Annandale and Eskdale
In addition to the Annandale Arms, the main square in Moffat is lined with a number of coaching inns and hotels offering accommodation and food, including the Buccleuch Arms, Black Bull, The Star Hotel and The Balmoral Hotel.
High St, Moffat DG10 9HF, www.annandalearmshotel.co.uk
Simon Tweedie and his family moved up to Moffat from the south almost 25 years ago, since when he has done an impressive job of renovating and developing this 250-year-old coaching inn in the heart of town. 16 rooms are available, all freshly decorated in neutral tones and all except one en suite, with modern, gleaming bathrooms.
There are fine views from the 2nd floor rooms over the Moffat rooftops. Pets are allowed in the five lower ground floor rooms in what were once the stables, conveniently located next to the private car park at the back of the hotel, which adjoins the gated dog-walking area. Comfortable public spaces include the main reception area, perfect for a cup of coffee and the morning papers, oak-panelled bar and restaurant. Locals gather in the bar every Thursday evening for a popular and enjoyable – without being raucous – acoustic music night.
Market Pl, Langholm DG13 0JH, www.eskdalehotel.co.uk
Occupying prime position in the heart of Langholm, the Eskdale offers a friendly welcome. Owner John Noonan has been in the hotel industry all his working life and since acquiring the Eskdale a few years ago has carried out extensive works to achieve a Visit Scotland grading at the top end of three stars.
Bedrooms are spacious, brightly decorated and fresh, while public areas are warm and welcoming. Once a temperance hotel, those days are long gone: the cosy bar is open for business and serves tasty food, too. Within the hotel is the Clan Armstrong Museum.
Somerton House Hotel
35 Carlisle Rd, Lockerbie DG11 2DR, www.somertonhotel.co.uk
Located on the southern edge of Lockerbie, pet-friendly Somerton is a comfortable and characterful family-owned hotel, ideally located for overnight stops or longer stays. The late Victorian, red sandstone house was designed by eminent Scottish architect Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson and boasts a memorable and striking quantity of wood panelling and finishings from the now protected Kauri, the largest and most renowned of all New Zealand’s native timber trees.
Somerton was originally built for the owners of the Annan shipyard, which is where the wood came from, and its public rooms speak of a different time. Bedrooms in the main house are distinctive and spacious: high ceilings, ornate cornices, traditional furniture (chaise longue and four-poster bed in one!), while those in the extension at the back are more modern, as are the bathrooms throughout. Breakfast is served in the original dining room, while lunch and evening meals can be taken in the pleasant lounge bar or popular conservatory.
29 Well Street
Well St, DG10 9DP, www.29wellstreet.co.uk
Mark and Dawn Burton took the plunge in 2017, swapping their everyday hectic jobs in Yorkshire for what they describe as ‘the slightly more controllable bustle of B&B life’. Mark was previously an administrator with a well-established car brand while Dawn ran her own successful cafe. These days she bakes the biscuits for the guest rooms, not to mention the cake which guests are offered on arrival.
29 Well Street was already a successful B&B when they bought it and in the ensuing years they have continued to build on its reputation. Located in the centre of Moffat, it’s well situated for all of the local shops, pubs and cafes while still being quiet enough for a good, night’s sleep.
Four en-suite bedrooms are offered: two on the ground floor (one of which is a dedicated pet-friendly room) and two on the first floor (the twin can be quickly changed into a super-king size ). Breakfast is a choice of either Continental or full cooked from the menu, along with as much tea and coffee as you can drink. All dietary requirements are catered for.
29 Well Street works well either for a one-night stopover or for longer stays to explore the area. Climb the Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall path, visit St Mary’s Loch or just take in one of the many walks around Moffat.
Hartfell Crescent, Moffat DG10 9AL, www.hartfellhouse.co.uk
Ornate cornices, big windows and an elegant wooden staircase set the tone for Hartfell House. Occupying a prime position on one of Moffat’s smartest streets, this striking stone-built Victorian property is situated in an elevated location on the slopes below Gallow Hill. Owners Rob and Mhairi Ash worked in hospitality in upmarket hotels in Edinburgh and London before coming to Moffat, which might explain why their impressive dining room has an appealing touch of Park Lane about it.
Seven guest rooms are available, one on the ground floor, all high-ceilinged and airy, some positively cavernous, some cosier, furnished with a mix of modern and vintage pieces, and all with views either down the Annan valley to the front or up the garden and hill to the rear. Rob’s in the kitchen in the morning, preparing continental and full Scottish breakfasts, but come evening chef Matt Seddon takes over, producing exceptionally high quality meals for guests and non-residents alike in the dining room, which doubles as the Limetree Restaurant.
High Rd, Hightae, Lockerbie DG11 1JS, www.hightaeinn.co.uk
One of Robert the Bruce’s ‘Royal Four Towns’, Hightae sits peacefully on the Annan river plain just south of Lockerbie and Lochmaben. At the centre of the village is the Hightae Inn, an intimate restaurant with five rooms, home to genial hosts Morag and Mark Cuthbertson (and Thomas, their characterful and entertainingly aloof Welsh Terrier), who have been welcoming guests since 2008. Morag’s grandparents used to run hotels in Lockerbie and she grew up in the area, while Mark is originally from Glasgow.
Five rooms are offered, two on the ground floor and three upstairs, all en-suite and all either king-size or double. Photographs and artworks punctuate the walls, furniture is a mix of new and traditional, and accents of colour in soft furnishings and upcycled vintage pieces enliven neutral tones. Bathrooms are smart and modern, bedecked with gleaming white tiles. There’s also a guest sitting room and, out back, a quirky caravan-hut, a snug retreat with woodburning stove, perfect for evening drinks or curling up with a book.
Morag’s cooking is well known in the area. The Inn is open to non-residents for dinner and most B&B guests eat here at least once. Fresh, local produce and lots of vegetables are used as much as possible to create dishes such as goats cheese salad with toasted nuts and griddled grapes, Galloway rib-eye steak and three-cheese filo pastry tart with spinach and pine nuts. Needless to say, breakfasts are no less enticing. A choice of three dishes might be offered – poached eggs, for instance, or smoked salmon, or bacon from local supplier Kilnford Barns in Dumfries – as well as fresh fruit, yoghurt and, time permitting, home-baked bread. And, if you get the chance to try Morag’s flapjack, you’re in for a treat.
Queensberry House B&B
Beechgrove, Moffat, DG10 9RS, www.queensberryhouse.com
Charming Queensberry House dates back to the mid-19th century and since 2014 has been in the expert hands of Miles and Caroline, whose hard work has paid off with a 4-star rating from VisitScotland’s Quality Assurance scheme. Located on a quiet road just a five-minute walk from the centre of Moffat (parking available right outside the door), it’s close to a delightful riverside walk and to the A701 Borders-Edinburgh route, which is regularly voted one of the UK’s top ten most scenic roads.
Peace and calm prevail behind Queensberry’s bright red front door, with three double rooms – all on the ground floor – updated and refurbished in soothing pastel colours. Bathrooms are spotlessly clean with modern fittings. A guest lounge makes for a good gathering point, while a drying/storage area is available for wet weather gear or bulky items – suitcases, motorcycle jackets and helmets or bicycles.
Caroline was a travel journalist in a previous life and spent much time reviewing hotels around the globe so she’s picked up a few useful tips along the way, from the right bedside lighting to the best bed linen and breakfast cutlery, while Miles has poached so many eggs for guests he thinks he’s got it, ahem, cracked! Most dietary requests can be catered for; vegan guests give the scrambled tofu a thumbs up, and the masala omelette brings a spicy kickstart to the day.
Summerlea House B&B
Eastgate, Moffat DG10 9AB, www.moffatbedandbreakfast.co.uk
Ornamental flamingos in the garden, bookcases stuffed with travel guides and maps, Haggis the lusty terrier, and fresh milk in the bedrooms are just a few of the defining characteristics of this B&B in the heart of Moffat’s conservation area, quietly located but only a couple of minutes walk from the shops, bars and restaurants of the High Street.
