 2,520 ft Shalloch-on-Minnoch, 2579 feet Kirriereoch, and 2,766 ft Merrick, highest hill in southern Scotland. The forest road round to Loch Riecawr takes you to this range. Photo Tour.

The range on the left contains the 2,648 Carlin's Cairn, and the 2,671 Corserine. You can park at the south side of Loch Doon and follow a forest road up onto the west side of Carlin's Cairn, as seen in the large image below. Read the photo tour page for that route as it is easy to get lost on that route. Photo Tour.

The range in the centre, although not as high, contains rocky hills with a number of vertical cliffs. The highest hill on that range is the 2,270 ft Mullwarchar. Photo Tour.

The large panoramic image from the Wee Hill of Craigmulloch, as seen below, is 8,077 pixels wide with names and heights on the hills, you will have to scroll sideways to view them all.

Large Image . Large Hiking Routes Map

Loch Doon Hills image

At the far southeast end of Loch Doon is the small white Star Cottage looking directly up the loch. The cottage has been un-used since the Forestry Commission planted woodland down the east and south side of Loch Doon in the late 1970s. Many small cottages for sheep farming were abandoned at that time. A local of Loch Doon has now acquired a lease for Star Cottage and has began restoring the building. The lease holder is looking for the history of the building, so if anyone knows anything, let us know and it can be passed on to him.

The view below is from the front of the cottage taken in November. Large Image.

Loch Doon South Side image

At the south side of Loch Doon, just before the cottage, is an entrance to the Galloway Forest Park and Carrick Forest Drive. There is also a large sign giving information on the type of wild life you should look out for in the park. There is a pay machine that costs about £2 for a ticket that allows a car a day in the park. The road is loose ground with a few pot holes here and there but fairly good condition since being re-leveled in 2013, great for walking or mountain biking. Many motorbikes also use this route.

There is a large car park at the signs here and a walking trail up onto a seating area a few hundred feet above for good views across the loch. This trail, past the seating area, also leads to Craiglee Hill.

You can also travel along this road past another two lochs, then into the scenic village of Straition, that is about 14 miles southeast of Ayr.

You rarely get out of second gear on this road and there is normally a large truck working along the road transporting timber out of the park, you may have to pass that truck once or twice. There are many passing places.

Galloway Forest Park Road image

About one mile into the park you pass a few walking trails that are sign posted with information on what wildlife is in the area.

Three miles along the forest road you reach Loch Riecawr that also has a dam, kids play area and seating. This is a scenic loch with good hill walking down the west side. The highest hill in this image is Shalloch-on-Minnoch at 2,520 feet. The 2.,766 ft Merrick is on the same range to the south. There is a road from this car park down the side of the loch to the bottom of these hills, marked as the Tunskeen Bothy, a popular spot from where to hike the steep east sides of the three 2,500 plus hills on this range.

Shalloch-on-Minnoch Map . Large Image . Shalloch-on-Minnoch Tour.

Loch Riecawr image

Another few miles into the park you reach Loch Braden, also with a dam. From the dam, you can see the mountains on the Isle of Arran. There are two roads out of the park from here. You can follow signs from this dam to the Stincher Bridge and Falls. Large Image.

Loch Braden image

A couple of miles from the dam at Loch Braden, you reach the small Stincher Falls next to the road that runs between Straiton and Newton Stewart. These are scenic falls with seating areas and a popular trail that follows the river downhill to the larger Stinchar Falls about a 3 mile hike out following a marked trail.

There is also a well marked, man made path from here through woodland and over the 1,532 ft Cornish Hill to Cornish Loch.

Straiton Village is situaed 7 miles north of here with an Inn for meals and more popular walks.

Loch Doon Video

Stincher Falls image
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