A Hidden Scotland Guide
With two of Scotland’s most notable sons having strong links with the area, it’s little surprise that Dumfries and Galloway oozes history. As the homeland of the legendary ‘Outlaw King’, Robert the Bruce, as well as the final resting place of National Bard Robert Burns, the region plays a key role in Scottish heritage.
Dumfries and Galloway can also claim Peter Pan author JM Barrie as a notable former resident, while there are numerous castles and sites for history buffs to enjoy too.
Built in the 13th century just south of Dumfries, Caerlaverock Castle paints a stunning picture across the south-west Scotland landscape. Its twin-towered gatehouse and wide moat make it a perfect example of a medieval stronghold and, as a result, also a popular filming location.
Overlooking the River Dee and only accessible by boat on its picturesque island, Threave Castle is located just outside of Castle Douglas. The fortress was built in 1369 by Archibald ‘the Grim’ and was later inhabited by Margaret, Lady of Galloway.
The remains of 12th century tower house, Dunskey Castle, sit just outside of Stranraer overlooking the Irish Sea. Despite being derelict since 1700 – having only had the building work completed 80 years previously – the ruins make for an incredibly picturesque spot perched on the rocky coastline.
Looming over Wigtown Bay, Cruggleton Castle is a fascinating example of an archaeological site which spans many periods in history. Excavations of the site in both the 1970s and 1980s showed Cruggleton Castle was first used in the first century, with evidence of use extending all the way to the 17th century.
A trip to Drumlanrig Castle offers far more than just a step back in time. While the stunning 17th century castle is itself a sight to behold, the 90,000-acre estate also provides opportunities for scenic walks, bike rides, mountain biking, fly fishing and game shooting. You can also wander round the castle, built by the Duke of Queensberry, and admire its impressive paintings and tapestries, including the Buccleuch Art Collection.
The site of the monastery where Robert the Bruce participated in the infamous murder of John III Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, the Category A listed building can be found in the heart of Dumfries. Although the present Greyfriars Church was rebuilt in 1868, the nearby Friars Vennel pays homage to the original friary.
Found near Eskdalemuir, Girdle Stanes and Loupin Stanes are linked by a line of stones, which are thought to be the remains of an avenue connecting the two sites. Girdle Stanes today had just 26 of the original 40 to 45 stones, with the others washed away by the River Esk, so the circle is now incomplete, while Loupin Stanes has just 12 stones forming an oval shape.
Located just to the north of Dumfries, the Twelve Apostles stone circle is the largest on mainland Scotland. Not quite a true circle and comprising 11 stones rather than the 12 the name would suggest, it’s an intriguing place to visit and wonder as to its origins.
The ruins of the 12th century Cistercian Abbey can be found to the south of Castle Douglas. The Abbey was where Mary Queen of Scots spent her last hours in Scotland back in 1568 following the Battle of Langside and was home to a community of Cistercian monks for more than 400 years.
Found to the south of Dumfries, the Abbey of Dulce Cor – or Sweetheart Abbey as it is better known – was a 13th century Cistercian monastery and remarkably retains much of its original features and structure. A stone effigy of Lady Dervorguilla, who founded the abbey, can still be seen, albeit a 16th century copy of the original destroyed during the Protestant Reformation.
Dating back to the mid-1400s, Orchardton Tower is a unique sight in Scotland. The unusual free-standing round tower can be found south of Castle Douglas and is such a rare example as it was built by first inhabitant, John Cairns, more than 200 years after the round tower went out of fashion, being replaced by square towers.
Two cairns sit atop a hill offering impressive views across Wigtown Bay, where they have been surveying the landscape since 4th millennium BC. The tombs are known as Clyde Cairns, said to be characteristic tombs of this part of Scotland. Cairn Holy II is also believed to be the tomb of mythical Scottish king Galdus.
One of Scotland’s earliest Christian sites, many still flock here to follow in the footsteps of the legendary St Ninian. The priory was built in the 1100s and while today not much is left standing, you can still visit St Ninian’s shrine – the route taken by medieval pilgrims.
Garlieston Mulberry Harbour played an important role in the preparation for the D-Day invasion during World War II, as it was one of three sites used to test prototype harbours to be used in Normandy. Garlieston, while remote, also offered similar tidal conditions to that of Normandy, making it an ideal test site. Today, a monument remains in the form of surviving elements of the prototype harbour, including seven floating pontoons and a stone and concrete plinth.
Within the grounds of Parton Parish Church, the Old Kirk can be found – the final resting place of James Clerk Maxwell, his wife and parents. Maxwell was a prominent mathematical physicist, famed for developing formulae governing electricity and magnetism. He also developed the idea of the Maxwell distribution in the kinetic theory of gases.
