Exploring The Towns of Dumfries and Galloway
Towns and Villages (in alphabetical order)
ANNAN (visit the web site: www.annan.org.uk)
Off the A75 to Dumfries and Stranraer is the thriving market town of Annan with its largely red sandstone buildings fringing a long, spacious main street. Between 1869 and 1934 a railway viaduct linked Annan with Bowness on the English side of the Solway Firth. Before good roads in the 18th Century, the two towns were joined by a perilous route across the estuary at low tide.
There was a church here from at least the l2th Century. The Presbyterian scholar Samuel Rutherford was minister in Anwoth from 1627 to 1639, and he is commemorated by an obelisk.
A village on the shores of Luce Bay, with a former mill. Ardwell House is a 17th Century building with fine gardens open to the public.
Once an iron and barytes mining centre and haunt of smugglers, now a most attractive seaside village. In the bay is Hestan Island with a lighthouse.
Here, the River Nith runs through a gorge. Thomas Carlyle’s father, a stone-mason, helped to build the bridge. Nearby is Dalswinton Loch where a steamship was tried out in 1788. Robert Burns farmed close by at Ellisland.
An attractive hillside village. Celtic relics have been found in the area. This was once a centre of the Covenanter faith. There is a statue to Robert Paterson, Sir Walter Scott’s ’Old Mortality’. Close by is the renowned Clog maker of Balmaclellan
BARGRENNAN - close to Glentrool and beautiful country with nearby ancient cairns.
Just off the main M74 road to Glasgow. Ideal for the Lowther Hills. The Southern Upland Way passes here. Nearby is a waterfall on the Annan river. Beattock summit is the highest point at 315m (1033ft) on the railway to the Clyde valley and was a notable uphill pull in the days of steam trains.
An interesting 19th Century planned estate village in a good area for bird-watching. Most notably Beeswing is famous for its Loch Arthur Creamery which produces hand made prize winning cheeses, traditionally made from organic milk.
BIRKHILL - at the top of a pass in the Lowther Hills, was once a refuge for Covenanters.
There is a creamery here and the Visitor Centre of the former Bladnoch Distillery can be visited. Camping facilities are also available.
The Borgue Academy, which acquired an excellent reputation, was founded in 1802 by Thomas Rainy who had made a fortune in Dominica.
Once a small watering place by the Solway Firth where Robert Burns came in the hope of curing his final illness in the mineral waters of the well. A series of sand flats on the edge of a nature reserve where the unpredictable tides are said to ebb at the "speed of a galloping horse"
Close to the Solway Firth and the National Nature Reserve where thousands of birds winter. There is the great 13th Century fortress of Caerlaverock Castle.
CAIRNRYAN (visit the web site: www.stranraer.org)
An attractive village of white-painted houses, once the homes of oyster fishermen, and a fine Queen Anne house. Used as a military port during the last War, and now a ferry terminal from Larne in Northern Ireland.
At the southern end of Eskdale near the junction with Liddesdale, once the lawless ’Debatable Lands’. Johnnie Armstrong’s Hollows Tower is nearby. There is an old coaching inn in the pleasant village.
CARSETHORN - an unspoiled village with a harbour which once took transatlantic trade.
Just off the main A75, this is the home of the Galloway Smokehouse suppliers of quality smoked products, fresh local fish and game.
An attractive village with a white painted church. Nearby lead mines employed 300 people in the 19th Century. Carsphairn has a Heritage Centre.
At the heart of Dumfries and Galloway is the region known as the Glenkens. This is the upper part of the valley, once a series of narrow lochs, from which the River Dee flows into the sea at Kirkcudbright. The water level in these lochs was raised to provide power for a hydro-electric scheme in the 1930s and the enlarged Loch Ken is now a significant feature of the valley. Near to the southern end is Castle Douglas. This is a planned town, founded in the late l8th Century by Sir William Douglas, a merchant who had made a fortune in Virginia and the West Indies and wished to establish a centre of commerce in his native Galloway.
