While visitors head to the north of Scotland in their droves, I often feel the south of Scotland gets unfairly overlooked. I've lost count of the itineraries I've seen online that only venture north of Edinburgh and Glasgow despite the fantastic historic and scenic treasures that fill Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway.
I always think this is a shame, but on the plus side it does mean that the Mull of Galloway at the most southerly point of Scotland is a much quieter alternative to its counterpart in the north. However, that doesn't mean that it is any less rewarding to visit and I'd even go as far as saying it is more rewarding as it feels remoter, wilder and less commercialised.
It is also likely to remain that way as it is a destination rather than somewhere you pass through. Sitting at the end of a 5 mile long country road which heads south from the village of Drummore, it is often referred to as 'Scotland's Lands End'.
The Mull of Galloway is at the southern end of the Rhins of Galloway, a peninsula on the south-west corner of Scotland that is worth exploring over at least a couple of days. It also makes a worthwhile detour from Cairnryan for those travelling by ferry to or from Northern Ireland.
At the bottom of this post I've listed some of my other recommended things to do in the area if you do want to extend your stay.
Things to do in & around the Mull of Galloway
So what makes the Mull of Galloway so special and worth venturing so far south? I've listed some of the reasons why I love this part of the country below, and as usual, I hope it inspires you to consider a part of Scotland that might not have been on your radar until now,
Visit Drummore - Scotland's most southerly village
Drummore is the last village you pass heading south towards the Mull of Galloway. It is Scotland's most southerly village and you might be surprised to find out it is not only further south than the Scottish Borders but it is even further south than Newcastle!
If like me, you still enjoy sending mail the old fashioned way and not via virtual messaging then Scotland's first and last post office is situated here and makes a unique stop to send your postcards from. Across the road you can also stock up on supplies at Scotland's most southerly store.
Visit the Mull of Galloway Lighthouse Exhibition
As you continue south from Drummore, the scenery opens up and you are rewarded with a stunning view across to the Mull of Galloway Lighthouse in the distance, perched high on the clifftop.
If you had asked me a few weeks ago what there is to do in and around Moffat, my meagre offering would only have extended to the Grey Mare's Tail Nature Reserve and the Woollen Mill, although personally I would give the Woollen Mill a miss unless you enjoy outdated tourist outlets which primarily cater for multiple coach parties.
This is shameful on my part as I pride myself on knowing most parts of Scotland reasonably well and I have travelled pretty extensively around most other areas of Dumfries and Galloway, a region that I have a real soft spot for. However, for some reason Moffat had fallen under my radar until recently. This is despite the fact that I visited frequently as a child and have happy memories of walks among the green, rolling hills. Perhaps more recent memories of coach stops at the aforementioned woollen mill are responsible for not leaving me with a burning desire to return to the town!
Thankfully, I was encouraged to factor Moffat in to my recent travel plans thanks to Susan Barker, who invited me to stay at her lovely Victorian guesthouse, Dell-Mar, (details below) and revisit the town with a fresh local perspective. During my short stay I only managed to scratch the surface of all the things there are to do in Moffat and the surrounding area so will definitely need to return. However, I did fit in quite a few things during my trip and combined with some of the nearby places that I've visited previously, I've put together this list of my recommended things to do which you will be happy to hear now exceeds my previous single suggestion!
Things to do in and around the town of Moffat
EXPLORE MOFFAT TOWN CENTRE
With free parking and a plentiful offering of independent businesses, including shops and cafes, Moffat High Street is a joy to explore. Many of the buildings have retained their historic character which adds to its attractive appeal. Some places of note to look out for as you walk around include Moffat Museum, the famous Moffat Toffee Shop, the Star Hotel (see below for more info) and the Moffat Ram, a bronze sculpture which sits on top of a fountain.
The sculpture was commissioned in 1875 to celebrate the town's long association with sheep farming and the wool trade. The sculptor of the ram was William Brodie who is probably best known for another of his statues, Greyfriars Bobby in Edinburgh. If you look closely, you will see that the ram has no ears, a mistake that was publicly pointed out at the unveiling ceremony to the rather embarrassed Brodie!
VISIT THE WORLD'S NARROWEST HOTEL
Officially recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records - The Famous Star Hotel, which dates back to the late 1700s, is the narrowest hotel in the world. It is a mere 20 ft wide although thanks to its height and length it manages to pack in 8 en-suite bedrooms, 2 bars and a restaurant.
The distinctive tall, narrow building is found on the High Street and visiting it is a unique experience that should be on your Scotland bucket-list.
Situated in 5 acres of ground overlooking the surrounding countryside, The Dryfesdale Country House Hotel in Lockerbie is a welcoming place to relax. I recently stayed for the purposes of a review and found my Garden Suite, with its own patio, the ideal hotel solution for those that covet some outdoor space.
The Dryfesdale Country House Hotel is part of the Best Western portfolio although it is privately owned with a distinctive individual personality. The hotel building originally dates back to 1762 when it served as a Church Manse. In 1953 it began a new life as a hotel and in recent years it has undergone major refurbishment by the current owners, the Wright family, although some character features have been retained. The hotel now offers 29 bedrooms, private function rooms and the Kirkhill Bar and Brasserie.
The extensive surrounding grounds and long beech lined drive, provide the feeling that you are firmly in the country as soon as you arrive. In fact you are actually only a few minutes drive from the main A74 road which connects with Carlisle, making this a convenient base for exploring both the south of Scotland and the north of England.
One of the highlights of my stay was the friendliness of the staff. The welcome I received and the customer service was exemplary, making guests feel at home seemed to be a real priority. I could often overhear staff chatting away with other guests, asking about their day with genuine interest. It sounded more like old friends catching up and the guests did seem to appreciate the personal attention.
It is nice to stay in a hotel that not only has relaxing surroundings but also a homely atmosphere and I did feel it was a place I would like to stay at for a little longer next time.
I stayed in one of spacious Garden Suites which sit in their own little extension and come with a small patio space. As it was a warm and dry day, I couldn't wait to slide open the doors and let the room fill with fresh air and the sound of birdsong. I've never stayed in a hotel room where I could bring the outside in like this before and it was a real treat.
Rather than lie back on the bed and watch the massive TV or chill out on the couch, I opted to make myself a coffee and sit outside. I might even have stepped in and out several times just because I could! Having this outdoors extension meant I could stroll around the surrounding gardens and take in the views of the hills in the distance without wandering too far from my room.
I think you can tell how much I loved the outdoor freedom but you're probably wondering about the other facilities in the room, so I'll fill you in...
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.
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