The Auldgirth Inn has recently undergone a contemporary makeover while still retaining some of its original charm. This new chapter in its fascinating history has seen it transformed in to the kind of accommodation that feels more like a destination rather than part of a journey.
I recently stayed for the purposes of a review and although I think you should visit for the location, you should definitely stay for the food...
The Auldgirth Inn is only a 15 minute drive from the busy town of Dumfries and sits just off the main A76 road, yet it still has a country charm. Reachable in under 90 minutes from Glasgow and 2 hours from Edinburgh, it is near enough for a short break, yet far enough to feel like a proper escape from the city.
There are some nice walks on the doorstep and I personally enjoyed a little stroll across the road to the picturesque old bridge. Fans of Robert Burns will be in their element as the poet spent the latter years of his life living in the area and being inspired by the scenery. Just over 2 miles away is Ellisland Farm where he lived for several years and wrote some of his finest work. In Dumfries itself you can follow a Burns trail which includes the house he spent his final years and eventually died in.
If you have been following me for a while, you will probably know my love for Dumfries and Galloway already. It is such an underrated but rewarding region and I have already written quite a few blog posts about things to do in the area which should give you plenty of ideas on how to fill your time.
I've no doubt that Rabbie would have enjoyed a few libations at The Auldgirth Inn, which would have been his local pub back in his days at Ellisland Farm. However, with 500 years of history under its belt, I'm sure the inn has also welcomed many an interesting traveller with a story to tell over the centuries.
The lounge is the perfect place to sit with a dram by the fire and let your imagination run wild about the previous guests that may have frequented the inn.
Until recently, the last major refurbishment of the inn was in 1804, and in 1971 Historic Environment Scotland gave the building a Category B listing. In the last couple of years it has undergone a modern face lift thanks to new owner Robert McAleese who has put Auldgirth firmly back on the local map.
I was recently relayed a surprising story from an accommodation provider who had asked two of his guests how they had enjoyed their holiday on Orkney. He was a bit taken aback when they exclaimed that they hadn't and assumed they must have had a negative experience which spoiled their vacation. However, it turned out it was Orkney itself that they had an adverse reaction to, specifically all the 'shrines to dead people', apparently they preferred places that 'celebrate the living'.
This story surprised me for two reasons, firstly because I think the majority of people that visit Orkney are well aware that the islands are famous for their abundant historic and archaeological sites. I think it would even be fair to say that many people come here because of the preserved sacred ancient monuments that housed the dead.
I was also surprised as they must have been oblivious to the 22,000+ people that are currently in the land of the living and call Orkney home. In fact, as Scottish islands go, the community and population of Orkney is very much alive. Just a glance at the Orcadian newspaper or posters in shop windows will provide you with a wide selection of local events which also welcome visitors.
So where else can visitors go if they want to experience present day life on the Orkney Islands?
The Creative Trail is a fantastic celebration of contemporary artists who welcome visitors to their workshops and studios. Although many of them are continuing a tradition, they very much represent modern day Orkney. These are not living museums, they are places where you can experience Orcadian life in the present.
I recently spent a day driving through some beautiful island scenery and stopping by to chat with some of the many artists on the trail. Without fail, I received a warm welcome from each maker or designer who enthusiastically educated me on their craft. I even enjoyed some cups of tea and biscuits to sustain me on my journey. All in all it was a very sociable day and proof that there is more to Orkney than notable relics.
Visiting the businesses is an interesting excursion in itself, however combining a visit with a local attraction can make a unique and varied day out so I've also included some nearby suggestions. Each business provided me their recommendation and I've also added in my own favourites too.
These are the stops I made, however, there are many more makers you can visit. They are all listed on The Creative Trail website or look out for the brown tourist signs as you travel around.
Taymouth Marina offers luxury self-catering accommodation next to Loch Tay. They recently invited me along to experience their resort which is perfect for those that like to play hard during the day and fully relax in their free time.
Taymouth Marina - Luxury Accommodation on Loch Tay
The area around Loch Tay and Kenmore in particular, is a paradise for lovers of the outdoors. With Munros to climb, forests to explore and just about every water-based activity you can think of available on Loch Tay itself, you are guaranteed to never be bored. The region is a big draw to those looking for an active holiday in Scotland. If you are going to be playing hard during the day, you probably want an accommodation base that also provides facilities to help you fully relax in your downtime. This is the full package that Taymouth Marina is aiming to provide.
If you follow my blog, you have probably noticed that I have been publishing quite a few 1 day themed itineraries about Orkney. They are perfect for any visitor but are particularly suited to those short on time or looking for things to do outside the busy summer season. The itineraries have been created by Destination Orkney as part of their 'See You at The Weekend' campaign.
So far I've tested out itineraries specialising in Vikings, Wartime, World Heritage and the Coast. My latest and final 1 day adventure in the series is on the theme of 'Made in Orkney' which explores some of the fantastic products and independent businesses that have put Orkney on the map.
For a relatively small place there are a growing number of items made here that are sold globally and the Orkney brand is thriving. From my own experience, there seems to be as much effort and pride put in to creating a quality visitor experience and sharing the heritage of the products as there is in making them. Giving back or supporting the local community in some way, is another common theme.
This itinerary will give you a snapshot of the many local businesses on Orkney but there are countless others to explore if you have the time.
MADE IN ORKNEY ITINERARY LOCATIONS
Highland Park Distillery
In a time when I knew very little else about Orkney, I knew that it produced the well regarded Highland Park whisky. After almost a year working in a whisky shop, I got to know this particular malt and the history behind it very well. It was one of our best sellers and many purchasers shared their travel tales of discovering Highland Park on their own visits to Orkney. Back then, these far flung islands off the north coast of Scotland sounded as far away as the moon to someone who, at that time, had never been further north than Inverness!
Fast forward many years and I can happily say I have travelled further than Inverness countless times and my knowledge of Orkney extends far beyond its famous dram. So it seemed fitting that my day discovering local businesses was a visit to the place responsible for creating the product that first piqued my curiosity in this unique archipelago off the north-east coast of Scotland.
Follow my Scotland travel adventures on social media
If you have found my blog useful and would like to support me in creating future Scottish travel content, you can by me a coffee on my Ko-fi page. All 'coffee' donations are hugely appreciated