Castle Douglas was laid out with three parallel streets, wide and commodious. Although Sir William’s original idea of establishing the cotton industry here was not in the long term successful, the town soon became an important market, with cattle and horse fairs. It has remained a thriving centre for the prosperous local farming area, the home of the annual Stewartry Agricultural Show and of the Dumfries and Galloway Horse Show, and one of the most modern auction marts in Scotland.
Beside the town is the beautiful Carlingwark Loch, dotted with islands, where visitors can enjoy boating and picnicking, or learn to sail. At the far end of the loch are Threave Gardens, the teaching garden of the National Trust for Scotland, which is open to visitors all year. On the other side of the A75 road is C 14th Threave Castle on an island in the River Dee, the great fortress of the Douglases, which can be reached by ferry. Nearby, also, is Threave Wildfowl Refuge, for this area is an important place for wintering wildfowl, where visitors may watch the birds from hides during the winter months.
Close to the Solway Firth and Brow Well Nearby is Comlongon Castle. Houses a local Inn, the Farmers, which has residential lodges and real ale.
Robert Burns visited the nearby Closeburn Tower (not open). From here roads lead into the hills. The Crichope Linn ravine is described by novelist Sir Walter Scott in ’Old Mortality’.
COLVEND - popular holiday village.
On one of the most beautiful coast roads in Southern Scotland. Once a busy port from which granite, quarried nearby, was shipped. The old harbour and waterfront has some excellent 18th Century and early 19th Century houses. A clock tower commemorates Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. The old school is now the Creetown Gem Rock Museum.
CROCKETFORD - founded by a religious sect led by Mother Buchan in the 18th Century.
CROSSMICHAEL - very good bird-watching area.
A medieval parish with a Norman church restored in 1892. Cruggleton Bay, or Rigg Bay, along with Garlieston, was used for testing the ’Mulberry Harbours’, used in the invasion of Normandy in 1944.
The notorious tides of the Solway Firth can be seen from here. The district is described in Sir Walter Scott’s novel ’Redgauntlet’. Robert Bruce is said to have founded the church.
Dalbeattie, in contrast to Kirkcudbright, is a town of solid houses built of grey granite, a stone for which Dalbeattie became famous and prosperous in the 19th Century. It was shipped in bulk to Liverpool for export, though today its quarry only produces granite chips for roads.
The town has a pleasant park and boating lake, whilst on the southern outskirts is Dalbeattie Forest with its waymarked walks. To the west are the sparse ruins of Buittle Castle where John Balliol’s mother, Devorguilla, signed the charter of Oxford’s Balliol College in 1282.
Properly St. John’s Town of Dalry. On the ancient Pilgrims Way to Whithorn Priory King James IV stopped here in 1507. To the north east is Lochinvar, famous in a ballad.
Near the Solway Firth, with remnants of a stone circle and two ancient towers nearby.
A small holiday resort by the Solway Firth, on a most attractive stretch of coast overlooking Sandyhills Bay. There are two natural rock arches nearby.
Coal and lime were once imported and farm produce exported. A large mill and store still stand above the harbour.
Although little is left of the medieval town, Dumfries has long been the main centre of this region, having been given the status of a royal burgh as long ago as 1186. Today Dumfries, Queen of the South, capital of the region, is a lively place. An attractive town, with some of the houses painted in soft colours of blue, cream, green or buff, and most of the important buildings in red sandstone, making a pleasing mixture. In the centre of the town is the Midsteeple, completed in 1708 to provide a meeting place for the town council as well as a courtroom and prison. A plaque on the outer wall gives the distances to other towns and cities to which the people of Dumfries might have wanted to travel in the 18th Century.
The medieval town was situated between the wide River Nith, which flows through the modern town, and the old red sandstone bridge, which dates back to the l5th Century, and once provided an entrance with a toll house at the far end. Known as Devorguilla’s Bridge, it was here that the Lady Devorguilla de Balliol had the first bridge built, probably of timber, in the 13th Century. In former years ships were able to navigate the Nith, and it was the Dumfries merchants who built the lighthouse at Southerness in 1749. In the l8th and l9th Centuries the quays downriver at Kingholm and Glencaple were still busy with ships trading to North America, the West Indies and the Baltic.
