What to see in Dumfries and Galloway
Dumfries & Galloway is a beautiful region of Scotland which has plenty of options for easy walking activities and exploration.
The region is rich in history, heritage, natural beauty, art and culture. The town of Dumfries is a great place to use as a base to explore the region. It also has a lot to offer itself. Dumfries has earned fame for its literary associations with Robert Burns and J. M. Barrie. These associations have helped to create a cultural character and atmosphere in the old market town.
While you are in Dumfries you have to check out the cafes offering tea and scones and you absolutely have to try some traditional Scottish tablet when in town. If you don’t know what that is you are in for a treat it’s simply the best kind of butter-based fudge there is.
Where is Dumfries & Galloway
A stunningly beautiful area of Scotland Dumfries and Galloway stretches from just south of Glasgow in the northern part to Gretna Green in the south and Stranraer to Langholm in the southwest of Scotland. Covering miles of rolling countryside and coast this area is a walkers paradise.
What to do in Dumfries and Galloway
You can visit Moat Brae – the house where J. M. Barrie spent time as a child. The house and gardens were the inspiration for Barrie’s Neverland when writing Peter Pan. When the house faced recent demolition the Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust fundraised to save the building.
It is now open as a National Centre for Children’s Literature and Storytelling. It is a wonderful place for a relaxing and inspiring afternoon for all ages! The riverside gardens are stunning and can be explored along gentle pathways. The exhibitions include displays about J. M. Barrie’s life and work. There are also immersive spaces celebrating children’s books and reading. All areas are fully accessible by lifts or ramps.
Sites associated with Scotland’s National Bard are also prevalent in Dumfries. You can visit the Robert Burns House where Burns lived during the last years of his life. Be aware that there are steps into the house and stairs to the upper floor. In nearby St Michael’s churchyard, you can see the Mausoleum constructed in his honour. You will need to navigate some steps on your way into the churchyard.
According to history Robert Burns first came to Dumfries & Galloway as an exciseman to catch the smugglers that plagued the coastline of the area and used the many caves along the shoreline.
What to see in Dumfries
A pleasant way to take in much of the town’s beauty and history is by exploring around the river. You can take a gentle walk through the tree-lined Dock Park which sits alongside the River Nith. If you are up for it there is a fun Peter Pan themed crazy golf course in the park! You will also find monuments to two of the town’s locals who died on the Titanic. And there is a whale-shaped sculpture. This celebrates the Norwegian soldiers stationed in Dumfries during the Second World War.
From the park, you can cross the Nith via the ramped Suspension Bridge. The Suspension Bridge was originally constructed to enable workers to get to the now derelict Rosefield Mills. From the bridge, it’s a gentle walk across Mill Green. You can pop into the Robert Burns Centre to see a fascinating display about Burns and Dumfries. You might also be able to catch a movie at the renovated mill’s independent cinema.
On this side of the river, Dumfries also has a museum. It is packed with fascinating displays about local history. The museum also has an impressive Camera Obscura similar to Oxford’s. However, be aware that if you are walking, the streets running up to the museum are steep. There are also several spiral staircases to reach the Camera Obscura room. If you can manage them it is worth it to see the Camera Obscura in action.
The Mill Green is a lovely spot to take in views of the River Nith’s bridges and the river itself. You can occasionally see herons in this area, along with other wildlife. Devorgilla Bridge is a stunning structure which dates back to the 15th Century. Its name comes from the influential Lady Devorgilla. If you are able to take a day trip out of Dumfries you can visit Sweetheart Abbey. Devorgilla established the Abbey in the 13th century in memory of her husband. After his death, she carried his embalmed heart with her in an Ivory box. They were both buried at Sweetheart Abbey.
At the end of Devorgilla Bridge, you can find a tiny museum in the smallest house in Dumfries. The 17th century Old Bridge House consists of a few small rooms. It has been the home of a barrel-maker, an inn, and was divided into two flats in the 1950s. It now features several intricate displays including a historic kitchen, bedroom, and even a dentist’s surgery! There are a few steps to get around the house.
If you are not a fan of steps avoid crossing the river at Devorgilla Bridge. It has steep steps on the Whitesands side of the river. Instead, you can walk further along to Buccleuch Street Bridge which is step-free.
Other beautiful areas of Dumfries to explore include the Crichton Gardens and grounds of the University campus. The former mental hospital has impressive buildings and tranquil gardens. These are great for a gentle walk to take in stunning views of the rolling countryside around Dumfries. Take a bus or taxi up to the grounds. The walk up to the campus from town is steep and lengthy!
