Caerlaverock & Glencaple
Glencaple is just 5 miles from Dumfries and is located on the banks of the River Nith. This small village has always made a large contribution to the wider community of Dumfries and Galloway. Following the Jacobite Invasion in 1746, land was gifted for use as a dock into which ships brought essentials like timber, coal, fruit, veg and, of course, alcohol for the larger town of Dumfries. Shortly after formation of the dock, homes were built to house ship builders and the village of Glencaple was born.
Though those ships are now long gone, today the Quayside is still put to good use by Nith Inshore Rescue, an independent charity who play a vital role within Dumfries and Galloway emergency services, and is a hub for the community, home to the Boathouse Restaurant and Shop. Specialising in vegetarian and vegan dishes and using locally sourced seasonal ingredients, the team here serve a fantastic Afternoon Tea and Bistro style menu. The food is best enjoyed from a seat by the window, looking out over the Nith, across beautiful countryside and on towards Criffel, the highest peak in the area. The Boathouse isn’t the only option for eating out in Glencaple however. If tasty pub grub is what you prefer, The Nith Hotel serve award winning bar meals and take away.
Just beyond Glencaple is the fairy tale-like Caerlaverock Castle. Meaning ‘fort of the skylark,’ Caerlaverock is a moated triangular castle, first built in the 13th century, and was once home to Clan Maxwell. Built to control trade within the area, before being besieged and rebuilt many times, including during the Scottish War of Independence, the castle was eventually abandoned in the 17th century. It is now a must on the Bucket List. Open all year round, excluding the festive period, Historic Scotland/England members get in free, and visits are enhanced by a downloadable, augmented reality app, a cafe and gift shop, exhibitions, demonstrations and woodland walks.
Fortunately, the only invasions seen by the castle these days, are of wildfowl coming into the Wetland adjacent to the castle. The Caerlaverock WWT Nature Reserve, one time host of the BBC’s Autumnwatch, is a 1500 acre area of farmland, mudflat, salt-marsh and freshwater wetland situated along the Solway coast and home to thousands of wild fowl, waders and water loving mammals during any given season. 13 hides are scattered across a wide expanse of the reserve, allowing visitors to take full advantage of the sights and sounds of nature on offer, including osprey and natterjack toads in spring, butterflies, skylark and badgers in summer, 27’000 Svalbard barnacle geese and whopper swans in autumn and huge starling murmurations winter. It’s a great location to immerse kids in the wonder of nature, with feeding sessions, sculptural installations and art exhibitions, not to mention the annual Puddle Jumping Championships, to also help keep them occupied.
For wildlife enthusiasts, the area is further enhanced by Mersehead RSPB Reserve, located just 35 minutes down the coast towards Dalbeattie. Here visitors will find an information centre, more wildlife hides, sandy beach walks, and a children’s play area. This location is particularly good for sightings of rare, unusual and migratory birds like leucistic specimens and snow geese.
Generally the area is fantastic for walking, especially the boardwalk areas along the River Nith at Glencaple, and cycling, with mostly quiet roads until you reach Dumfries. Those looking for further adventure will be pleased to hear that there are world class mountain biking 7Stanes sites close by, as well as water-sports specialists at Loch Ken Activity Centre, situated within the Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park.