A Brief Guide To Dumfries
A Brief Guide To Dumfries
Scotland makes a wonderful holiday destination at any time of year, and Dumfries, a short drive west from Gretna Green and the Scottish Borders, is a great choice both for summer holidays and out of season breaks.
The Dumfries and Galloway region is often talked about as a whole, but it does actually cover quite a large area, so choosing the right base from which to tour is essential. The countryside and coast around Dumfries is spectacular, and is a place where you can ramble amongst the hills, admire dramatic castles and watch migrating birds on the Solway Firth.
Directly south of Dumfries, the area bordering the River Nith's estuary is a very interesting place to explore. Take the B725 to Caerlaverock to see the castle, nature reserve and mudflats. You can either go directly to the castle, or head into the nature reserve and park in one of the car parks marked National Nature Reserve.
The latter can be more fun as you can explore the nature reserve and then happen upon the castle, which is well hidden by the woods.
The first signposted car park is set by a farm, and the path eventually takes you into the heart of the nature reserve. From here there is a reasonable length walk which approaches the castle from the east.
Stout boots or wellingtons are needed for this, and it is not suitable for the less able, or those with prams, as you leave the wooden boardwalks that lead into the marshes (merse on the ordinance survey map) and follow a path across uneven boggy ground.
The network of boardwalks, however, allows easy access out into the merse, and this is a great place to see migratory geese in the autumn. The second car park is right on the estuary, and allows for a shorter walk through Castle Wood to the castle.
Caerlaverock Castle itself is a fantastic place to visit, and has a very colourful history. Its setting is particularly romantic, as it is a triangular shaped ruined castle surrounded by a moat, and framed by woodlands and pristine lawns. Do not visit without your camera!
The opposite bank of the River Nith is dominated by Criffel, a summit that commands fine views of the surrounding area, and which can been seen across the Solway Firth from Cumbria. The summit is around 570m, so it is a modest, but steep, climb.
The village of New Abbey, just north of Criffel, is a must if you are heading in this direction. Sweetheart Abbey, a ruined abbey which dates back to the 13th Century, sits in the centre of the village, and is looked after by Historic Scotland.
You can set off for Criffel from here. If, however, a shorter walk is the order of the day, after half a mile or so the track branches off to the right and you can climb up to the Waterloo Monument instead. This is still a steep ascent, but not a lengthy one. Either summit will give wonderful views across the Nith Estuary on a clear day.
It is great to find a location like Dumfries, where it is possible to experience hill walking, and, at the same time, enjoy coastal scenery. The Solway Firth is an evocative place. It is easily accessible, yet it feels remote and unspoilt. It is a great region to explore, and one that many visitors return to again and again.