We often hang around in Dumfries & Galloway, one of the two most southerly council areas in Scotland, that borders England. Places around there include Gretna, Annan and Dumfries that we have been too frequently on the way to different places. So this post covers the small town of Annan.
Status: Dumfries & Galloway (historically Dumfriesshire), Town, Scotland
Date: 24/11/2012 (& Various)
Travel: Scotrail (Gretna Green – Annan), Stagecoach (Annan – Gretna)
Eating & Sleeping: Subway
Attractions: River Annan, Annan Museum, Annan Academy, Town Hall, War Memorial, Fisherman Sculpture, Annan Castle Mound, Annan Savings Bank, Parish Church, Annan Bridge etc
We arrived in the centre of town, outside the impressive Town Hall building, which is very reminiscent of other buildings we have seen around Scotland, with the multi-turretted Clock Tower section atop the tower.
Another fine example of Scottish-Victorian architecture, the building was completed in 1878 to designs by John Graham. It is furnished out of stunning red ashlar sandstone, which is commonly used around this region of the United Kingdom, and the building became the 3rd in a line of similar buildings which have occupied this spot.
To the right of the original building are the noticeably modern council offices, connected to the Town Hall. On their own they would probably be considered quite brutish, however they do blend into the town quite well due to their colour and the fact they are slightly hidden away in the corner.
Just in front of the Town Hall, making up a small square area, sits the towns War Memorial, erected in 1921. It lists the names of all those from the town who perished in World War I, and was later updated after World War II, when extra names were added around the base of the plinth.
The Memorial is topped by a bronze statue of a British Soldier, who is modelled on an actual serving soldier, a local farm worker. The Memorial stands directly in front of numbers 28 & 30 High Street, the Annan Savings Bank built in the 19th century, and currently occupied by the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).
The Town Hall and Memorial are located at the West end of the High Street, and looking East you will see the spire of Annan Parish Church, a stunning building which a long history of just over 225 years, going back to its construction in 1789.
There have been various religious buildings in the town throughout the years, each replacing the previous one. One of the most notable is the Church of Annan of 1171, built Robert Bruce, an ancestor of the more famous Robert the Bruce (1274 – 1329, famous Scottish Kings who fought the English for Scottish Independence) who spent part of his childhood in the nearby town of Lochmaben.
Aside from the Church you get a great view up the main street in Annan, where most of the shops are located, as well as local bars and pubs. It’s a pleasant area to explore, a lot of the buildings are Listed and they have a wonderful consistency in the use of materials.
We moved off West, towards the river Annan which flows through the town underneath an arched stone bridge not far up from the Town Hall. On the way, we passed another charming little building called “The Blue Bell Inn”.
The building is Listed, and officially titled Numbers 2, 4, 6, 8 & 10 High Street, and also includes a former stable area around the back of the building. It is listed as a 19th century building, but the listing also says that the building wasn’t all built at the same time, some of it already existed and the rest was an addition to the properly. I would imagine that the area on the far left of the building is the new section, as the stone looks less worn in most places.
We soon reached the river, and crossed the bridge onto the far side to get a nice view back towards the town. The bridge here is, rather obviously, called Annan Bridge, and has 3 large stone arches, all dating back to 1827 when it was constructed to John Lowry, going off plans by Robert Stevenson (1772 – 1850, Scottish Engineer from Edinburgh).
As I said before the River Annan flows beneath the bridge, after beginning its journey in the hills near the town of Moffat, then flowing past Lockerbie and the famous Devil’s Beef Tub, and arriving in Annan. From here it has a further 2 miles before it empties out into the Solway Firth, a large body of water which separates the coasts of England and Scotland.
In the distance a footbridge crosses the River, and just behind it, out of shot, trains also cross the river courtesy of another bridge, on their way North to Glasgow and South to Gretna.
We moved back into the town, and circled back round to Annan Railway Station, which lies on the Glasgow South Western Line between Carlisle and Glasgow Central, via Gretna, Annan, Dumfries and Kilmarnock. It dates back to 1848, when the line was part of the Glasgow, Dumfries & Carlisle Railway.
It was once 1 of 2 stations in the town, when Annan Shawhill station was receiving trains from Cumbria via the viaduct over the Solway Firth, which ultimately collapsed in 1931. Shawhill also closed that year, but continued in use for freight traffic for the next 25 years. Regular trains still call at the current station, with the occasional service carrying on through Carlisle along the Tyne Valley Line to Newcastle in the North East of England.
Opposite the Station lies Annan Academy, the local secondary school which serves pupils from all over the district including from Annan. The school itself was formed in 1802, becoming its present incarnation in 1921 when the Academy merged with Greenknowe Public School.
The Academy moved to it’s present position in 1895, when a new building was constructed for it’s use, the still standing sandstone building on the left, with the tall bell-tower at it’s centre. Today this area houses the school’s library, and other new modern buildings from the 1960’s built around it hold classrooms and other facilities. The Academy is currently in the process of modernisation, and various parts are being taken down and replaced with new modern facilities.
One of the most famous pupils to attend the Academy was Thomas Carlyle (1795 – 1881, famous Scottish Philosopher and Writer) who was born in nearby Ecclefechan, where you can visit his house, and a statue of him which sits in the centre of the village. Although of course it’s most famous pupil has to be Gemma, my co-traveller who spent her teenage years here!
Our last stop in Annan was the Annan Museum, which contains archives and exhibits relating the town and the local area. Unfortunately it was shut when we came across it, and we will hopefully nip back sometime to have a look inside.
Looking on their official website it appears to have lots of interesting galleries and exhibits, and entrance is also free, which is a bonus. You can find out more on their website here. Other areas of interest in the town include a statue of a fisherman with his catch on a roundabout on the way into the town from Gretna, although the fish is badly placed so I won’t put a picture up in case it offends anyone… You could also visit a large mound near the playground by the banks of the River near the Town Hall which was once the site of Annan Castle.
That was the end of our tour around the town of Annan, which is 15 minutes up the road from Gretna, and about the same from Dumfries. A local bus service connects the 3, and also runs further into the city of Carlisle over the border in England. With good rail connections to major cities, as well as close links to the A74 (M) and M6 motorways to take you anywhere in the UK you desire, Annan is reasonably well positioned.
Its a pleasant town, with plenty of history, in a scenic location of Scotland close to the Solway Firth which offers fantastic views at the Lake District in England.