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Driving Scotland’s new South West Coastal 300 route

Where the North Coast 500 route is all rugged drama, this new road trip circuit celebrates Scotland’s less-visited south-west – all green rolling hills and gentle coastlines

Sandy McKnight is a pagan, a bibliophile, a metal detectorist and – at 71 – claims to be Scotland’s most-tattooed man. Flames, skulls, demons, dragons: his entire body is covered, with the exception of his face and a rather delicate area lower down. For that, however, Sandy has plans: his scrotum, he thinks, might look well if inked to resemble a brain.

I learn all this standing at the counter of the Bookshop in Wigtown, having stopped off on the South West Coastal 300, a new 300-or-so-mile driving route looping through Dumfries and Galloway, and parts of Ayrshire. Wigtown, Scotland’s National Book Town and celebrated for its annual book festival, is one of the highlights of the route; the Bookshop is one of the highlights of Wigtown; and Sandy is one of the highlights of the Bookshop. He is its most regular and most colourful (literally and figuratively) customer. To fund his book habit, he carves walking sticks from the “nine sacred woods of the druids” – including hazel and rowan – and sells them here in exchange for credit. He collects books on archaeology, folklore and local history, and has built quite a library, which he expects will return to the Bookshop’s shelves one day.

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