Historic Dumfries and Galloway

Historic sites are scattered through the glorious region of  Dumfries and Galloway. Being the border county with England there is a history of battles. Till the 12th century, when it came under the Normans, the eastern Solway had alternated between English and Scottish rule.

We passed several interesting looking properties on the way to somewhere else, though nearly always during the evening when the grounds were closed. Fortunately some were quite small and close to the road so we were able to take photographs.

Threave Castle

Located in one of the more interesting locations, this castle is built on an island in the middle of the River Dee and you have to take a small boat across. A lovely circular walk from the entrance takes you through Kelton Mains farm to a small wood leading to the river. A number of bird hides can be found along the route, including one to view an osprey nest.


This massive tower house was built in the late 14th century by Archibald the Grim, Lord of Galloway. It became the stronghold of the Black Douglases and still today, round its base you can see the artillery fortification, an innovative defence years ahead of its time, built before 1455 when James II besieged the castle. (Threave Castle)

Cardoness Castle

A fine example of a six storey Scottish tower-house castle, Cardoness Castle was built in the later 15th century as the fortified residence of the McCullochs.  Its battlements command excellent views over Fleet Bay.


MacLellan’s Castle

MacLellan’s Castle was named after Sir Thomas MacLellan of Bombie (d. 1597). Sir Thomas was provost of Kirkcudbright and a powerful man in local politics. Following the Protestant Reformation in 1560, he acquired the site and buildings of the convent of Greyfriars, established in the town by James II in 1449, and set about building himself a new residence in its place. By 1582, MacLellan’s Castle was sufficiently complete for him to move in. Five years later, he and his second wife, Grissel, entertained their sovereign, James VI, in this spacious house.


The remains of this late 16th century house shows how architecture changed from the heavily defended tower house to a new, more domestic scale.

Dundrennan Abbey

Dundrennan Abbey was founded in 1142 by Fergus, Lord of Galloway, with the help of King David I of Scotland. The white-robed Cistercian monks came from Rievaulx Abbey, in North Yorkshire. After establishing the abbey at Dundrennan, monks went forth to found two more Cistercian abbeys in Galloway – Glenluce, near Stranraer, around 1190, and Sweetheart, in the village of New Abbey, south of Dumfries, in 1273.


The abbey‘s most famous visitor was Mary Queen of Scots. On 15 May 1568, she was welcomed at the gates following her escape from Lochleven Castle, near Kinross, and her defeat at Langside, beside Glasgow. Mary was making for England and the comparative safety, so she thought, of her cousin, Elizabeth I of England. On the following morning she boarded a boat bound for the Cumberland coast. She never returned to her native land.

Sweetheart Abbey

Sweetheart Abbey was founded in 1273 by Lady Dervorgilla of Galloway in memory of her husband John Balliol. In 1268, Lord John Balliol died. His grieving widow, Lady Dervorgilla of Galloway, had his heart embalmed and placed in an ivory casket. She carried it with her everywhere. When she too died in 1289, she was laid to rest in front of the abbey church’s high altar, clutching her husband’s heart to her bosom.


The graceful ruin nestles between the grey bulk of Criffel and the shimmering waters of the Solway Firth, whilst its blood-red sandstone walls contrast with the lush green grass at their feet.

Carsluith Castle

Carsluith Castle is a lightly-defended tower house. It is typical of the many L-planned tower houses built by the landed gentry throughout Scotland after the Protestant Reformation of 1560.  This eye-catching tower is on the road between Newton Stuart and Dumfries. And next to it is the Markbury Smokehouse.



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I live in the UK, but when I was younger I spent several years travelling the world followed by a period living in South Africa. I look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

55 thoughts on “Historic Dumfries and Galloway”

  1. Sweetheart Abbey – how wonderful is that! Ahh…and now I see I’m not the only one who thinks so! You certainly got in a lot of great visits and shots while up in Scotland Jude. I hope you are having a better week xx

        1. Yay! Monday now…cloudy, in for rain, which I’m glad about but supposed to get sweltering again. Hope you’re having a nice time.. 🙂

  2. Great stuff as usual Jude, I am a sucker for castles, and I love the one on the island. And ‘Archibald The Grim’, what a great name! I might change mine to that, by deed poll. Then again, ‘beetleyarchibald’ doesn’t quite have the same ring to it!
    Regards as always, Pete. x

  3. Jude – such a gorgeous array of castles and helpful history nuggets. I can see I need to add Scotland to my travel wish list. We, of course, have little to resemble these architectural beauties, and modern attempts to mirror such arches and craftsmanship in our “monster mansions” look ridiculously … well, they cannot begin to resemble the materials and quality of these ancient structures.

