Dumfries is the principal town of Dumfries and Galloway in southwest Scotland. It's a pleasant market town, with a population of 46,500 in 2020.
Robert Burns (1759-1796) the poet spent his last years here: from 1788 to 1791 at Ellisland Farm 7 miles north, then in Dumfries town until his death, aged 37. Sites associated with him are the main reason to visit, and it's also a good base for exploring the Dumfriesshire countryside. For travellers to and from Ireland who need a stopover, Dumfries may be a better choice than the port of Stranraer.
The Dumfries area is lowland and sits on red sandstone, well-drained and fertile. The town grew up east of the lowest crossing point and tidal limit of the River Nith - Maxwelltown on the west bank was separate until merged with Dumfries in 1929. Although it's a burgh of great antiquity, few of the buildings are very old, as invading armies kept wrecking the place. The last such visitor was Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745, who demanded money and shoes for his men. But the Duke of Cumberland was marching down on him so he and his Jacobite forces scarpered, none too nimbly as few of the shoes had been handed over.
Dumfries is on the transport route between England and Northern Ireland. It's grown rapidly and its industry and transport depend upon these UK links; in 2016 it voted heavily against Scottish independence.
From England, take the train towards Glasgow or Edinburgh and change at Carlisle. From Glasgow it's almost as quick to come via Carlisle as by the direct train.
1 Dumfries railway station is east side of town centre. It has a staffed ticket office and machines, a cafe, toilets and waiting room. Plusbus is available at this station.
Stagecoach West Scotland Bus 81 runs from Lockerbie M-Sa every 30 min, every two hours Sunday, taking 20 min via Torthorwald.
National Express no longer serves Dumfries: the Ulsterbus from London to Belfast has been axed.
2 Whitesands is the town bus station.
A74(M) is the main Carlisle-Glasgow highway, to the east of Dumfries. From Carlisle take A75 past Annan to Dumfries; this continues west to Castle Douglas and Stranraer. From Glasgow or Edinburgh leave A74(M) at Beattock for A701.
A76 runs up the Nith Valley from Dumfries via Sanquhar and Cumnock to Kilmarnock, for routes to Glasgow and the Ayrshire coast.
Houston's Bus 372 runs south from Dumfries along A710 to New Abbey (for Sweetheart Abbey), Ingleston Ford Farm (start of the climb up Criffel), Kirkbean (turnoff for John Paul Jones birthplace) and Sandyhills, which has a deer park. It runs M-Sa every two hours, but only three times on Sunday.
Houston's Bus 6A runs south from Dumfries along B725 via Kingholm Quay to Glencaple and Caerlaverock Castle. It runs M-Sa every 3 hours - three hours is longer than you need for the castle, so you could tramp along the road for an hour either north to Kingholm Quay or east to Ruthwell, both of which have more frequent buses back to Dumfries.
Stagecoach Bus 246 runs north from Dumfries along A76 to Auldgirth (for Portrack Garden and Ellisland Farm), Thornhill (3 miles south of Drumlarig Castle), Sanquhar, Kirkconnell, New Cumnock and Cumnock. It's every two hours daily.
Taxis: Woodgrove are open M-F on +44 7721 309537.
Bicycles: G&G Cycle Centre and Frothy Bike Co (see Eat) both do sales and repairs but don't hire bikes.
National Cycle Route 7 comes from Carlisle through Annan to Dumfries and on to Castle Stewart and Stranraer. It's on B724 to Annan then by back lanes from Powfoot to Caerlaverock then B725 into Dumfries. West it follows the Old Military Road, now bypassed by A75.
- Robert Burns' House, Burns Street DG1 2PS, ☏ . Tu-Sa 10:00-16:00. Small museum in the house where he spent his last five years. Free.
- Robert Burns' Centre, Mill Rd DG2 7BE, ☏ . Tu-Sa 10:00-16:00. This tells the story of the poet's last years, and the town of his day. Free.
