Balcary to Rascarrel Bay Coastal Circuit

To the south of the village of Auchencairn in Dumfries and Galloway lies the little-known spot of Balcary Bay. Sitting 13 miles and about 20 minues drive away from Kirkcudbright, the walk starts next to the Balcary Bay Hotel, in the free car park which can hold around 15 cars.

I’ve been enjoying ticking off coastal walks in Dumfries and Galloway and I must say that this one, Balcarry to Rascarrel Bay may be my favourite of them all. It’s a comfortable 5-mile walk that can shortened even more, making it quite suitable for different fitness levels.

The walk features a bit of everything. A large beach, spectacular coastal views (to the Lake District, Isle of Man and beyond), a wide variety of wildlife and a fantastic bench (And if you read this blog you should know how fond I am of a good bench).

Also, it features the scariest coastal cliffs I’ve done on any of these Dumfries & Galloway coastal walk, with sheer drops to jagged rocks below so I’d recommend being careful with children or any dogs you bring on the walk! Also if you don’t like heights I’d consider giving it a miss!

Setting Off For A Look At Balcary Tower & Hestan Island

On a lovely, sunny day I arrived at the car park just opposite the Balcary Bay Hotel and I had a target in mind. Before properly starting the walk, I wanted to take a wee detour through the pretty houses at Balcary down to the lovely big beach for a look at Balcary Tower and out to sea to Hestan Island.

A brief 2 minute walk from the car park and I was on the sun-drenched beach. The views were already beautiful. Even if you had no intention of doing the walk and just wanted to visit the hotel for a meal on a summer day, I’d urge you to take the time to visit the beach.

It’s well worth it.

Balcary Bay Hotel and the Beach

The beach is a large and covered in pebbles and stones. While not perfect fora picnic (though there IS soft sand at the very top) it is lovely for a wee stroll. There are views to the hills high in the Galloway Forest Park, out over Auchencairn Bay and to the very pretty Hestan Island.

I’d suggest walking south along the beach, toward the picturesque Balcary Tower which sits on a spectacular spot, looking across to the island.

Balcary Tower With Hestan Island Beyond

As I’m sure you can imagine, I spent longer than I intended just soaking in the views. It was making me excited for the walk, as if the views were this good just a few minutes walk from the car park, then how good would they be on the cliffs?

The Start of the Walk

Balcarry Point and Rascarrel

The track is well signposted and climbs through a field to a small gate that leads into a lovely, atmospheric bit of woodland. Sea views were peaking through the treeline as birds sang overhead. I was mesmerised by a beautiful house (which the OS map labels ‘The Boat House’), nestled in the trees, sitting just below the path. It even has its own slipway!

The narrow track eventually emerges onto an open coastal path and the views are spectacular. The sprawling, sparkling sea of the Solway Firth stretches over to England and the fantastic Lake District mountains. To the left, is a new view of Hestan Island.

From this point until arriving at Rascarrel Bay later, the views just never stop. It’s an incredible stretch of coastal walking.

A recent (January 2024) article by WalkHighlands summed it up pretty well for me:

“Galloway’s southern Solway coastline has some excellent clifftop walking. It’s hard to pick a favourite section, but the coastline between Balcary Bay and Rascarrel is a real classic, hard to beat.”

The Views After Leaving the Woodland
The Views to Hestan Island
The Coastal Trail at Balcary Heugh

The track climbs higher and higher up the cliffs and has some genuinley scary drops to the sea and crags below. On more than one occasion, upon peering over the cliffs, I had to back away from the edge to make myself feel better! A few fences have been erected at the most perilous sections but they are sparse.

The path eventually reaches the highest point, rounding the hill at the very edge of the peninsula before plateauing. At this point it is possible to follow a little track back to the start, which would make for a lovely, short walk. I’ve done this walk a few times and most people seem to stop here (instead of heading on to Rascarrel Bay) and it offers lovely views of the distant hills while cattle graze in the fields.