A statue of Robert Burns overlooks the town’s High Street, for it was in Dumfries that the poet spent the last five years of his life. Associations include the house where he lived, the tavern where he spent much of his time, and his tomb, as well as a splendid Robert Burns Centre in an old sandstone mill building by the river. The visitor can follow a Burns Heritage Trail round the sites once familiar to him
This has always been an agricultural region with much of its economy dependent on sheep and cattle farming, and Dumfries has a long tradition of an allied industry in the manufacture of knitwear and, in particular, of hosiery. While these trades still contribute much today, there have in recent years been efforts to attract a wider range of work and today a large number of light industries are at work in the area.
The town is well provided with museums and libraries which help to illuminate its history, and there is also a fascinating camera obscura which projects a moving panoramic view of the district, and an art gallery showing the work of local and contemporary artists. Dumfries is a good centre, offering the visitor all the facilities expected of an important town, including a swimming pool, parks, two golf courses, nightclubs, film theatre in the Burns Heritage Centre, and discos, as well as good shopping and branches of major stores. The town holds an annual Arts Festival and the yearly Guid Nychburris Festival, with the Crowning of the Queen of the South, is a colourful and enjoyable celebration of its warm and friendly spirit.
DUNDRENNAN (visit the web site: www.btinternet.com/~dundrennan)
An attractive village, built partly of stones taken from the Abbey in the past. The great abbey dates from 1142, and from here Mary Queen of Scots left Scotland for ever to her captivity in England.
On high ground to the north of the A75 and overlooking Luce Bay. An interesting rock and bog garden has been created at Glenwhan and can be visited.
In the fertile farming area around the Cairn Water. Here Robert Burns set up a library. To the north is the ruined tower of Lag, once home of the hated Grierson of Lag.
The church, dating from 1699, contains the elaborate memorial aisle of the Queensberry family of nearby Drumlanrig Castle. Well Path is an ancient track, possibly originally Roman, and a small Roman fortlet is nearby.
Famous as the birthplace of 19th Century historian Thomas Carlyle. It is called Entepfuhl in his book ’Sartor Resartus’. Carlyle’s uncle and father were master masons and the house with its arched entrance is typical of a prosperous artisan’s home of the period. Carlyle, ’the sage of Chelsea’, lived in London but wished to be buried in his home village. Also the home of Ecclefechan Tart.
This was once a thriving place with the largest grain mills in the Machars region. Gavin Maxwell’s book ’The House of Elrig’ is about his childhood in the region.
At the north end of the remote and peaceful Eskdale. Tibetan refugees chose this locality to build the only Tibetan monastery in Britain. It is also the site of an observatory which monitors seismic activity and of a meteorological station, its name being familiar to many in national weather forecasts.
EWES CHURCH - north of Langholm. The church bell hangs in the fork of a tree.
Laid out in a crescent round the bay by Lord Garlies about 1760, with ship building and a corn mill as local industries. The gardens of Galloway House are nearby.
A planned town laid out on a grid pattern by James Murray of Broughton with cotton mills and a brewery close to the water which provided the power to drive the machinery. A canal was cut by Irish labourers (Murray had estates in Ireland) to improve the harbour. There are a number of l8th and l9th Century workers cottages, with larger two storey houses for artisans and craftsmen. Its history can be traced at the Mill on the Fleet visitor centre.
Once a busy port near Dumfries with quays from which ships sailed to America and the West Indies, and well known to Robert Burns in his duties as an excise officer.
Long an important crossing point on the Water of Luce. The ruins of Glenluce Abbey are nearby, and so is the commanding Castle of Park tower.
Originally built to house forestry workers, but it is now a mixture of houses, some privately owned.
