The South West of Scotland Offers Surprising Delights

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I reckon that if you asked a bunch of Brits to fill in some place names on a map of the UK the South West of Scotland would be blank in most of the answers. Even people who live fairly close to this beautiful region don’t seem to know much about it.

To be honest, I only discovered this corner of the country when a friend went to live there. The main town here is called Dumfries and it is a bit of drab, functional place. However, when you strike out to the smaller towns and villages you will discover some real treasures.

Kirkcudbright

If you want to impress the locals then try getting the name of this place right. It is pronounced like “kir-coo-bree” as far as I can tell. Apparently it is a great place for going to a summer festival but it was quietly charming the times that I visited. There is a river running through it and the scenery is gently picturesque. In fact, my friend told me that this is a town where a lot of artists live, having moved here after being captivated by the natural beauty of the area. There is an interesting ruined castle here and lots of brightly coloured houses. It is the kind of place where you can get away from the stresses of modern life.

Castle Douglas

If Kirkcudbright is the region’s arty hotspot then Castle Douglas is the food town. Threave Castle in the middle of the river is lovely to look at but it is the selection of food outlets that really grab the attention. The town centre is a lot more interesting that most I have seen across the country and Castle Douglas is also a good base from which to explore the area. A pipe band put on a show the last time I was there and there was a cracking atmosphere in the town. There are also a number of islands out on the river, making it ideal for making a short boat trip and then spending some time soaking up the sun with a picnic. Actually, this is a good point to mention that the weather here is noticeably better than in other parts of Scotland. Apparently it is something to do with the Gulf Steam and it is certainly an added benefit.

Gretna

I had to include the place because I got married here. It is right on the border with England and was made famous as the place where runaway English couples would take advantage of Scotland’s more relaxed marriage laws. These days there’s one of those rather boring retail outlets there but the traditional venue at the Blacksmith’s Shop is worth visiting.

Gatehouse of Fleet

I once spent a week in this tiny place and loved it. It is an incredibly peaceful place and supposedly has one of the oldest populations in Scotland. At first site there doesn’t appear to be much to do here but I had a great time walking in the countryside, checking out the local cows and trying some local ice cream. By the end of my holiday here I felt just as about as relaxed as I had ever been in my life.

Wigtown

I have to confess that I haven’t yet been to this place but it is somewhere I’m really keen to visit. Wigtown is known as Scotland’s National Book Town due to the high concentration of second hand book shops here, including the biggest one in the country. There is also an annual book festival held here. If you love flicking through dusty old books as much as I do then this is a great destination.

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