Balloch O' Dee
Back when we first visited in those early days it was the stark rusticity of the place, tucked amid inspiring landscapes and boasting ancient stone farm buildings, that made it really stand out. Years later, with the addition of electricity, toilet and showers, there has certainly been a change, yet the subtlety with which James and Hazel have shaped their campsite means the same unpretentious, rural-camping character still shines through.
There’s plenty of space (15 acres to be exact) and the large camping field offers spectacular views across the surrounding countryside. The atmosphere is relaxed and informal; kids can often be found paddling or trying to catch crayfish in the farm’s tinkling burn before dragonflies appear at dusk. Communal campfires accompanied by evening sing-songs are commonplace, while in the morning campers are woken by the dawn chorus and get to throw open their tent doors to the sight of Culvennan Fell, framed in the morning mist…
The aforementioned stone buildings have now been tastefully converted, with a barn space acting as a surprisingly cosy sanitary block. Large ‘rainfall’ showers provide the perfect way to warm up if bad weather caught you out on a fell walk, while thoughtful touches like free handmade soaps and scented candles show the owners care as much for the site now as they did when they first unlatched the gates years ago. The same thoughtfulness can be seen in their newest additions, a bunk-house Bothy, in the old cowshed, the wooden roundhouse, at the bottom of the field, each with fire-fed range ovens and an unbeatabley snug interior, and the Mongolian Yurt, new for 2015 complete with a log burner.
Adjacent to the campsite is Balloch O’ Dee’s trekking centre, which offers a warm welcome to young riders. Tuition is available with qualified staff for every level, or simply enjoy a free ride around the site and help Hazel with the grooming. By day, little ones will have a great view on horseback across the surrounding countryside and farmland. By night, they can keep their eyes peeled for shooting stars and ponder what sort of fun other campers might be having in another galaxy far, far away.
Emphasis here is on space, so there are only about 20 generous pitches in the large camping field. A converted barn serves as a lovely shower room with piping hot water, toilets, wash basins and sinks where you can wash up. You can also use this room to dry clothes etc. Campers are free to use the stone-built barbecues dotted around the site. There is a point for emptying chemical loos. There’s also the opportunity to embrace the role of hunter-gatherer at breakfast time. Dozens of rare-breed hens roam freely round the site and the challenge is to find and collect their eggs each morning for a hearty omelette. Campfires are permitted in previously used spots. The Bothy and the roundhouse offer more formidable onsite accommodation, exceptionally well-furnished they are wonderfully snug hideouts. The Mongolian Yurt offers one double bed and two singles, and is also well-furnished including a log burner - see their website for full details of what's included.
Everyone is welcome, in tents, motorhomes and touring caravans. Dogs are allowed and free of charge but must be kept on a lead. Groups are also welcome but asked to respect their fellow campers.
The pony-trekking centre should provide hours of fun for budding jockeys. Children are welcome to stay at the stables for the day and groom the horses, learn more about their new four-legged friends and join in with the mucking out (bring wellies and waterproofs!). Three Lochs Holiday Park (01671 830304) is a couple of miles down the road. Activities on offer range from archery to mountain biking. You can book fishing at Loch Heron and Loch Ronald at the park’s reception to go after pike as large as 30lbs for supper. In nearby Newton Stewart you’ll find a swimming pool (01671 404301), and a community-owned cinema that regularly screens the latest releases as well as live theatre shows. In summer, the programme is usually family-orientated.
Food & Drink
Check out the House o’ Hill Hotel at Glentrool (01671 840243.) It has a fabulous location at the edge of Gallery Forest and a menu to match – crammed full of local produce with something tasty for even the youngest of diners – our firm family favourite were the homemade fishcakes.
All year. Mongolian Yurt available between 1 June and the end of October
With horses for neighbours and chickens for playmates, Balloch O' Dee campsite is eggsactly the kind of site for rural-loving families in need of space and stargazing opportunities as part of a back-to-basics camping experience.
The Owner Says
Balloch O' Dee is a beautiful small farm nestled in stunning countryside on the edge of the Galloway national forest park.
Fifteen minutes from the coast and numerous wonderful beaches, (and "some of the best crab fishing in the whole wide world" - so our kids tell us) it is surrounded by forests and mountains and sits at the foot of Cullvenan Fell.
As a familly, we moved here in April 2010 after camping in Scotland for many years, this was the start of our great escape from the rat race, and although the last few years have been very hard work, we have loved every minute of it.
The idea was to create a lovely small campsite with plenty of space and a really relaxed atmosphere and we will be continually looking for ways to make a stay at Balloch O' Dee a truly memorable one.
we wanted to create a place where you could just come and get away from it all in peace and quiet but also somewhere that you could sit around the campfire with other guests if you felt like it and play your instruments, chat and sing and watch the shooting stars.
