Not so long ago, if you had asked me 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Tail Nature Reserve and the Woollen Mill, although personally I would give the Woollen Mill a miss unless you enjoy outdated tourist outlets which primarily cater for multiple coach parties.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 grown up memories of coach stops at the aforementioned woollen mill are responsible for not leaving me with a burning desire to return to the town!
On a couple of recent return visits to South West Scotland, I was encouraged to factor more of Moffat in to my travel plans and I thank those locals that introduced me to the many gems in and around the town that reaffirmed my childhood love of the place and wiped out any notions of it as a mere tourist coach stop from a bygone era.
Hopefully my guide of recommended things to do in Moffat will in turn encourage you to spend a bit more time in the town which is brimming with history and friendly folk.
A guide to my recommended things to do in and around Moffat
You can find full details of all the places I recommend below and I've added them all to this handy map to help your planning.
Wander 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), the oldest pharmacy in Scotland 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!
If you've worked up an appetite, I can recommend Brodies on Holm Street for something to eat.
Visit The Famous Star Hotel - the narrowest detached hotel in the world
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.
Explore Moffat Old Churchyard
The old churchyard dates back to around 1600 and can be accessed from the town centre. It was a little overgrown and unkempt looking when I visited but still worth venturing in to as it has some fascinating history.
The gable end wall of the pre-reformation church still remains and if you look at the wall there is partial carved monument dating to 1665. After this building collapsed towards the end of the 18th century, a new church was erected nearby in 1790.
In 1747 the original graveyard was covered over with 4 feet of soil to create room for more burials. Some notable headstones include those of John Goodfellow and James McGeorge who are remembered for their dedication to the Postal Service. In 1831, they attempted to deliver mail to Edinburgh during a terrible snowstorm. They had to abandon their coach and horses and continued on foot, carrying mail bags weighing 7 stones. Unfortunately they never made it and their bodies were found over a week later just 5 miles north of Moffat.
Another headstone marks the grave of John Loudon McAdam who died in 1836. He was a pioneering engineer who revolutionised road construction around the world. He invented a road surface called macadamisation which produced a smooth, hard-wearing surface. Modern roads originate from his deign.
Stroll around Station Park
Although Moffat is surrounded by some stunning hills and glens, you don't need to leave the town to experience nature and greenery. Station Park is a little oasis of gardens, playgrounds and boats of various designs for hire at the duck-filled pond - choose from dragon and swan shaped pedalos to traditional rowing boats.
The park is open all year round, although activities like the putting green, are seasonal. A short walk from Moffat town centre, the park has something to offer all ages.
Follow the Robert Burns Trail
Robert Burns spent his latter years living in and near to Dumfries which is only around 20 miles from Moffat. As you can imagine there are lots of places associated with Burns in the area and in Moffat itself you can visit The Black Bull Inn which was reputedly one of his favourite haunts. He even etched a short poem on one of the windows which has sadly now gone, however a new plaque has been installed featuring the lines written by the poet.
Within Dumfries itself, you can follow a Robert Burns Trail which includes stops at the house where he spent his final years and his mausoleum in St Michael's Churchyard.
Before moving to Dumfries, he lived at nearby Ellisland Farm and it is during his time here that he wrote some of his most famous work. The farm is open to the public and you can admire the very same views that once inspired the poet.
Marvel at the Dark Skies from Moffat Community Observatory
Moffat has the claim of being Europe's very first Dark Sky Town. Special street lighting keeps the light pollution to a minimum and a mile outside of the town is a car park officially recognised as an excellent place to stargaze.
Despite being a well populated town, the light pollution has been measured as more on par with a rural setting and one of the best places to see the night sky is from Moffat Community Observatory where you can booka free 'Introduction to Astronomy Session' for free (although donations are appreciated. I thoroughly enjoyed my evening here and the telescope offers close up views of stars, planets and even galaxies.
Drive another 90 minutes south and west to reach Clatteringshaws Loch within Galloway Forest Park which was the first designated Dark Sky Park in Europe. This is an excellent spot to view over 7000 stars and planets with the naked eye!
