The Solway Coast, the Home of my Fathers…

 

The home of my fathers, or specifically, my maternal grandfather is oft forgotten, strangely ignored and frequently overlooked in any trawl around the United Kingdom. And yet this one corner of the Scottish Borders has me returning time and time again like a prodigal son.

 

Genetics is a strange thing. Like all of us I had four grandparents and yet I could only tell you where one of them hailed from. If you asked me which one I was most like I would have no idea, but if you asked me which one I most identified with I would tell you instantly it was my mother’s father – James Ferguson, son of William Ferguson, son of William Ferguson. One and all border-country men. One and all hailing from the beauty that is our Solway Coast.

 

My grandfather was born on the Solway Coast and lived there until his father presented him with a £10 pound note and told him to go and buy an engagement ring. A wedding match had been arranged. Not keen on the match James spent the £10 on a train ticket to London and as a consequence spent most of his life away from the land of his birth, but upon reaching retirement he returned with a bride of his own choice to live out the remainder of his days.

 

Fortunately for his young grand children his retirement days were to be long and rewarding and so were the numerous family holidays our family enjoyed twice a year at his home in Kirkcudbright. Over long summer holidays we got to know the surrounding region visiting some of his 15 brothers and sisters.

 

For me the Solway Coast evokes many images: rolling green countryside that the Fergusons worked and farmed; frozen in time market towns and small villages where they lived; sandy beaches where they played; and picturesque harbours where a returning trawlerman would often proffer a part of his catch for some favour owed to a brother’s cousin’s niece’s husband.

 

Despite the occasional midges and the more frequent rain I have no hesitation in recommending the Solway Coast, below I will highlight some of the area’s attractions, but take my advice and give it a try, it hasn’t changed that much since I started visiting some 35 years ago. But, truthfully the main reason to visit the area is that it is a designated Area of Outstanding beauty and you can be sure it has something for everyone. It’s glorious beaches and rolling countryside play host to an incredible number of plants and animals, especially wild birds. For more information on the region’s wildlife the Solway Coast Discovery Centre in Silloth is an excellent place to start. The centre also has extensive information on walks with local experts.

 

Situated in the bottom Western corner of Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway is an unspoilt county and the poetic heart of a countryside with ample destinations for great day trips. Steeped in lore and legend, the area has attractions that are ancient and modern, small and grand. Notable places to visit include all the attractions on the Robert Burns trail, Threave castle and the wonderful Castle Kennedy Gardens.

 

The are has never been avant garde, mobile phone reception is intermittent and with the majority of roads being lined by dairy farms cows seem to outnumber the human population with a comfortable majority. Most distinctive of all the bovine inhabitants are the Belted Galloways, with their broad white belt dividing their torsos.

 

My grandfather’s place of retirement was the town of Kirkcudbright, perched on the banks of the River Nith, known today as the Artists’ Town – and an amble around it’s streets will explain the nomenclature.

 

Kirkcudbright, along with castle Douglas, Gatehouse of Fleet, Newton Stewart and Creetown  all share another claim to fame. They have all been used for locations for the 1973 film “The Wicker Man”. Dundrennan, a short way down the road from Kirkcudbright, now plays host annually to the Wicker man Music festival, and is reminiscent of how Glastonbury used to be, recent headlining acts have included Fun Loving Criminals, The Orb, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jah Wobble and Gary Numan.  

 

But if music festivals aren’t your cup of tea then there is plenty more to do: golfing, walking, fishing, shooting opportunities scatter the countryside as do historic castles. Once upon a time Dumfries and Galloway were part of the frontline against an expansionist England. Caerlaverock castle today is the host of re-enactment battles but was laid siege to by Edward I at the turn of the 14th century.

 

Harking back to my own school holidays the entertainment was limited, but in the tourist high season there were always the occasional organised farm walks and the highlight of the local tourist season calender – the Kirkcudbright tattoo.

 

Nowadays the tourist calendar has extended considerably and some of the more notable attractions include:

 

June

Kirkcudbright Jazz Festival

 

July

Annual Riding of the Marches Ceremony

Galloway Children’s Festival 

 

August

Kirkcudbright Art and Crafts Trail

Bladnoch Folk and Blues festival

Gaelforce festival

Galloway Country Fair

Kippford Craft fair

Moffat Show

North West Dumfries Muckle Doo

Portpatrick Folk Festival

Scottish Alternative Games

St. Ninian Festival

The Border gathering

The Kirkcudbright Tattoo

 

September

Creetown Country Music Festival

Dalbeatie Rock Weekend

Dumfries Film Festival

Gaelforce festival

Moniaive Action project

Morris and Mummers

Robert Burns Festival

St. Ninian Festival

Wigtown Literary Book Town Festival

 

October

Gaelforce festival

Hightae Annual Craft fair

Lockerbie Jazz Festival

Moffat Walking Festival

Tango Extravaganza

Wigtown Literary Book Town Festival

 

November

Moffat Christmas festival

 

December

Mabie Fayre

 

However, no matter when you visit there is bound to be a local attraction on your doorstep. Below you will find a list of attractions by location:

 

Caerlaverock

Caerlaverock Castle

Wildfowl & Wetland Trust

 

Canonbie

Gilnockie Tower

 

Castle Douglas

Brewery Sulwath Brewers Ltd.

Cardoness castle

Cream O’Galloway

Mill On The Fleet

Old Buitle Tower

Orchardton Tower

Threave Castle and Gardens

 

Creetown

Carsluith castle

 

Dalbeatie

Drumcoltran Tower

 

 Dumfries

Arbigland

Burns House

Mersehead Nature Reserve

New Abbey Corn Mill

Robert Burns Centre

Sweetheart Abbey

 

Dundrennan

The Wicker Man Festival

Dundrennan Abbey

 

Kirkcudbright

Broughton House and Garden

Galloway Hydros Visitor centre

Harbour Cottage Gallery

MacLellan’s Castle

 

Langholm

Samye Ling Monnastery and Tibetan Centre

 

Lochmaben

Lochmaben Castle

 

Lockerbie

Carlyle’s Birthplace

Mossburn Animal Centre

Rammerscales House

 

Mochrum

Druchtag Motte 

Morton

Morton Castle

 

Newton Stewart

Creetown Exhibition Cenntre

Creetown Gern Museum

Galloway House Gardens

Glenluce Abbey

Glentrool Visitor Centre

Kirroughtree Visitor Centre

Monreith Animal World and Museum

 

Stranraer

Castle Kennedy Gardens

 

 

Thornhill

Drumlanrig Castle, Gardens and Park

 

Twynholm

Cocoabean Chocolate factory

David Coulthard’s home town and museum

 

Most of the above charge an admittance fee, but for free entertainment you can (weather permitting) head off to one of the regions fine beaches, such as:

 

Carrick Shore Beach, near Gatehouse of Fleet

 

Brighouse Bay beach, near Kirckcudbright

 

Castle Point beach Rockcliffe

 

Doon Beach, near Kirckudbright

 

Kippford beach, Kippford

 

Mossyard bbeach, near Gatehouse of Fleet

 

Rockcliffe Beach, Rockcliffe

 

Cardoness Beach, near Gatehouse of Fleet

 

Sandgreen Beach, near Gatehouse of Fleet

 

Sandyhils Beach, near Dalbeatie  

Southerness Beach, near Dumfries

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