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The Aberdour Hotel
Dumfries DG1 1LW
Queen of the South, Dumfries, is the lively and attractive capital town of Dumfries and Galloway.
Although little is left of the medieval town, Dumfries has long been the main centre of this region, having been given the status of a royal burgh as long ago as 1186.
The medieval town was situated between the wide River Nith, which flows through the modern town, and the old red sandstone bridge, which dates back to the 15th Century, and once provided an entrance with a toll house at the far end. Known as Devorguilla’s Bridge, it was here that the Lady Devorguilla de Balliol had the first bridge built, probably of timber, in the 13th Century.
In former years ships were able to navigate the Nith, and it was the Dumfries merchants who built the lighthouse at Southerness in 1749. In the 18th and 19th Centuries the quays downriver at Kingholm and Glencaple were still busy with ships trading to North America, the West Indies and the Baltic.
In the centre of the town is the Midsteeple, completed in 1708 to provide a meeting place for the town council as well as a courtroom and prison. A plaque on the outer wall gives the distances to other towns and cities to which the people of Dumfries might have wanted to travel in the 18th Century.
A statue of Robert Burns overlooks the town’s High Street, for it was in Dumfries that the poet spent the last five years of his life. Associations include the simple sandstone house where he lived, the tavern (The globe Inn) where he spent much of his time, and his tomb, as well as a splendid Robert Burns Centre in an old sandstone mill building by the river which tells the story of the connections between the poet and the town.
Dumfries is well provided with museums and libraries which help to illuminate its history, and there is also a fascinating camera obscura which projects a moving panoramic view of the district, and an arts centre showing the work of local and contemporary artists.
The town is a good centre, offering the visitor all the facilities expected of an important town, including a swimming pool, parks, two golf courses, nightclubs, film theatre in the Burns Centre, and discos, as well as good shopping and branches of major stores.
Dumfries holds an annual Arts Festival and the annual Guid Nychburris Festival in June with the Crowning of the Queen of the South, is a colourful and enjoyable celebration of its warm and friendly spirit.
Close to Dumfries is Mabie Forest with cycle routes, walks, a picnic area and a high ropes course and slightly further afield are:
Beeswing is south of Dumfries and is an interesting 19th Century planned estate village in a good area for bird-watching. Most notably Beeswing is famous for its Loch Arthur Creamery which produces hand made prize winning cheeses, traditionally made from organic milk.
Slightly further south, New Abbey boasts an attractive wooded situation by the Pow Burn. Famous for the ruins of Sweetheart Abbey (pictured). Additional attractions include the working 18th Century New Abbey Corn Mill and the Shambellie House Museum of Costume.
North of Dumfries, Dunscore is situated in the fertile farming area around the Cairn Water. Here Robert Burns set up a library. To the north is the ruined tower of Lag, once home of the hated Grierson of Lag.
North of Dumfries, en route to Thornhill, the River Nith runs through a gorge. Thomas Carlyle’s father, a stone-mason, helped to build the bridge. Nearby is Dalswinton Loch where a steamship was tried out in 1788. Robert Burns farmed close by at Ellisland Farm.