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Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Dumfries, Scotland

The administrative center for the region, Dumfries (pop. 33,000) lies on the River Nith which flows into the Solway Firth a little further south. The town can look back over an eventful history. It obtained its charter as a "Royal Burgh" from Robert II in 1395. The old town hall in the middle of the market place was built in 1708 and the bridge, now reserved for pedestrians, dates from 1208.

Dumfries Museum

Although the Dumfries Museum on Corbelly Hill specializes in local history, it also possesses an observatory with a Camera Obscura that was installed in 1836.
Address: The Observatory, Dumfries DG27SW, Scotland

Burns' House

The house on Burns Street (formerly Mill Vennel), where the celebrated poet spent the last four years of his life and where his wife Jean Armour lived until her death in 1834, is now a museum displaying Burns memorabilia.
Address: Burns Street, Dumfries DG1 2PS, Scotland

Burns' Mausoleum

The poet's last resting place is to be found a short distance from the Burns' Museum in St Michael's churchyard. The mausoleum was erected in 1815.
Address: Burns Street, Dumfries DG1 2PS, Scotland

Burns Centre

An 18th C mill in Mill Road on the west bank of the River Nith documents the last few years of the Burns' life and also recreates something of the atmosphere in Dumfries during the 1790s.

Lochmaben Castle

The resort of Lochmaben (9mi/14.4km to the northeast of Dumfries) is surrounded by five lakes so that it resembles an island. The lakes are of course popular with anglers, while the abandoned castle is claimed, alongside Turnberry Castle, as the birthplace of Robert the Bruce whose statue stands in front of the town hall.
Address: Longmore House, Salisbury Place, Jedburgh TD8 6JQ, Scotland

Ecclefechan - Thomas Carlyle's Birthplace

The Victorian writer Thomas Carlyle was born in Ecclefechan and the house where he grew up maintains a collection of manuscripts and other memorabilia.
Carlyle is buried in the graveyard.
Address: The Arched House, Ecclefechan, Lockerbie DG11 3DG, Scotland

Ruthwell Cross

Ruthwell and its early Christian cross are well worth a visit before returning to Dumfries. A niche in the purpose-built church houses one of the two most famous Christian crosses of Anglo-Saxon times. Carved out of sandstone probably in the eighth century, it reaches a height of 17ft/5.20m. It is possible to make out some Latin inscriptions as well as several biblical figures and leaf patterns.

Caerlaverock Castle

Caerlaverock Castle and moat at Dumfries.
The B735 leads past the imposing ruins of Caerlaverock Castle (8mi/13km to the southwest) which was once the home of the Maxwell family. The castle dates from 1270 when the English established a bridgehead here in order to mount an invasion of the rest of Scotland. The triangular fortress plus drawbridge and water-filled moat was altered in the 15th century and a double-tower gate house was added. The Nithsdale Apartments and ornate Renaissance facade on the east side of the castle originated in the 17th century when, after the Union of Crowns in 1603, the castle became more a residence and less a fortification. The first Earl of Nithsdale improved the appearance of his home by adding heraldic symbols and pointed or round window and door pediments. A few years later, however, the interior was abandoned after an attack by the Covenanters. It is thought that "Ellangowan" in Scott's "Guy Mannering" is modeled on this moated castle.
The nearby marshland is a haven for swans, ducks and wading birds and in the winter thousands of Brent geese come here to breed.
For ornithologists the best time of year to visit Caerlaverock is January and February. There are other sights nearby which are also worth a visit, including Carsethorn and Southerness Point. Check with the local authorities regarding entrance limitations.
Address: Longmore House, Salisbury Place, Jedburgh TD8 6JQ, Scotland
PRINT MAP EMBED < > Caerlaverock Castle - Floor plan map Caerlaverock Castle Map

Lincluden Abbey

The ruins of Lincluden Abbey lie about 1.5mi/2.4km north of Dumfries. This Benedictine monastery founded in the 12th C was elevated to collegiate church by Archibald "the Grim". All that remains are the chancel, sacristy and parts of the small 15th C sandstone chapel. Princess Margaret (d. 1430), daughter of Robert III, is buried in the chancel where the Late Gothic window tracery still survives.
Address: Longmore House, Salisbury Place, Jedburgh TD8 6JQ, Scotland

Ellisland Farm - Robert Burns Museum

In 1788 Ellisland Farm (6.5mi/10.4km northwest of Dumfries) Robert Burns began to employ new agricultural methods but with such little success that the land had to be sold off in 1791. The famous ballad about his friend "Tam o'Shanter" and "Auld Lang Syne" was written while he lived here.
Address: Holywood Road, Dumfries DG2 0RP, Scotland

Glenkiln Sculpture Park

Just 3mi/4.8km northwest of Maxwelton House near Moniave a special experience awaits art lovers. Just a mile or two south of the village on a lonely moor near Glenkiln estate, about halfway up the hillside, stand Henry Moore's life-size bronze sculptures entitled "King and Queen". The owner Sir William Keswick has gathered together an appreciable outdoor collection, including works by Rodin and Renoir.