If you would like to take in some art, the Gracefield Arts Centre on Edinburgh Road features changing exhibitions. The gallery often showcases the work of local artists and hosts workshops and activities.
For those who enjoy a relaxing drink after exploring, pop into the Globe Inn, just off the High Street. This was Robert Burns’s favourite watering hole. At the other end of the High Street, you can see an imposing statue of Burns.
Dumfries is well-placed for day trips in the region. Some of the areas which are well worth a visit include Kirkcudbright. “The Artists Town” is a centre for arts in the region. As well as checking out the numerous galleries you can also take a gentle walk by the River Dee.
I’d also recommend Caerlaverock Castle which is a stunning historic site of conflict. Caerlaverock is a moated triangular-shaped castle that was built in the 13th century. It is around 11 km south of Dumfries and was abandoned in 1640. Today it stands as a tourist attraction and protected by the Historic Environment Scotland.
Gretna Green is worth a visit to see the famous blacksmith shop associated with runaway lovers. You can also see The Big Dance sculpture and get lost (and find yourself again) in the Courtship Maze!
Dumfries and the wider region hosts a number of great cultural festivals across the year. If you are an art fan, plan your visit to coincide with the Spring Fling. Every spring there is a region-wide art festival of open studios. Kirkcudbright hosts Summer Festivities which include the Floodlit Tatoo. Late summer sees the exciting Nith Raid in Dumfries. The festival celebrates the river and includes a race on the last high tide of summer.
The regions highlight for book lovers is the Wigtown Book Festival in Autumn. In late January Dumfries focusses its festivities on celebrating Burns. The Big Burns Supper festival is growing every year. It features a wide variety of music and performance throughout the town.
Where to stay in Galloway and Drumfries
Trigony House: A fabulous dog-friendly country estate with a relaxed atmosphere and an award-winning restaurant.
Cavens House: Winner of the hotel of the year this beautiful hotel is set in 6 acres of land with views of the Solway Coast a perfect location for a romantic stay.
Knockinaam Lodge: Set in 36 ultra-private acres this former hunting lodge’s guests included Churchill and Eisenhower, Featuring a Michelin starred restaurant and romance aplenty this luxurious stay is for those who appreciate the good life. It has stunning beachfront views as well, an added bonus.
Donna’s Bed and Breakfast: Overlooks the Nith River and gets absolutely rave reviews for both the comfort of the rooms and a full Scottish breakfast. It’s also only a 5-minute walk into Dumfries.
What to pack for Dumfries & Galloway Scotland
Personal experience tells me that I need a carryon bag with those twisty wheels that go in all directions and has both carrying handles and a pull-out drag bar thingy. I want sturdy fabric, preferably in a day-glow colour so I can see the damn thing if I do have to check it. I also want soft sides that give a little – just in case. My recommended one? Well, I pick the azure blue Travelpro Maxlite 5 19″ Expandable International Carry-On Spinner. I know it’s a mouthful but it is a great case and so far so good it’s lasted me 5 years of repeated airport bashing.
Now this one may seem a little odd but I see a lot of N. Americans complaining that most hotels and B&B’s in Europe and the UK don’t have washcloths. Well, that’s true I mean after all who wants to use a used washcloth. Take your own these are great quick-drying washcloths that are reusable and environmentally friendly.
Now if you are really concerned about the whole liquid issue why not take solid shampoo bars and body wash bars. These products are paraben and SLS free, TSA approved (so to speak) perfume-free and chemical-free. That makes them very environmentally friendly and they are so easy to use.
I love a multipurpose jacket Craghoppers 3 in 1 jacket. It’s windproof, waterproof and breathable and has a drawcord at the waist which helps me look like I have one. It’s not bulky and looks good even when not hiking it is simply perfect for trekking around Scotland where you can never be sure about the weather.
Now you are going to need a 110v to 220v voltage converter so you can plug in hairdryers, phones, laptops or tablets and so on. My personal favourite and one that has lasted me 4 years is the Bestek Universal Travel Adapter.
Trust me on this one you will have more photos than you can store on either your phone or your camera and you don’t want to be deleting any to take more before you get home.
This Ultra Scandisk chip will work under adverse weather conditions (we get a lot of those here) and keep your photos or drone footage totally safe. A flash drive for your Smart Phone or Android will also come in very handy.