Donald and Darren, authors of Bradt’s Dumfries and Galloway guide (and several walking guides), have created a cosy and comfortable haven for couples in search of a country retreat, walkers tramping the hills, tourers stopping off, and cyclists exploring the highways and byways of the Southern Uplands (covered storage for bikes and motorbikes is available). Most guests stay anywhere from two to ten nights, but single-night bookings can sometimes be accommodated.
Just two en-suite rooms are offered, both furnished with a mix of modern, vintage and antique pieces and with plenty of hanging and drawer space. From the cosy guest sitting room patio doors lead to the private and spacious courtyard garden with its bird feeders, sitting area and borders. Full cooked or continental breakfast is served at one table in the country house-style dining room; muesli, yoghurt and (sometimes) marmalade are all homemade (Darren’s marmalade has won several awards in the annual World Marmalade Festival).
‘Since moving here we’ve met people from all over the world’ says Donald. ‘We know the area inside out and love sharing our top tips with guests. Come and discover Dumfries and Galloway!’
‘Best B&B since Lands End’ according to one long-distance cyclist on a well-known travel website.
Dornock Brow House, Dornock, Annan DG12 6SX, www.thewatersiderooms.co.uk
Judith and Eric’s traditional cottage has a gorgeous and unusual setting just above the shoreline gazing across the Solway. Since moving here in 2018 they have been offering guest accommodation in the lower section of the house.
There’s a small double room with king-size bed, a shower room and a separate sitting room with sofa, desk, Wi-Fi, and TV, plus a tea and coffee area with fridge. Tea, coffee and milk are supplied, plus – Judith’s a baker – cake! Decor is in calming pastel shades, the views from the neat raised windows are into the garden, out to which a patio door leads from the sitting room.
Breakfast is served upstairs in Judith and Eric’s own living area, a gorgeous open plan room with a breathtaking view across the water to Cumbria beyond. To reach the house you turn off the B721 just as you come into Eastriggs down an inconspicuous lane through a lorry yard. The approach to the house gives little away until you reach the bottom of the lane and suddenly the Solway is spread out before you. It’s a unique location, perfect for bird watchers and walkers.
Beattock, Moffat DG10 9QA, www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/13609202
Cauldholm (pronounced ‘callum’, as in the name) is set in the hills above Moffat, 5 miles from the town centre. The stone-built bothy, once an outbuilding, adjoins the farmhouse and offers spacious open-plan kitchen/sitting room and two cosy double en-suite bedrooms upstairs. Décor is contemporary and fresh and the whole place is full of character, from patchwork quilts made by the ladies of the Quilters’ Guild to Dennis the cockerel and his admiring hens (fresh eggs sometimes available). Buddy the black and white cat and Border Collie Jess are in residence, but don’t mind if you bring your dog. Wi-Fi, TV, Blu-ray, books and games are all provided.
This is a particularly good option for a few nights break as it sits right on the Annandale Way and is just a mile from the Southern Upland Way. It also works well as a base for longer breaks, with easy access to all of Annandale and beyond.
Kirkwood Real Farm Holidays
Dalton, DG11 1DH, www.kirkwood-lockerbie.co.uk
Staying at Kirkwood offers a genuine taste of life on a sheep farm in the rolling hills of mid Annandale, an area of Dumfriesshire infused with rural charm. The views across farmland to the higher hills of the Southern Uplands are dreamy and there is much to discover and enjoy hereabouts, from the red squirrels at Eskrigg Nature Reserve to gin and rum distilleries less than five minutes drive away, not to mention plenty of walks from the door.
Fishing is offered on the Kirkwood and Jardine Hall beats of the Annan and you can opt to get involved with farm activities if you wish: children will enjoy feeding the lambs or chickens, or picking the eggs, while adults can book a ‘salmon school’ course or driving session: quad biking, 4×4 and tractor driving are all offered.
Accommodation is in five three-star pet-friendly cottages around a courtyard, and in a traditional farmhouse, rated 5-star by Visit Scotland, on a different part of the estate. The cottages, a mix of 2- and 3-bed properties, can be booked individually but, sleeping 22 people in total are perfect for family groups, with masses of safe space for kids to run around, plus a small play park on site. There’s also a central laundry room if needed.
Surrounded by farmland, the farmhouse sleeps 10 and is furnished with a mix of modern and antique pieces. A large kitchen-sitting room with AGA, separate cooker and woodburning stove is a perfect gathering space and is ideal for kitchen meals at a round table in the bay window. The separate dining room seats 10 at a long table, while the delightful sitting room has big comfy sofas, another woodburning stove and large picture windows letting in masses of light. Loads of garden space lends itself to sitting outdoors. There’s also a vegetable garden from which guests are welcome to pick their own produce (some years they even manage to grow tomatoes in the greenhouse!).
Nether Boreland B&B
Boreland, Lockerbie DG11 2LL, www.netherboreland.co.uk
Relax in the quiet village of Boreland at this cosy B&B which forms part of the Chariots of Fire equestrian centre, a non-profit social enterprise that specialises in working with people with disabilities, which is just across the road.
A double and twin are available, both ensuite, and there’s also a double with a separate bathroom for sole use just along the landing. Downstairs a comfortable sitting room with open fire is the perfect place to hunker down. Guests are welcome to book a pleasure drive in the surrounding countryside in a carriage pulled by four horses.
Wee Hartfell Cottage
Howslack, Annan Water, Moffat DG10 9LS, www.cottages-and-castles.co.uk
The hills and valley of the Annan Water north of Moffat feel remote but are only a short drive from the town centre. The broad valley narrows to the dramatic hollow of the Devil’s Beef Tub, a dead end which sees little traffic other than tractors and the handful of residents who live here. Where the hills start to converge, and with Hartfell, one of the highest peaks in the Southern Uplands, immediately to the east, Tom’s Long’s purpose-built cabin sits surrounded by farmland with views to the River Annan below. Tom’s family have farmed the valley for many years and Tom himself is a skilled joiner and farm manager.
The single-storey cabin backs into the hillside and looks out across the valley from the front and north to the Beef Tub from the patio doors leading to the garden area and outdoor table, a perfect spot for meals al fresco on sunny days. Two double and one twin bedrooms sleep six, and there are two shower rooms (one with bath, also), open-plan sitting/dining area, and a fully equipped kitchen.
Fixtures, fittings and furnishings are modern and well maintained and shower rooms are lustrous. Walk and cycle from the door, spot birdlife and wildlife, and star-gaze from the garden. Surrounded by splendid countryside, and with the shops and restaurants of Moffat just a couple of miles up the road, this is a relaxing, scenic and atmospheric location in which to slow down and recharge.
Campsites, caravans & glamping
Craigieburn Gardens Bothy
Craigieburn Gardens, A708 Selkirk road, DG10 9LF
Craigieburn Gardens occupy six acres of gently sloping hillside above the deep gorge of the Craigie Burn in the hills just east of Moffat. In the midst of the gardens, a brick-built bothy offers bijou accommodation for two, surrounded by the herb garden, autumn garden and woodland, and accompanied by the sound of the rushing waters of the burn.
Inside, a double bed, small table, comfy chairs, a rug on the wooden floor and a woodburning stove keep it all warm toasty. (The first load of wood for the stove is included and subsequent loads can be either bought or foraged from the garden.) A water container is provided for cooking and tea making, and a demi-john for drinking, while wind-up lamps cast a cosy glow as the sun sets. For cooking, a simple camping gas stove is supplied and there’s also a BBQ area. The outside toilet and basin with hot and cold water are a few minutes walk up the garden at the side of the main house
This is a magical retreat for those who like to get back to nature, a special place in glorious gardens which owner Janet McGowan has nurtured for 25 years and which she and husband Peter continue to evolve with the help of Nepalese Sherpa Dawa, who also lives here. The gardens are open to the public through the day, so expect other people to be around, but come evening you have the place to yourself.
Hoddom Castle Caravan Park
Hoddom, near Lockerbie DG11 1AS, www.hoddomcastle.co.uk
Located in 10,000 acres of ground around the 16th-century Hoddom Castle, this well-equipped caravan site offers all the expected site facilities plus the options of a touch of glamour in Chill Pods or traditional Finnish Kota. The site is leafy and spacious and provides a safe environment for families and children.