Drumlanrig Castle

Drumlanrig Castle is situated about 9mi/14.4km north of Moniave. It was the seat of the Douglas family, later to become the Dukes of Buccleuch and Queensberry. An avenue of beech trees leads up to this picture-book castle of red sandstone crowned with numerous small towers. James Smith and his father-in-law Robert Mylne were commissioned by the first Duke of Queensberry to design the castle and work started in 1679. When the duke was presented with the bill for the castle of his dreams, he is said to have been so taken aback that he only stayed there one more night. This four-winged Renaissance palace with its decorative facade possesses a unique collection of French furniture from the 17th and 18th centuries. Highlights include fine chests of drawers, cupboards and inlaid tables by Charles Cressent, Pierre II Migeon, Jacques Denizot and Adrien Delorme. Carvings by Grinling Gibbons are highlights of the Lounge and Dining Room and the collection of paintings with portraits by Kneller, van Dyck, Ramsay, Reynolds and Gainsborough deserve attention but the three masterpieces by Leonardo da Vinci, Hans Holbein the Younger and Rembrandt are the castle's most prized possessions. Some 17th century Brussels tapestries, Chelsea, Derby and Meissen porcelain are also of interest. "Bonnie Prince Charlie" is said to have stayed the night here on December 22, 1745 and a portrait and a gold casket belonging to the unfortunate Pretender are on display.
Address: Thornhill, Dumfries DG3 4AQ, Scotland

Grey Mares Tail

To the northeast of Moffat just before the boundary with the Borders region, the A708 passes a 200ft/61m high waterfall that cascades from the southern end of Loch Skene.
Address: Newhailes Road, Musselburgh EH21 6RY, Scotland

Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum

Tracing the history of the Tinwalds Down airfield and aviation in the local area, this museum also houses a Venom, a Vampire and a Super Sabre.
Address: Heathhall Industrial Estate, Dumfries DG13 PH, Scotland

Surroundings

New Abbey - Sweetheart Abbey

Follow the A710 south out of Dumfries. Before reaching the coast and the fine views over the Solway Firth, stop off at New Abbey and pay a visit to the delightful ruins of Sweetheart Abbey. The Cistercian Abbey here was founded in 1273 by Devorgilla, who also played a part in the creation of Balliol College, Oxford. She always carried the embalmed heart of her beloved husband John Balliol with her in an ivory box and after her death it was buried alongside her - hence the origins of the name.
Address: Longmore House, Salisbury Place, Jedburgh TD8 6JQ, Scotland

Corn Mill

In New Abbey a pretty mill dating from the late 18th century grinds corn in the traditional style.
Address: Longmore House, Salisbury Place, Jedburgh TD8 6JQ, Scotland

Shambellie House

The carefully prepared collection at the costume museum in Shambellie House brings to life the elegance of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. The premises were built by David Bryce ca. 1856 for the Stewart family.

Gretna Green, Scotland

Old church at Gretna Green.
The border village of Gretna Green was at one time the world's most famous refuge for young lovers. Nowhere else was it so simple to receive a priest's blessing for marriage without parental permission as in this village just off the A1 a few miles north of the English town of Carlisle.
After union with England in 1707, Scotland retained a legal system which had evolved in its own way over the centuries. Under Scottish law only two witnesses to the wedding ceremony were required. These "mock marriages" acquired notoriety throughout the world, especially as the village blacksmith's shop was usually the place where the knot was tied. In Scotland, once a youngster reached the age of sixteen, parents were not able to stand in their way if they wished to marry, whereas in England parental consent was needed for minors, i.e. those under the age of 21. In 1846 the law was amended and it became necessary for one of the partners to the marriage to reside in Scotland for at least 21 days before the ceremony, a change which helped to boost the hotel trade in the vicinity if nothing else. The practice continued with tales of parents chasing children across the border - and happy and tragic endings. The so-called "Anvil Marriages" were finally declared illegal in 1940.
The legends surrounding Gretna have had an enduring effect on young couples - every year throughout the last decade over 1,000 marriages have taken place here. For many young lovers Gretna is still a romantic setting for a wedding. In the meantime, outlets for tartan and tweed have sprung up alongside handicraft centers and a coach museum.

