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The Unitary Authority of Dumfries and Galloway is located in the County of Southern Scotland in Southern Region of Scotland, it covers an administrative area of 6,440Km² and in 2001 was home to a population of 148,340 persons, that represents 2.93% of that of Scotland and 0.25% of the population of the entire United Kingdom.
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Britain Beautiful is not a geography book, but a swift glance at the main geographical features of this county is so essential to a true understanding of its beauty and many-sided interest that it cannot be omitted without imperilling the prospect of obtaining a vivid and comprehensive survey.
As any map will plainly show, it is bounded on the south by Solway Firth, on the north by a ring hills which form part of what geologists call the "Southern Uplands," and between these two boundaries it is intersected by three parallel river valleys, Nithdale, Annandale, and Eskdale, which take their name from the streams which have brough them into existence in the course of ages. As might be expected, these valleys have always formed the highways of communication and civilisation, and the two western and larger channels were promptly taken advantage of in the early days of the railway era. Fortunately, the advent of the "Iron Horse" has done little to spoil their great natural charm, so that some of the most attractive scenery in Scotland is still to be found in the upper reaches of those of the Esk and its feeders terminate in a charming cul de sac on the southern slopes of the watershed.
Pennant (Second Tour in Scotland 1761) was one of the first travellers to call attention to the beauties of Eskdale, in words that have a true eighteenth-century ring about them: "The scenery is great and enchanting; on one side is a view of the river Esk, far beneath, running through a rocky channel and bounded by immense precipices; in various places suddenly deepening to a vast profundity; while in other parts it glides over a bottom covered with mosses; or coloured stones that reflect through the pure water teints glaucous, green, or sappharine: these various views are in most places fully open to sight; in others suffer a partial interruption from the trees, that clothe the steep bank, or shoot out from the brinks and fissures of the precipices; the trees are general oak, but often intermixed with the waving boughs of the weeping birch."
But shi smiling country has a grim and sinister story to tell, written even now in the numerous ruins of castles and peel towers with which it is studded. It is a true "border" region, dotted with the strongholds of freebooters who preyed upon their weaker neighbours. The vicinity of Langholm, for instance, was the lair of the famous "Johnny Armstrong, Laird of Gilnockie," the most popular and potent thief of his time, and who laid the whole English borders under contribution, but never injured any of his own countrymen. Unfortunately for the fierce but picturesque Johnny, there was peace between England and Scotland in 1528, when James V came into these parts to extirpate marauders whose activities endangered friendly relations with his southern neighbour. Johnny came out to meet his sovereign "with thirty-six persons in his train, most gorgeously apparelled, and himself so richly dressed that the King said, ‘What wants that knave that a king should have?'" Notwithstanding prayers, entreaties, threats, and promises, James V ordered his unruly subject's instant execution, whereupon Johnny threw discretion to the winds and , as an old ballad runs, burst out:"To seik hot water beneath cold yce,
The ruined square tower of the Holehouse is claimed to be Johnny Armstrong's lair, though the late Mr Andrew Lang has laboured with some success to prove that his headquarters were at another stronghold, which was subsequently levelled to the foundations.
Langholm itself is a busy little border town which rather leaves one wondering how it could ever have been said that "Into Langholm is out of the world." The great annual event in the place was the fair-cum-feasting known as the "Common riding," held on July 17, when barley bannock, red herring, and whisky were consumed in really alarming quantities. The celebrations began with a proclamation delivered by a man standing on horseback among the crowd, and a most important part of the declaration ran as follows:"THIS IS TO GIVE NOTICE
But to the English at least the most interesting spot in this corner of the county is unquestionably Gretna Green, with its memories of runaway marriages, panting and defiant lovers, irate and cursing fathers. During the recent war the erection of vast munition factories has given Gretna another and far less picturesque claim to fame, and one can only hope that they will not now be adapted to some other base material use and so escape that destruction which is so necessary to the revival of its ancient peace and glory.