- Other Burns sites within town are the statues to him and his wife Jean Armour (1765-1834), and his mausoleum in St Michael's graveyard. See below for Ellisland Farm.
- Midsteeple rears up in the middle of High St. Built in 1705, it was variously a prison, council chamber and county records office.
- Devorgilla Bridge is a picturesque 15th century sandstone footbridge over the River Nith. On the west bank, the Old Bridge House was built in 1660; the museum within it remains closed.
- Moat Brae on George St is Scotland's National Centre for children's literature and story-telling. JM Barrie (1860-1937) went to school in Dumfries and often played with his friends here, and it gave him the idea for Peter Pan.
- 1 Dumfries Museum, Observatory, Rotchell Rd DG2 7SW (corner of Church St west of river), ☏ . Apr-Sept Tu-Sa 10:00-13:00, 14:00-17:00. History museum with local exhibits. The camera obscura, up a spiral staircase on the top floor of an old windmill tower, is closed in 2022. Museum free, camera obscura adult £3.40.
- 2 Hunterian in the South, Rutherford McCowan Building, Bankend Rd DG1 4ZL (Dumfries Campus of UWS). M-Th 08:30-21:00, F 08:30-17:30, Sa 10:00-13:30. This is a satellite of the Hunterian in Glasgow West End, with rotating exhibitions drawn from their main collections. Free.
- 3 Lincluden Collegiate Church is all that remains of the 12th century Lincluden abbey and castle. It was abandoned and fell into ruin circa 1700.
- 4 Aviation Museum, Heathhall Industrial Estate DG1 3PH, ☏ . Sa W 10:00-17:00. A collection of military aircraft and equipment on a former RAF base. Adult £7, conc & child £5.
- 5 Cruck Cottage a further two miles up A709 is a charming restored 18th century thatched cottage. "Crucks" are crutches - sturdy oak beams supporting the roof. Hours erratic, try your luck.
- Torthorwald Castle is a 14th century bastion next to Cruck Cottage, well ruined.
South of town
- West of the river:
- 6 Easthill Stone Circle is a small oval circle 4 miles southwest of town, with eight stones of an original nine. It appears to be aligned with the sturdier "Twelve Apostles" north of town, see below.
- Hills Tower a mile southwest of the circle is a well-preserved square tower house of 1527 with a wing added in 1721. It's a private residence and you can't visit.
- See Castle Douglas for Drumcoltran Tower and other sights further down that road.
- 7 Sweetheart Abbey, New Abbey DG2 8BU (On A710 eight miles south of Dumfries, west of the river). Apr-Sept daily 09:30-17:30, Oct-Mar Sa-W 10:00-16:00. This is the remains of a Cistercian Abbey founded in 1275 (hence the nearby village is called "New Abbey"; the old abbey was Dundrennan to the west near Kirkcudbright). It was founded by Devorguilla in memory of her husband John de Balliol, and she also endowed the Oxford college named for him. She carried his embalmed heart around everywhere in a casket of ivory and silver, until it was buried with her here, though the grave is now lost. Adult £4.
- New Abbey Corn Mill, New Abbey DG2 8BX (By Sweetheart Abbey). Apr-Sept daily 10:00-17:00, Oct-Mar Sa-W 10:00-16:00. Watermill built around 1800 over the former monastery mill. Adult £7, conc £5.50, child £4.
- 8 Birthplace of John Paul Jones, Arbigland House, Kirkbean DG2 8BQ, ☏ . Apr-Oct daily 10:30-17:00. Jones (1747-1792) was a naval hero to the US but pirate to the English. His birthplace is this humble cottage with a small museum. Adult £4.50, conc £4, child free.
- Southerness Lighthouse two miles south of the cottage was built in 1748. It was decommissioned in 1936 but still serves as a day-mark.