A Beautiful Countryside Scene That’s Typical on the Walk
The Winding Coastal Path

The Bench

If you continue on, you will be rewarded with one of my favourite benches in all of Scotland.

Now, I should be clear here, there are actually two benches at this point of the walk, one that is high on a hillside and another, further below, sitting on the edge of the cliffs. It’s this second bench that is just spectacular.

The path follows a stone dyke, at the highest point of the cliffs and passes the first bench, before descending. Here, at the edge of the cliffs sits a wooden bench on a little platform.

Looking Down to the Bench
Some Sheep, Relaxing in the Long Grass
‘Happy Memories’
One of my Favourite Benches

When I first saw it my jaw dropped. I’ve lost count of the amount of walks I’ve done where I have said “they really ought to put a bench here”. Well, on this occasion, someone was smart enough to put a bench in the perfect spot.

I parked myself on the bench and took in the views. Cliffs to the left, the Lake District in front and the Isle of Man to my right. Sheep were lazily lounging around in the field behind me. A red kite was doing circles in the sky above.

Remember when I said that most people don’t continue on this far? I had the bench completely to myself.

It’s a blissful spot and one I would urge you to visit on a nice day.

Sea Fishing

I dragged myself away from the lovely bench and headed along the cliffs, the path becoming increasingly wide and grass as Rascarrel Bay drew near. I’d had a wonderful time on the walk and when the grassy path opened up to another spectacular view, I was in awe of what I saw next.

Far on the flat rocks below, a man was fishing. The sea was shimmering, sparkling in the sun and he was being occasionally soaked by the odd wave that was lapping on to his rock. He clearly didn’t care with the heat of the sun beating down on him!

What I thought was especially cute was, while I was taking pictures, I zoomed in and noticed his girlfriend, sunbathing on the rocks next to him while he was casting away.

Can You Spot The Fisherman?
A Spectacular Fishing Spot

Now I don’t sea fish, as fly fishing is more my thing. But I’d say this is a particularly nice spot.

I’ve since done this walk multiple times and have seen a large amount of people fishing at different parts of the walk. It’s clearly a popular sea fishing destination!

Approaching Rascarrel Bay

The track soon descends to sea level, giving a lovely gentle walk to a small group of holiday cabins before arriving at Rascarrel Bay.

The Approach to Rascarrel Bay

The bay is wonderfully secluded and peaceful. There was only a couple of walkers taking in the ambiance as the sea gently lapped against the shells on the little beach while birds chirped. It contrasts wonderfully with the busier start of the walk where the majority of people enjoy Balcary but don’t head as far as Rascarrel Bay.

The path follows the bay, entering a little bit of woodland before emerging at the other side of the bay, where some rather fancy holiday lodges have been constructed.

The Last Sign for Rascarrel Bay

Speaking of the woodland, one particular highlight was catching a chaffinch having a bath in a small puddle, sheltered by the overhanging trees. It didn’t seem particularly bothered by me taking photographs as it enjoyed a splash!

The walk concludes by leading out onto the tiny country road behind the bay. A short distance through beautiful farmland leads to a sign for Balcary and a small woodland track that passes by Loch Mackie before descending through farmland and back to the car park where the walk began.

Many walkers chose to finish the walk with a drink and/or a meal at the Balcary Hotel. In the summer, you can sit outside and enjoy one last look at Hestan Island and the beach before heading home.


I have to say, this may be my favourite coastal walk in all of Dumfries & Galloway and I completely understand why WalkHighlands have it on their list of the best coastal walks in all of Scotland. I’ve made quite a habit of coastal walking in Dumfries & Galloway and I can say Balcary to Rascarrel Bay is among the very best.

Whether you are doing the shorter circuit at Balcary or doing the full walk including Rascarrel Bay, it’s a must-do in the area and one you won’t fail to enjoy, regardless of the time of year you choose to do it.

Route Information

Parking: FREE

Postcode for Balcary Hotel: DG7 1Q7

Length: 5 miles

Walk .PDF: HERE (By Dumfries & Galloway Council)

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