The common belief that the expeditious ceremony was always performed by a blacksmith is erroneous, for apparently the only gentleman of that trade acted in the capacity of "priest" was one Joe Paisley, who made a comfortable fortune out of his operations and died in 1811 at the ripe old age of 79. But he had many rivals, including soldiers, shoemakers, and even poachers!
Pennant tells us how, as he "had a great desire to see the high priest, I succeeded: he appeared in form of a fisherman, a stout fellow, in a blue coat, rolling round his solemn chops a quid of tobacco of no common size. One of our party was supposed to come to explore the coast: we questioned him about his price; which, after eyeing us attentively, he left to our honour."
Close to Kirtlebridge is the churchyard of Kirkconnell, where a Scotch tragic romance of the Romeo-and-Juliet order came to its close what time Mary Stuart was ascending the throne. Fair Ellen Irvine, heiress of the House of Kirkconnell, was beloved of two gentlemen - or rather one was a gentleman and the other a man whose jealousy inspired him to get his rival out of the way by fair means or foul. As the lady and Adam Fleming, the lover she favoured, were confessing their love on the banks of the Kirtle, the disappointed suitor appeared and pointed a gun at Adam. Without a moment's hesitation lovely Ellen interposed her slender form, and fell with a bullet in her heart. Adam avenged her death there and then, but had to flee the country for several years. On his return he visited the lady's grave, flung his arms over the turf, and expired on the spot. Shades of John Ridd and Lorna in Oare church! But the Scottish story is a perfectly true one, and Adam's tombstone, "Hic jacet Adam Fleming," does not lie.
Considering its chequered history, Annan can consider itself fortunate to be
so thriving and industrious little town. Situated right in the track of English
marauders ravaging north of the border, and Scottish marauders meeting like with
like, its position was not a happy one during the centuries of intermittent, if
not ceaseless, border warfare; it was frequently burnt, and its ancient castle,
once a military point d' appui of high importance, has vanished together with
practically all the other evidences of its antiquity. But as the birthplace of
Edward Irving, the preacher, it has a hold on the imagination of all true Scots,
which surpasses the appeal of dead stones of mortar.
Ecclefechan is another spot over which lies the glamour of association with a great career and a name which has become the world's property. For here, in a lowly habitatin, which still stands, was born, on December 4, 1795, an ugly baby, who was christened Thomas Carlyle. And eighty-six years later the philosopher was laid to rest in the churchyard at the close of his toilsome and honourable career. It is one of the most curious freaks of fate that links up these humble rooms, with their collection of Carlyle relics, with the stormy scenes of the French Revolution, and the picturesque and enigmatic personality of Frederick the Great.
It was at Annan that the young Carlyle imbibed the rudiments of learning, and readers of his Reminiscences will remember his description of the countryside in the vicinity and his pleasure in the glorious views of the Solway Firth with the Cumbrian mountains beyond.
Lockerbie, "neat, stirring, and prosperous," as Fullarton called it, has always been famous for its lamb fair, a fair, or rather a general gathering for frolic and folly in the town, at which the whole country, for 10 or 12 miles round, is generally assembled. The crowd consists of persons of all ranks and ages, from the meanest plebeian to the proudest patrician of the land, of merry-andrews to raise laughter, and of jackanapes and hobnails to make it. Even the sage and aristocratic burghers of Dumfries themselves flock to the rendezvous in hundreds, and seldom fail to meet there as many adventures in a single day as serve them for subjects for rude mirth and small talk during the subsequent twelfth month.
Hoddom Castle - where Pennant, "instead of finding a captive damsel and a fierce warder, met with a courteous laird and his beauteous spouse; and the dungeon not filled with piteous captives, but well stored wit generous wines, not condemned to a long imprisonment" -is one of the show places of the county, with a fourteenth-century keep as kernel and various additions of later periods.