- East of the river: there's no bridge below Dumfries so you have to backtrack
- 9 Caerlaverock Castle, Castle Road End, Glencaple DG1 4RU (7 miles south of Dumfries on B725, east of river), ☏ . Closed ufn. Impressive twin-towered triangular castle surrounded by a water filled moat. It was completed in 1270 and wrecked and rebuilt until 1640 when it was abandoned. It's scenic and often used as a film location. An earlier square castle of 1230 is 200 yards south: only foundations remain, and probably it was left unfinished when the advantages of the "new" site were seen.
- Nith Estuary wetlands south of Caerlaverock are a National Nature Reserve.
- See Annan for Brow Well, an ancient spa where Burns came in his last days in forlorn hopes of a cure, and Ruthwell Cross a remarkable 8th century high cross with Latin, Anglo-Saxon and Runic inscriptions.
North of town
- 10 Twelve Apostles is a stone circle off A76 near Newbridge, about 100 m in diameter. The design is similar to the circles of Cumbria. Eleven boulders remain - the lost 12th apostle has inevitably been dubbed "Judas Iscariot", but as he only disappeared circa 1800, he'd had a good run for his money.
- 11 Ellisland Farm, Holywood Rd, Auldgirth DG2 0RP (7 miles north of town along A76), ☏ . Sa-Tu 11:00-16:00. Robert Burns came out from Edinburgh and took the lease on this farmland in 1788, his last spell of farming for a living. He had to build the farmhouse and byres, so it was only the following year that his family could move in - he'd finally married Jean Armour. Poetically this was his most productive period - "Tam O'Shanter" was written here. The farm remains much as it was, rearing cattle and sheep on the banks of the Nith. But it didn't pay its way and Burns could earn more as an exciseman, so in 1791 he gave it up and moved into Dumfries. The drunkenness at the closing auction shocked even him. Adult £5, child £2.50.
- Portrack Garden of Cosmic Speculation is a mile south of Ellisland Farm off A76. It's a wacky garden and sculpture park inspired by science: quarks, fractals, and black-hole distortions of space-time, insofar as it's possible (or indeed prudent) to re-create these in rural Dumfriesshire. It's only open one day a year as part of the Scotland's Gardens charity scheme, usually the Sunday of the first May Bank Holiday. Adults £10, children free.
- 12 Lag Tower is a dilapidated keep and barmekin up a lane west of Auldgirth. It's 16th century.
- Closeburn Castle is now upscale accommodation, see Sleep.
- 13 Drumlanrig Castle, Thornhill DG3 4AQ (17 miles north of Dumfries off A76), ☏ , email@example.com. Castle July-Aug F-M 11:00-16:00; gardens Apr-Sept daily 11:00-16:00. Impressive 17th century Renaissance "pink palace", interior by guided tour only, with 120 rooms, 17 turrets and four towers. It houses the Buccleuch collection of artwork, furniture and silver. Set in extensive gardens and estate with various activities for adults & children (think zip-wires). The Galloway Country Fair is held here in August each year. Adult £15, conc £12, child £7.
- Morton Castle is a jagged stump two miles east of Drumlanrig. Not much left of this remote 13th century Hall, the fun is in trying to find it, then having it to yourself. At Carronbridge leave A76 for A702 and take the second right. Always open, free.
- Durisdeer Parish Church is an attractive Georgian building off A701 over the hills into Clydesdale.
- 14 Grey Mare's Tail Waterfall is one of Scotland's finest, a 60 m cascade in the Moffat hills. The walk to it continues up past the falls and to beautiful Loch Skeen, ringed by craggy hillsides. It's on A708 about 30 miles and an hour's drive from Dumfries.
- DG One Ice Bowl includes a skating rink and bowling facilities, swimming pool and sports / exhibition hall.
- Art galleries include Ottersburn Gallery near the old swimming pool, and Gracefield Arts Centre on Edinburgh Road.
- Theatre Royal at 66 Shakespeare St claims to be the oldest working theatre in Scotland. Box Office is +44 1387 254209.
- Cinema: Big Burns Supper on Newall Terrace shows films and hosts community events. The Odeon has closed down.
