The Solway Coast Heritage Trail in Dumfries & Galloway

Discover Scotland’s Solway Coast Heritage Trail through Dumfries & Galloway. From the birthplace of Robert Burns to magnificent ruined tower houses and fascinating local museums, there are plenty of things to see and do along this beautiful 200 mile long coastline.

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  • Looking onto Caerlaverock Castle through the grass
    Caerlaverock Castle, near Dumfries
  • The Devorgilla Bridge in Dumfries which crosses the River Nith, one of the oldest standing bridges in Scotland
    The Devorgilla Bridge in Dumfries, one of the oldest standing bridges in Scotland
  • The ruins of Dundrennan Abbey, near Kirkcudbright
    The ruins of Dundrennan Abbey, near Kirkcudbright
  • Looking over small boats moored by the foreshore at Kippford
    Kippford
  • Looking down on the Mull of Galloway lighthouse which is on the edge of a cliff.
    Mull of Galloway, Scotland's most southerly point

The Marriage Anvil of the World Famous Blacksmith's Shop, Gretna Green Begin your tour of the fascinating attractions of southern Dumfries & Galloway in Gretna Green at the Gretna Green Famous Blacksmiths Shop. This sleepy village became famous as a place of romantic intrigue where young English lovers would elope to get married. See inside the forge where these clandestine weddings were performed by the local blacksmith with his anvil serving as the altar.

Drive just 4 miles to the village of Eastriggs and learn how Dumfries & Galloway played a role in the Allied victory of the Second World War. The Devil's Porridge Exhibition tells the story of how the largest munitions factory in the world came to be built in Gretna and what the lives of its 30,000 workers would have been like.

Travel 3 miles east to your next stop, Annan Museum, for a fascinating insight into the local history of the town of Annan and the surrounding area. A 30 minute drive from Annan will take you to Caerlaverock Castle, one of Scotland’s greatest medieval fortresses and the UK’s only triangular shaped castle. With its moat, twin towered gatehouse and high battlements, this crumbling red sandstone ruin remains an imposing structure.

Bring the day to a close with a gentle stroll along Powfoot Beach, a large stretch of sand and shingle looking out across the Solway Firth where an abundance of local birdlife can be found. 

The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development

The Scottish Government

Leader

Dumfries and Galloway - Naturally Inspiring

      

                                                                                                         

The interior of Dumfries Museum and Camera Obscura Start your second day with a visit to Dumfries Museum and Camera Obscura. See relics from the area’s earliest inhabitants from primitive tools and weapons to stone carvings by Scotland’s first Christians. Afterwards, climb the steps up to the museum’s top floor where you’ll find the world’s oldest Camera Obscura. Enjoy incredible panoramic views of the town and surrounding landscape which, on a clear day, can stretch for miles. 

No visit to Dumfries would be complete without stopping by Robert Burns House where you can see the desk and chair in which Scotland’s National Bard wrote some of his most important works. Cross the Devorgilla Bridge over the River Nith to reach the Robert Burns Centre, a former 18th century water mill where some of his handwritten manuscripts, personal belongings and books are exhibited. While walking back to the town, stop by the Old Bridge House, the oldest building in Dumfries which houses an authentically recreated 18th century kitchen, an early dentist’s surgery and a nursery. At the south east side of the town you’ll find the neoclassical Robert Burns Mausoleum where the remains of the great poet are interred.

A 5 minute drive will then take you to the Dumfries & Galloway Aviation Museum, the restored control tower of the former RAF Dumfries. Filled with everything from original aircrafts to rescue equipment and period jumpsuits, the museum provides a fascinating insight into the history of flight. 

Make your next stop at Shambellie House, a beautiful 19th century country house which now contains the National Museum of Costume. See how style has evolved over the course of a century with everything from corseted Victorian gowns to glamorous 1950s dresses on display.

A short distance outside Dumfries lies the attractive village of New Abbey and the New Abbey Cornmill, a beautifully restored water-powered mill. Hear the sights and sounds of an age gone by as the waterwheel of the white-washed building starts to turn, bringing the original machinery back to life.


John Paul Jones Cottage, Kirkbean Travel 5 miles south and you’ll come to Kirkbean, another of Dumfries & Galloway’s idyllic villages. It is here that John Paul Jones, hero of the American Revolutionary War and founder of the US Navy was born in 1747. You can visit his childhood home at John Paul Jones Cottage Museum on the Arbigland Estate where his father worked as a gardener. All of its rooms have been restored to how they would have appeared in the 18th century except one, which has been transformed into the captain’s cabin of his legendary vessel, the Bonhomme Richard.

Explore further afield on a 30 minute drive to Kippford, a bustling fishing village on the Solway Coast. On your way there, take a detour to Dalbeattie Forest, one of the 7Stanes mountain biking centres which has a network of tranquil footpaths in addition to exhilarating bike trails.

Alternatively, you could travel 30 minutes east to the rarely visited village of Kirkgunzeon. Take in its quiet lanes and pretty white-washed houses before heading to Drumcoltran Tower located 1 mile to the north. Climb the spiral staircase to the parapet walk on the castle’s roof to see spectacular views of the surrounding landscape.

If you have the time, travel west to Castle Douglas which has plenty of cafés and restaurants in which you can sample the region’s finest local produce. Beside the town is the lovely Carlingwark Loch, an ideal place to enjoy a picnic before head towards the coast once again.

