OUR FAVOURITE FREE HISTORICAL SITES
IN DUMFRIES & GALLOWAY
When we moved to Dumfries and Galloway with our 5-year-old twin girls 11 years ago, we thought we knew the area pretty well. But we are still discovering new places, even now.
Here are some of the places we love visiting– some of them on many occasions. And even better, they are all free!
Cairnholy is very atmospheric and a great place to explore for all ages. It is an ancient burial ground, said to be the resting place of the Scottish king, Galdus.
Cairnholy is situated just off the A75, between Gatehouse-of-Fleet and Creeton. There is a small road sign posted on the right (heading towards Creeton) at Kirkdale farm. Parking available.
Morton Castle is a ruined castle NE of Thornhill. It is situated next to a small loch and has the most breathtaking setting. It is definitely worth taking a picnic on a good day. It was built in the 1400s, in the same triangular style as Caerlaverock castle.
Getting there is an adventure in itself, but starting on the A702 from Carronbridge, you will find the castle on grid ref NX8192 (about 2km). Unfortunately, there is little signage. Parking is available, with a small walk after.
Orchardton Tower. We often visited Orchardton tower when our girls were young – it is a fairytale tower, and they loved to be princesses or Rapunzel for the afternoon. For the history buffs among you, it is the only free-standing round tower in Scotland. Although small, you can easily while away an hour or so – probably longer if you have little ones!
The tower can be reached on the A711 between Dalbeattie and Auchencairne, it is signposted on the left. Map ref: NX817 551. Parking available.
Mote of Mark. All that is left now of the Dark Age hill fort of the Mote of Mark, is a mound. It is said to have links to King Arthur, no less! The Mote can be reached by a footpath from the village of Rockcliffe. The climb up the mound is steep and uneven, but worth it.
The views from the top of the Urr Estuary, Rough and Hestan Islands are magnificent. Just magical!
St Ninian’s Cave is a small sea cave, at the southern end of the Marchers. You can find it on the B7004, four miles south of Whithorn. It is said to be the spot where St Ninian, Scotland’s first saint landed and was a place of pilgrimage for many years.
After leaving your car in the car park at Kidsdale, head down through the pretty woodland walk, until you reach a pebbly beach (about 1mile). The small cave is a short way on the right. We find it a most atmospheric walk.
If you visit any of these magical places, even at the height of summer, you have a very good chance of having it to yourselves.
NB – Good shoes are recommended if you visit any of these places.