Kirkcudbright (pronounced "kuh-KOO-bry") is a small coastal town in Dumfries and Galloway in southwest Scotland. Farming and fishing are its main trades. In the late 19th century several artists were attracted to paint in this area, notably EA Hornel (1864-1933), who came to live in Broughton House. Variously described as "The Glasgow Boys" or as Impressionists, they were much influenced by Japanese print, by French realism and by the natural scenes they found in Scotland - and above all they loathed the snooty Edinburgh art establishment. Their art movements eventually dissolved into others but Kirkcudbright continued to attract painters, so today it has a collection of galleries out of proportion to its size.
Kirkcudbright is almost cut off from the public transport network. The nearest railway station is Dumfries, 27 miles east, with trains every couple of hours M-Sa between Carlisle, Kilmarnock and Glasgow Central.
Stagecoach West Bus 555 is a school bus; anyone can use it but it only runs once on schooldays, from Kirkcudbright around 09:00 via Castle Douglas to Dumfries, taking 75 min, and setting off back around 14:00. Bus 505 used to run this route hourly but the Castle Douglas to Kirkcudbright leg has been axed.
Bus 431 runs every hour or two from Kirkcudbright to Gatehouse of Fleet, which has buses to Newton Stewart, which is on the bus route between Dumfries and Stranraer. It'll take all day.
So you need a car. Follow A75 west from Carlisle and Dumfries towards Stranraer, and branch south onto A762.
Walk around town, but you need your own wheels for outlying sights and accommodation.
The witch that wasn't
It sounds medieval, but belief in witches, and legal or church persecutions, were uncommon in Britain until the 16th century. Then the belief system grew, witchcraft was made a capital crime, and people started seeing them everywhere. King James VI / I was particularly obsessed by diabolical plots, personally attended some trials and wrote a tract against witchcraft. Scotland had witch-hunts out of proportion to its population, with some 4000-6000 tried and 1500 put to death. Prosecutions were especially common in Dumfries, Galloway and the East Coast, with those convicted being hanged or strangled then their bodies burnt. But scepticism grew in the 18th century, and the laws were changed in 1735 / 36.
Jean Maxwell, the "Galloway Sorceress", might then seem unlucky to be tried in 1805 in Kirkcudbright, for the crime of pretending to be a witch. Damned if you do and damned if you don't? But it was bad enough: she was abusing a gullible young farm servant, extorting "protection money" from her against the devil, amid sulphurous threats, eye-rolling and hocus-pocus. Maxwell was convicted under the 1735 laws and was jailed for a year. Heaven knows what might have happened 100 years earlier, to her and anyone associated with her.
- 1 Broughton House and Garden, High Street, Kirkcudbright DG6 4JX. April-Oct daily 12.00-17.00. A house built in 1734 which was the home of Scots impressionist artist E. A. Hornel between 1901 and 1933, with Japanese-influenced gardens - these are also open Feb & March. Adult £8.
- 2 MacLellan's Castle, Castle St DG6 4JD. April-Sept daily 09:30-17:30. Ruins of a 16th C L-plan tower house, with a reconstructed kitchen. Adult £4.80.
- The White House Gallery, St. Mary Street..
- Tolbooth Art Centre.
- Harbour Cottage Gallery.
- Cornerways Studio and Gallery.
- 3 Stewartry Museum, St Mary Street DG6 4AQ, ☏ . Displays local history, artifacts & photos Free.
- On the west bank of the River Dee along B727 is the attractive beach of The Dhoon. Further south down a lane is Brighouse Bay, with a campsite, riding centre and golf course. Continue west to find Carrick Beach. Nearby Knockbrex Castle is a laugh-out-loud Victorian pseudo-fortress.
- 4 Cardoness Castle, Castle St DG7 2EH (off A75). April-Sept daily 09:30-17:30. Well-preserved 15th C tower house, uninhabited since 1697. The owner Sir Godfrey McCulloch shot dead a rival, escaped to France, but quietly returned to live in Scotland under an alias; but he was spotted and guillotined. Adult £6.
- Kirkcudbright Golf Club. overlooking the River Dee.
- 1 Cream o' Galloway, Rainton, Gatehouse of Fleet,. There is an assault course and various farming related activities, all aimed at families. For the less adventurous, there is also ice cream tasting and tours of the ice cream factory.
- Kircudbright Jazz Festival is in mid-June. The next is probably 12-14 June 2020 but tbc.
- Kirkcudbright Country Fair is in late July. The next is probably 18-19 July 2020 but tbc.
- The Co-op Food store next to the castle is open daily 07:00-10:00.
- The Castle, 5 Castle St, ☏ . M-Sa 18:00-22:00. Good food with views over castle.
- Kirkcudbright Bay Hotel at 25 St Cuthbert Street has rooms but is primarily a pub with good grub.
- Thai Kitchen is north end of town near the golf course.
- Try Masonic Arms on Castle Street.
- 1 Silver Craigs is a campsite and caravan park on the east edge of town, open all year.
- Selkirk Arms, High Street DG6 4JG, ☏ , fax: , ✉ reception@SelkirkArmsHotel.co.uk. Welcoming well-run small hotel. B&B double from £90.
- Royal Hotel, 50 St Cuthbert Street, ☏ , fax: . This was sold in 2018 and isn't taking bookings in 2019.
- Glenholme Country House a mile north of town is closed to bookings in 2019.
- Splurge at 2 Cally Palace, Cally Ave, Gatehouse of Fleet DG7 2DL (off A75), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Luxury hotel in 18th C mansion set in golf resort, gets rave reviews for comfort and service. B&B double from £200.