Mersehead to Southerness walk

A level coastal walk with long vistas, lonely beaches and a choice of lengths starting at RSPB Mersehead... This is a lovely walk at all times of year, but it is particularly interesting in winter when the migrant birds gather in their thousands at Mersehead RSPB Nature Reserve.

Technical sheet

A Dumfries and Galloway walk posted on 15/11/22 by Kirkennan Estate. Last update : 15/11/22
  • Walking
    Activity: Walking
  • ↔
    Distance: 13.91 km
  • ◔
    Calculated time: 4h00 
  • ▲
    Difficulty: Moderate

  • ∞
    Return to departure point: Yes
  • ↗
    Vertical gain: + 4 m
  • ↘
    Vertical drop: - 4 m

  • ▲
    Highest point: 9 m
  • ▼
    Lowest point: 5 m
  • ⚐
    District: Dumfries and Galloway 
  • ⚑
    Start/End: N 54.888949° / W 3.676909°

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Start : Mersehead RSPB Nature Reserve Grid ref. NX 925 561

(S/E) From the carpark, turn right back along the road you had driven down.

(1) Just past the cottages, take the rough farm road to our left at the corner. The first section of the path leads between merse on the right and grassland on the left to the dunes at the coast for around 1km. At the dunes you get a good view of the coast to the West towards Sandyhills beach.

Our route takes us in the other direction Esat along the long sandy beach. If you want to do the shorter loop around the RSPB site only look out for the sign on the dunes and loop back off the beach waypoint (3). Otherwise continue following the waterline.

The route becomes more of a saltmarsh than a beach in places and you need to pick out the path between wet areas. Be careful to do this walk at low tide, do pay attention to where the tide is so you don't get stuck the wrong side of a widening stream. It won't be long before you can spot the lighthouse that marks your destination on the horizon - as you would expect Southerness lighthouse (A) is visible from quite a distance.

(2) First you will notice a golf course on the shore on your left then, once you get round the headland, the distinctive lighthouse is ahead. If you have time you can explore Southerness village which has its own rather unique atmosphere. This small village with a few permanent residents multiplies in size in the summer as it hosts two large holiday parks and two golf courses. Otherwise, head back by retracing your route - keeping an eye out for the tide.

(3) Once back at RSPB Mersehead take the first path inland right. This is clearly marked by a signpost at the top of the dunes. The route now passes through the gate shown then along a woodland path and back to the main farm track past the hides.

(4) Turn left to walk back to the car park. You can also go into the hides as they can be reached by a short detour from the main path. (S/E)


  1. S/E : km 0 - alt. 5 m - Mersehead RSPB Nature Reserve
  2. 1 : km 0.13 - alt. 5 m - Mersehead Cottage
  3. 2 : km 6.1 - alt. 7 m - Golf course
  4. 3 : km 12.6 - alt. 6 m - Signpost at the top of the dunes
  5. 4 : km 13.12 - alt. 9 m - Main farm track - Hides
  6. S/E : km 13.91 - alt. 5 m - Mersehead RSPB Nature Reserve

Useful Information

Start : Mersehead RSPB Nature Reserve Grid ref. NX 925 561

Parking :
Mersehead Nature Reserve car park. The Car Park is open from dawn to dusk and is £3 for non RSPB members. Fee £3 for parking in the reserve visitor centre.

Alternative :
It would also be possible to do it one way only by leaving a vehicle at each end, or the beach at Mersehead can be enjoyed by doing a 2.5 mile loop around just the nature reserve.

Note :
Dogs are welcome but should be on a lead when birds are nesting on the ground (1st April - 15th August).

Terrain :
Most of this walk is along sand and thus not suitable for most pushchairs, mobility scooters or wheelchairs. Parts of Mersehead are accessible - see their accessibility statement for details.
The walk can be quite wet in places so waterproof footwear is advised.

Facilities :
Toilets and refreshments are available at Mersehead visitor centre check their website for opening hours.

Accommodation :
Kirkennan Estate

You can download a map of the core path from Mersehead to Southerness the Dumfries and Galloway Council website. The circular route around Mersehead is shown in their leaflet. This route takes us along the first part of that but then continues along the beach.
Find more walks here.

Always stay careful and alert while following a route. Visorando and the author of this walk cannot be held responsible in the event of an accident during this route.

During the walk or to do/see around

Mersehead Nature Reserve Visitor Centre : Here you can also check out what birds have been sighted recently and get a hot drink whilst watching the busy feeders.

(A) The first section of the path leads between merse on the right and grassland on the left to the dunes at the coast. Look out for barnacle geese that arrive in the autumn to overwinter on the Solway - they gather at Mersehead in their thousands. You can see significant numbers of Lapwing which are present all year round. Spring and summer visitors include reed warblers.
At the dunes you get a good view of the coast to the West towards Sandyhills beach. If the weather is fine you can see the peaks of the Lake Distsrict on the other side of the Solway Firth.

(B) Southerness lighthouse is the second oldest lighthouse in Scotland and dates back to 1748. It was built to guide ships heading into the Nith Estuary and what was then a major port at Dumfries. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1936 and now houses a small privately run museum/shop at the top which is only occasionally open (free but donations welcome).

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The GPS track and description are the property of the author.