Moffat Camping and Caravan Site
Hammerlands Moffat DG10 9QL, www.campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk
The Camping and Caravan Club site at Moffat is well located a couple of minutes’ walk from the town centre and just a minute or so walk to the supermarket. The 180-pitch site sits in the wide valley with views of the surrounding hills, to which there is easy access by car or bike, or on foot. Good facilities, including showers, electric hook-up and washing machines. Pets allowed. Non-club members are welcome but pay a higher charge.
Moffat Wigwam Holidays
Roundstonefoot Farm, Moffat DG10 9LG, www.wigwamholidays.com/moffat
Glamping sites don’t come much better than this. Ex-farmer John Hume, wife Laura and their three daughters work hard to ensure a happy stay at their six-wigwam site five miles east of Moffat in an enviable position in one of the region’s most beautiful areas, perfectly positioned on a hillside to take in the stunning views up and down Moffat Water valley and to access a host of activities.
Walk the hills, mountain bike the forests, look for raptors (it’s said the valley is home to the densest population of peregrine falcons in the UK), go sailing on St Mary’s Loch, visit the Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall, guddle or fish for minnows in the burns or, if all you want is peace and quiet, relax on the decking and soak up the views.
Wigwams have come a long way in the past few years. Gone are the days of dusty, rickety cabins; now they’re homey enclaves suitable for a family of four or ideal as a romantic getaway for two. Three of the wigwams here are dog-friendly, too. Each one comes with hot and cold running water, en-suite shower and toilet, small kitchen area with fridge, microwave, kettle, hotplates and sink, electric heater, and DVD player. You even get your own fire pit/BBQ.
John is passionate and knowledgeable about the area – his family has farmed the Yarrow valley a little further east since the 1950s – and he has put a lot of thought into making this a great place to stay, from considering the positioning of each individual wigwam to creating hillside seating areas to make the most of the views and even planting mixed woodland of around 14,000 trees up the hill behind the site. With the convenience of all the shops, pubs and restaurants of Moffat along the valley, this is a lovely spot for a rural and comfortable glamping escape.
The Wagon at Arkleton
Arkleton Walled Garden, Ewes, Langholm DG13 0HL, www.the-walled-garden.co.uk
Kate Knott’s hand-crafted wagon charms from the outset. Located just outside Kate’s gorgeous walled garden in a valley north of Langholm, it offers a peaceful and slightly quirky retreat in a beautiful setting. With a small wood burner and unlimited logs, it’s cosy, comfortable and full of character.
Just next to it is an ‘outdoor kitchen’ with electric hob, kettle and running water, while the toilet and shower are a short walk away by the house. Booking is either direct or through Airbnb. Have a read of the reviews: they’re glowing.
Auldgirth DG2 0XG, www.auldgirthinn.co.uk
With its arched windows and crosses on the chimney stack you might think the inn looks more like a monastic retreat than a modern hostelry. You wouldn’t be far wrong, for it dates back to the times when monks travelled from the abbey at Melrose in the Scottish Borders to Whithorn in the Machars on pilgrimage to the shrine of St Ninian.
Local lad Rob McAleese took over in 2017 and after extensive refurbishment now offers seven contemporary rooms in an atmospheric and historic setting. Rooms range from neat to capacious (the honeymoon suite is vast, with roll-top bath at the foot of the bed), all finished in neutral tones with bright, bold artworks on traditional themes adorning the walls. There’s a cosy guest lounge with woodburning stove, a perfect space for gathering with friends or curling up with a book.
Rob and his team are attentive, welcoming hosts and have been successful in creating a conveniently located retreat that combines style with comfort and good food, including a selection of dry aged meat and, for special occasions, a multi-course taster menu.
Blackaddie Country House Hotel
Blackaddie Road, Sanquhar DG4 6JJ, www.blackaddiehotel.co.uk
Chef Ian McAndrew is up there with the best of them when it comes to fine dining. Having trained with Anton Mosimann at the Dorchester Hotel, he then turned his hand to a range of catering-related businesses before acquiring Blackaddie in 2007.
Here in this relatively unexplored part of Upper Nithsdale he has established an elegant, cosy and comfortable retreat for discerning guests (with deep pockets) in search of a rural escape with all the trimmings, including a two-AA Rosette restaurant (as well as 4-star Restaurant with Rooms designation from AA and Visit Scotland).
Six spacious rooms with river or garden views are offered, each with sumptuous fabrics and pristine bathrooms with underfloor heating, plus wonderful extras: coffee machine, fruit basket, sweet Scotch tablet and homemade shortbread. Most rooms are also dog friendly. Public rooms include a small library and conservatory with blissful views straight down the River Nith, and an intimate dining room looking out into the gardens with their eclectic artworks by local sculptor Paul Cowan from Annan.
There are also two self-catering cottages in the grounds. Permits for fishing this stretch of the Nith can be arranged.
Buccleuch & Queensberry Arms Hotel
112 Drumlanrig Street, Thornhill DG3 5LU, www.bqahotel.com
The B&Q (as it is known locally) feels like the grand old lady of Thornhill, having been here since first opening its doors as a hotel in 1851. Today it is owned by Baron Sweerts de Landas Wyborgh, a local estate owner originally from Holland, and run by Alasdair Knight and his team of youthful, energetic helpers. The Baron’s vision combined with his wife’s eye for colour and design (the Baroness was responsible for the interiors) have created a tastefully decorated and comfortably furnished retreat in a prime location in the centre of Thornhill.
Each of the 10 rooms in the main building is named after a local estate, with several tributes to Buccleuch lands and heritage: Queensberry, Boughton, Langholm and Bowhill are all here. Out the back across the courtyard garden are three cottage/suites, and plans are in hand for further expansion. Pets are allowed in rooms but the garden accommodation works particularly well as there is parking right outside your door – handy if you need to leave the dog in the car.
All of the rooms are positively airy except for two on the top floor (Blackwood and Capenoch) which are cute and cosy. Top floor rooms at the front have super views to the surrounding hills. All are ensuite and the bathrooms for the larger rooms have some of the largest shower heads we’ve ever seen. A lot of attention has been paid to detail: toiletries, bedroom chairs, hanging space, local art on the walls, finishings, and comfort have all been uppermost in mind.
The hotel has a good relationship with Drumlannrig estate up the road, from where some of the ingredients for the food in the restaurant are sourced. And, for anyone who likes to bag their own dinner, shooting and fishing at Drumlanrig can be arranged, the latter on the lower and mid-Nithsdale beats. The hotel even has a steel-doored gun room. Bike storage and jet wash facilities are available, and pick-ups from Lockerbie can be arranged for anyone who doesn’t have their own transport.
Friar’s Carse Auldgirth
DG2 0SA, www.friarscarse.co.uk
This peaceful country house around 8 miles north of Dumfries centre is replete with history. Built on lands once owned by Robert the Bruce, it was home in the 18th century to Robert Riddell, friend and patron of Robert Burns who farmed at nearby Ellisland. Riddell built in the grounds of Friar’s Carse a small, snug building, still standing, in which Burns could write and on the window of which the bard scratched some lines from a poem with a diamond. In the late 19th century the estate was acquired by the Crichton family, founders of the Crichton Royal Hospital (now part of the Crichton Institute) in Dumfries.
Set in 45 acres of grounds, Friar’s Carse has a homey feel and offers an affordable country house hotel experience that won’t break the bank. The splendid wood-panelled hall is perfect for afternoon tea in front of the fire and is complemented by the traditional dining room, cosy bar and voluminous snooker room with full-sized table.
Standing in a tranquil parkland setting with lawns running down to the river, it is, not surprisingly, a popular venue, so if you fancy booking in here you might want to check if there are any weddings or events going on (week days in high season tend to be quieter than weekends). Some of the 21 en-suite rooms are dog-friendly and most are light and airy in warm and neutral tones with bold splashes of colour in feature walls and throws (an ongoing programme of refurbishment means that some rooms are yet to be upgraded).