Close to Hoffom is the tower of Trailtrow, which is distinguished by the word "Repentance," carved over the entrance. A multitude of wits has been at work trying to find an explanation for so salutary an admonition. According to one account it was erected by John, Lord Herries, to celebrate a merciful escape from shipwreck on his return form a filibustering expedition across the Solway. He "ordered," says the chronicler, "a watch to be kept there, and a fire made in the firepan, and the bell to be rung whenever the Englishes are seen coming near to, or over the river Annan, and to be kept constantly burning in weir time." Other accounts record (1) that a Lord of Hoddom built the beacon-tower to atone for the crime of massacring prisoners after promising quarter, (2) that the little matter which involved "repentance" was from pilfering stones from the chapel of Trailtrow for erecting a house, and (3) that the builder was one John de Reive for "his having been active in demolishing the churches; and after he had got all was to be had by the Reformation, returned to the Romish principles, and, neglecting Restitution, he build Repentance.
Lochmaben, ancient in spirit at least, stands in the midst of its ring of lakes as an island in the sea. Charming though its situation may be, its main interest lies in the fragmentary ruin of a castle which has strong claims to be the birthplace of Robert the Bruce - a distinction which to all good Scots puts this delightful spot in the category in which Wantage or Glastonbury would find themselves if Englishmen were more imaginative. The old castle has an even stronger claim on the affections of the North of Britain, as the scene of one of Wallace's finest military and moral exploits. After its capture by the hero, there was considerable trepidation among the female prisoners, for the times were rude. But Wallace was the soul of gallantry, if a contemporary songster can be trusted:"Qhen [when] the ladie had then seyne,
From that time onwards, the castle usually figured prominently in all the current excitements and was besieged and relieved with almost monotonous regularity. But when siege warfare became a matter of artillery and other unpleasant inventions, the stronghold became "useless" and, as Fullarton bitterly remarks, "gothic hands began generations ago to treat the castle of Bruce as merely a vulgar and convenient quarry. . . Many portions of the skinned and ghastly, but once noble and aerial pile, have been precipitated from aloft. . . .One inhabitant of the burgh still warms his toes beside a pair of fine jambs which once rested on the paternal hearth of the Bruce."
Between the mouth of the Annan and that of the Nith lies the district which Scott has made famous by working its scenery into Redgauntlet, but apart from this fictional interest it has great claims to consideration on the score of two antiquities of high importance. The first is the famous "Ruthwell Cross," to be found, restored and re-erected, in the church of the same name. For all its immense archaeological interest, this splendid monument of early English Christianity was ruthlessly shattered during the religious commotion of the seventeenth century, and Pennant, who visited Ruthwell about a century later, found its fragments incorporated into the pavement. Happily, the nineteenth century appreciated its beauty and interest, and the cross was restored to show the world, through its Latin and runic inscriptions, to what a high level Christian art attained in the so-called "Dark "ages.
The other important antiquity is the magnificent ruin of Caerlaverock Castle, guarding the estuary of the Nith and once the Gibraltar of south-eastern Scotland. Even in decay this is a most impressive pile.
The existing fortress is not, of course, the stronghold which Edward I besieged and captured in the summer of 1300, an event of which we have a contemporary and very remarkable record in the shape of a poem in Norman-French, the authorship of which is assigned, somewhat problematically, to a friar named Walter of Exeter. It is most illuminating and fascinating description of siege warfare and practice, and includes a list of the men of eminence present on the occasion. The author tells us that:Karlaverok casteaus estoit
(" Caerlaverock was so strong a castle that it feared no siege; thus the King came in person, because it would not surrender.") We are also told that "its shape was like a shield, or it had only three sides all round, with a tower on each angle; but one of them was a double one, so high, so long, and so large, that under it was the gate and drawbridge, well made and strong, and a sufficiency of other defences. It had good walls, and god ditches filled to the edge with water; and I believe there never was seen a castle more beautifully situated, for at once could be seen the Irish Sea towards the west, and to the north a fine country, surrounded by an arm of the sea, so that no creature born could approach it on two sides, without putting himself in danger of the sea." [Translation of N H Nicholas.]
But considered as a martial exploit, the siege was not of a high order, as Edward's formidable and well-equipped force had a garrison of less than a hundred men to deal with. Small wonder that the affair lasted only a few days! During the fourteenth century it changed hands two or three times, and then after various changes and remodellings it played a minor part in Scottish history until the Civil War of the seventeenth century, which witnessed the end of its career, both as a fortress and habitation.
