Explore Dumfries & Galloway’s rich Dark Age archaeology, such as the Latinus Stone which was carved in around 450 AD and today can be found in the Whithorn Priory Museum. The Kirkmadrine Early Christian Stones are some of the oldest and most important early Christian memorial stones in Britain, and date from the fifth or early sixth century.
One of the most famous historical highlights from this century sees the story of St Ninian bringing Christianity to Scotland and founding the country’s first Christian church in Whithorn. You can find out more about Scotland’s earliest known saint at St Ninian’s Chapel and St Ninian’s Cave.
In 1273, Lady Devorgilla of Galloway founded the splendid Sweetheart Abbey in memory of her late husband Lord John Balliol. She was buried here in 1290 with her husband’s ‘sweet heart’ embalmed in an ivory casket, passing the word onto the English language.
Within seven years of Devorgilla’s death, the Wars of Independence erupted. Despite Sweetheart Abbey’s stormy history, it survives almost to its entirety today.
This was a turbulent century for Dumfries & Galloway, with many key moments in Scotland’s fight for independence taking place in the region.
In 1306, Robert the Bruce murdered John Comyn in Greyfriars monastery in Dumfries, becoming King of Scotland and launching the Wars of Independence. You can visit the sites of his first victories in battle at Glentrool and Raploch Moss and see the cave where legend says that in 1307 after defeat, he went into hiding for three months and was inspired back into battle by a spider’s relentless effort to spin its web.
The 16th century saw the ruling of the most famous, most intriguing and most studied of all Scottish monarchs. In 1568, Mary Queen of Scots spent her last night in Scotland in Dundrennan Abbey, Kirkcudbright before fleeing to England and eventually being executed in 1587.
In 1754, Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act became law in England and Wales. With Gretna Green being located just on the Scottish side of the border, it became a popular destination for couples who wanted to take advantage of the country's lenient marriage laws. Today, the Famous Blacksmiths Shop hosts around 4,500 weddings every year.
The 18th century was certainly a romantic time for Dumfries & Galloway, with poet Robert Burns spending his final years in the region writing ballads and folk songs. Before his death in 1796, he spent three years at Ellisland Farm and five years in Dumfries. His former home, the Robert Burns House, is now a museum.
Some of the world’s most important inventions took place in 19th century Dumfries & Galloway. In 1810 Rev Henry Duncan set up the world’s first savings bank in Ruthwell, allowing interest to be paid on locals’ savings. He also identified the first fossil footprint in Britian, and in 1818 he restored the ancient Ruthwell Cross, which is considered one of the major monuments of early medieval Europe.
In 1839, the world’s first pedal bicycle was invented in Dumfries & Galloway by Kirkpatrick Macmillan. You can see a replica in the Scottish Cycle Museum in addition to a number of Victorian tricycles and penny farthings.
War had a huge impact on Scotland during the 20th century. Get a fascinating insight into what life was life for the people of Dumfries & Galloway during the World Wars at the Devil’s Porridge Exhibition. Over 30,000 people were employed in a munitions factory, which was built in 1915 and stretched 9 miles from Dornock to Longtown, with an output greater than all other British factories combined.