The campsite is a small site covering about 15 acres with a maximum of ten tourers and about thirty tents. We have no statics and the emphasis is very much on space so you won't be crammed in!
We have converted one of the barns into a lovely shower room with piping hot water, toilets, wash basins and sinks where you can wash up. You can also use this room to dry clothes etc. We also have electric hook up for tourers.
.....We have built a number of individual Scottish stone BBQs arround the site so if you dont fancy lugging yours along with you then be our guest - charcoal and wood are normally available at the farm. You can also help yourself to free range eggs from our rare breed hens.
We are on the edge of the National Park that has been given Dark Sky status and noise pollution is almost zero. The Balloch O Dee burn meanders its way around the farm and is a haven for spectacular dragon flies and all kinds of wild life and rare wild flowers.
We have a purpose built shower room which has lovely hot showers with extra large 'rainfall' shower heads, hand basins, toilets and washing up sinks. There are also sockets to plug in hairdryers etc. There are complimentary hand made soaps and hand creams and a large selection of reading material for you to enjoy.
In the evening this room is lit with just candles and there are always scented oils and incense burning away.
One of the wonderful things for us as a family when we went camping was sitting round a campfire in the evening. The whole experience of collecting firewood with the kids and cooking on an open fire in the middle of nowhere was a large part of camping our camping experience. So, with that in mind we have built lots of fire pits around the campsite and you are welcome to have a campfire whenever you like.
There is plenty of wood to be foraged from the nearby forests and we always have plenty of kiln dried sustainable hardwood for sale.
Some of the fires have grills over them or cooking poles so you can have great fun cooking with the kids on an open fire - it really does taste a million times better!!
The Bothy was originaly one of the old cow sheds and we have almost entirely rebuilt it. It was a labour of love over the long dark winter months of 2012.
It will sleep 5/7 comfortably and has everything you need for a lovely relaxing stay. The heart of The Bothy is a large log burning range cooker with oven and hobs for you to cook on and it keeps The Bothy really cozy even in the depths of winter. Once you or your group have booked The Bothy you will have sole use of it for the duration of your stay.
The beds are set out as one double bed downstairs with a single bunk above it and then 2 further single bunks downstairs. There is then a double bed upstairs accessed via a ladder. It is essentially one room with a balcony room upstairs.
The Bothy is finished to a high standard and makes a great alternative to a tent especially when the nights get a bit nippy or the weather takes a turn for the worse! Outside it has steps down to its own terrace area in the woods with BBQ and fire pit.
As one of our projects for this winter we are building a wooden Roundhouse for people to hire which should be ready by the end of Dec 2013.
As soon as i have pictures of it i will post them on the site but we are building it down by the stream in the bottom camping field with a beautiful view of the Fell and the mountains.
It will sleep a family of six comfortably and will be lovely and cozy with a large log-burning range, wooden floors, rugs, comfy old chairs and lots of bits and bobs. Like our other acommodation, all you need to bring is a sleeping bag or quilt. Beds, matresses, pillows and sheets are all provided for you.
The Round house should be a lovely alternative for those who want to truly get away from it all but don't fancy the idea of pitching a tent especially when the weather turns a little cooler (as it can do sometimes:-)
Leave the M6, signposted for Stranraer (A75) and continue westward, past Newton Stewart, and on for a further 6 miles. Here you’ll see a right-turn for ‘The Three Lochs’. Balloch O’ Dee is approx. 1½ miles along this road, on the right.
There is no direct public transport service to the site, but if campers can make their way via bus to Newton Stewart, the owners are happy to arrange collection.
ReviewsAdd Your Review
Rated ★★★★★ over 8 reviews
We loved this campsite, stayed in the Bothy with my three grandchildren. They loved it. Barbecue, fire pit. Log burner for cooking. Free range chickens, ponies and the children can run free as well.
Wonderful hippy hideaway
This site is purely amazing. The ramshackle feel is just wonderful, but don't let that make you think it's not clean or well organised because it is both of those things. The animals roam free but don't pester you, and the whole site just feels perfect. The facilities are great - lots of hot water for washing up, and if you leave that chore till the sun has gone down you'll find yourself doing it by solar powered fairy lights and candles. Truly magical! We were lucky with a break in the weather and managed an epic campfire the night we stayed along with being treated to the most amazing meteor shower Perseid could throw at us. There's something spellbinding about sitting around a roaring fire watching the milky way appear before your very eyes and then being able to see shooting star after shooting star! The laid back feeling stayed with us as we didn't stir in our tent until gone 10am, despite lots of families and children on the site. It's truly a gem and we will be returning soon.
