Nicknamed ‘Queen of the South’, Scotland’s happiest town has much to offer the discerning visitor. Seek out historic sites, fascinating vistas, impressive eateries and a key connection with Robert Burns. Here’s how to get the most out of your trip.
Voted one of ‘the top 50 coolest places in the world’, Moat Brae (above) is the home of Peter Pan. JM Barrie was inspired to write his famous character in Dumfries at this architectural delight. Located on the River Nith, it’s a magical – and yes, enchanting – place.
You’ll find a pirate ship, gangplank, talking ‘plants’… and more. It’s the National Centre for Children’s Literature and Storytelling – but adults will be just as enthralled by its treasures.
A view from a bridge
The 15th-century Devorgilla Bridge is one of the country’s oldest standing bridges. Cross it to the other side of Dumfries away from the hustle and bustle of the town and you’ll discover an unexpected corner: a quiet, tranquil spot to wander about in and gaze out on to the River Nith.
Kings Coffee & Books
And now for something a little bit different… beetroot, matcha, turmeric chai latte anyone? Or Iron Goddess of Mercy (oolong) tea? At Kings Coffee they go all out with their drinks created by talented and characterful baristas. It’s a peaceful place to perch at the window and gaze out for some right royal people watching.
The Robert Burns trail
Discover more about Scotland’s national poet in the town he spent his final years in. He is buried here. There are so many places dedicated to his memory. The historic Globe Inn was his favourite “howff” (meeting place) – his regular seat is still here. A group of Burnsians meet here to celebrate his literary legacy.
Visit Robert Burns House, where he died in 1796 aged 37. His more famous works were written in Southwest Scotland – some of the most important and well-known verse in the world. Also worth a browse is the Robert Burns Centre on the banks of the River Nith in an 18th-century watermill.
Right in the middle of town is a fine example of Scottish heritage: Midsteeple, an iconic three-storey town house with a tall steeple. A good meeting spot.
See up close a true historic optical instrument, the world’s oldest (dating back to 1836). It’s set in an 18th-century windmill tower at Dumfries Museum and offers superb panoramic views across the region.
Mrs Green’s Tea Room
This café calls itself an ‘Emporium of Delicious Food & All Manner of Cakey Loveliness’. Quite a title but it delivers. The team pride themselves on their commitment to local ingredients, caring for the planet and serving up thoroughly scrumptious grub.
Try this for starters: a toasted sandwich of avocado, Nith Valley eggs, Galloway Butchers bacon, sundried tomatoes and chilli. Or linger over an Earl Grey with some moreish gluten-free brownies served on quirky crockery. We are hooked!
Theatre Royal Dumfries
Scotland’s oldest working theatre and – some say – the most haunted. Time your visit during a haunted theatre tour run by Dumfries and Galloway’s first paranormal investigation team Mostly Ghostly. These superb storytellers will tell you a tale to send shivers down your spine. Not to be missed. The theatre also hosts a great variety of shows including the Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival, the country’s largest rural multi-art form festival.
Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum
Located at the former control tower of the wartime RAF Dumfries, this independent museum has an incredible collection of aircraft which includes the Battle of Britain veteran Loch Doon Spitfire, the supersonic Lightning fighter and a wartime assault glider collection.
The team believe passionately in preserving this heritage and are rightly proud of their collection of memorabilia.
A taste of the Middle East
Craving authentic baklava with an Arabic coffee? Or a pitta full of falafel or shawarma? Or how about a cheese fatayer? Head to Syrian café Levantine on Whitesands.
The Old Bridge House Museum
This museum of everyday life is located in Dumfries’s oldest house (1660). Cross the Devorgilla Bridge and you’ll find this tiny museum built into the sandstone of the bridge itself. Inside you’ll see the family kitchen, nursery and bedroom of a Victorian home from the 19th century.
The house was an inn during the 18th century and is said to have been visited by Robert Burns himself – but you could say that about a lot of places!
The Usual Place
Meet us at The Usual Place – except it’s not that usual. This is an award-winning community café set in an historic building.
And just outside Dumfries…
Cared for by Historic Scotland and still looking majestic, the ruins of this abbey church – only 700 years old – is in the pretty village of New Abbey in Dumfries. Although Sweetheart Abbey is technically closed, the low remains are open and free of charge to visitors.
And when you’ve finished admiring the craftsmanship, just next door is The Abbey Cottage tea room, which has a cute patio garden and serves a mean afternoon tea with ingredients from its own garden and local producers.
The Steamboat Inn
Pub of the year in Southwest Scotland 2019 with one of the top scenic beer gardens. Feast on the finest fish in this family-run restaurant that looks out on to the Solway Firth in picturesque Carsethorn.
Taste the best from the region from Solway beer-battered haddock and chips to the Galloway cheese board. Dine inside and enjoy the marine memorabilia dotted about or eat outside to take in the coastal views.
Everyone loves a castle. This medieval stronghold with twin-towered gatehouse and a moat has red sandstone walls with a triangular shape – most unusual in Britain.
Built in the 13th century, its attractive and unique appearance means it’s much in demand for film locations. Its permanent exhibition reveals all about the castle’s rocky history during border conflicts.
Discover more great spots in Southwest Scotland that should be included in everyone’s itinerary – fantastic places that most visitors miss.
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