Scottish Lowlands Road Trip: Pt 1 – Moffat, Dumfries and Galloway

Our next epic road trip was through the Scottish Lowland. We have already done 3 here, one around Dumfries & Galloway, and 2 through the Scottish Borders. This trip took us up through both of these and up to South Lanarkshire, near Glasgow. Our first stop was the charming town of Moffat…

Moffat:

Status: Dumfries & Galloway, Town, Scotland

Date: 15/02/2014

Travel: Car

Eating & Sleeping: Moffat Toffee Shop

Attractions: Moffat Town Hall, Toffee Shop, Ram Statue, Moffat Museum, Star Hotel, St Andrew’s Parish Church, War Memorial etc

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We pulled up on the high street, the main street through the town. It’s the perfect place to walk around the town, and we made our way up towards the Town Hall to start off. It’s a beautiful Georgian building from 1827, and at the time Moffat was growing as a spa town, and the hall originally contained the town baths. There are three wells in the countryside around Moffat, which kick started it all off.

Because of this, Moffat contains the oldest pharmacy in Scotland, but today you wouldn’t think it was a spa town, but it is still a very pleasant place to visit.

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Just across the road from the Town Hall, is the imposing statue of a Ram, gifted to the town in 1875 by William Colvin. Moffat had three main traits, as a Spa Town, a stopping off point on the way to Edinburgh, and the wool trade. Many local businesses still revolve around the trade. At the base of the sculpture is a fountain, but it’s not for drinking water.

Curiously, the Ram is missing it’s ears, however these were never present when it was made. The statue was created by local Sculptor William Brodie (1815 – 1881)  who was responsible for statues and sculptures all over the country including in the Scottish Capital, Edinburgh.

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Staying on the high street, the towns War Memorial stands proud, flanked by the old trees that line the street. It was dedicated in 1920, in memory of the fallen of World War I, and later World War II. It was one of the first burgh War Memorials to be completed in the area.

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Next to the War Memorial is the old Courthouse/Jail from 1772. The bell at the top of the tower bears the inscription “1660” so it was completed long before it was installed. It was probably in another building first.

Today the bottom floor is a shop, but the top floor is still used to hold court proceedings. In 2011 the old jail was earmarked for demolition, as it was only attached to the side of the building. We aren’t sure what happened but we couldn’t see the jail section so we assumed it has been taken down.

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We kept wandering, off the main street towards the main parish church, St Andrew’s. The current building opened in 1887, but there is evidence of a church on the site going back to at least 1177.

The different buildings have had a varied history, and in the 1600’s it was used to hold prisoners who were being taken to their execution. A new church was built in 1790, and it could seat 1000 people. A magnificent spire was added, which led to the church being known as “Flying Spur Kirk”, but less than 100 years later a new church replaced it, and is still there today.

It’s a fantastic looking building, and I really like the square tower with the extra little tower at one corner. It has so many architectural features you could just sit and stare at it for hours, taking note of the minute details all over it, but we didn’t have that long so we just marvelled at it’s construction for a while, before heading back up to the high street.

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Across from the church is the Moffat Museum, which is in the Old Bakehouse building. It gives a history of the area, and tells of the notorious Border Reivers, and even has a model of the train station that once operated in Moffat, from nearby Beattock. The station closed in 1964, along with various other stations in the area.

The museum was shut when we visited (despite the sign saying that it should in fact have been open going off the opening times…) so we will have to go back one day for another look.

Further down the street is the Station Park Boating Lake, where you can take a boat out along the lake. Water is quite prominent in Moffat, with both the River Annan and the Birnock Water running through the town.

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Just down from the Toffee Shop is the Star Hotel, from the 1700’s. It made headlines when it was recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the narrowest hotel in the world. At the time there was a tax on the size of building frontage’s so they made it as narrow as they could. It really does stand out, such a thin building sat on it’s own with roads either side. It’s very impressive and what better place to stay in the area, a world record breaking hotel!

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To me, Moffat is the well known home of the Moffat Toffee, a boiled sweet made in the town. Janet Cook Johnstone (the great grandmother of Blair Blacklock who currently runs the business) made them in the 19th century commercially, and it is sold all over Scotland including in nearby Gretna which I frequently visit.

The Moffat Toffee Shop is a lovely old style shop, with hundreds of different sweets, chocolates, drinks and cookies. We got two white chocolate ducks, a tin of Toffees, some cookies and a chocolate sheep! They didn’t last long, half way up the high street in fact! It’s a popular attraction in Moffat, and there are also some traditional Scottish shops selling Tweed etc up and down the street.

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This is a view looking back up the high street, towards the War Memorial. Moffat has a very long high street, that consists of two roads with a long row of trees in between them, with parking spaces up and down the street. It is a great place to wander up and down, to see what you discover. If you decide to stay longer, there are various hotels up and down the street including the very fancy looking Moffat House Hotel at the far end of the street.

Moffat can be found off Junction 15 of the A74 (M) that runs from Carlisle and Gretna up to Glasgow. There are no train stations in the area, the nearest ones are at Lockerbie and Carlisle on the West Coast Main Line, and Gretna Green, Annan and Dumfries on the Gretna – Carlisle line. A bus service is available from Lockerbie to Moffat as well.

Moffat is a lovely little town and there is plenty to see in a small area. It is sat in the middle of some very picturesque countryside, so you should explore the local area as well to take full advantage of the spectacular views, which we went through on the way to our next destinations, the town of Peebles, via the Scottish hills…

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