Another popular beauty spot is Sandyhills National Scenic Area which is found along the Colvend Coast. Savour the undisturbed beauty of its secluded beach while soaking up dramatic views of the Solway Firth before continuing your journey towards Kippford. 

Once there, you can enjoy lunch at the Anchor Hotel before setting off along the scenic Jubilee Footpath which leads to the equally picturesque seaside hamlet of Rockcliffe.

Start your third day in Kirkcudbright. Pay a visit to the Stewartry Museum, a charming late Victorian building whose permanent exhibits include colourful artworks by acclaimed painter Jessie M King and the Silver Gun, Britain’s earliest surviving sporting trophy.

Mclellan Castle, Kirkcudbright Located in the centre of the town, MacLellan’s Castle is Kirkcudbright’s most prominent landmark. Explore the nooks and crannies of this ruined Jacobean tower house and see if you can find the ‘laird’s lug’, a secret spyhole used by the laird to eavesdrop on his guests. A 10 minute drive outside the town will take you to the crumbling remains of Dundrennan Abbey, a 12th century Cistercian monastery where Mary Queen of Scots spent her last hours in Scotland following her dramatic escape from Lochleven Castle.
 
Neighbouring East Kirkcarswell holds the Wickerman Festival in July, one of Scotland’s most unique music events. Taking its name from the cult British horror film, this popular festival always boasts an eclectic line up of top acts alongside family-friendly entertainment.

Your next stop is Gatehouse of Fleet, one of the most attractive towns in Scotland. Once a bustling industrial hub, this tranquil place is now home to a thriving artistic community. Built in 1788 as a cotton spinning mill, Mill on the Fleet now houses the Faed Gallery which exhibits the work of local artists and craft makers. On a rocky outcrop a mile south west of the village are the remains of Cardoness Castle. Once the region’s most important defensive stronghold, the view from its ramparts makes it well worth a visit.

The Cairn Holy Chambered Cairns, near Wigtown Bay

About 6 miles south east outside of Creetown you’ll find one of the area’s oldest archaeological sites, the Cairn Holy Chambered Cairns. These two remarkably preserved Neolithic burial cairns sit on the slopes of a hill looking out towards Wigtown Bay in the south and are believed to date back sometime between 2000 - 4000 BC.

 If travelling along the A75 road from Stranraer to Dumfries, you'll come across Carsluith Castle, the eye-catching ruin of a 16th century tower house built by the local landed gentry sometime after the Protestant Reformation.

Uncover a wealth of geological treasures at Creetown Gem Rock Museum, home to one of the finest private collections of gemstones, crystals, minerals, rocks and fossils in the UK. Marvel as ordinary looking rock specimens take on a luminescent glow in the darkened Crystal Cave and learn more in the Victorian-themed study. Creetown’s most architecturally noteworthy feature has to be its town square. Designed by innovative sculptor Hideo Furuta, the centrepiece of Adamson Square is a large granite sphere decorated with carvings reflecting the unique character of the town.

Another interesting local historical attraction worth paying a visit is Newton Stewart Museum located in the rural market town of the same name. Housed in the former St John’s Church of Newton Stewart, the museum has a wealth of rare and unusual historical treasures relating the social and natural history of Galloway.

With Galloway Forest Park less than 10 minutes away by car from Newton Stewart, why not stop for a break at Kirroughtree Visitor Centre? Relax and unwind after an activity-filled day with a leisurely stroll along one of the park’s waymarked trails followed by some light refreshment in the centre’s tearoom.

Nestled in the Machars, Wigtown – Scotland’s National Book Town, is filled with plenty of book shops and cafés where you can while away the rest of the day with a good read.

A street in Whithorn, site of the first Christian church in Scotland. Begin your final day in the former royal burgh of Whithorn, located about 10 miles south of Wigtown. Learn about the pivotal role played by St Ninian in bringing Christianity to Scotland in the fourth century at the Whithorn Story Visitor Centre. View the fascinating collection of early medieval stones which includes the fifth century inscribed Latinus Stone, the country's earliest surviving Christian monument.
 
Follow in the footsteps of thousands of pilgrims who throughout the centuries have journeyed to St Ninian’s Cave to pay tribute to Scotland’s first saint. The carvings on the walls are believed to date as far back as the eighth century and today, pilgrims often leave pebbles from the beach marked with crosses inside the cave, along with coins placed into crevices in the rock.

The remains of Glenluce Abbey, near Port William Other important ecclesiastical sites found nearby include the remains of Chapel Finian, located along the coastal road towards Port William, which was probably used by pilgrims on their way to Whithorn. Another is the crumbling Glenluce Abbey, located about 30 minutes from Port William by car, where monastic life remained unchanged for nearly 400 years until the Protestant Reformation.

Your penultimate stop is the town of Stranraer. Learn about the area’s Victorian past at the Stranraer Museum and see inside the Castle of St John, a 14th century medieval tower house which over the centuries has been a prison, a military garrison and home to one of the most powerful families in Wigtownshire.

Complete your tour of the Solway Coast Heritage Trail at the southernmost tip of Scotland and the Mull of Galloway Lighthouse where you can climb up its 114 steps for breathtaking sea views. The cliffs of the Mull of Galloway are home to one of the largest seabird colonies in the area and you can visit the RSPB centre to view incredible live images of the birds captured by cameras installed on the cliffs.