It was marriage and romance that made Gretna Green famous. English marriage laws were strict but in Scotland anyone over the age of sixteen could marry without parental consent. All that was required was a simple declaration before a responsible witness - a blacksmith, for instance. There are several blacksmiths houses from the days of cattle droving when cattle were shod at the border village of Gretna Green on their long walk from Galloway through England.
Many elopements, including that of the famous huntsman John Peel, ended happily here, while the village has provided novelists with innumerable romantic stories of lovers driving furiously to Gretna Green pursued by irascible fathers or guardians on horseback or in carriages.
Bypassed now by the busy M74 and A75 trunk roads, Gretna is a fine centre for exploration, with good hotels and a large and pleasant caravan site nearby. Riding is also available in the locality. The Blacksmith’s Shop, and other marriage houses nearby, are at the village of Gretna Green where every facility is offered to visitors, confirming all their ideas of romantic Scotland, a museum of Gretna marriages with kilted bagpipe player, opportunities to reaffirm their own marriage vows, and a display of carriages and coaches, which brought so many eloping couples to the village.
The modern village of Gretna, a short distance away, is an interesting example of 20th Century town planning, built to house munition workers during the First World War. Spaciously laid out, with a large green, the houses, in a simple neo-Georgian style, are symmetrically arranged, a scheme later incorporated in the Housing and Town Planning Act of 1919, the source of many of the new towns built in subsequent years.
An ancient Christian foundation, dating back to the 6th Century. A crossing point over the Annan, once defended by Hoddom Castle. Next to the bridge is a renowned caravan site including a visitors’ lodge which illustrates farming and forestry on the Hoddom Estate. Close by is the impressively set Repentance Tower with stunning views across the Solway Firth and beyond.
On the eastern shores of Loch Ryan, the settlement can be traced back to at least medieval times. The l6th Century Craigcaffie tower house is nearby.
A pleasant village by the Cluden Water. In the churchyard is a memorial erected by Sir Walter Scott to Helen Walker. In 1678, on nearby Skeogh Hill, 3,000 Covenanters took communion, a place now marked by an obelisk. There is also an inscribed tombstone to a Covenanter.
ISLE OF WHITHORN (visit the web site: www.isleofwhithorn.com)
On a rocky shore, sheltered by a headland, this was a busy 19th Century port, which also employed a number of men in shipbuilding. Believed to be a landing place for St. Ninian, who brought Christianity to Scotland in the 4th Century, it was long a place of pilgrimage. The small ruined chapel dates from the 13th Century and is now a focal point for those wishing to bless their wedding
North of Lockerbie. It has long been a major crossing point over the River Annan and a place from which to explore this beautiful valley. Modern changes have included an open plan lakeside stop for fuel and refreshment unlike the typical motorway stop.
A small place famous in the history of transport, for it was here that Kirkpatrick Macmillan invented the first bicycle. His original machine is in the Science Museum in London, but there is a copy in the Dumfries Museum. A plaque commemorates his achievement.
On the northern outskirts of New Galloway, with remarkable tombstones, three depicting Adam and Eve, and including a headstone to a gamekeeper, showing his dog, gun, powder-flask, fishing rod and a partridge-like bird.
This was a busy ship-building and fishing centre at the beginning of the 19th Century. From the 1870s onwards it developed as a resort for sea-bathing and leisure. Now a yachting place with an annual regatta.
The old churchyard is a site which may well have had links with the early Celtic Church and lona. Sailing ships used to be able to moor in the bay. A remarkable collection of farm buildings with a castellated tower and an arched entrance were built by James Brown, a Manchester businessman, early this century.
The church with its dome-shaped tower was built in 1835. The font was presented in 1945 by the American Navy in honour of its founder John Paul Jones, born nearby at Arbigland where gardens can be visited.
The terraces of single and two-storey cottages, painted white, were originally homes of fishermen. To the north-west is Corsewall Point with a lighthouse designed by Robert Stephenson in 1815.