- Football: Queen of the South FC ("The Doonhamers") were relegated in 2022 and now play soccer in League One, Scotland's third tier. Their home ground is Palmerston Park, capacity 8690, off Terregles St west of the river.
- Rugby: Dumfries Saints RFC play in National League Two, Scotland's third tier.
- Dock Park, east bank of the river below St Michael's Bridge A756, is a park and play area with mini-golf, trampolines and cafe.
- Golf: nearby courses are Dumfries & Galloway GC, Dumfries & County GC and The Crichton (9 holes), with Lochmaben and Lockerbie courses furher east.
- 1 Mabie Farm Park, Burnside Farm, Mabie DG2 8EZ (5 miles south of Dumfries on A710), ☏ . Apr-Oct daily 10:00-17:00. A kids entertainment place with rides, slides and animals. Adult or child £10.
- Mountain biking at Seven Stanes course at Mabie Forest (south on A710), with another course at Ae Forest.
- Climb Criffel, 10 miles south of Dumfries off A710. It's 1870 ft / 570 m, so it's not a Munro, it's a Marilyn, but because it rears up in isolation from a low plain, it's prominent and commands all-round views. The usual route is from Ardwall by Loch Kindar: there's parking up the lane. It's a short steep ascent through forest, becoming boggy on the summit heathland, reckon 3 hours there and back.
- Youthbeatz is a children's and young people's free music festival on Park Farm Showfield. It's next held on 25-26 June 2022.
- Dumfries Agricultural Show is held on the first Saturday in August at the Show Field, Park Farm DG2 7LU. The next show is Sat 6 Aug 2022.
- Loreburne Shopping Centre is the main retail mall. Lidl and Morrison's supermarkets are a block or two east, with Tesco further out towards Tarff Town.
- Barbour's department store, the town's oldest shop, is still going strong in its impressive sandstone building on Buccleuch Street, M-Sa 09:00-17:00.
- Farmers Market is on the first Sunday of the month. It's at Tarff Town northeast, junction of A75 and A709.
- Imperial does good Chinese at 126 Queensberry St, open F-M 12:00-20:00.
- Daksh is standard Indian fare on Queen St, open W-Su 12:00-14:00.
- Yamas is a small Greek deli and cafe at 35 Bank St, open M-Th 12:00-14:00, 16:30-21:00, F-Su 12:00-21:00.
- Frothy Bike Co, 77 Whitesands DG2 1RX, ☏ . Th-M 09:00 - 15:00. This bicycle shop has a cafe which is beginning to take over as the main draw.
- 1 Pizzeria Il Fiume, Dock Park DG1 2RY, ☏ . Daily 17:00-22:00. Cosy long-established pizzeria on riverside.
- 2 Casa Mia, 53 Nunholm Road DG1 1JW, ☏ . Daily 12:00-14:00, 17:00-21:00. Smart popular place edge of town, serving modern European cuisine.
- 3 Drummuir Farm Ice Cream, Drummuir Farm, Clarencefield Road, Collin DG1 4PX (Off B724 west of Dumfries), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. W-Su 10:30-17:30. Serves a range of home-made ice creams, hand-made with milk from their own herd of dairy cows.
- Cavens Arms, 20 Buccleuch St DG1 2AH, ☏ . M-Th 11:00-23:00, F Sa 11:00-00:00, Su 12:00-22:30. Child-free pub and restaurant. They no longer have a micro-brewery.
- Robert the Bruce, 81 Buccleuch St DG1 1DJ, ☏ . Su-Th 08:00-00:00, F Sa 08:00-01:00. Reliable JD Wetherspoon with good beer and food. Robert the Bruce won his first battle in the hills north of here.
- Globe Inn, 56 High St DG1 2JA, ☏ . W-Sa 17:00-22:00. Traditional flagstone pub that Burns declared as "his favourite Howff", and modern visitors give it rave reviews. On Burns Night and similar big occasions it's booked out for private events. Not to be confused with the tatty Globe Inn across the bridge on Market Square.