North of Lochmaben the valley of the Annan threads a delightful region on which the hilly barrier gradually closes in until the river finds itself at the bottom of a deep ravine through which the railway finds a way to Lanarkshire.
Here the centre of tourist and other activities is the little town of Moffat, famed for its scenery as well as the efficacy of its sulphur waters. So rich is the vicinity in every variety of natural attraction, that it is necessary sternly to bear in mind that this work is not a tourist's handbook. It must suffice to say that no wanderer in Moffat should omit the expeditions up Moffat Water to that fine fall the "Grey Mare's Tail," or a visit to the "Devils Beef Tub" (a great hollow where stolen cattle could be concealed), or a scramble on the rolling fells which tower above the river valleys and preserve this part of the country from vulgar inquisitiveness on the part of Peebles and Selkirk.
Much of the history of this attractive and interesting county centres in the story of the town which has given its name. But Dumfries, "a dame wi' pride eneuch," as Burns called it, does not rest on the oars of its historic reputation, and as a matter of fact it has lot most of the memorials of its lively past. The only substantial relic of mediaeval times is the old bridge which Devorguilla, wife of John Balliol, threw over the Nith in the thirteenth century. Of John's monastery, the Greyfriars, nothing remains, to the sorrow of all who know the vivid, if blood-curdling, story of the murder of John Comyn, the "Red" Comyn, by Robert Bruce and his companions in 1306. As all the contemporary chroniclers of the event were English - and therefore bitterly hostile to Bruce - their accounts represent the deed as brutal and cold-blooded murder. The more likely versionis that Bruce did not stab Comyn at the high altar, but quarrelled with him in the cloisters and in his rage struck him over the head with the flat of his sword; the actual killing was done by his companion, Roger Kirkpatrick, who certainly earned his motto of "I mak sicker" (I make sure).
However, the Greyfriars monastery has gone and the Dumfries of to-day cannot manage to look older than the Dumfries of Burns. The poet spent the last five years of his life in the town, three of them in a still existing house, which has been piously preserved more or less in its original condition, as a monument to that fascinating but somewhat self-stultifying genius. Readers of Chamber's Life and Works of Robert Burns will be familiar with a course of existence which was sometimes picturesque and sometimes the reverse. The visitor to Dumfries may fill in the gaps of the story with a sight of the Globe Inn (in which the instruments of revelry he once handled can still be seen), and the house in Burns Street in which he died. A description of his funeral, written by an eye-witness, Dr Currie, is too characteristic a piece of journalese to be omitted. "The gentlemen Volunteers of Dumfries determined to bury their illustrious associate with military honours, and every preparation was made to render this last service of solemn and impressive. The Fencible Infantry of Angusshire, and the regiment of cavalry of the Cinque Ports, at that time quartered in Dumfries, offered their assistance on this occasion; the principal inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood determined to walk in the funeral procession; and a vast concourse of persons assembled to witness the obsequies of the Scottish bard. On the evening of the 25th of July the remains of Burns were removed from his house to the Town Hall, and the funeral took place on the succeeding day. A party of Volunteers, selected to perform the military duty in the churchyard, stationed themselves in front of the procession, with their arms reversed; the main body of the corps surrounded and supported the coffin, on which were placed the had and sword of their friend and fellow-soldier; the numerous body of attendants ranged themselves in the rear; while the Fencible regiments of infantry and cavalry lined the streets from the Town Hall to the burial-ground in the southern church-yard, a distance of more than half a mile. The whole procession moved forward to that sublime and affecting strain of music, the Dead March in Saul; and three volleys fired over his grave marked the return of Burns to his parent earth!"
A few miles upstream from Dumfries is the farm of Ellisland, which was Burns's first place of residence in the county after leaving Ayrshire.
Thanks to the minute researches of his biographers, we know something of the poet's formal entry on his new possession in 1789. Being thoroughly superstitious, he resorted to the ancient ritual appropriate to the occupation of a new house: Elizabeth Smith was instructed to proceed the master and mistress through the doorway, carrying the family Bible and a bowl of salt!