This was a former mining village and has a memorial to all the miners killed over the years in the former mines. Covenanters met in the surrounding hills.
Near the village, the old weaving sheds for wool, a chimney and a former mill, now all disused, indicate the past industrial importance of the area. The church still retains its outside stair.
The area around Kirkcudbright is known as the Stewartry because stewards over it for generations were the Maxwell family, after the king had taken it away from the powerful and corrupt Balliol family. Historically Kirkcudbright was an important gateway to the sea, though today its picturesque harbour is largely a haven for small fishing boats.
Much of the town has wide 18th Century streets, many pastel-coloured houses and numerous flowerbeds, all creating a light and spacious air. Incongruously, the ruins of forbidding MacLellan’s Castle, a l6th Century tower house, sits in the centre of town. The 1610 market cross still stands, as does the ancient Tolbooth with its ’jougs’, iron manacles to which thieves and those suspected of heresy and witchcraft were attached for public beatings.
Long a centre for craft workers and artists, the Tolbooth Art Centre tells the story of Kirkcudbright artists’ colony. Australian-born painter E. A. Hornel (1864-1933) lived in Broughton House whose gallery is open to the public, and the Harbour Cottage Art Gallery hosts temporary exhibitions. Before dining with Lord Selkirk, Robert Burns wrote his ’Selkirk Grace’ at the Selkirk Arms Hotel, and Dorothy L. Sayers set her thriller ’Five Red Herrings’ in and around Kirkcudbright. The Stewartry Museum is the repository of local social artefacts and natural history exhibits. Close to town are the attractions of a wildlife park and guided tours round Tongland Hydro-Electric Power Station.
A lively town with many summer festivities, Kirkcudbright can also offer good river-fishing, sea-angling and golf. To the south-west is 12th Century Dundrennan Abbey where Mary Queen of Scots is reputed to have spent her last night in Scotland. Within the graceful ruins is a macabre stone effigy of an abbot with a dagger through his neck and at his feet a disembowelled man, possibly killed while assassinating the abbot.
There was probably a settlement here by the 12th Century. Attractive single and two-storey painted houses line the road. The churchyard has remarkably tall monuments, including a steeple tomb.
The old church was probably on an early Christian site and there is an Anglican cross in the churchyard. The layout is typical of a 19th Century strip village along the road.
In Scotland’s most southerly village Robert Burns wrote ’Frae Maidenkirk to Johnny Groats’. This was an important holy place in early Christian and medieval times, with a number of chapels and holy wells in the vicinity.
A good example of a planned village laid out with four intersecting streets and single storey cottages, founded in 1783 by the minister and landowner, Dr. David Lamont, later Moderator of the General Assembly. Houses and inns were built for cotton and woollen workers. It also has a racecourse.
KIRKPATRICK FLEMING - with a cave said to have been a hiding place of Robert Bruce.
In an area once renowned for lawlessness, with several old towers in the vicinity. Nearby is the famous 15th Century Merkland Cross. At the ruined Kirkconnell Church is the grave of ’Fair Helen of Kirkconnell Lee’.
In the middle of the Eskdale valley is Langholm, a centre of the wool trade. Langholm recalls its more turbulent past each year with a colourful Commons Riding, where over two hundred horsemen ’ride the Marches’, to protect its boundaries. Today it is a market town, notable for its sheep and cattle sales and is also the producer of fine worsted cloth and knitwear. Visitors can visit a mill shop, and also a gallery of ceramics. The Hugh MacDiarmid trail tours Langholm, birthplace of the noted 20th Century poet.
Further up the valley is the only Tibetan monastery in Britain, where, in addition to their devotions, the inhabitants produce a range of artwork and crafts, and the meteorological and seismological stations (the name of Eskdalemuir is familiar to people who listen to broadcast weather reports).
There is a memorial here to SR. Crockett (1860-1914) who wrote ’The Raiders’, the name given to a Forestry Drive off the A712.