Love the hippy vibe!
We were road tripping around Scotland in our vintage van when we came across this site. There a couple of camping fields, we were in the smallest which was fine. Turkey and hens potter about as you're pitching up. A small petting farm could keep the kids busy for a bit.
Be prepared to be out in the sticks a bit, take everything you'll need for the night so you don't need to head back out. Spend a perfect evening building a fire on your very own pit by your pitch and grill your supper under the stars. For me this was the best bit.... tied with the happiest shower in the world! The facilities are great- incense is burning on your arrival in a clean but quirky toilet/shower block. The showers are adorned with an array on glittery, colourful bits and pieces. Fab!
fab will go again
Stayed one night in July with friends and toddlers, loved the shetland ponies and foals, chickens and chicks, horses and rabbits, scenery was lovely, owners friendly and helpful, definitely will go again, please don't go if you are going to stay up keeping everyone awake or play loud music, this place is peaceful
Hippy Chic Happiness
Well what can I say apart from this was a truly wonderful camping experience. The campsite has a lovely atmosphere, the shower block is the most glamped I've seen and in a good way. We stayed for a week to try out the hammock poles, great idea having these. Most of the pitches also have fire pits with iron cooking trellises, the site are happy for you to use your own wood too. The owners are lovely and friendly, very happy to help too.
The roundhouse and bothy are both really spectacular, we had a peek when wandering round. This site is incredible value for money so should not be missed!
We have an amazing few nights at Balloch o dee! But admission first we didn't actually camp - well it was April in Scotland! Joking aside we stayed in the bothy, a superbly renovated single room with a brilliant log stove and double bunk beds.
The accommodation was great, once the log burning stove was lit it kept the bothy very warm and cosy. Cooking on it was great to; we cooked up our traditional camping meat balls :) We didn't get too adventurous with using the oven, but did make nice rhubarb crumble, the bothy being well equipped with cooking utensils, crockery, etc. You get an initial supply of logs and can then buy more bags, but we enjoyed plenty trips to the beach/woods and happily kept the fire going for the extra nights we were there.
The site is a working farm, with horses, pony’s, chickens, rabbits, dogs all running free. When we arrived I did ask did they sell eggs, only to be told no we don't sell them, you just help yourself! So oh yeah, we also made great pancakes on the stove.
It’s the only campsite we have ever visited where dogs if well behaved don't have to be on a lead - which our collie dog loved very much.
Must add that the shower facilities where the best we had ever seen at a campsite, plenty of hot water, no electricity, but the showers/toilets are lit with lots and lots of candles each night. We even got in on the act one night and went round and lit them all.
Best bit was the chickens roaming around all the time, on our last day we kept having the chase the cockerel out of the bothy. We will def be back and would love to try out the round house, and maybe even do some real camping :)
Sandy, Caroline, Kyle (11), Robert (9), Stella the collie dog.
We love our campfires so when we read the review of this site on Cool Camping and then saw that the owners of this site do too we thought we would give it a try.
The ethos of this fantastically family friendly site is apparent right from the entrance sign: Roll In, Pitch Up and Chill Out. There are animals everywhere and a very relaxed and laid back atmosphere allowing you to truly unwind. In fact both of our daughters had cuddled baby rabbits and had a free pony ride each before we'd even finished pitching the tent!!
We were blessed with glorious weather on the Easter bank holiday weekend and still found a pitch next to a campfire ring without a problem - there are even cooking tripods for you to borrow which are fab. There is firewood to purchase but as the friendly owners pointed out there is acres of clear cut forestry just a couple of minutes drive down the road with any amount of free wood to be had.
The toilet block was always clean, as were the outside washing up basins, the flower head showers were divine (especially with all of the burning incense) and even though there are only two loos I only had to queue once, bizarrely at 10 o'clock at night as it seemed everyone was having a toilet break before turning in. The (short) wait, however, was full of chatter with fellow campers amid the warming glow of the tea lights that light the room. Lovely.
At £10 per tent and £2.50 per adult (kids, rabbit petting, pony grooming and treks are all free) we thought it was a complete bargain and have already planned return trips both with our tent and to stay in both the Roundhouse and the Bothy in the winter which look wonderful. While we were staying the owners were building a huge pet enclosure for children to wander in and out of whenever they want so the kids are in total agreement that we go back too!
Overall we had a wonderful couple of days and are really pleased to have found such a little gem in one of our favourite parts of Scotland. If you are looking for a small, laidback site with clean, basic amenities and a wonderful chilled out atmosphere then this is the campsite for you :-)
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