There are also two self-catering cottages in the grounds. Anglers should note that Friars Carse is the only hotel on the Nith that actually owns its beat (others require permits from the local angling association).
Trigony House Hotel Closeburn
Thornhill DG3 5EZ, www.trigonyhotel.co.uk
Trigony has been described by one newspaper as an ‘undiscovered treasure’ and, while it may not be completely undiscovered any longer, it’s still a place to be savoured. Set in 4 acres of woodland and gardens just south of Thornhill and surrounded by glorious countryside, Trigony started life as a shooting lodge for nearby Closeburn Castle but was later adapted and extended, giving it today the air of an Edwardian country house, complete with Japanese oak-panelled hall and Art Deco features.
Owner and chef Adam Moore has been here for over 20 years and together with his wife Jan keeps the place running. There are 9 rooms of varying sizes and layout, all ensuite, and special deals are often available (call or check on the website). There’s also a treatment room offering massage and facials. Adam has a good reputation for producing quality food from locally sourced ingredients and has twice won gold for his cooking from the Scottish Hotel Awards. Pets welcome.
Moniaive DG3 4EW, www.auchencheyne.co.uk
Under the same ownership as Three Glens House (see self-catering below), the accommodation at Auchencheyne is offered in a self-contained wing of the Gourlay’s splendid 18th-century farmhouse, surrounded by extensive grounds, including Mary Gourlay’s wonderful walled vegetable garden (guests are encouraged to select their own produce).
The B&B is on 3 storeys, with utility and games room on the ground floor, and three bedrooms split between the upper two floors. ‘Eco’ is the name of the game here, with power generated by a private mini-hydro scheme in the grounds. Free-range hens ensure a good supply of eggs. There’s a tennis court in the grounds and mountain bikes are available for hire.
Nithbank Country Estate
Thornhill DG3 5AP, www.nithbank.co.uk
Escape to the country for peace, quiet and gracious living in Melanie and John’s home, set high above the River Nith with terraced gardens and glorious views in all directions of the surrounding hills. Old meets new in this early 19th-century house, beautifully restored to make the most of the period features but with modern twists, from the biomass boiler to the sparkling, smart bathrooms.
Nithbank was originally the factor’s house for the surrounding Drumlanrig estate, which explains its extremely generous proportions: two of the three rooms offered are positively cavernous while the third is cosier but generous nonetheless. If you are travelling as a group and take all three rooms, the drawing room can also be made available for use.
Outside, the orchard and kitchen garden supply fresh produce for breakfasts, the tennis court is ready for use, and the terrace is ideal for a cup of tea on a warm summer’s day. Melanie and John have worked hard to create a welcoming, restful retreat and at the time of writing are the only B&B in southern Scotland to have achieved Gold standard in the Green Tourism accreditation scheme.
Scaurbridge House Penpont
Thornhill DG3 4LX, www.scaurbridgehouse.co.uk
Elizabeth Ann Hughes moved to Penpont over 20 years ago and has been welcoming guests to her elegant and characterful home for much of the time she has been here. The house is an 1841 former manse built of rose stone from the nearby hamlet of Keir, located next to Scaur Water, with a delightful garden set to one side at the back. The 5 rooms are spacious, tastefully decorated and furnished with an eclectic mix of carefully selected antiques and more modern pieces. None is ensuite; the house retains its original layout and feels like a real home, so all guests share the two upstairs bathrooms and WC downstairs. Particularly striking are Elizabeth Ann’s own large abstract canvases which adorn the sitting room walls.
Elizabeth Ann has specialised in cultured pearls for over ten years and runs a business called Pearls by Appointment. She also travels around the country giving talks on her subject and teaches in community learning and development for adults. She is a generous host and a great cook and baker, producing wonderfully wicked scones, lemon curd roulades and perfect shortbread, which she serves in the large drawing room. Dinner in the Chinoiserie-style black and red dining room is available by request.
See Blackaddie under Hotels above.
See Red Squirrel Campsite under Camping below.
Three Glens House
Moniaive DG3 4EG, www.3glens.com
As bespoke, hillside eco-lodges go, they don’t get much better than Three Glens. This futuristic luxury hideaway is the culmination of an ambition long held by local estate owner Neil Gourlay to build a house in this beautiful part of Nithsdale. The Gourlays have farmed at nearby Auchencheyne for generations, and in addition to building on their own land, they have made use of home-grown materials wherever possible, from the stone dyke that carries on seamlessly from the outside into the main living space, to the sheep’s wool used for insulation.
Huge windows form one wall offering panoramic views across the village of Moniaive and the Glencairn valley. Ground-source underfloor heating provides heat, with additional input when needed from an uber-efficient enormous clay stove – an Austrian kachelofen, while a wind turbine further up the hill generates electricity. Three Glens is a self-catering option where you don’t actually do the catering as one of the four bedrooms is occupied by the live-in cook and her husband (the Gourlay’s gamekeeper), giving the whole thing the feel of a high-end ski chalet. Needless to say, such unique services don’t come cheap. No pets.
Camping, Caravans & Glamping
Barnsoul Caravan Park Shawhead
Dumfries DG2 9SQ, https://www.landal.co.uk/parks/barnsoul
Delightfully set on a 40-acre site in the hills 8 miles west of Dumfries, Barnsoul’s pods, static caravans and ‘Little Lodges’ enjoy great views in a quiet location. Both the Pods and Lodges sleep 4 (most comfortably 2 adults and 2 children), while the ‘Star Pods’ (so-called because of the skylights in the roof, perfect for star-gazing) sleep six.
Pods and Little Lodges come equipped with kettle, toaster, microwave and fridge and have their own firepits. Lying between the 7Stanes centres of Ae, Mabie and Dalbeattie, the site is popular with mountain bikers. The nearest shop is 4½ miles away at Crocketford, where there is also the Galloway Arms pub.
Red Squirrel Campsite
(formerly Glemmidge Smithy) Auldgirth DG2 0SW, www.campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk[web] campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk. Glenmidge is a beautiful spot in a hollow in the hills, exceptionally peaceful, and the location of both a popular campsite and The Old Smithy holiday cottage. Owner Hamish Steele likes his bees and sells his honey next to the campsite. The location is convenient for cyclists as it’s on the Sustrans national cycle network.
The Wanlockhead Inn
Gardendyke, Wanlockhead ML12 6UZ, www.wanlockheadinn.co.uk
Fancy staying in Scotland’s highest village? If so, head for the glamping pods at the Wanlockhead Inn (Scotland’s highest pub). What could be more iconic? Set on a hillside amongst the trees, they’re ideal for families of four with plenty of space for kids to run around and lots to see and do in Wanlockhead and the surrounding area. Pods are well insulated and equipped with an oil-filled heater to take the chill off cooler nights.
Dumfries and the Nith Estuary
St 20 Castle St Dumfries DG1 1DR
20 Castle Street Sheila Cameron’s home occupies a three-storey Georgian townhouse on one of Dumfries’s most sought after streets, right in the town centre. Two rooms are offered, one with a small kitchenette and both sharing the bathroom just a few steps along the hall. Sheila is happy to let either one or two rooms at a time, but will only let both rooms at once to people who know each other, so if you only need one room, you’ll have the top floor of the house all to yourself.
Rooms come with a Nespresso coffee machine and continental breakfast items are provided for you to help yourself. On the ground floor, Sheila runs an antiques and artwork business, so not surprisingly her bedrooms are fitted out in true period elegance with well-chosen pieces. Comfort and style are the hallmarks of this handsome but homey accommodation. Dog lovers will be in their element: Springer Spaniel Finn is everyone’s friend and loves a cuddle on the sofa.
5 Victoria Terrace, Dumfries DG1 1NL, www.glenaldorhouse.co.uk
Glenaldor is set above elegant gardens in a row of imposing mid-19th century houses on a no-through terrace, just a couple of minutes’ walk from the train station and 10 minutes’ from the centre of town, four en suite rooms are offered, all of them a good size and one in particular positively cavernous. Full breakfasts are served in the cosy dining room at the back. Literary fans are in for a treat as JM Barrie lived in the house next door during his years in Dumfries.
Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust
Caerlaverock Eastpark Farm, Caerlaverock DG1 4RS, www.wwt.org.uk
The self-catering accommodation at WWT Caerlaverock is a bit of a well-kept secret. Here at Eastpark Farm the old farmhouse sleeps up to 12 people, ideal for family groups or friends getting together, complete with woodburning stove and, uniquely amongst self-catering accommodation as far as we know, its very own observation tower. There’s a good-sized kitchen and sitting room, while rooms are a mix of sizes, some ensuite and some with shared bathroom.
What’s particularly appealing is that once the centre closes to the public in the evening, you have the whole of WWT Caerlaverock to yourself. Equally as enticing is the conservatory within the house, which offers superb bird- and wildlife watching: ospreys and warblers in the spring and summer, wildfowl in the winter as huge flocks of birds create intricate patterns in the sky as they feed and come in to roost. As evening falls, there are badgers, too.
And, if you fancy a change of scene, Caerlaverock is well situated for reaching plenty of attractions nearby: historical sites and mountain biking, hill walks and beaches, towns and villages… Caerlaverock also has an on-site coffee shop (open daytime), while the nearest shop and pub are just 4½ miles away. No pets.
Balcary Bay Country House Hotel
Auchencairn, Castle Douglas DG7 1QZ
As romantic locations go, they don’t get much better than the Balcary Bay Hotel, idyllically positioned looking out across the bay to Hestan Island, the 17th-century hideout of smugglers.
The Selkirk Arms Hotel High Street
Kirkcudbright DG6 4JG, www.selkirkarmshotel.co.uk
Proprietors Chris and Sue Walker have spent a lot of time, energy and money making The Selkirk Arms what it is today and the process continues with an ongoing programme of investment and refurbishment to maintain standards. Kirkcudbright’s leading hotel is perfectly positioned on the old High Street, just a stone’s throw from the new gallery (where Sue runs the café) and museum.
This fine old establishment is the stalwart inn and hostelry of the area and is as popular today as it was when it was frequented by Robert Burns in the late 18th century. Named after the Earl of Selkirk, it offers 17 en-suite rooms, all freshly turned out and perfectly presented. Beds are comfortable, rooms airy (and warm in the cooler weather), and there are nice extras such as Beltie-shaped chocolates and Arran toiletries. Outside there are a couple of garden rooms in which dogs are allowed.
Contemporary styling is complemented by good quality local artworks (for sale) on the walls, a reflection perhaps of the cultural weekends that the hotel organises with local specialists, including art courses and star gazing. Special offers and courses are detailed on the website, and a selection of videos is posted on YouTube.
The Ship Inn
1 Fleet Street, Gatehouse of Fleet DG7 2HU, https://www.theshipinngatehouse.com
Jonathan Henderson and his wife Sarah took over the Ship in 2016 and have been receiving good reviews ever since. A mix of classic and superior rooms are offered, all recently refurbished and all with smart bathrooms (roll top baths in some rooms, walk-In showers in others). This Ship is an historic place to where author Dorothy Sayers came on one of her trips to the area. The location is good, towards the southern end of the main street. The popular restaurant, No 1 Fleet Street, within the hotel, is run separately and is highly regarded.
Chipperkyle Country House
Kirkpatrick Durham, Castle Douglas DG7 3EY, www.chipperkyle-countryhousescotland.co.uk
Having been welcoming guests to his fine Georgian country house for more than 20 years, congenial host Willie Dickson has perfected the art of hosting. Chipperkyle has been in the family since the 1920s and is filled with a collection of paintings, furniture, books and intriguing artefacts collected over the decades. This is a family home which has been evolved to ensure guests’ comfort, from the sumptuous but relaxed drawing room and elegant dining room to the bath robes and huge fluffy towels.
The house has been largely undisturbed architecturally since it was built, so the three guest bedrooms – one en-suite, and the other two with private bathrooms just a step or two away – are enormous by today’s standards (and so, too, are the bathrooms), which means bigger beds as well: six-foot wide doubles and, in the twin room, 3’6 singles. There’s Egyptian cotton linen, electric blankets for cooler nights, breakfasts (cooked to order: no reheated bacon here!) on the terrace on warm mornings, walks from the door, hills all around and the coast just down the road, and a pub for dinner five minutes’ drive away. Forget the cares of the day, sink into country life and, if the prospect of leaving even for the evening is too much, Willie will also provide a three-course dinner.
Craigadam Country House Hotel and B&B
Near Kirkpatrick Durham, Castle Douglas DG7 3HU, www.craigadam.com
If it weren’t for Celia and Richard Pickup, you wouldn’t be reading this guide. They have a lot to answer for, for it was while staying at Craigadam that we decided to move to Dumfries and Galloway. Needless to say, it’s somewhere that holds a special place in our affections. Set in the rolling hills of eastern Galloway, Craigadam is a traditional farmhouse and working farm and estate, ideally located to reach many of the region’s top attractions, with Dumfries, Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbright and the coast all within 30 minutes’ drive.
This is no ordinary B&B but combines the best of local hospitality with a country house hotel atmosphere. Celia and Richard throw open their charming and comfortable house for guests’ enjoyment, from the seven themed bedrooms (most set around a courtyard and all ensuite) to the elegant drawing room and gorgeous wood-panelled dining room. They are welcoming, relaxed and convivial hosts who have perfected the art of entertaining and have built an enviable reputation for the quality of their cooking. Breakfasts are sumptuous and dinner, if you choose to have it, may well have you asking Celia for her recipes.
Kenbridge Road, New Galloway DG7 3RP, www.cruachanhouse.com
Hazel and Roger’s enchanting arts and crafts house sits on the hillside next to the church just beyond the north end of New Galloway’s High Street. Four rooms are offered: three double and one king, two en-suite and two with private bathrooms. The guest lounge (with stove) looking out to the garden is as charming as the sunny dining room. This is a gem of a house, full of character, comfortably furnished and perfectly positioned for both the village and surrounding countryside.
63 Queen Street, Castle Douglas DG7 1HS, www.douglas-house.com
With a background and training in hotel management, Linda Marshall knows how to run a first rate B&B. Originally from Moniaive in Nithsdale, she and her husband took over Douglas House in 2012, updated and refurbished it, and now offer 4 en suite rooms, including one on the ground floor with easy access. Immaculately presented and tastefully decorated throughout, this makes an ideal base for exploring the area. Linda’s breakfasts have won a Visit Scotland award and include all the usual choices made from local ingredients plus extras such as smoked salmon and haddock. Free Wi-Fi throughout.
St John’s Street DG8 7JE, www.barholm-centre.co.uk
Friendly, welcoming and very affordable community-owned and -run accommodation in the centre of Creetown with eight en-suite rooms. Popular with everyone from families passing through to walkers, cyclists (there are secure lock-ups for bikes) shooting parties and contractors. Rooms are booked on an individual basis so you don’t need to fill the whole place. Basics (tea, coffee, milk, sugar) are provided in the communal kitchen, which has a fridge, microwave and TV. Rooms are comfortable and fresh and the ones at the front at the top have stunning views out over the bay. Electric car-charging point out back.
Parton Castle Douglas DG7 3NS, www.barwhillantyestate.co.uk
Oscar Yerburgh’s family have owned the Barwhillanty Estate since the late 19th century. Set in the hills above the eastern side of Loch Ken, it covers 5,000 acres and consists of a farm, commercial forestry, deer farming to supply Waitrose, shooting and a property portfolio, much of which is let to locals at affordable rents but two properties are offered as holiday lets.
Both stand on their own on differents parts of the estate, set at the end of tracks, commanding outstanding views of the surrounding countryside and renovated in fine country house style with tasteful, comfortable furnishings, fabulous bathrooms, family kitchens with AGAs, full central heating, wifi and loads of character. Blairinnie is a former farmhouse sleeping ten in five bedrooms, while Diamonds Laggan is more cottagey and sleeps eight in four bedrooms. Both are perfect for groups or families looking for a rural holiday but within easy access of Castle Douglas, Loch Ken and The Glenkens, and both are pet-friendly.