There is an 18 metre (591t) high monument to Sir Andrew Agnew of Lochnaw who laid out Aldouran Glen with exotic trees, rare plants and paths. Nearby is the 15th Century Lochnaw Castle.
LOCHANS -a Galloway village south of Stranraer. An old tower house stands nearby.
LOCHFOOT - small village on the shores of Lochrutton Loch. An old tower is nearby.
The town grew up around a de Brus motte and bailey castle, it being first mentioned in 1173. It became a Royal Burgh about 1440. Lochmaben Castle was an important strategic point, taken and retaken several times. Castle Loch and Hightae Loch are nature reserves famous for the Vendace (freshwater herring) a rare freshwater fish available in the loch in recent years. Lochmaben was also the setting for Britain’s first Tuberculosis Hospital, the first place to bring relief to many who would have faced certain death.
Now sadly world-famous after the aircraft disaster. A market town for Annandale with a Lamb Fair dating from the l7th Century, and Common Ridings recalling earlier turbulent times. Burnswark Fort is nearby. A large flat hill with 360 degree views around the area. A good central point from which to explore both hills and coast.
Moffat was once a well-known spa town, one of only two in Scotland, and it still retains the aura of its leisured past. The former baths and pump room now house the town hall. In this peaceful ambience, there are plenty of walks, from the Southern Uplands Way for dedicated walkers to guided hill walks, or just pleasant strolls for the less ambitious.
North-east up Moffat Water on the A708 is Scotland’s highest waterfall, Grey Mares Tail, where there is a walk for experienced hill walkers, and the famous ’Tibbie Shiels Inn’ at the foot of St Mary’s Loch. North-west up the A701 is the Devils Beef Tub, a huge natural depression in wild hills where border thieves (’reivers’) used to hide their stolen cattle.
The statue of the ram above the fountain in Moffat testifies to the importance of wool to the local economy. There are several mill shops in the area, and the high point of each year is the Installation of the Moffat Shepherd and Lass followed by the Shepherds’ Ball.
Three streams meet by this attractive village of painted cottages. The village cross dates from 1638. This was a centre for the Covenanters and to the west is a monument to James Renwick, the last man to be publicly executed. Nearby is the Iron Age Tynron Doon and Fort on a spectacular hilltop.
Set round a bay, formerly a haunt of smugglers, now a popular holiday village. A memorial son to the novelist Gavin Maxwell who wrote ’Ring of Bright Water’ and ’The House of Elrig’, is on a headland.
MOUSWALD - a small village with a tall 18th Century windmill tower still standing.
In an attractive wooded situation by the Pow Burn. Famous for the ruins of Sweetheart Abbey. Additional attractions include the working l8th Century Corn Mill and the Shambellie House Museum of the Costume.
NEW BRIDGE - crosses the Cluden Water. Nearby is the ’Twelve Apostles’ stone
This is the smallest Royal Burgh in Scotland, established by Viscount Kenmure in 1633. The fine granite bridge was built by Rennie. This district needed 10,000 Highland troops to subdue the Covenanters. Now a good holiday centre with golf, fishing and watersports in the vicinity, and also the RSPB Ken-Dee Nature Reserve.
By the meeting of the Main Water and Cross Water of Luce, an attractive village with its old red cottages restored.
NEWTON STEWART (visit the web site: www.newtonstewart.org)
Newton Stewart lies just south of the junction of Penkiln Burn and the River Cree, and is picturesquely sited on the slopes above the river. Across the River from Newton Stewart is Minnigaff, which is the older settlement, though today much smaller than Newton Stewart. There are traces of a former motte at Minnigaff and the village lies on an old road followed especially by pilgrims on their way to Whithorn Priory.
Newton Stewart is within reach of coast, forest and mountains, and some of Galloway’s finest scenery is to be found here. To the east, rising steeply to 711 metres (2,332ft), is Cairnsmore of Fleet round which Richard Hannay was pursued in John Buchan’s ’The Thirty-nine Steps’. To the north is Merrick at 843 metres (2,766ft), the highest mountain in southern Scotland, together with several other summits of more than 610 metres (2,000ft). Merrick can be climbed from Glen Trool. Dividing the district from the Glenkens is another range, the Rhins of Kells, with four summits over 610 metres (2,000ft).