Found between Dumfries and Gretna, Dino Park at Hetland guarantees kids a roaring time at this adventure wonderland. With soft play for little ones to burn off some energy, velociraptors, triceratops and the notorious t-rex to get up close to, and a Dino Den and Dino Mine to explore, youngsters will be occupied for hours on end.
Great fun for the whole family, Dumfries Museum and Camera Obscura can be found in the heart of Dumfries. Set in an 18th century windmill, the museum itself is packed full of local history for young and old to enjoy, while it also boasts the world’s oldest working Camera Obscura, offering a 360 panorama of the surrounding landscape.
Located just south of Dumfries, Mabie Farm Park offers a wonderful array of outdoor fun and adventure for all ages. Little ones will enjoy the menagerie of animals, including goats, donkeys, alpacas, rabbits and guinea pigs, as well as the play barn, while older explorers can let loose on trampolines, go karts, quad bikes and a whole range of other activities too.
To the north of Dumfries, Dalscone Farm Fun is a must when on family holidays in Scotland. Kids will love meeting the meerkats, llamas, donkeys and plenty more furry friends. There are also great activities to enjoy, from the indoor soft play with an area dedicated for toddlers, a pedal car circuit, climbing frame, slides and ball cannon, to the outdoor activities including crazy golf, go karts, bumper boats, a play fort and trampolines.
Situated along the River Nith in Dumfries, Moat Brae is a fantastic place to take youngsters during family holidays in Dumfries and Galloway. Set within the very house which inspired JM Barrie to write Peter Pan and create Neverland, children can explore the house and gardens and the magic set within.
Located on the banks of the beautiful Loch Ken, Galloway Activity Centre boats a fantastic array of outdoor adventures to get to grips with. On the water, you can have a go at sailing, kayaking, windsurfing, stand up paddleboarding or take on the wobbly water park, while back on dry land there’s laser tag, climbing, archery and mountain biking to set pulses racing.
The Lowlands version of the infamous Highland Games, the New Galloway Scottish Alternative Games are held in August and competitors can take part in the Gird n’ Cleek World Championships, archery, tractor pulling or tossing the sheaf.
The 18th century market town is packed (or should we say ‘jam-packed’…) with delicious local produce to sample. With bread and cheese to preserves, fish and meat, there’s plenty to set every foodie’s mouth watering. There is also a fantastic range of restaurants and cafes to work your way around too.
In close proximity to both Wigtown and Castle Douglas, Cream o’ Galloway is deserving of a sport at the top of any hitlist for family holidays in Dumfries and Galloway. More than just a working dairy farm, it boasts a highly acclaimed ice-cream parlour, with plenty of quirky flavours to sample. We all love chocolate and vanilla, but how about banoffee, gooseberry and elderflower or whisky, honey and oatmeal. Well, there’s only one way to find out! Then you can work off the sweet treats with a round of crazy golf, farmer-led tour, or nature trail walk.
As one of the UK’s tallest waterfalls, it’s easy to see why Grey Mare’s Tail is a captivating place to enjoy a bit of time in the great outdoors. Found just outside of Moffat, the nature reserve provides breath-taking views, not just of the plunging falls but also the native ospreys, goats and peregrine falcons. Ranger-led walks are also available.
Found within the spectacular Galloway Forest Park, Otter Pool is one of the most popular attractions in south-west Scotland and it’s easy to see why. Along the route of the 10-mile Raiders’ Road forest drive, the series of shallow pools located where the neighbouring Blackwater of Dee widens out, provide a beautiful and tranquil spot to enjoy a picnic or simply while away some time drinking in the views.
A 10-mile route through the stunning Galloway Forest Park, Raiders’ Road forest drive is a wonderful way to see some of Dumfries and Galloway’s most breath-taking natural sights. The road itself can be a little bumpy but take it steady and it will be well worth it. The route passes the mesmerising Otter Pool, as well as Stroan Loch and the start of Buzzard Trail.
One of the most prominent hills across Dumfries and Galloway, providing stunning views across the surrounding landscape from its summit. It’s so prominent, in fact, that on a clear day it can even be seen from across the border in the Lake District.
The largest ancient wood in southern Scotland, Wood of Cree is located just to the west of Galloway Forest Park, near Newton Stewart. Its spectacular bluebells come alive in spring, while it’s also a wonderful spot for birds, including willow tits, barn owls, tawny owls, warblers and pied flycatchers, plus eight types of bat.
