Exploring Dumfries and Galloway

The owners in the sun at Orchardton tower

Family Day out at Orchardton Tower

It was Mrs G’s birthday recently.  At her request we booked a day exploring Dumfries and Galloway with Solway Tours.  Although we’ve been in Dumfries and Galloway just over a year now, we haven’t had that much time to explore and Mrs G is a bit of a sponge for history and culture!  Following a Ghost Tour in Edinburgh, which the kids loved, we thought an organised tour of our local area would be a great way for the whole family to find out more about the area.

Castles and Towers

Starting off at Orchardton Tower, we were greeted with wonderful views on a bright, crisp autumnal day.  (We have concluded that autumn is our favourite time of the year up here, the colours are stunning; the days are bright and sunny and not yet too cold).  Orchardton Tower isn’t far from Barend Holiday Village, and makes a good cycling trip.

Threave Castle

Threave Castle

Next stop was Threave Castle, a popular tourist attraction for our guests and we can see why!  Following a short walk (or run if you happen to be an excitable 9-year old!) you arrive at a small landing place on the River Dee.  Tolling a bell beckons the keeper who collects you on a small boat to drop you off on an island.  Clearly the Douglas’s (the family that built and lived in this castle) weren’t a popular lot.  Disliked so much but the locals, they didn’t just have a moat around their castle, but built it on an island on the River Dee! Mrs G enjoyed hearing about the family and Miss P was intrigued by the rather unpleasant jail.

Threave makes a good day trip from Barend Holiday Lodges.  We just had a flying visit, but you could easily spend more time there.  The grounds are good for walks (we’ll have to take the Barend Beagles next time), although no pooches on the boat.  Nearby Threave Gardens would finish off a day trip well.

Pit Stop

Bellies were rumbling after all our exploring, so we called in at the Selkirk Arms in Kircudbright.  Kirkudbright is to Dumfries and Galloway what St Ives is to Cornwall.  An artists’ town, with wonderful light and excellent galleries (including this one recently opened by Princess Anne).  No time for art work today though (that will have to be an additional trip), ours was just a quick stop for lunch.  It was our first time at the Selkirk Arms but it won’t be our last (we’ll do a blog later about excellent eating spots near Barend Holiday Lodges – watch this space!).  The food was fantastic and we’d highly recommend, for midday or evening meals.

Back in time

Fuelled up, we headed off to Cairnholy – two neolithic burial grounds, hidden not far from the A75.  Even as a history buff myself, I confess that a few stones in themselves isn’t always that exciting.  But that is why doing a historical tour with a guide is worthwhile.  Having the story and context makes them fascinating and even our 12 year old was intrigued.  So if you fancy something off the beaten path next time you stay with us at Barend, Cairnholy may well be for you!

Caerlaverock Castle

Caerlaverock Castle

During the drive to Caerlaverock Castle, Lesley (our guide) continued to give us snippets of information about the history of South West Scotland, which helped tie the day together and gave us a better appreciation of this wonderful area of Scotland.  Driving around we were able to reflect on just how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful, fascinating and historically-important area.  Heck, it’s nearly as good as Yorkshire *ducks and takes cover!*.

Caerlaverock is one of the best-known castles in Dumfries and Galloway; it has been used for numerous film and TV productions and was once home to the Maxwell family.  It boasts an exciting history and is well worth a trip.  The castle is dog friendly and there are good walks nearby.  Caerlaverock can be combined with the local nature reserve for a great day out for the whole family.

Heros and Heroines

Our drive home included an overview of the heros and heroines of Dumfries (Robbie Burns, Jane Haining, JM Barrie amongst many others) we had a brief stop at the beautiful Sweetheart Abbey.  If you’ve driven to Barend Holiday Lodges via the coastal road you will have travelled through quaint New Abbey, over which Sweetheart Abbey presides resplendent in her beauty.

Sweetheart Abbey

Sweetheart Abbey

The tour was an excellent way for us to get a further glimpse into the fascinating history of Dumfries and Galloway.  There is so much to see and do in this area.  We look forward to having more time to explore over the coming years and hope this blog post may have inspired you to try somewhere new next time you’re here.  Or, if you haven’t visited us yet why not #TurnLeftAtGretna and visit some of our rich historical sites!

If you’d like other ideas for great things to do in Dumfries and Galloway, see here.

(Please note this is not a sponsored post; we pay for all our meals, tours and entrance fees etc and the opinions are very much ours.  If we like something, we’ll mention it.  If not, we’ll just move on!)

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