Once the main port on the Urr estuary exporting millstones as far back as the I7th Century, and extremely busy in the 19th Century when it imported slates, holy coal and timber and exported the produce of this rich agricultural district. The home of the celebrated World Flounder Tramping Championship.
Once a busy harbour, exporting timber, grain and lead from local mines. The attractive Bargaly Glen is nearby.
James Clerk Maxwell is buried at Parton Kirk, near Gleanlair, Castle Douglas and visitors come from all over the world to visit it. www.clerkmaxwellfoundation.org/html/parton.html
On the Scar Water. By the ancient pilgrims’ track from Edinburgh to Whithorn, taken by James IV on one occasion. Birthplace of the African explorer Joseph Thomson, who gave his name to for Thomson’s gazelle.
PORT LOGAN (visit the web site: www.mull-of-galloway.co.uk)
A small planned village laid out in the 1818 by Colonel Andrew McDowall with a row of houses lining the bay and another row of cottages further up the hill. The port proved too exposed for the Irish ferry trade he had hoped for, but the picturesque lighthouse still stands. The famous saltwater Logan Fish Pond is close to the bay and Logan Botanic Garden is nearby.
PORTPATRICK (visit the web site: www.stranraer.org)
For many years, Portpatrick, with the short crossing to Donaghadee, was the main port for travellers to and from Ireland, until the coming of steam packet boats. It was ’Gretna Green’ for Ireland, which had the same marriage laws as England, and underage lovers came to Portpatrick to defy parents.
It still has its most picturesque old harbour with its rocky entrance and is still busy with small trawlers, yachts and boats. The round church tower probably served as a beacon for ships in the 17th Century, and the harbour was rebuilt more than once in an effort to enlarge it and make it more sheltered, but the sea always proved too stormy, and when the mail steamers moved to Stranraer, further attempts were abandoned.
The place is a favourite with holiday-makers, its charm recognised long ago by the building, in 1902, of a majestic hotel in the then fashionable Scottish Baronial style. Visitors can enjoy a park, playground, small beach, and opportunities for walks, including the first part of the Southern Upland Way along the coast. Sailors and sea-anglers use the harbour, while golfers have two courses to choose from..
PORT WILLIAM (visit the web site: www.portwilliam.com)
Founded by Sir William Maxwell in 1775, with fishing and shipbuilding trades, but also a noted place for smugglers, where two armed luggers with 50 men apiece were once discovered about to land their goods. Now a holiday place with a slipway for boats.
Where the Pow Water joins the Solway Firth, a former fishing village, now a holiday resort with camping and caravanning facilities and an 18-hole golf course.
A holiday area favoured by the Victorians, with yachts in summer, the walks along the Jubilee Path and Muckle Lands, the 5th Century Mote of Mark Hill Fort, and Rough Island bird sanctuary.
Known everywhere for the celebrated 7th Century Ruthwell Cross, now in a specially built apse in the church. A famous Dark Ages relic, with carved figures and inscriptions in Latin and Runic, it was knocked down as a ’monstrous idol’ in 1642, but restored in 1823.
The Trustee Savings Bank Museum is also here, where the first savings bank was founded (www.savingsbanksmuseum.co.uk).
Once a place used for landing lime and coal. Today a holiday resort, with miles of golden sandy beaches by Luce Bay, camping and caravans. Within a short distance is Kirkmadrine Church, which has some of the earliest Christian monuments in Scotland.
SANDYHILLS - seaside village with a large sandy beach intersected by a river.
There are remains of an ancient castle here. The town became a Royal Burgh in 1598. The staple industry was coal mining, where in the early days the miners and their families lived in bondage, unable to move or change their occupation, working under terrible conditions. The last mine closed in the 1960s. The town is famous for the Covenanters Richard Cameron and James Renwick and their defiance of the king. The Post Office is the oldest in Britain, dated 1763. The fine Georgian Tolbooth of 1735 is now a visitor centre with a museum, portraying the history of Upper Nithsdale.
