Kirkcudbright (pronounced 'kir-koo-bree') sits at the mouth of the river Dee, 10 miles southwest of Castle Douglas.
With its colourful waterfront and streets of elegant Georgian villas and Victorian town houses, it is without doubt the most attractive town in the southwest and makes the ideal base from which to explore the beautiful Solway coast. The Glasgow Boys started to come here in the late 19th century and established an artists' colony, and ever since then Kirkcudbright has been a favourite haunt of artists. The town's name comes from the now-vanished Kirk of Cuthbert, which relates to St Cuthbert, who converted much of southern Scotland to Christianity.
Local Sights & Activities for Kirkcudbright
Near the harbour is MacLellan's Castle, which is a castellated town house rather than a defensive fortress. It was built in the 1570s by the then-provost, Thomas MacLellan of Bombie, using stone from the adjoining ruined monastery. The castle is relatively complete, except for the roof, and inside there's a warren of rooms to explore. Info: Apr-Sep daily 0930-1830. £1.80, concession £1.30. Tel 331856 (HS).
Nearby, at 12 High Street, is the wonderful Broughton House, the Georgian town house which was bought in 1901 by E A Hornel, the renowned artist and member of the 'Glasgow Boys', an influential late 19th-century group of painters who established an artists' colony in Kirkcudbright. Many of Hornel's works are on display here, in the excellent Hornel Gallery. The artist also designed the beautiful Japanese Garden, which leads from the house down to the river. Info: House and Garden open Apr-Oct daily 1300-1700, opens at 1100 in Jul (hrs may vary). £3.50, concession 2.50. Tel 330437 (NTS).
Only a few minutes' walk along the High Street is the early 17th-century tolbooth, which now houses the Tolbooth Art Centre. As well as featuring a display of works by Hornel and his fellow 'colonists', including local artist Jessie King, the centre also tells the story of the town's artists colony from the late 19th century to the present day, and there are temporary exhibitions of local arts and crafts and photography. Info: All year Mon-Sat 1100-1600 and Sun 1400-1700. £1.50, concession £0.75. Tel 331556. Another of the town's art galleries is the Harbour Cottage Gallery, which hosts a variety of shows throughout the year. Info: Mar-Nov daily 1030-1230 and 1400-1700. Both are among the venues used during the Kirkcudbright Arts Festival, which takes place over two weeks in late August and early September. One of the town's most interesting sights is the Stewatry Museum, on St Mary Street, which boasts an extraordinarily diverse collection of exhibits reflecting the social and natural history of this part of the Solway coast, once known as the Kirkcudbright Stewatry because it was administered by the kings' stewards during the 14th and 15th centuries. Info: Same opening hours and admission charge as Tolbooth Art Centre. Tel 331643.
About seven miles southeast of Kirkcudbright is the lovely wee village of Dundrennan, site of the ruins of Dundrennan Abbey, a 12th-century Cistercian establishment standing in a beautifully bucolic setting in a secluded valley. You may not be too surprised to learn that the abbey has associations with Mary, Queen of Scots. She spent her last night on Scottish soil here. Bus No 505 between Kirkcudbright and Dumfries passes through Dundrennan, or if you're feeling energetic it's a lovely five-mile walk along quiet country roads. Info: Apr-Sep daily 0930-1830; Oct-Mar Sat 0930-1630 and Sun 1400-1630. £1.80, concession £1.30. Tel 500262.
Kirkcudbright Hotels & Accommodation
There's a wide range of accommodation available in and around town, but it's best to book in advance during summer months. The top hotel is the C Selkirk Arms Hotel, on the High St, Tel 330402, Selkirk Arms Hotel 17 rooms. This beautifully refurbished Georgian hotel in the old part of town has attractive rooms and also has the town's finest restaurant .
Another cracking place to stay is D Gladstone House, at 48 High St, Tel 331734. 3 rooms. This wonderful, superior guesthouse has a secluded garden and also offers afternoon tea. No smoking. Fantastic value. A cheaper alternative is E Gordon House Hotel, 116 High St, Tel/Fax 330670.
There are many B&Bs, including D-E Mrs Black, at 1 Gordon Pl, Tel 330472; E Mrs Caygill at 'The Marks', Tel 330854, Marks Farm D-E Millburn House, Millburn St, Tel 339166; D-E Mrs McLaughlin, 14 High St, Tel 330766, (Apr-Sep); D-E Number 3, 3 High St, Tel 330881; and E Mrs Durok, at 109a High St, Tel 331279, open Mar-Oct. A few miles north of town in the village of Twynholm, is the excellent D-E Fresh Fields, on Arden Rd, Tel 860221, open Jan-Oct.
There are also a couple of campsites near the town. Silvercraigs Caravan & Camping Site, Tel 503806, open Easter to late-Oct, is on an elevated site overlooking the town, about a 10-min walk from the centre; and Seaward Caravan Park, Tel 870267, open Mar-Oct, is part of a new leisure complex at Brighouse Bay, with a wide range of facilities including heated pool, 9-hole golf course and pony trekking.