    I am always struck though, in almost every country, that war, religion, and defensive positions dominated cultures throughout the world no matter the century.

        1. Actually won’t the truck be a left-hand drive? I wouldn’t like to drive that here – though OK if you head to the continent I suppose, which is probably where Himself would prefer to be 🙂
          I’d never make enough use of a smart phone to justify the cost of one, I’m not into mobile phones 😉
          What sort of car are you after then?

        2. Hope you like your Seat – I nearly went for one, but changed my mind and got a VW. Best car I have ever had! (OK I have only had three 😉 )

    1. I love the architecture Tess, but it is the history that really grabs me – I love to find out what was happening when these buildings were in use. Fascinating stuff!

  4. Lovely post, Jude. I’ve been to Threave Castle and Sweetheart Abbey. It was a lovely sunny day when we were at Sweetheart and my photos are much pinker, but they’re pretty old too.
    You’re in Kent? On the house hunt? Good luck 🙂

    1. Not house hunting – too expensive down here! OH had a conference in Canterbury so we added a few days to visit some gardens. Bit wet though!

        1. I have some lovely photos of Canterbury taken on a previous visit. This time it was too wet (and cold), but I did get to a couple of gardens close by. I will do a Canterbury post though as it is a lovely city, not to mention the wonderful cathedral. Weather improved thank goodness!

    2. It started raining when we were at Sweetheart so the photos there were taken in the rain! Though it blew over so we also popped down to the Corn Mill which I shall post about now I am back home – though I now have thousands of flower photos!!! I need to stop taking photos and sort out what I have before taking any more.

  5. Oh, how I love historical ruins … but of course, they’re all historical, really. These are more historical than some but !!! [grin]
    I should have loved it it we’d made it to Scotland; but we never did, alas ! So I thank you for showing me, Jude …

    1. Just a tiny part of Scotland, I need to explore it more! I also should write a similar post about Wales, as I have been to one or two castles there 😀

  6. What a collection of history and buildings. The Sweetheart Abbey shots are my particular favourites: a wonderfully graceful ruin. You’ve managed the diversity of buildings beautifully, without your post seeming bitsy.

    Two twinless days coming up – I need to get out into Warsaw, and serve it (and myself) well, as you have done Dumfries and Galloway, despite the fatigue of keeping up with 18 month olds!

    1. With the name ‘Sweetheart Abbey’ I just had to visit it. And despite the rain, it was very beautiful. I look forward to your Warsaw posts.

  7. Oh WOW, what an awesome post and gorgeous pics. Soooo envious Jude. Scotland and Ireland have just been bumped up on the Karen Bucket List!!! I LOVE Dundrennan Abbey. You had gorgeous weather by the looks of things too. *sigh*

    1. I really must visit Ireland again – only had a few days there a long time ago, and there is so much more to explore. Now, when can I fit that in?

        1. He’s trying his hand at teaching English as a second language to kids. It’s a great way for him to see far flung places and I needn’t tell you how tough the job market is in South Africa, so off he went – sold everything he owned and jetted off. *sigh*

        2. I’m sure he’ll have a great experience as long as he keeps his wits about him. Cheap to live over there and he’ll be able to travel to nearby countries. Plus a good excuse for you to explore too 🙂

        3. I was going to Vietnam or Cambodia anyway. Just means I’ll stop off in Bangkok now 🙂 I’d happily miss Bangkok otherwise and head straight for Chiang Mai, but it’s the same old story about time and money so Chiang Mai will have to hover on the Bucket List 🙂

        4. I have only spent 3 days in Bangkok (stopover to Oz) and found it so hot! And humid! And noisy. Don’t think I’ll return. When you heading over there?

        5. Hopefully my annual holidays in December. Dylan says it’s 36 degrees C on a bad weather day. It looks frenetic and loud and colourful which is so not me, hence I’m heading for tranquillity in Angkor Wat and Siem Riep rather.

        6. Given the number of tourists that flock to those places now you may not find them all that peaceful, though undoubtedly better than Bangkok!

          I don’t know if you follow Janaline (she’s another South African) but if not you may like to read her recent posts about Vietnam and Cambodia: http://janalinesworldjourney.com/

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