To the north-west, by Glenkeln Loch, are sculptures by Henry Moore and Rodin. These are on private ground and may not be approached but are visible from the road.
A resort with caravans, camping and an 18-hole golf course. The disused lighthouse is one of the oldest in Scotland. Arbigland Gardens are close by.
Founded by Gilbert de Suthayk in 1180. Known to the Victorians as the ’Scottish Riviera’, the area is attractive with woodland, the Mersehead Sands and the geological features of the Needles Eye and Lot’s Wife. The parish contains the village of Caulkerbush.
SPRINGFIELD - a village founded in 1791 as a centre for weaving.
STRANRAER (visit the web site: www.stranraer.org)
Stranraer is an old settlement, with a castle dating from the 16th Century, and in the 18th and 19th Centuries it was a busy shipping centre, with shipbuilding in addition. It was not the main ferry port for Ireland in the days when sailing ships had to change course and negotiate the length of Loch Ryan, but with the coming of steam, the advantages of the sheltered Loch outweighed the shorter crossing from the more exposed Portpatrick.
The A75 passes through only a small section of Stranraer. Away from the port are hotels and guesthouses, camping and caravan sites. There are gardens where the visitor can sit and watch the ships going in and out of the busy harbour, parks where children can play, and a splendid golf course designed by the late James Braid and used for championship matches. Stranraer is the location for the Galloway Games, with trials of strength, music and dancing traditionally associated with the Highlands, as well as Agricultural and Horticultural Shows. Stranraer also houses the North west Castle Hotel which boasts its own Curling rink.
Town with a wide tree-lined main street, and a tall column surmounted by the Queensberry emblem of a winged horse. Near the river is the shaft of an Anglian Cross. A cross in nearby Dalgarnock churchyard commemorates 57 martyred Covenanters.
TINWALD - an ancient meeting place. Tinwald Downs was formerly an air-base.
Dominated by the hydro-electric power station, with a fish-pass for salmon. The bridge was designed by Thomas Telford.
Settlement here can be traced back to Iron Age times. In the l8th and l9th Centuries, it was a busy place with a corn mill, sawmills and a centre for blanket and tweed weaving.
In the hilly country which was a refuge for Covenanters. Tynron Doon Iron Age fort stands on a commanding hilltop.
Scotland’s highest village. Originally, situated in this wild and beautiful country because of the mineral wealth in the hills. Known from early times and extensively developed in the l8th and l9th Centuries. Site of the Museum of Lead Mining, with a walk-in mine, machinery and cottages on show.
A remote village in Eskdale with a monument to the famous engineer Thomas Telford (1757-1834) who was born here.
WHITHORN (visit the web site: www.whithorn.com)
The place where St. Ninian founded the first Christian church in Scotland in the 4th Century and site of important excavations, ’The Whithorn Dig’.
Wigtown was the medieval capital of the region, having been given the status of a royal burgh by 1292, with a busy harbour, castle and priory. It remained an important harbour, with quays along the River Bladnoch, until the early years of this century when many channels were blocked by silt. To realise how the sea has retreated, look at the stake to which two martyred women were tied, in a place where it would now be totally impossible for anyone to drown.
The large square in the centre of the town, with the houses painted in different colours and two market crosses, is typical of the unhurried and friendly atmosphere of the region. For interesting places to go, there is a choice between a martyrs’ memorial on a hilltop with magnificent views, Bladnoch Distillery and visitor centre - a working distillery since 2002 producing a single malt whisky or nearby Torhouse Stone Circle; a bronze age stone circle consisting of 19 boulders.
The Wigtown area is also home to the Wigtown Bay Visitor Centre with live TV images of the Galloway Ospreys and the wetlands at Wigtown Bay Local Nature Reserve (the largest in Britain).
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