The name of the castle is Lochinch. It was built in 1867, and is the home of the Earl of Stair. Situated on a peninsula that juts out between White and Black Lochs, the present building replaced Castle Kennedy which was destroyed by a fire in 1716. The plan of the grounds was inspired by the gardens of Versailles.
Sir Walter Scott‘s ‘Queen of the South’ is a prosperous and handsome county town and market centre; with old sandstone buildings and large parks. The town’s focal point is the Midsteeple, the municipal building dating from about 1707. On its walls are an ell measurement and a table of distances that includes Huntingdon for the 18th-century cattle drovers made long journeys. Dumfries Burgh Museum and Camera Obscura (1835-6) occupy an old windmill. The stone Old Bridge replaced the wooded one erected by the Lady Devorgilla, wife of John of Balliol, founder of Balliol College, Oxford. Here you can see the old Bridge House Museum, and downstream, the Caul, an 18th century weir where salmon leap. The remains of the collegiate church of Lincluden College stand on the west side of the river. Burns House is where the poet lived until his death in 1796. His Mausoleum is in St Michael’s Churchyard.
Defeated at the Battle of Langside in 1568, and destined shortly after to be imprisoned in England, Mary Queen of Scots spent her last night on Scottish soil at Dundrennan Abbey. This Cistercian foundation is now a ruin, thanks to the resourceful local villagers who used much of the abbey stone to build their own homes. Mary sailed from Port Mary, 2 miles south, for England to seek help from Elizabeth I who instead imprisoned her.
Arched House so called because it was built over a pond, was the birthplace in 1795 of the scholar Thomas Carlyle. His statue is a prominent sight in the village, and he is buried in the churchyard.
Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet, lived in this Nithdale farmhouse from 1788 to 1791. It was here that he composed many of his poems, including the famous ‘Tam O’Shanter’.
For over a century this border village was a favourite destination for runaway English lovers wishing to marry without their parents’ consent. After a law of 1754, clandestine marriages were banned in England, but in Scotland all that was required was for a couple to declare that they wished to become man and wife in front of witnesses. In Gretna Green it took place over the anvil, which can still be seen. In 1856 a new law required one of the couple to live in Scotland for three weeks, but it was not until another law was passed in 1940 that the village smith was banned from performing the ceremony altogether.
Kirkcudbright, (pronounced Kircoobri) an ancient Royal Burgh on the Dee estuary, is the most important town in the area, with a small harbour at the head of Kirkcudbright Bay. Its name means ‘Church of Cuthbert’, and part of the old gateway to the town is incorporated in the entrance to the Marshall, the 18th-century tinker king’ who lived to be 120 – having reputedly fathered four children after the age of 100. At the Selkirk Arms Hotel in the High Street, Burns wrote the famous Selkirk Grace:
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.’
The tolbooth is now a memorial to John Paul Jones, imprisoned here in 1773.
The Stewartry (or ‘county’) Museum includes firearms, domestic and agricultural equipment and a natural history section, while 18th century Broughton House has an interesting library and an attractive garden. McLellan’s Castle is an impressive castellated mansion overlooking the harbour, built in 1582 by Sir Thomas McLellan who was Provost at that time. 4 and a half miles south east of the town is Dundrennan where Mary .Queen of Scots spent her last night in Scotland.
The market town of Lockerbie is famous for its August Lamb Fair, which has taken place ever since the 17th century. In 1593 one of the last of the Border family feuds ended here, when the Johnstones slaughtered 700 Maxwells and chopped off the ears of many of their victims a method of mutilation subsequently known as the ‘Lockerbie Nick’. South east is Ecclefechan, birthplace of Thomas Carlyle.
The small Annandale town of Lochmaben has Castle Loch to the south east, Kirk and Mill Lochs to the south west and north west. The vendace, a rare fish with a heart shaped mark on its head, is found in Castle and Mill Lochs. Castle Loch is also a nature reserve and at its south end stand the ruins of Lochmaben Castle. Robert the Bruce may have been born here on what is now the site of Lochmaben Castle. The castle was built in the 14th century. Mary Queen of Scots visited in 1565.
Three miles south west, Skipmyre was the birthplace in 1858 of William Paterson, a founder of the Bank of England, who tried unsuccessfully to establish a settlement on the Isthmus of Panama. Rammerscales is a house with many Jacobite relics; it has associations with Flora Macdonald.
Moffat lies at the heart of the Lowlands sheep farming country. In the High Street a large bronze ram tops the column fountain, a reminder of the prosperity the wool trade brought to the town. Moffar’s popularity was boosted in the 17th century with the discovery of a sulphur spring just to the north. Among the distinguished visitors who came to take the waters were James Boswell, and Robert Burns who wrote the drinking song ‘0 Willie brew’d a peck o’ Malt’ here. Moffat’s famous sons include John Macadam, the road engineer, and Air Chief Marshall Lord Dowding, whose airmen won the Battle of Britain. St Ninian’s preparatory school was founded by Lord Dowding’s father. Enriching the town is the magnificent scenery of the Annandale hill country. The river Annan provides excellent fishing and walkers will delight in the 200ft Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall described by Scott in Marmion, and the sheer-sided Devil’s Beef Tub, mentioned in Red Gauntlet and thought to have been a cattle raiders’ cache.
The village has a monument to James Renwick the last of the Covenanters to die for the cause who was executed at Edinburgh, in 1688, aged 26. It also has Maxwelton House, the family home of Annie Laurie (1682-1764), whose rejected suitor William Douglas immortalised her in a poem, which was put to music in 1755. Annie eventually married and lived at Craigdarroch two and a half miles west of Moniaive in a William Adam house. She is buried in the churchyard at Glencairn near Maxwelton.
New Abbey is not of course new, nor is it the name of the abbey. Sweetheart Abbey, called ‘New’ to avoid confusion with nearby Dundrennan, was founded in 1273 by Devorgilla, wife of John Baliol who created the Oxford college of that name in her husband’s memory and after his death, had his heart embalmed in a silver and ivory casket and buried with her. The red sandstone ruins are remarkably beautiful. Just outside the village is Shambellie House Museum of Costume which is run by the Royal Scottish Museum.
At Newton Stewart you can visit a mill and watch mohair rugs and scarves being made; you can admire the 57ft edifice erected in 1875 to honour the 5th Earl of Galloway (Stewart is the family name: one of his ancestors persuaded Charles II to grant the town a charter), and the bridge spanning the River Cree designed by John Rennie. It is an attractive little market town and a good centre from which to walk.
Wigtown’s harbour is now silted up, but the town is still one of the main centres of the Machars Peninsula, an area noted for its fishing and wild fowl. In the town square stand two crosses – one dating from the 18th century and topped with a sundial, the other from the 19th century. A post at the mouth of the river Bladnoch commemorates the death in 1685 of two women Covenanters, tied to stakes until they were drowned by the rising tide as a punishment for supposedly attending meetings of their sect. A mile to the south west of the town lie the remains of Baldoon Castle, the setting of Scott’s Bride of Lammermoor, and a Bronze Age circle of 19 stones stands 3 miles north west.
Whithorn Priory stands on the site of the first Christian church in Scotland St Ninian’s ‘Candida Casa’ or White House, part of the 4th century monastery he founded here. The priory was built in the 12th century by Fergus, Lord of Galloway, and excavations of its ruins have revealed traces of the earlier church. Little remains of the 12th-century building, but there is a fine Norman doorway to the nave, and the ancient crosses and tombstones contained in the town museum include the 5th century Latinus Stone.