Old Blacksmith's Shop

Detail of the old Blacksmith's Shop at Gretna Green.
The Old Blacksmith's Shop where the wedding ceremony for runaway lovers used to be held has some romantic tales to tell.

Dundrennan Abbey

Dundrennan Abbey, a 12th century Cistercian monastery, still retains some of its earlier splendor. The transepts and the chancel in Late Norman Transitional style are well preserved and the gravestones are of interest. May 15, 1586 is said to have been the last night Mary Stuart spent in Scotland, before seeking refuge in England.

Ardwell House Gardens

Although the 18th century country house itself is not open to the public, visitors are welcome to wander through the beautiful park with rhododendrons, camellias, azaleas, roses, three small lakes and a fine view of Luce Bay.

Galloway Forest Park

The A712 between New Galloway (to the northwest of Castle Stewart) and Newton Stewart passes through the magnificent woodland of Galloway Forest Park (152sq. mi/400sq.km).

Galloway - Bruce's Stone

On the banks of Chatteringshaws Loch a granite stone commemorates the victory of Robert the Bruce over the English in March 1307.

Moffat, Scotland

In the middle of the 17th century the discovery of sulfur springs transformed the quiet village of Moffat ((pop. 2,000; 20mi/32km north of Dumfries) into a popular spa town. Of more importance for the local economy, however, was sheep farming. A bronze ram on the Colvin fountain in High Street symbolizes the prosperity that wool and textiles have brought to the region. The local woolen mill can offer a wide selection of high-quality woolen products from both the Southern Uplands and northern Scotland.

Whithorn - Priory & Museum (Cradle of Christianity)

At the end of the fourth century St Ninian built a small chapel in Whithorn and named it "Candida Casa" on account of the white stone. The holy site was consecrated in the name of Martin of Tours, a teacher and friend of St Ninian who, as the historian Bede reported 300 years later, dispatched stonemasons to help with the construction. Soon Whithorn became an important early Christian abbey and the shrine of St Ninian developed into a popular place of pilgrimage. Whithorn was later elevated to a Celtic bishopric and ca. 1160 a monastery for the Premonstratensian order was founded here. After the Reformation, a Protestant bishop resided in the abbey, but from 1689 the sacred site became the parish church. Little remains of what is often described as the "cradle" of Christianity in Scotland. St Ninian's "White House" lay to the east of the chancel but only the foundations remain and they are hard to identify. The medieval main nave, now minus roof, underwent a number of changes in the 17th and 18th century, however, the tombs and Norman west portal deserve close attention. The grave of St Ninian once occupied the crypt (ca. 1200) and the Latinus or Barrovadus headstone in the museum is regarded as one of the earliest Christian monuments in Scotland.
Address: The Whithorn Trust, 45-47 George Street, Whithorn DG8 8PY, Scotland

Stranraer, Scotland

Even the Romans appreciated the protected position of Loch Ryan and anchored their ships in the bay off Stranraer (pop. 11,300). The harbor is now used by ferries for Northern Ireland and, in the summer, for the Isle of Man.

Castle Kennedy & Lochinch Garden

About 3mi/5km from the harbor at Stranraer take a detour off the A75 to the bewitching Castle Kennedy Garden. It is well known for its collection of old trees and colorful rhododendrons, magnolias and azaleas.
The garden also ha a two-acre lily pond, a walled garden and an avenue of interesting Monkey Puzzle trees.
Address: Stair Estates, Stranraer DG9 8BX, Scotland

Castle St John

The tower house at Castle St John (ca. 1500) was once the home of the infamous persecutor of Covenanters, John Graham of Claverhouse, and later served as a prison. The small museum focuses on the history of justice from the Middle Ages to the present day.

Glenluce, Scotland

Glenluce is located on the A75 7mi/10km east of Stranraer.

Glenluce Abbey

The A75 from Newton Stewart to Stranraer runs close to Glenluce and the picturesque ruins of Roland of Galloway's monastery (1192) It was the sixth Cistercian abbey on Scottish soil and was later taken over by the monks of Dundrennan Abbey. In the 13th century the wizard Michael Scott is said to have attempted to rid the abbey of the plague by imprisoning it in a dungeon and leaving it to starve to death. Part of the southern transept of the abbey remains, as does the ribbed vaulting in the chapterhouse (1470). Entry to the chapterhouse is via a decorative round arch, which was probably renovated during the early 16th century.
Address: Longmore House, Salisbury Place, Jedburgh TD8 6JQ, Scotland

Glenluce Motor Museum

Exhibits at Glenluce Motor Museum include almost 40 two-wheel and four-wheel veteran and vintage vehicles.

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