As a Scottish travel blogger that prefers to head away from the typical tourist trail, finding inspiration for new places to visit is not always easy. Hidden gems are by their very nature difficult to discover.
With a free day to go exploring I found myself struggling to come up with somewhere new and unique that was an easy drive from Glasgow. After trawling through the internet for way too long, I was about to give up hope of finding some divine inspiration when I chanced upon Crawick Multiverse, only a one hour drive away in Dumfries and Galloway. A former open cast coal mine, transformed into an artland inspired by space, astronomy and cosmology, it certainly ticked the boxes for being unique and within a reasonable driving distance. Excited by the prospect of a new adventure, I quickly grabbed my camera, made up a packed lunch and jumped in the car. Before long I was turning off the busy motorway and found myself negotiating quiet country back-roads, the lush rural scenery mentally transporting me a million miles away from the city.
Arriving at the unassuming car park of Crawick Multiverse, I paid the entrance fee and picked up a map of the site. On advice from the visitor assistant, I followed the path anti-clockwise as she explained this would take me uphill to a ridge with sweeping views over the area and the countryside beyond.
It was a glorious day and as the trail gained height, the views opened up and I got my first glimpse of the many enormous stones found on the site (over 2000 and counting!) which have now been utilised to create the unusual artworks.
As I reached the top of the ridge, the views across the artland and the pretty valley beyond were spectacular. This is definitely the best place to get a good overview of the standing stone artwork that spirals and swirls in patterns below.
The area which was once deemed a scar on the landscape has been transformed thanks to the famous landform artist Charles Jencks and funding from the Duke of Buccleuch, the local landowner. Now a community asset and thought provoking space, this is a fantastic example of imaginative regeneration. Although it was still patchy in places when I visited, it is a place that will continue to improve with time as the newly planted greenery flourishes and blends with the surrounding fields and hills.
Every structure at Crawick Multiverse has been thoughtfully planned to inspire deeper reflection about our connection with the universe, including the carefully positioned shelters, a hand that points at the North Star, stones perfectly aligned with compass points and patterns that represent galaxies and comets.
One of the largest structures in the artland is the sun amphitheatre which can hold up to 5000 people and rather appropriately the space has already been used to for a three day midsummer solstice festival, celebrating art, science and music.
Crawick Multiverse is the sort of place where you are actively encouraged to interact with the art and there is something satisfying about walking through the huge designs and touching the rocks. I couldn't help but be reminded of some of the ancient stone sites I explored on my visit to Orkney.
Although we will never really know what universal inspiration motivated our ancestors to build their stone creations, the constructions at this artland are very much inspired by more recent scientific discoveries and theories about the universe. With many of these early stone sites also present in the surrounding Dumfries and Galloway landscape, Crawick Multiverse provides a fitting connection in stone between ancient and modern beliefs.
I easily spent a couple of hours exploring the stones and sitting enjoying my packed lunch in the sunshine and tranquility before reluctantly heading back to the car for fear of getting sunburn! All too soon I was back on the motorway and entering the hustle and bustle of the city again, although thanks to my time at Crawick Multiverse I was feeling more relaxed than when I left.
I started my day searching for a hidden gem and it seems quite appropriate that I discovered one in this former coal mine!
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