The highest mountain in the Southern Uplands, casting an imposing shadow across the Range of the Awful Hand, Merrick stands at 2,766 feet, making it a must for keen walkers. While there aren’t really any rock climbing routes at Merrick, in the winter there are a few good ice climbing options. Head to Glen Trool car park – near Bruce’s Stone – for the shortest walking route to the summit.
Britain’s first coast to coast long-distance path, the Southern Upland Way connects Portpatrick in Dumfries and Galloway to Cockburnspath on Scotland’s east coast, across 214 miles of stunning scenery. Among the most challenging of Scotland’s Great Trails, it has the wonderful benefit of also offering smaller sections of route which is a lot more family-friendly too.
Nestled in the middle of Drumlanrig Castle, Morton Castle and Closeburn Castle, Crichope Linn is a real hidden gem in the heart of Dumfries and Galloway. The gorge and waterfall can be found by following a short path through woodland, along which you’ll pass red sandstone walls towering over either side of the gorge. Many inscriptions have been left here over the years – one supposedly even by Robert Burns.
To the west of Dumfries and Galloway, stretching 25 miles north to south are the Rhins. At the peninsula’s southernmost tip is the Mull of Galloway – the most southerly part of Scotland – while you’ll also find Portpatrick, Glenwhan Gardens and Glenluce Abbey.
Written by Laurie Goodlad
Scotland’s archaeology spans over 7,000 years, and with everything from Neolithic villages, Iron Age brochs, Bronze Age houses and an invasion of Vikings and Norse settlers, you’re sure to find a site to whet your archaeological appetite. Here are a few of the top picks from around the country.
With Unesco World Heritage Status, The Heart of Neolithic Orkney is undeniably one of the most incredible trios of archaeological sites in Scotland – if not the world. Made up of the Ring of Brodgar, Stenness Standing Stones and Maes Howe, these three fascinating sites are all within a stone’s throw of each other and have forced archaeologists to rethink settlement patterns throughout Neolithic Britain.
The Ring of Brodgar and Stones of Stenness are both huge prehistoric stone circles. The Stones of Stenness are believed to be the oldest stone circle in the UK – even older than the famous and iconic Stone Henge – and is made up of four stones up to six metres in height. Originally the circle held 12 stones, although the remainder are no longer standing. The Ring of Brodgar is sure to take your breath away. With 36 massive stones still standing in this impressive stone circle with a surrounding ditch.
Maes Howe is an altogether different structure that stands from the surrounding flat farmland like a great green pimple. So prominent on the landscape, Maes Howe is an impressive Neolithic chambered cairn and passage grave, dating to around 2,800 BC. Maes Howe is the largest and best-preserved example of a chambered cairn in Orkney. One of the most incredible things about Maes Howe is its connection with the winter solstice. For several days around midwinter, the final rays of the day’s sunlight slip through the passage of the cairn, illuminating the darkened back wall and bathing it in soft, winter light
These incredible sites offer a tantalising glimpse into the life of Neolithic settlers some 5,000 years ago, and, although they ask more questions than they answer, they certainly indicate that Orkney was an important centre of the Neolithic world
Photography by Laurie Goodlad
Recent winner of the World Cup of Brochs, Mousa Broch on the small uninhabited island off Shetland’s east coast, is the best-preserved and most complete example of a broch from anywhere in the world.
Brochs, unique to the north and west of Scotland, were built during the mid-Iron Age, some 2,000 years ago. Archaeologists still debate what they were used for – were they defensive or offensive? Were they homes for high-status chieftains or large agricultural grain stores? Were they roofed or roofless? – nobody knows, and all we can do is guess at their purpose.
Mousa is nonetheless an impressive sight, standing at over 13 metres tall and dominating the narrow confines of Mousa Sound.
The Scottish Crannog Centre is a living history heritage site on the shores of Loch Tay. Sadly, the reconstructed Crannog was lost to fire in 2021, but the centre remains open with lots of hands-on activities for all the family, including fire-starting and cooking demonstrations.
Crannogs were a common feature of Iron Age Scotland. They are roundhouses that were built on artificial islands on inland lochs. Most appear to have been made for one family, and the earliest examples of these dwellings date back some 5,000 years.
The Crannogs found in the Perthshire area were timber-built structures, supported on piles or stilts bedded into the loch bed. In areas where wood supply was limited, rocks were used to form crannogs.
Photography by Laurie Goodlad
A fascinating site encompassing some 5,000 years of human habitation in Shetland, Jarlshof is a complex and awe-inspiring multi-period site at the southernmost tip of Mainland Shetland.
