Dumfries to Gatehouse of Fleet
Castle bricks and bridges span captivating countryside
Follow the route – Dumfries to Gatehouse of Fleet
Dumfries to Kirkbean
> Leave Dumfries on the A710 to New Abbey.
New Abbey, Dumfries and Galloway
Here, ‘new’ is a relative term. It refers to the lovely ruined abbey of mellow red sandstone which stands on the south side of the village.
This is Sweetheart Abbey, new in the 13th century when it was founded by the family that also endowed Balliol College at Oxford. New Abbey also has a splendidly restored 18th-century corn mill.
Among the pinewoods at the entrance to the village, Shambellie House is the site of Scotland’s Museum of Costume.
Dumfries to Gatehouse of Fleet
Places to stay in Kirkbean
Kirkbean to Kippford
> Continue on the A710 to Kirkbean.
Kirkbean, Dumfries and Galloway
American visitors often come to this attractive village in ‘the garden of Galloway’ to trace the roots of Paul Jones, organiser and first commander of the US Navy, who was baptised John Paul in the parish church here. His birthplace cottage on the Arbigland estate is a museum of his life and exploits, which included raiding his home coast during the American War of Independence! Arbigland itself has attractive sheltered gardens stretching to the Solway shore, where Paul Jones’ father was employed.
Also near Kirkbean, Carsethorn is a Solwayside village with salmon stake-nets out on the treacherous tidal sands. Facing the Cumbrian shore, it was built to house the men of a 19th-century coastguard station, in the days when the coastguards’ major work was stopping the smugglers.
Kippford to Castle Douglas
Continue on the A710. Turn left off it, first to Rockcliffe and then to Kippford.
Rockcliffe and Kippford, Dumfries and Galloway
These are the principal villages of the Colvend coast, the most beautiful stretch of the Solway Firth. Rockcliffe, with its rock flakes in a curving bay, was a Victorian sea-bathing resort.
Kippford, near the mouth of the River Urr, used to make its living from boat-building and quarrying. Now it is the main sailing centre on the Solway. Almost all the land between the villages is owned by the National Trust for Scotland. Both offer outstanding views over the wooded peninsulas around Rough Firth.
Above Rockcliffe stands the Mote of Mark, site of a 6th-century settlement and now a fine viewpoint.
Places to stay in Castle Douglas
Castle Douglas to Kirkcudbright
Continue on the A710, then follow signs for Castle Douglas on the A711 and A745. Turn left at a roundabout and go through the town centre, 11 miles (18km).
Kirkcudbright, Dumfries and Galloway
Built as the county town, this is a place of elegantly proportioned and colour-washed Georgian houses. It attracted turn-of-the-century artists, and their successors still live and work here. Broughton House, an 18th-century mansion, was presented to the town by the painter E A Hornel.
It hosts art exhibitions and is well furnished with a fine antiquarian library and features such as a 1920s-style laundry. Outside, you may be surprised to find a Japanese garden; Hornel was influenced by Oriental themes.
Maclellan’s Castle, now an ancient monument, is the ruin of a grander and earlier town mansion. The Stewartry Museum holds a fascinating local collection, including a room devoted to Kirkcudbright shipping, in which Paul Jones features strongly.
Places to stay in Kirkcudbright
Leave Kirkcudbright on the A755 then follow the B727 through Gatehouse of Fleet.
Gatehouse of Fleet, Dumfries and Galloway
Gatehouse by the River Fleet is one of the most intriguing country towns in Scotland, full of restored buildings from its brief heyday – from 1790 onwards – as a cotton town. Robert Burns visited Gatehouse during the boom years, and it was in a room at the Murray Arms Hotel that he wrote what was to become Scotland’s unofficial anthem, Scots, wha hae. The town is surrounded by delicious woodland country.
Try the Fleet Oakwoods interpretative trail. A shorter open ground stroll leads to the field-top viewpoint on Venniehill, which identifies the features of Gatehouse and its surroundings.
Beyond Venniehill, Cardoness Castle is an imposingly situated 15th-century tower, which was the home of the notoriously hot-tempered McCullochs.