This old established town is an important centre for South-West Scotland. It makes an excellent touring base in a diverse area with plenty of historical and natural attractions.
Dumfries – the Queen of the South
A Royal Burgh from as far back as the 12th century, Dumfries stands at the lowest bridging point of the River Nith. In fact, its still-standing Devorgilla Bridge dates from 1432, making it one of the very oldest bridges in Scotland. The town was the setting of a pivotal moment on the Scots Wars of Independence as it was here that Robert the Bruce murdered his rival John Comyn (the Red Comyn) thus committing himself to the campaign for the Scottish crown.
Its position near the Scottish border meant that strife and destruction came to the town several times – even as late as 1745 Bonnie Prince Charlie and his army stopped at the town during the last Jacobite uprising. Forty-three years later Robert Burns arrived as a permanent resident for the remaining years of his life.
Today, the town is a vibrant commercial and shopping centre for Galloway, with its distinctive local red stone, Locharbriggs sandstone, adding to the ambience.
Accommodation in Dumfries:
Hotel accommodation in Dumfries is easy to find and ranges from establishments in the heart of the town to baronial halls in parkland settings. There is also an excellent range of guest house and bed and breakfast accommodation. Self-catering properties are available in town, some with river views, and there is also an excellent choice in rural settings nearby. There is also a good range of caravan parks at all compass points around the town, some on coastal locations.
Many of the main attractions in Dumfries inevitably take a Robert Burns theme. Outside the town, the Burns’ connections include Ellisland Farm to the north and the tiny, poignant Brow Well south-east of the town. Dumfries Museum displays a wide ranging collection and is centred round a former windmill tower, now a camera obscura. The Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum s based around the preserved control tower of what was formerly RAF Tinwald Downs on the edge of Dumfries. It tells the story of the important training role of the airfield here. Visitors on short excursions from Dumfries can enjoy historic attractions such as Sweetheart Abbey, at New Abbey, with the Shambellie House Museum of Costume nearby. East of the River Nith, Caerlaverock gives its name to an ancient castle and a national nature reserve – both well worth discovering.
Starting with the River Nith, there is great angling country around Dumfries, with tackle shops (and advice) in the town. Golf is also easy to arrange and there are more than 30 courses across Galloway. With its long open coastline, mudflats and marsh, the coast of Galloway within reach of Dumfries offers many birdwatching options. Dumfries makes an excellent base for discovering the off-road cycling options of the area, notably the 7stanes Forestry Commission developments in the area – where Mabie, south of the town, is the original mountain biking venue in the South-West.
Scotland’s national poet lived in the town from 1788 until his death in 1796. His favourite pub or ‘howff’, the Globe Inn, is still open for business. Robert Burns House, the small townhouse he once occupied, is a museum with many relics of the poet. The Robert Burns Centre, a converted mill building by the river, tells the story of the poet’s life. Burns Mausoleum in the town was built in 1815, as a fitting resting place for the bard.
The extensive tidal marshes at Caerlaverock offer plenty of birdwatching spectacles in terms of goose numbers in winter, with barnacle geese from the Arctic an especially important species. The sights and sounds of so many birds can be enjoyed at the Wildlfowl and Wetlands Trust Centre at Eastpark Farm with its variety of hides and optical equipment. Close by is moated Caerlaverock Castle, with its unique triangular design and twin towered gatehouse.
With a world ceilidh at Castle Douglas over four days in May, a wildlife festival throughout Galloway in April plus the famous Spring Fling, the Galloway-wide arts festival, happening at the end of May, Dumfries and Galloway offers a varied events programme – including the Wickerman Festival at Dundrennan to the south-west in July.