Brockloch Eco-bothy and Treehouse
Brockloch Farm, Kirkpatrick Durham DG7 3HU, www.brockloch.co.uk
Brockloch Farm extends to 190 acres and has been in the Nicolson family for many years. George’s parents farmed it before him and now he and his wife Julie manage the business, focusing mainly on beef and sheep but also with two ‘glamping’ options available. Both the eco-bothy and treehouse are off-grid, relying on solar power and bottled gas, but with the benefit of mains water. There is also a woodburning stove in each.
The Bothy, insulated with sheep’s wool, consists of a bright open-plan kitchen-dining-sitting area with a whole wall of glass doors to make the most of the fantastic view across the hills. To the rear off the entranceway is a small double bedroom to one side and a shower room to the other. In the Treehouse, up an external metal staircase, a single studio room provides a cosy space with double bed, small sofa and kitchen area and a table for two. The separate toilet/bathroom has a built-in bath with skylight above, ideal for a long soak and a spot of star-gazing. USB ports are available instead of normal sockets and mobile signal is pretty good.
Julie and George are seasoned hosts, sensitive to guests’ needs and offering as little or as much company as is wanted. Expect fresh flowers and some of Julie’s superb home baking on arrival.
Galloway Activity Centre
Loch Ken, Parton DG7 3NQ, www.lochken.co.uk
You don’t need to be enrolled in acivities to stay at the Galloway Activity Centre. There’s a wide choice of accommodation: lochside cabins, yurts, tepee, camping, bunkhouse… but the most innovative of all are the two ‘ecobothies’, Swedish-style eco-modular units designed by Sam Booth (as featured on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces) decked out in funky furnishings and located privately looking out over the loch a short stroll from the main activity block. Power comes from solar panels, heat from a multifuel burner, cooking with calor gas. There’s even a wood-fired hot tub out on the deck, the perfect place to soak away the hours with a glass of something cool beneath the starry and ever-so-dark Galloway sky.
Gelston Castle Holidays
Gelston, Castle Douglas DG7 1SW, www.gelstoncastle.com
To stay at Gelston is to get to know a charming and historic part of Dumfries and Galloway. The Gelston estate runs to some 4,500 acres, which since 1973 has been owned by the Scott family. Alexander and Lucinda Scott live in, and run, the northern part of the estate around Gelston Castle, a ruined 19th-century building with an interesting history.
There is a choice of five cottages sleeping two to eight in a courtyard setting adjacent to the main house, plus another cottage a few miles to the south, and all guests have free run of the grounds and gardens, in which a landscape with interesting trees and shrubs, some rare, is evolving. (Gelston is also in a partnership with the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh for conservation of endangered conifer species.) Guests also have use of a tennis court and outdoor heated pool, as well as a large multi-purpose indoor-games room which can be used for meals for large groups, or for group activities such as yoga or film shows.
Needless to say, Gelston is very popular with repeat visitors, some of whom have been coming here for nigh on 30 years. The Scotts’ ethical approach to farming, environmental issues and life in general makes for interesting reading. What’s more, they practise what they preach, not least in the installation of an absolute humdinger of a state-of-the-art log-fired boiler (ask to see it!) which is fuelled with wood from the estate. See their website for more details, plus information on sporting and cultural courses.
GGS Yard Gatehouse of Fleet
Laggan Laggan, Gatehouse of Fleet, Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway, DG7 2ES, www.ggsyard.co.uk/accommodation
Laggan has come a long way since Duncan McConchie decided to branch out on the family farm and try something different. Dotted along the hillside are 18 self-contained, glass-fronted sea-view snugs, each individually themed and decorated and all finished in fresh and appealing modern style. Family- and dog-friendly snugs are available and there are also two with hot tubs, and all snugs come with en-suite shower room, tea and coffee, and a fridge. For breakfast, you can either pop along to the on-site restaurant/bistro or order one of the in-house hampers for delivery.
Carsluith DG8 7EA, www.kirkdaleestate.co.uk
Perenially popular and idylically positioned, three cottages, each sleeping six, on this 2,000-acre coastal estate. Woodland walks, a private shore, walled garden and tennis court are all part of the appeal. The Hannay family have been at Kirkdale (pronounced ‘Kirdel’) for over 500 years. Farming, forestry and tourism are the mainstays of today’s estate, which is run by Neil Hannay and his wife Kirsten, whose upbeat approach to life goes a long way to ensuring guests have an enjoyable stay.
Kitchens with all mod cons, handy utility spaces for wellies, walking boots and coats, log burners, neutral colours, wifi, refurbished bathrooms and comfortable furnishings make each cottage the perfect place in which to relax. Outside, guests can roam the grounds: wander through the rhododendrons on the ‘Ladies’ Walk’, limber up for tennis on the private court, or take a walk above Kirkdale Glen, site of the estate’s original sawmill. Wildlife lovers should keep an eye open at the otter run, while gardeners will be interested in the unusual trees, including a ginkgo and twisted hazel.
Garden Cottage comes with its own two-acre original walled garden with fruit trees (including a fruiting kiwi!); Kirkdale Bank is set on the hillside looking out across Wig Bay; and Kirkdale Port is right down on the shoreline, with a garden that runs down to the beach. Welcome packs on arrival include fresh flowers, milk, and biscuits, logs are provided for the fire. And bring the dog, too, as all three cottages are pet friendly.
Kirkennan Estate Holiday Cottages
Palnackie, Castle Douglas DG7 1PE, www.kirkennan.co.uk
Jenny and Michael bought Kirkennan estate in 2013 and since then have developed a popular hideaway with 3 cosy cottages (one of which is wheelchair accessible) set within 74 acres of woodland, gardens with mature trees and fields, all of which guests are welcome to explore. The 14-acre riverside woodland is a particular favourite, a good vantage point from which to watch the tide ebb and flow along the Urr from the riverside hut made by Michael with recycled materials from the estate.
Jenny greets guests with some of her home-grown organic produce from the extensive walled garden (weeders welcome!). The deeds of Kirkennan go back to the early 1600s, but Jenny and Michael have relished bringing the estate into the 21st century, installing green energy systems (a biomass boiler, solar panels and an air source heat pump), planting 5,000 trees and managing the estate for wildlife: initiatives which have resulted in Kirkennan being awarded a Green Tourism Gold Award.
Kirkennan is an ideal base for wildlife lovers, dog owners and anyone who wants a peaceful base from which to enjoy Dumfries and Galloway. The estate lies near friendly Palnackie, with its a community-owned village shop (where Jenny and Michael volunteer), a pub that serves food and a small harbour.
Nether Ervie Parton
Castle Douglas DG7 3NG, www.nethererviefarm.co.uk
A comfortable two-bedroom cottage set on the hill next to the owner’s house on the east side of Loch Ken, between Parton and New Galloway. All mod cons, a great shower with lots of hot water, fully equipped dining kitchen and big, spacious sitting-dining room with a mighty log burner. A woodland and waterside walk runs around the immediate grounds straight from the door. Well behaved dogs welcome.
New Galloway Cottages
High Street, New Galloway DG7 3RN, www.newgallowatcottages.com
Two of the most recent additions to New Galloway’s accommodation options are these stylish properties in cool, contemporary tones above and next to the Community Shop in the heart of the village. Stroan and Skerrow are both very comfortable and offer double and twin rooms, hand-picked furnishings and smart bathrooms. Both are fully central-heated and Stroan has a log-burning stove while Skerrow has a lovely bright sitting room with big doors out to the garden and is dog-friendly.
Orroland Holiday Cottages
Orroland, Dundrennan, Kirkcudbright DG6 4QS, www.orroland.com
Tucked between hill and shore on the coast road from Auchencairn to Kirkcudbright, the Orroland estate feels like a well-kept secret you’d be reluctant to share. Home to the Kennedy family for over 40 years, today it is run by son Robert and his wife Melinda, who have worked hard to achieve their aim of creating the feel of a ‘magical world’ away from the stresses of every-day life.
