Annandale and Eskdale account for the entire eastern end of Dumfries and Galloway, abutting South Lanarkshire to the north, the Scottish Borders to the east, the border with England to the southeast, and sloping down to the shores of the Solway Firth directly to the south. Residents of the area are quietly proud of it but feel a frustration that, of the millions who pass through on the A74(M) motorway each year, more don’t stop to visit. It’s a shame as there is much here to discover and enjoy, far more than may at first meet the eye. In fact, it’s an ideal area for exploring slowly.
You can encounter a wealth of history on the ground, from early prehistoric stone circles through Roman forts, to memorials to more recent events such as the Lockerbie disaster.
This is a sizeable area: 31 miles from Moffat in the north down to Gretna at the border with England, and just under 18 miles from Lockerbie eastwards to Langholm. The rivers Esk and Annan rise in the north and flow southwards to empty at the eastern end of the Solway. They cut a clear line along the valley bottoms, running through forests and between steep hills, past communities on their banks that have developed over centuries.
Spending time in this area is a delight for anyone who loves the outdoors. For walkers in particular there is a pack of routes to choose from, whether undertaking all or part of a long-distance trail, or simply devising a shorter loop for a bit of fresh air. Fishing is also popular, with a good choice of beats on a selection of rivers. More information about fishing on the River Annan can be found at riverannan.org and fishpal.com. Birdwatching, canoeing, horseriding and even carriage driving can all be enjoyed by expert and novice alike.
You can encounter a wealth of history on the ground, from early prehistoric stone circles through Roman forts, to memorials to more recent events such as the Lockerbie disaster. There are also connections with Robert the Bruce, William Wallace, the Covenanters and the Jacobite Rebellions.
The last few hundred years have given rise to numerous famous sons and daughters, including the engineer Thomas Telford and philosopher Thomas Carlyle. Although Robert Burns neither came from, nor lived in, this particular part of Dumfries and Galloway, he did visit and there are one or two places hereabouts that will be of interest to Burns enthusiasts. For romantics incurable or otherwise, Gretna Green tells the story of elopements past and marriages present; this small village immediately north of the border is (in)famous worldwide thanks to the historic differences in marriage law between Scotland and England.
For romantics incurable or otherwise, Gretna Green tells the story of elopements past and marriages present; this small village immediately north of the border is (in)famous worldwide thanks to the historic differences in marriage law between Scotland and England.
The people, communities and economic activities of Annandale and Eskdale are diverse – to say the least – and range from farmers caretaking the land in serene valleys and on isolated hilltops to retired academics running exotic gardens, incomers from the south who have escaped to set up B&Bs, and community trusts who have acquired lochs and raised funds to develop wildlife centres. There’s even a Buddhist monastery in the hills, the first to be established in the West. The work of Forestry Commission Scotland is also much in evidence, for conifer plantations make up 27% of land use in the Annan catchment alone.