With a nickname like ‘Queen of the South,’ you’d be forgiven for expecting big things of Dumfries, principal town of Dumfries and Galloway. Fortunately, this little market town doesn’t disappoint! Perched beside the picturesque banks of the River Nith, to one side lie the suburb areas of
Maxwelltown, to the other a bustling town centre and area known as Whitesands, where sheep fairs were once held.
It’s a quaint location, with locals and tourists alike often making a special trip from the town centre, down Friars Vennel to walk along the river banks, crossing the river at the historic Devorgilla Bridge to Greensands and Dock Park, and often being rewarded with sightings of otter, heron and goosander.
Dominated by red sandstone, mined locally at Locharbriggs, there is a keen sense of history to the streets of Dumfries. Like many others in Scotland, this peaceful town in fact has a bloody past, playing a key role in both William Wallace and Robert the Bruce’s fight for Scottish Independence, and waging a war against witchcraft on many an unsuspecting woman in the mid 17th century. These days however, it is for links with two giants of the written word that Dumfries is best known; Robert Burns and J.M. Barie.
Burns moved to the town in 1791, from nearby Ellisland Farm, and wrote some of his most famous songs, including ‘A Man’s a Man For A’That’ at Burns House. Now a fantastic museum exhibiting original manuscripts and some of Burns’ personal belongings, the house is located on Burns Street, and well
within walking distance of the town centre. From here, tourists are encouraged to follow the Burns Trail, taking in his statue, designed by Amelia Robertson Hill and prominently set in Church Place at the junctions of High Street, Castle Street and Buccleuch Street, his mausoleum at St Michael’s Church, as well as Ellisland Farm itself, built by Burns in 1788, birthplace of Auld Lang Syne, and just a 15 minute drive from Dumfries centre.
Moat Brae, located on George St, was home to JM barie between 1873-78. The ‘enchanted lands’ surrounding this Georgian house are well documented as the inspiration behind his most beloved work, Peter Pan. After undergoing extensive renovations, Moat Brae was reopened to the public in 2019 as a centre of literature for all ages, but now holds National Centre for Children’s Literature status and boasts a jam packed, family friendly calendar of events including festivals like the BigDog Children’s Book
Festival, held annually at the end of September, as well as exhibitions, book launches and creative learning programmes. Between events, visitors can unearth treasures in the house itself, explore the Enchanted Land Garden and riverside Jolly Roger pirate ship, or visit the cafe.
Dumfries is also home to the world’s oldest working Camera Obscura, located on the top floor of the windmill tower at Dumfries Museum. Originally an astronomical instrument, it was installed in 1836 and affords visitors a fascinating panoramic view of Dumfries and the surrounding countryside, a truly unique experience!
Not just the perfect location for a restful holiday, Dumfries has a great deal to offer young couples and families alike. The Theatre Royal, on Shakespeare Street, is the oldest working theatre in Scotland. Owned by the Guild of Players who bought it in 1959, the venue promotes traditional live theatre, as well as holding an Arts Festival, the Dumfries Music Festival and the Dumfries Musical Theatre Company. Nearby Mabie and Dalscon Farm parks, both just a 10 minute drive from Dumfries centre, make for a fun-filled day out for all the family, especially those with youngsters in tow, offering animal petting and feeding stations, plus indoor and outdoor play areas.
The real beauty of Dumfries is that there is as much to do within the wider local community as there is within the town itself. After spending the day touring the many independent cafes, delis and gift shops, visitors can head out of town and enjoy long walks on beautiful sandy beaches like Southerness and Powillimount, spot iconic wildlife in forests like Mabie and Heathhall, or experience the true beauty of the surrounding area from upland vantage points like the summit of Criffel or the head of the Glenkiln Reservoir Circular path.