Orroland offers all the ingredients of a good old-fashioned country holiday and is the sort of place where children (and adults) can happily indulge in some Famous Five-type antics and no-one would bat an eyelid. (Indeed, it is positively encouraged.) The extensive grounds include a curious snail-shell type mound (echoes of landscape architect Charles Jencks) to run up and down, fishing loch and pavilion, a woodland walk leading down to a lovely private bay, where a beach hut sits on the rocky shore, and an interesting fern garden.
The attention to detail in both the grounds and accommodation is second to none and the Kennedy’s passion for what they do is clearly evident. Three cottages are available, each standing on its own, accommodating from five to 14 people. Log fires, central heating, inviting sofas and armchairs, comfortable beds and warm colours combine with reassuring touches such as emergency candles to make this feel like a real home from home. For peace, privacy, comfort and convenience, Orroland ticks all the boxes.
Campsites and Caravans
Loch Ken Holiday Park
Parton Castle Douglas DG7 3NE, www.lochkenholidaypark.co.uk
The Brysons have been farming in this area since the end of the 19th century and in the 1960s set up what is now a well-established holiday park in a delightful setting on the shores of Loch Ken. Still owned and run by the family, it has a four-star rating from Visit Scotland and is affiliated to the Camping and Caravan Club. In addition to static caravans, there is space for tourers and a field large enough to take up to 100 tents for campers. Kayaks, pedaloes and row boats are available for hire, or you can bring your own boat and moor it off the bank.
Lochside Caravan and Camping Lochside Park
Castle Douglas DG7 1EZ, www.dumgal.gov.uk
Very pleasantly located site next to Carlingwark Loch at the southern end of the town’s main street. There are pitches for 100 caravans or motorhomes and 53 tents. Open seasonally. Electric hook-ups and shower blocks, plus plenty to entertain the kids in neighbouring Lochside Park.
Sandgreen Caravan Park
Sandgreen, Gatehouse of Fleet DG7 2DU, www.sandgreencaravanpark.co.uk
The park at Sandgreen is not only privately owned, but also hosts caravans and lodges which themselves are, in the main, privately owned. However, there are two caravans and a lodge available for hire. What makes this site so good is its location, right on the (also privately owned) Sandgreen beach, a perfect stretch of sand on Fleet Bay. Swimming, sailing and rock-pooling are the order of the day and to ensure safety the beach is demarcated into three areas with power boats separated from sail boats separated from swimmers.
The Machars and Moors
House o’ Hill Hotel
Bargrennan DG8 6RN, www.houseohill.co.uk
The only hotel within Galloway Forest Park (located on the western edge north of Newton Stewart), with two comfortable and stylish guest rooms.
The Steam Packet Inn
Harbour Row, Isle of Whithorn DG8 8LL, www.thesteampacketinn.biz
Alastair Scoular’s family have owned and run the Steam Packet for over 35 years, building it into a thriving and popular business in prime position on the quayside. Dog-friendly throughout, seven rooms are offered, five with harbour views. Rooms are en-suite, comfortable, and tastefully furnished and offer a great retreat in which to curl up and read a book on the window seat or simply to watch the boats and birds on the water. Downstairs the public bar serves quality, wholesome food and Alastair also brews his own beer, Five Kingdoms, with a core range of six beers plus seasonal offerings and one-offs.
Craigmount Guest House
Fountainblue Terrace, High Street, Wigtown DG8 9EQ , www.craigmount.info
Nicole and Malcolm discovered Wigtown on their travels a few years ago and in 2018 bought Craigmount, a 19th-century, three-storey listed manse. They immediately set about upgrading and restyling it with the help of a host of local tradesmen and artists and the result is a charming, bright, airy retreat, comfortable and relaxing, conveniently located and with glorious views over the surrounding countryside. Four rooms are offered, all en-suite, breakfasts are fulsome and make good use of local ingredients, Malcolm bakes bread, and the welcome couldn’t be friendlier. All up, a gem of a place.
Maidland Pl, Station Rd, Wigtown DG8 9EU, www.hillcrest-wigtown.co.uk
Hosts Andy and Nic realised their dream when they moved up from Lincoln to Wigtown having bought Hillcrest House. They have created a charming small hotel in their late 19th-century house, complete with high ceilings, ornate cornices and period features, and with six large, en-suite bedrooms decorated in bold colours. Breakfast are made almost completely from local ingredients while evening meals (for residents only) are usually based on a set menu of, for example, soup and a casserole or home-made pie. Hillcrest is dog-friendly and comes with its own resident black-and-white greyhound!
7 Ninian’s Landing
Isle of Whithorn DG8 8LL, www.ninianslanding.co.uk
Bijou and comfortable holiday apartment right on the harbour at the Isle of Whithorn with the excellent Steam Packet Inn just a few yards along the waterside. Perfect for couples and singles, comfortably furnished, dreamy views over the harbour from the sitting room. Dogs welcome.
6 Bank St, Wigtown, Newton Stewart DG8 9HP, www.beltiebooks.co.uk
Occupying the top two floors above Beltie Books bookshop and café, the Beltie flat is a slightly quirky, comfortable option in the heart of Newton Stewart. Accessed via an external metal staircase at the back of Beltie Books, it includes a dining room, sitting room, kitchen and bathroom on the first floor, and double and twin bedrooms on the top floor. Furniture is vintage and comfortable, the kitchen is very well equipped and heating is by electric radiators, which even in winter keep it toasty.
The key attractions are location (very convenient for everything), character (old-world, lived-in, homey), use of the back garden (which is also used by the café downstairs), pleasing views from all windows (but especially to the merse and bay from the top floor bedrooms), and the extremely helpful and friendly owners, Nick and Andrew. They also own the bookshop and café downstairs and Andrew spends his days pulling delicious treats from the AGA, which means access to the flat is through a permanent aroma of fresh baking. Dogs welcome.
Cairnharrow Cairnhouse Farm
Newton Stewart DG8 9TH, www.cottageguide.co.uk/8914
Conveniently located midway between Newton Stewart and Wigtown, Cairnharrow is a modern bungalow set on the edge of woodland on Cairnhouse Farm, a 400-acre working stock-rearing farm. Lynne and Colin Craig built Cairnharrow in 2007 and have kept it in pristine condition. Spacious accommodation sleeping six, all mod cons and a wonderful view across the Cree estuary make this a comfortable and memorable base from which to explore the area. We’ve stayed here several times and are always happy to return.
George Street, Whithorn DG8 8NS, www.pend-house.com
For self-catering accommodation with an historical twist, the 14th-century Pend is a great find right in the centre of Whithorn. This former gatehouse to the monastery is full of interest such as a fine stone fireplace with witching mark in the downstairs sitting room, and full coat of armour in the upstairs one. Oozing character, the main bedroom above the archway of the Pend has a four-poster carved with green man emblems at the head, while the other bedroom has old-fashioned box-beds. Traditional low-beamed ceilings are complemented by modern comforts: underfloor heating, large wood burner and comfy armchairs. It’s quirky and lots of fun.
Drumroamin Farm Camping and Caravan Site
1 South Balfern, Kirkinner, Newton Stewart DG8 9DB, www.drumroamin.co.uk
Lesley Shell and her husband moved up from Northumberland over 15 years ago when they found their ‘little bit of paradise’ here on a patch of land at the end of a lane with views over Wig Bay to the Galloway hills. From old farm buildings they’ve created a small, secluded camping and caravan site with 50 pitches (including 40 electric hook-ups) which are rarely all full at the same time. Lesley keeps it all ship-shape and brooks no nonsense.
Popular with both camper and caravanners, they’re tending to get more of the former than the latter these days, including lots of cyclists. Two dog-friendly, gas-heated static caravans on site are available for rent. There’s a games room with billiard table, books and information, spotless loos and showers, a cooking hut with BBQ space, and plenty of safe space for kids to run around. There’s also a walk from here down to Crook of Baldoon nature reserve on the mudflats of Wigtown Bay and woodland trails in Kilsture Forest at the top of the entrance road.