If you have a few days to explore the area, you might enjoy reading my dark sky itinerary in South West Scotland.
Other things to do in Moffat
Things to do within 30 minutes of Moffat
Hike Grey Mare's Tail Waterfall & Nature Reserve
Even if you don't want to go for a big walk, the drive from Moffat to the Grey Mare's Tail Waterfall and Nature Reserve is as scenic as many roads through the Highlands. In fact, if you didn't know better, you could easily believe that you had been transported to the north of Scotland.
The nature reserve is cared for by the National Trust for Scotland and one of the highlights is the waterfall which is one of the highest in the UK. It plunges down 60m in to the valley below and you can admire it from various vantage points as you make your way from the car park up the steps which lead to Loch Skeen.
There are various walking options but be aware that the route up to Loch Skeen is steep and hard going in places. In summer you can join a guided walk with one of the local rangers to learn more about the local geology and wildlife.
The WalkHighlands website is a great resource for more walking options in the Moffat area.
Discover The Devil's Beeftub
This legendary dark hollow in the hills is a favourite photo stop although there are surrounding walking trails if you want to explore further. It shadowy nooks and crannies were once used as a hiding place for stolen cattle, a gathering place for Covenanters during The Killing Times and, according to legend, even William Wallace held secret meeting with local clans here.
Visit Wanlockhead & Leadhills, Scotland's Highest Villages
Visit Scotland's highest village, Wanlockhead and nearby Leadhills, which is Scotland's second highest village. Yes, Scotland's two highest villages are in the south of Scotland which surprises many people If you venture to this part of the country, I can guarantee you will encounter countless revelations.
I have already written a blog post detailing things to do in Wanlockhead and Leadhills, so I'll not list them all again but you can check that out if you need ideas. Some highlights include the Leadhills and Wanlockhead Railway, the Museum of Lead Mining and Leadhills Miners Library, the oldest subscription library in Britain.
Tour Drumlanrig Castle & Estate
Drumlanrig Castle is the Dumfriesshire seat of the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch and sits in the Queensberry Estate which covers over 90,000 acres of southern Scotland so it is definitely worth adding to your Moffat itinerary.
Pubic tours of the castle are available at certain times of the year and I can highly recommend them. Outlander fans will also recognise the castle as one of the filming locations from the STARZ TV series as both the exterior and interior were featured as the Duke of Sandringham's Belmont Estate
There are also extensive gardens and grounds to explore throughout the year. If you want to go on a fun adventure with a difference then I highly recommend the Land Rover tour which will take you around the estate and up to the hills for superb views. I've written a blog post with some of the reasons why I think you should visit Drumlanrig Castle so you can also give that a read if you still need convincing.
Other things to do within 30 minutes of Moffat
Things to do within 45 minutes of Moffat
Visit The Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery and Tibetan Centre
If slices of Highland scenery in the Lowlands surprises you, then being transported to Tibet in the middle of rural southern Scotland might leave you feeling a little bewildered. In fact it is only really the weather that might convince you that you are still in Scotland.
The Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery and Tibetan Centre on the banks of the river Esk was founded in 1967. It was the first Tibetan Buddhist Centre to have been established in the West and visitors are welcome to take some time out and recharge their batteries.
I enjoyed exploring the lovely grounds, stupa, peace garden, temple, tea room and shop. There is also a little fairy hill to climb across the road. If you do decide to visit, all I would say is bear in mind that it is a Buddhist monastery and be respectful of any requests.
Tour Crawick Multiverse
If you're a fan of public art or just fancy a walk with a difference, head to Crawick Multiverse near Sanquhar. The former open cast coal mine has been transformed into an artland inspired by by space, astronomy and cosmology.
Designed by the late Charles Jencks, stones from the site have been positioned in a way that is reminiscent of ancient landscapes filled with standing megaliths. It is a place I have returned to several times and have watched the structures grow greener with every year as nature takes over the manmade scar in the landscape.
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