Dumfries & Galloway

Five great small towns in Scotland

I enjoy cities when I travel, but I’m most happy when exploring the countryside, combing over the hills and glens for secret places and small towns. The cultural texture is just more immediate where globalization’s far-reaching fingers have farther to stretch, and it is among these places where the character of older times remains strong. Experiencing those “older times” is a large part of the joy I get out of traveling. To feel different, to feel out of place — not in an uncomfortable way — is a magical feeling.

I most often find that feeling in Scotland’s small towns, and once you get beyond Edinburgh and Glasgow that’s pretty much all there is… Read more...

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View across Loch Trool, Galloway Forest Park, Dumfries & Galloway

Scotland’s munros are well known and the focus of many outdoorsy travelers who seek adventure. However, most of us don’t own crampons, ice axes, and rappelling gear, nor do we seek day-long ascents into the lofty, snow-covered peaks of Scotland’s highest mountains. And yet, we still want to get out in nature and experience the scenic beauty that overflows Caledonia’s shores.

Less obvious are Scotland’s gentler hikes, those not so taxing or daunting as to keep us by the hearth fire with pints close at hand. If anything, there are far more casual hikes than munro-baggers… Read more...

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Dryburgh Abbey, Scottish Borders, Scotland

Ruined abbeys are some of the most austere and commanding places you’ll find in Scotland. Mere shades of their former glory, these structures are magnificent even in repose. Appreciating their grandeur does not require a religious heart. On the contrary, for those who ascribe to no particular faith, like myself, wandering among the ruins provides a spiritual uplift. These places held power long before Christianity swept across the British Isles in the first millennium AD, for such is the nature of conversion that even the places of worship are repurposed for a new religion. Something of the old gods remains, just beyond perception, thrumming a melody we might one day hear again. Read more...

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Barsallach Point, The Machars, Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland

Dumfries & Galloway occupies a huge portion of southwest Scotland. From the Rinns of Galloway in the west to the southern uplands almost as far as Hawick in the east, and from the Solway Coast north to elevated Sanquhar and the border with Ayrshire, this area escapes the notice of many visitors. It lies tucked to the south of Edinburgh and Glasgow and to the west of the English border, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to learn that most people arrive from Northern Ireland on the ferry to Stranraer.

As off the beaten path as Dumfries & Galloway is, it boasts one peninsula in particular that sees even fewer hardy souls: The Machars. Read more...

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The Grey Mare's Tail

I hope you’ve enjoyed the last several months of coverage of my travels through Dumfries & Galloway. Southwest Scotland is littered with impeccable ruins, swaths of deserted wilderland, and old market towns brimming with character.

Today, I move eastward across the M74 into the land known as the Scottish Borders, a rural and hilly region shot through by the famous River Tweed. The Borders shares a rich history with Dumfries & Galloway, but it was this region that saw the fiercest fighting with the English during the Wars of Independence. Here you’ll find plenty of ruined abbeys, sentinel tower houses, and tales of border reivers… Read more...

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