- Others in town centre include White Hart Hotel on Brewery St (has rooms), Slipstream and Dickie's on English St, New Bazaar on White Sands, Hole i' the Wa' on High St, The Stag on Bank St, Granary and Flesher's Arms on Loreburn St, and over a dozen more.
- Out of town: 1 The Steamboat Inn, Carsethorn DG2 8DS (12 miles south of Dumfries off A710), ☏ , email@example.com. W 12:00-22:00, Th-Su 12:00-00:00. Nice inn on the coast with views over the Nith estuary, real ales and good food. Slick service, dog-friendly. B&B double £130.
- Nightclubs: The Venue at Church Place has live events F Sa 20:00-03:00. Chancers on Munches St remains closed.
- Brewery: Lowland Brewery is in Lockerbie.
- Distilleries: in Dalton towards Lockerbie, Ninefold make rum and Oro make gin. See Annan#Drink for its whisky distilleries. Ben Cumhaill north on A76 is not yet in production, so the earliest its whisky could be ready is 2025.
- 1 Newbridge Country Park, Glasgow Rd, Newbridge DG2 0LF (On A76), ☏ . This is mostly for long-lease static caravans but has visitor pitches. Two person tent £10, caravan £15.
- Cairndale Hotel is a 3-star on English St.
- Ferintosh Guset House is an immaculate B&B next to the railway station.
- Huntingdon Hotel is a 3-star at 18 St Mary's St near the railway station.
- Dumfries Villa, 33 Lovers Walk DG1 1LR (by railway station), ☏ . 3-star B&B in peaceful Victorian town house. 5 rooms all en suite. B&B double from £75.
- 2 Premier Inn, Annan Rd DG1 3JX (Junction of A780 and A75 bypass), ☏ . Reliable chain budget hotel at the east edge of town. No a/c or lift. B&B double £85.
- Travelodge is at the junction by Premier Inn.
- Holiday Inn aka The Crichton is on the University Campus, two miles south along B725.
- 3 Cavens Country House Hotel, Kirkbean DG2 8AA (Off A710 ten miles south of town), ☏ . Upscale hotel in 1752 merchant's mansion, some rooms accept dogs. Half-board double £300.
- 4 Closeburn Castle is a tower house, probably 14th century, and one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the country. It's available for self-catering, sleeping six in two double rooms and one suite; it's off A76 ten miles north of Dumfries. Don't gripe at the lack of a lift: until 1748 there were no stairs, and people had to shin up a ladder.
- Trigony House is a pleasant country house hotel on the main road near Closeburn.
- Sanquhar is 28 miles north up the A76, but if you're going that way you might splurge at Blackaddie Country House Hotel, B&B double £200 in 2022.
Obvious stuff: beware traffic, safeguard valuables and avoid the occasional idiot drunk.
Also, avoid getting drunk yourself and falling victim to Burke and Hare. No bodysnatchers they: they preyed on Edinburgh's down-and-outs, got them drunk, snuffed them out and sold the corpses for dissection. Hare turned prosecution witness against Burke, who was hanged in 1829, while Hare was given immunity and smuggled out of town to Dumfries. He may have been making for his origins in Ulster, but he was recognised and a furious mob besieged him at the Kings Arms Hotel (now Boots on High Street). He was taken into protective custody and early next morning set down on the road to Annan, and advised to leg it to England. There are no further reliable sightings and his fate is unknown.
Dumfries and its approach roads have 4G from all UK carriers. As of March 2022, 5G has not reached this area.
- The Museum of Lead Mining is in Wanlockhead, Scotland's highest village, in the Lowther Hills.
- Take the old road to Annan via Ruthwell for its 6th century High Cross and chalybeate Brow Well.
- For more Robert Burns memorabilia, head to his birthplace at Alloway just south of Ayr.
- The mountains seen to the south across the Solway are the English Lake District. They're scenic but will feel very touristy after Dumfries & Galloway.
|Routes through Dumfries|
|Stranraer ← Castle Douglas ←||W E||→ Annan → Carlisle|