Corsewall Lighthouse Hotel
Kirkcolm, Stranraer DG9 0QG, www.lighthousehotel.co.uk
Corsewall has a great location on the northwest coast of the Rhins with views to Ayrshire, Arran, the Mull of Kintyre and across to Ireland, not to mention the shipping channels in which the ferries and boats ply back and forth. The location is superb, but access can be a little bumpy as the track from the road can be very potholed. The hotel has a mix of six rooms in the main lighthouse building and three suites located separately a short walk away. The small dining room is popular with locals but seating preference is always given to residents and there’s an enticing public balcony on which to sit and gaze out to sea over a glass of wine.
Portpatrick DG9 9AD, www.knockinaamlodge.com
For sheer unadulterated indulgent luxury, Knockinaam comes high in our recommendations for accommodation not just in the Rhins, but Dumfries and Galloway as a whole. This is a boutique country house hotel par excellence with prices to match. Knockinaam is the only hotel in Dumfries and Galloway that’s a member of Luxury Scotland and the only one in the region with 3 AA rosettes for its restaurant. Located near Portpatrick in 30 acres of grounds on a private bay at the end of a downhill road, privacy is assured. The Victorian house sits at the head of an immaculate lawn that runs down to the beach.
In the mid-19th century there was a village here, Port o’ Spittal, which consisted of 86 people in 12 houses, but the village was demolished and in its place a hunting lodge was built by the then owners, the Hunter Blairs, a local Galloway family to this day. There’s been a fair bit of history played out here since: Churchill came for a meeting with Eisenhower during World War II having arrived by sea plane on Loch Ryan. The two great statesmen met in the panelled drawing room and guests can book the bedroom in which he slept. John Buchan also stayed here while writing The 39 Steps and used the house as a model for the one to which Richard Hannay flees.
David Ibbotson acquired the hotel around 20 years ago and with his colleagues at Luxury Scotland, tailor-made tours can be arranged, including anything from a flight in a sea plane to a speedboat tour around the Isle of Man to see the basking sharks. He’s an easy-going chap who makes a point of welcoming or meeting guests personally. His background is in hotel management, but also includes early stints as barman, restaurant worker and even windsurfing instructor – not that windsurfing is on the cards at Knockinaam.
The hotel also has its own vegetable garden, which provides most of the produce for the kitchen. There’s a small bar with a large selection of whiskies (around 160) and a delightful morning room with fireplace with fine sea views. Rooms and bathrooms are spacious, all with fine views of gardens and/or the sea. There are ten bedrooms in total. The restaurant is open to non-residents but booking is essential, especially for dinner and for full afternoon tea (though not for a light afternoon tea of tea and scone). There’s a Sunday lunch special offer, but again booking is essential.
Torrs Warren Country House Hotel
Greyhill Road, Stoneykirk, Stranraer DG9 9DH, www.torrswarrenhotel.co.uk
Country house hotel in a former manse on the edge of the village of Stoneykirk, conveniently located for all parts of the area. New management took over in December 2017 and instigated a programme of refurbishment which was completed in February 2019. Furnishings are in true country house style: comfy armchairs, tartan carpets, a dining room lined with bookcases, tastefully decorated bedrooms all white walls and accents of colour, and a homey array of ceramics, rugs and paintings throughout.
Food is sourced locally as much as possible, with a slight emphasis on game and fish, from smoked duck or seared scallops starters to feather of beef or fillet of cod mains and traditional deserts such as sticky toffee pudding, Eton mess or apple and ginger crumble. Choose from a fine range of malt whiskies and gins in the bar and relax after dinner in front of the log stove in the wood-panelled lounge. Popular with birdwatchers, shooting parties, passing tourists, garden enthusiasts and walkers (but note: no dogs allowed). Loads of character, oozing style, and with Porridge and Patch the two resident al pacas in the garden, pleasingly quirky.
Rickwood House Hotel
Heugh Road, Portpatrick DG9 8TD, www.portpatrick.me.uk
There are six spacious, bright, well-decorated rooms at Rickwood House, which is also the family home of Maggie and Fred Findlay, who moved here in 2000 having lived for many years slightly further north in Glasgow. They’re a friendly and welcoming couple who have put in a lot of time to create a warm and comfortable B&B/small hotel experience which has earned four stars from Visit Scotland.
Attention to detail is obvious throughout, from Maggie’s collection of Highland stoneware to carefully chosen colour schemes. Breakfast is served in the dining room and from here and the guest lounge conservatory there are views across the town and out to sea. Bedrooms at the front share these views, while those at the side look out into the garden. All rooms have flat-screen TVs and are ensuite with well-appointed facilities, while a combination of solar panels and biomass boiler ensure plentiful heat and hot water.
The house itself is Edwardian, built in 1902 by the Orr Ewing family (who are still owners of the surrounding Dunskey estate) for their factor, and was owned by the estate up until the 1950s. Maggie can tell the tale of its full history and is also full of information about the local area, from places to visit to restaurants for all occasions. Dogs are welcome. Breakfast is included (try the Kiwi Special) and packed lunches and evening meals (five nights a week) are available by request. There’s also an ongoing supply of Maggie’s excellent shortbread (recipe available), for which donations are invited for Save the Children. (Guests to Rickwood have raised several hundred pounds a year through their shortbread consumption.) There are even spare rucksacks and walking accessories to hand in case you’ve forgotten your own.
If you’re touring the area, this is a great place to stay as Fred was involved in developing the South West Coast 300 route and knows just about everything there is to know about it.
Lighthouse Holiday Cottages
The Mull of Galloway Trust, The Mull of Galloway Lighthouse, Drummore, Stranraer DG9 9HP, www.lighthouseholidaycottages.co.uk
Holiday cottage locations don’t come much more iconic than this. These three cottages form part of the lighthouse complex at the Mull of Galloway Lighthouse at Scotland’s most southerly point. The location is first class for getting away from it all, for superb views, birdwatching, wildlife spotting, walks, fresh air and generally escaping. During opening hours there are likely to be other people around as the lighthouse is open to the public, but the rest of the time you could have the place to yourself.
With views to die for from many of the rooms, sandy bays nearby and thousands of acres of countryside to explore, you can easily lose yourself in vast vistas, cosy coves and hidden hills. There are three cottages: Puffin and Kittiwake both sleep six, while the smaller Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage sleeps four. All cottages have all mod cons and central heating, and Puffin and Kittwake both have log burners too. Decor is in neutral colours with warm fabrics and rugs throughout. The nearest public transport is the bus stop at Drummore 5 miles away: if you are going to stay at the lighthouse and are arriving by bus, let them know when you book and a lift can be organised.
Campsites, Caravans & Glamping
Glenwhan Gardens Shepherd’s Hut
Dunragit DG9 8PH, www.glenwhangardens.co.uk
It’s a rare treat sharing a 12-acre garden with only the owner, but that’s what you get once closing time passes if you stay in the charming Shepherd’s Hut at Glenwhan. The gardens and surrounding moorland make for a superb setting in which to unwind completely. The hut itself is positioned on a slight rise between the main house and garden, commanding incredible views over Luce Bay and right down the Rhins to the Mull of Galloway.
Neatly fitted out with double bed, a bench for two, miniature wood-burning stove which takes no time at all to heat everything up, kitchen sink, electric hotplate, and a fully fitted toilet and shower room, this is a cosy space, perfect for slowing right down, reading a book, sipping a glass of wine while gazing out to sea, or just contemplating the silence. Getaway locations don’t come much better than this.
New England Bay Caravan Club Site
Port Logan, Drummore DG9 9NX, www.caravanclub.co.uk
New England Bay runs down the east side of the southern Rhins a few miles north of Drummore. It’s a bonny spot and the site here is peaceful despite the proximity of the main coastal road. The pitching areas have sea views and there’s easy access to the safe, clean beach on your doorstep. You don’t have to be a member of the Caravan Club to stay on one of their sites, but there is an additional charge for non-members.
The site at New England Bay is for caravans, motorhomes and trailer tenters but not campers. Full details on the Caravan Club website and note that, although the correct official address gives both Port Logan and Drummore, the site is actually in neither, sitting on the opposite side of the peninsula from Port Logan a couple of miles away and around four miles north of Drummore.