History of Dumfries & Galloway

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Explore the history of Dumfries & Galloway first-hand by visiting museums and former homes to hear tales of romance, triumph, beginnings and ends.

In the small but beautiful town of Whithorn, uncover connections to the beginning of Christianity in Scotland. The bishop and missionary, St Ninian, is said to have founded the first Christian church here in the fifth century. Explore St Ninian’s Chapel on the coast near the Isle of Whithorn and find out more about the saint in Whithorn Priory Museum, which houses a collection of ancient stones.

Imagine life as a young Scottish poet and learn about Robert Burns, who spent his final years in Dumfries & Galloway writing ballads and folk songs. Before his death in 1796, Burns spent three years at Ellisland Farm and five years in Dumfries - you can visit the farm, his former home and other museums to appreciate the life and works of Scotland’s National Bard, still heard and loved across the world today.

Discover the sweeter side of Dumfries & Galloway’s history at two cherished monuments - the Gretna Green Famous Blacksmiths Shop at Gretna Green and Sweetheart Abbey in New Abbey.

Gretna Green is famous for weddings, as due to the more relaxed laws in Scotland, many couples throughout history eloped here to wed. Enter the ancient black and white building with the cottage and workshop and see letters, telegrams and marriage certificates of people from all ages who defied their friends and family to tie the knot in Scotland, and stand in the actual room where they were married.

The splendid ruin of Sweetheart Abbey was built by Lady Devorgilla in memory of her late husband, John Balliol, and is thought to have inspired the creation of the word ‘sweetheart’ after she became known for carrying her lovers’ heart around in a casket.

See two sites of triumph at Glentrool and Raploch Moss, where Robert the Bruce had his first victories in battle as king. It was in Dumfries that he had became King of Scotland after murdering John Comyn, his chief rival for the throne in the town’s Greyfriars monastery in 1306.

Enjoy exploring the region’s other historical connections such as at Keir Mill, birthplace of the inventor of the world’s first pedal-powered bicycle, and enchanting buildings, such as the unique triangular castle of Caerlaverock.

  • A couple look at Bruce's Stone above Loch Trool in the Galloway Forest Park
    Bruce's Stone above Loch Trool in the Galloway Forest Park
  • Looking over to numerous boats moored at the harbour at the Isle of Whithorn
    Isle of Whithorn harbour
  • Robert Burns Centre, Dumfries
    Robert Burns Centre, Dumfries
  • Looking over to the ruins of Sweetheart Abbey in New Abbey
    The ruins of Sweetheart Abbey in New Abbey
A couple look at Bruce's Stone above Loch Trool in the Galloway Forest Park

Timeline

Follow this historical timeline of Dumfries & Galloway and discover connections with some of Scotland’s most fascinating people.

Looking over to numerous boats moored at the harbour at the Isle of Whithorn

St Ninian

Find out about St Ninian, who has connections with the beginning of Christianity in Scotland back in the fifth century.

Sweetheart Abbey, New Galloway

Romantic itinerary

Follow this romantic itinerary of Dumfries & Galloway and discover the sweet side of the region’s history.

Telling the tale of Tam O' Shanter beside the Brig O' Doon at the Burns Storytelling Festival, Alloway

Robert Burns

Robert Burns, Scotland’s National Bard, is revered the world over for the creativity and humanity he poured into his poetry.

A statue of Robert the Bruce

Robert the Bruce

Experience the story of Robert the Bruce by visiting buildings, fields and caves which played an important role in his life.

Drumlanrig Castle, Dumfries & Galloway

Historic attractions

Explore the historic attractions of Dumfries & Galloway to gain a great insight into how people lived in the past.