Visitors to the site are guided through each era of human occupation, from the small, individual Neolithic farmstead, through the Iron Age where communities formed and came together under a changing climate, into the Broch era and the later Wheelhouse period. From here, there’s a wholescale change, most visible in the architecture that dramatically departs from the roundhouses of pre-Viking times, with the arrival of Viking and Norse settlers to Scotland’s shores.
Jarlshof offers an almost uninterrupted pattern of habitation and remains one of the best multi- period sites in Europe.
Okay, so this one involves a bit of effort to get to, but it’s oh so worthwhile! St Kilda will blow your mind and carry away a piece of your heart forever. The weather-beaten archipelago of St Kilda lies some 40 miles from the Outer Hebrides.
As Britain’s most remote point, it feels like the final frontier, a wild and foreboding place that echoes noisily with the sound of hundreds of thousands of seabirds. Until 1930, it was home to a population of resilient islanders who had occupied the islands for some 2,000 years.
Evidence of the lives they carved out on this remote outpost of the British Isles are scattered all over the islands today, from the roofless ruins of homes on the once-bustling Main Street to the lonely cleats that cling to the slopes of Conachair.
Photography by Laurie Goodlad
We’re heading back to Neolithic Orkney and the prehistoric village of Skara Brae, which provides a unique glimpse into the daily lives of the first farmers who tilled the earth and set down their roots in the Northern Isles.
Like many throughout Scotland’s islands – including Jarlshof – the site was uncovered by a violent storm in the 19th century. This Unesco World Heritage site, set on the picturesque shores of the Bay of Skaill, includes eight stone-built dwellings dating back 5,000 years.
Orkney’s northern island of Papa Westray, lovingly known as Papay, is home to northern Europe’s oldest preserved stone house. Set on the small island spanning no more than four miles by one mile and with unrivalled views out to sea, this Neolithic farmstead is incredibly well- preserved and dates back almost 6,000 years to 3,700 BC.
If you’re visiting Papay, you can take the world’s shortest scheduled flight – a journey that will take less than two minutes to complete!
A Hidden Scotland Guide
The Beach Guide named it the most popular beach in the Borders – and when you visit, you’ll see why. Coldingham Bay stretches out for just over a kilometre, sitting at the base of Buskin Burn in Coldingham Village. Surrounded by green space, the beach is popular all year round with those who want to soak up the rays, go for a bracing walk along the water or explore the rock pools, which are home to a significant number of hermit crabs.
Its location near the St Abbs & Eyemouth Marine Reserve and the St Abbs Head Nature Reserve mean it’s a great place to spot local wildlife, including cliff-nesting birds and even butterflies in the surrounding grass.
A small town in Berwickshire, Eyemouth’s dramatic high cliffs overlook the sandy Eyemouth Beach. The bay is surrounded by black rocks to the west and the famous town harbour to the East and often attracts surfers during the off-season thanks to the consistent surf. This beach can be enjoyed all year round, whether you want to search for crabs, starfish and other marine life or soak up the sun during the warmer months.
Eyemouth Beach is also on the edge of a charming coastal walk. Beginning the nearby village of St Abbs, the pathway follows along the coastline and clifftops, giving you a perfect view over the Borders coastline. It makes for an excellent walk for hikers looking to take in the natural beauty of the area.
St Abbs is a fishing village and popular tourist destination during the summer months on the Borders – and its central beach is one of the biggest draws of the town.
Particularly popular with scuba divers because of the clear waters and the large variety of marine life found near the shore, the St Abbs Beach – otherwise known as Starney Bay – is great for anyone wanting to walk or explore the many rock pools on the pebbled beachfront.
St Abbs is also quite the hotspot with celebrities – musician Harry Styles filmed the music video for his song ‘Adore You’ on the North cliffside of the village. The area was also featured as ‘New Asgard’ in Avengers: Endgame (2019). Upon entering the village, you’ll find a welcome sign that – since the release of the film – has been changed to say ‘Twinned with New Asgard’.
With the Pease Bay Leisure Park stretching just beyond the beach, Pease Bay is a popular waterside spot with visitors to the Borders. A tranquil space on the Berwickshire Coast, the beach offers panoramic views of the North Sea, as well as the surrounding cliffside that shelters the bay. The area is also very popular with surfers, who can hit the excellent waves throughout the peak and off-season, as well as walkers looking to explore the coastal paths that connect the towns along the coast.
Pease Bay is also a stop on the east coast section of the mammoth 212-mile-long distance Southern Uplands Way Walk, which stretches from coast to coast across Scotland. If you’re undertaking this feat of long-distance walking – make sure to take a well-deserved break on this beautiful stretch of beach.
Sitting alongside a working harbour, Burnmouth Beach is one of the focal points of the town of Burnmouth, the most Southerly point on Scotland’s Eastern coast. Drive over the border from England and Burnmouth is the first Scottish town you’ll meet.