I’m not going to recommend cameras or other types of photographic equipment such as a drone because – well because I am a crap photographer who uses a good cell phone for most of my photos. Now I want a drone but I have to admit I haven’t bought one yet. So I was reading all kinds of reviews and know which one I want this a Holystone 1080P Drone….sigh if only. This has a huge flying time of 26 minutes.
This little beauty is a Lipstick-Sized Portable Charger, which is an absolute, must-have when travelling. I keep mine charged and then bring it with me just in case. There is nothing worse than running out of juice when you are snapping some of the best views ever. You will never be out of power with this charger.
In Scotland, a Windproof Umbrella will save your hair and clothes and is a requirement. I really like this small portable travel umbrella. It’s windproof, waterproof, and folds down super small and will fit into any purse or suitcase.
I never would have dreamed of bringing a flashlight with me to Scotland, but when it’s dark here man it’s freaking dark. This torch is perfect it has 5 modes, is rechargeable, super lightweight and waterproof you couldn’t ask for more perfect for lighting your way home from the pub.
A concealed travel pouch may be one of the most important items you bring with you on your trip to Europe. This unisex RFID blocking concealed travel pouch is lightweight and comes in several colours. It has lots of organizational pockets to give you peace of mind. You can keep your most valuable documents safe and secure next to your body.
If you have a pouch already you may not want to or need to invest in a new one, like me. If it does not come with the RFID protection, these RFID sleeves would be handy to prevent identity theft. This configuration comes with enough passport and credit card sleeves that the entire family would be protected. They are slim too, so they will easily fit into your wallet.
If you are planning on taking a lot of pictures with your phone you will definitely want to consider an external charging battery. This Anker high-speed phone charging battery is the exact one I use. It can be used on a variety of phones.
I hate selfies but if you have to have one or if like me you have shaky hands the FugeTek Selfie Stick and Tripod has Bloothtooth connectivity so it is very easy to use. It is made of long-lasting aluminium and is very lightweight and easy to carry.
Don’t forget to bring along a universal power adapter on your trip to Europe. This worldwide power plug is a great example and will charge your phone at the end of your busy days. And this world traveller adapter kit can charge several devices at the same time.
If you want to travel light and in Europe without paying extra for luggage you need packing cubes. These Bagail packing cubes are the exact ones I use whenever I travel.
This foldable water-resistant backpack is brilliant for making sure your things are protected and secure. I don’t bother to carry a purse this is what I find works for me mainly because its “hands-free” and I can easily carry everything in it.
I love this antitheft backpack it looks good and doesn’t look scruffy it has a grey finish and it fits my 15″ laptop perfectly.
There’s a lot of walking to be done in Europe and I highly recommend Fitflops for the sheer comfort and durability. I’ve had my loafers for 5 years and they have held up beautifully. I admit to having terrible feet what with neuralgia, metatarsalgia and other conditions walking can become unbearable, my Fitflops are my saving grace and I don’t wear any other kind.
I adore a scarf – when travelling light scarves can make or break your wardrobe. I always take around 5 with me to change up my outfits. I’m not exactly an “outfit” kind of person but when I want to cheer up my basic black, white and grey wardrobe a scarf fits the bill perfectly.
This lightweight cotton scarf comes in a huge variety of checks, plaids and stripes perfect for adding that little personal style to your travel wardrobe.
I do love a fancy embroidered scarf as well, it can be used as a shawl and I have this type of scarf in a few colours and I can use it as a shawl, scarf or headwrap with its beautiful embroidered flowers I feel a little more dressed up.
If you have an aversion to mixed fibre scarves and wraps why not go for an environmentally friendly hemp version? This type of scarf will last virtually forever and the colours it comes it will brighten every wardrobe.
Now I’ve had my eyes “done” – no it’s not what you think I had cataracts quite bad ones in each eye. So it took 2 years on a waiting list to get them removed. Now I can actually see without glasses and I’ve worn them since I was 8 years old.
What I have noticed is that I react quite strongly to sunlight and my eye doctor recommended that I wear sunglasses whenever I’m out and in particular to make sure they are polarized. What a difference I got my Oakley’s and haven’t looked back and I can see stuff I never thought possible, when the glare of the sun reflects on the ocean or any kind of water I can actually see it’s like a miracle.
Catch up with Angela’s Scottish and bookish adventures on Instagram here.
Angela writes at readinginspiration.com about all things bookish and fun for families. After exploring Scotland as a tourist for many years Angela gave up the London life to move to Scotland. The literary culture and history of Dumfries in North West Scotland drew her in. In this article, she shares the charms of Dumfries and its surrounding area.
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