Road Trip To Kirkcudbright, Through Dumfries and Galloway…
We took a road trip, as the title suggests, to the town of Kirkcudbright. Instead of taking the main A75 from Gretna to Kirkcudbright, we came off around Dumfries to get to Caerlavarock Castle, then took the long route around the coast to see what we would discover on the way. Below are five of the most interesting finds…
This impressive castle isn’t far from Dumfries, and was built all the way back in the 13th century. It doesn’t look very large from the front but it is surrounded by a moat, and inside a decent portion of the building survives and it is possible go up a few floors and get a good view of the surrounding hills.
The castle ended up in it’s present state in 1640, after the Protestant Covenanter army beseiged the castle, forcing the occupant (Robert Maxwell, 1st Earl of Nithsdale, 1586 – 1646) to surrender and then the South portion of the castle was demolished.
During it’s history, the castle faced various attackers including the English during the Scottish Wars of independence in the 13th and 14th centuries.
We found a few other castles on the route including Castle Douglas Castle, as well as one in Kirkcudbright itself but the Kirkcudbright post will cover that.
Sweetheart Abbey – New Abbey Village
This beautiful ruined abbey is located in the village of New Abbey, and although you have to pay to walk around inside, you get a brilliant, unrestricted view of the outside from the car park so we stopped for a quick look.
Sweetheart Abbey was founded in 1275 by Dervorguilla of Galloway (1210 – 1290), who was the daughter of the Lord of Galloway, Alan Roland (1175 – 1234). The whole estate covered over 30 acres of land, and was disestablished in 1624 after which it began to decay and ultimately ended up in it’s present state.
Another abbey we encountered on our road trip include Dundrennan Abbey, which is in a similar condition and was established slightly earlier in 1142. It is in the village of Dundrennan near Kirkcudbright.
During our day out we found an example of most types of medieval buildings, various castles, a few abbeys and a few towers, with the stand out tower being Orchardton Tower, shown above.
It was built sometime in the late 15th century, and is notable as the only cylindrical tower house in Scotland. It was constructed by the Cairns Family, and it stands 11 metres tall with a diameter of 9 metres. There is a cellar type room at the base of the tower, and some steps at the back that lead up to the main section of the tower with a spiral staircase then used to access the roof.
Not all of our stops were for ancient monuments or buildings, some of them were for scenic reasons, such as our stop in the village of Rockcliffe with its sunny beach and spectacular views, and Rough Island is visible at the back. On a really clear day the Solway Firth and the Lake District over in England can all be seen.
A few other scenic places we stopped include the holiday camp of Southerness with it’s lighthouse on the shore (The second oldest Lighthouse in Scotland, built in 1748), and the village and fishing port of Kippford.
This is the aforementioned castle near the town of Castle Douglas, officially named Threave Castle, which stands on an island in the middle of the River Dee. A ferry is available to transport visitors to the island.
Construction began in 1370, and was the home of the Earl of Douglas from the 14th Century until 1455. James Douglas was the 9th Earl of Douglas, his reign ending in 1455 after a battle which saw his kin killed, but as he was in England at the time he forfeited his title and lived in exile.
The castle was left in a state of disrepair after the Bishops Wars of 1638 – 1640 when it was attacked by Covenanters (Scottish Presbyterian’s) and partially dismantled.
The coastal route around Dumfries and Galloway is stunning, and there are lots of things to see, and this is just a selection of what we saw that day. It makes for a great day out, so why don’t you try it, and see what you discover…