The harbour, which has been functioning since the 1800s, is home to plenty of rock formations and a dramatic cliffside. However, this is a beach without sand, so it’s not that great for sunbathing! The beach is very popular with walkers as the coastal walk beginning in Berwick passes through the town of Burnmouth.
If you’re an ornithophile, Burnmouth is also worth a visit thanks to its dense variety of sea-birds.
Hidden Scotland 2022 Wall Calendar
Hidden Scotland Magazine Issue 3 – Pre-order Now
Brand new to 2022, Hidden Scotland is delighted to be offering it’s first wall calendar for you to enjoy throughout the year, or gift to someone who you think needs a piece of Scotland in their home/space. Christmas gift wrapping is also available, where you can also add a gift message.
Each month let us transport you to a different stunning location in Scotland, through the captivating photography within. A full image to be enjoyed on each page, with the choice to use as a print afterwards.
A full page for each calendar month, with a square for each day to write in, as well as a notes section at the bottom for any additional information you need to jot down for that month.
Size: A4 (210mm × 297mm) / (8.27 × 11.69 inches)
Front cover: 400gsm Thick Matte Card Stock.
Inside Pages: 250gsm Thick Matte Card Stock.
Ring bound – Black wire.
January – Megget Reservoir, Scottish Borders by Fran Mart
February – Standing Stones of Stenness, Orkney by Rachel Eunson
March – Fair Isle, Shetland by Kev Morgans
April – The Vennel Steps, Edinburgh by Shawna Law
May – Dhiseig, Isle of Mull by Fran Mart
June – Achmelvich Beach, Sutherland by Simon Hird
July – The Jacobite Steam Train, Glenfinnan Viaduct by Daryl S Walker
August – Plockton, Wester Ross by Justin Nugent
September -Glas-allt-Shiel, Loch Muick, Aberdeenshire by Martin Bennie
October – The Quiraing, Isle of Skye by Chris Houston
November – Castle Stalker, Argyll by Simon Hird
December – Glencoe, Lochaber by Emilie Ristevski
Written by Greame Johncock
In the 15th Century, the Earl of Argyll requested special permission from King James IV to change the name of this tower to Castle Campbell. Up until then, the stronghold perched above the Burn of Care and the Burn of Sorrow went by the equally melancholy name of Castle Gloom.
The word Gloom probably came from the word for gorge rather than the atmosphere that lurks here. However, locals would tell a different story. A tragedy that would explain all these evocative descriptions.
Over a thousand years ago, the daughter of a Pictish King was held prisoner in an ancient fort near where Castle Campbell now stands. She had fallen in love with a man far below her station and as was often the case, her father didn’t approve. The princess refused to follow orders to abandon her love, so she was kept here under lock and key.
The girl was allowed to wander the glen under strict supervision, but the sound of her weeping echoed around the hills. She would often drink from a small pool of water, a little way up into the hills behind the present castle. Hundreds of years later, that pool had become known as the Maiden Well and was rumoured to be haunted by the spirit of the princess.
She would only appear at night and was so beautiful that those who laid eyes on her were immediately entranced. Many even attempted to carry the apparition home to keep for themselves but the princess would not be imprisoned for a second time. All who tried were struck down where they stood.
When Castle Campbell was inhabited by a chief of the McCallums, there was a grand feast for his son’s 21st birthday. Edwin was handsome, brave and already an accomplished warrior. He was his father’s pride and joy but thought far too much of himself. As the night wore on, stories and legends were shared amongst the group and inevitably turned to the captivating ghost and her many victims.
A drunken Edwin declared that he would be the one to win over this maiden. The young man believed that nobody, not even a long dead Pictish Princess could resist his charms. He stumbled out into the darkness, making his way up the hill towards the Maiden Well.
Standing before the pool of water, Edwin called out to the spirit twice with no reply. He was starting to think all the stories were just superstitious nonsense but gave it one more go. On the third attempt, the spirit appeared before him. She was more beautiful that Edwin ever could have imagined and the foolish young man was lost for words.
There was no happiness in the girl’s eyes though, only anger and pain. As she stared at Edwin, he felt an icy chill spread through him. He panicked and tried to reach for his sword but couldn’t move a muscle. Slowly, the spirit placed one hand on his shoulder and Edwin collapsed face forward into the water, sinking to his doom.
Written by Graeme Johncock
Graeme is the writer and storyteller behind Scotland’s Stories, sharing the traditional folklore and legends that make Scotland truly incredible.
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Hidden Scotland Magazine Issue 3 – Pre-order Now
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