Like the Vale of the Annan, Nithdale pierces far into the heart of the ring of lofty hills which encircles the north-eastern corner of the county, and here again the railway ha adopted the only feasible channel of communications. As everywhere else in the shire, the remains of ancient strongholds, from grim and simple peel towers to elaborate castles, testify to the insecurity of life and property which was a feature of existence on the Anglo-Saxon border. To the same cause must also be assigned the comparatively modern appearance of the few towns. But for what they lack in antiquity they certainly make up in charm. There are few places in southern Scotland more attractive that Thornhill.
Just north of Thornhill is the Castle of Morton, which, as Archbald says: "of old hath been a very strong hold." But the spot possessed something more remarkable than its castle, for near by "there was a park built by Sir Thomas Randulph, on the face of a very great and high hill, so artificially, that, by the advantage of the hill, all wild beasts such a deer, harts, roes, and horses [!] did easily leap in but could not get out again; and if any other cattle , such as cows, sheep, or goats, did voluntarily leap in or where forced to it, it was doubted if their owners were permitted to get them out again."
The "show" place in this region is, of course, the castle of Drumlanrig. It is not a mediaeval fortress but a seventeenth century mansion, which incorporates some small portion of an earlier structure. Built by the third Earl (first Duke) of Queensberry, its magnificence and stately comfort speak of a time when defence was no longer the first consideration and the great ones of the land could have a habitation outwardly commensurate with their style and dignity. No one appreciated its amenities more than "Bonnie Prince Charlie," whose men did it great damage during the rebellion in 1745.
The outpost of civilisation among the wild and solitary hills of the Border
is the ancient little town of Sanquhar. Its present modest appearance belies the
importance it possessed in earlier, if not happier times. Did not citizens of
Sanquhar once publicly declare war on Charles II and James II, and proudly
exhibit their defiant proclamations on the town cross.
Whenever I think of Paradise, to this day my mind runs . . on a clear stream birgling among trees of birk and ash that cower in the hollow of the glen from the South West wind.
S. R. Crockett
This immemorial kingdom of Galloway (comprising the shires of Kirkcudbright and Wigtown,) is at heart as unknown almost as the wilds of Sutherland and Caithness. But no part of Scotland, scarcely, has flamed more fiercely in the pages of literature than this country of the Covenanters, of the smugglers and the raiders, and of age-long Border feud and strife, and it has received the homage of Scott, Burns, Stevenson and Crockett, who has rightly regarded it his province.
On first glimpsing Galloway the appeal is clearly "Hills and the Sea." There is a refreshing, delightfully quiet coast - with coves and bays - that becomes superb with cliffs-scenes towards the Mull of Galloway. And there are a mountain hinterland to the wildest and most sterile solitude, gentler hills, enchanting lochs and streams and glens, vales of friendly woods and fields and marshes where the sea-pinks blow.
A quaint phrase connotes the extent of Galloway as -"Fra the Brig en' o' Dumfries to the Braes o' Glenapp."
And at all events the historic, royal burgh of Dumfries is on the threshold of Galloway. By the banks of the Nith winds a lovely walk that is said to have inspired "Tom o' Shanter." And over the same river is the 13th century bridge - linking Dumfires with Maxwelltown (not the subject of the immortal song) - built by the Lady Devorgilla (heiress of the Lords of Galloway) who founded Sweetheart Abbey, and also Balliol College, Oxford. A touching story tells of the abbey of red sandstone lying in the shadow of the isolated granite hill of Criffel and how it derived its name. When John Balliol died his widow Devorgilla had his heart embalmed and enclosed in a casket of silver and ivory, which was never to leave her side. At her own death the casket was placed upon her breast in the grave that the monks made for her before the high altar of the abbey - the abbey of "Sweet Heart."
Through a wide sweep of fresh, open country - with the smell of the sea over it - and undulating to smooth, green or brown hills, where sheep browse - one's impressions of Galloway begin to take shape, the pleasanter for one's lighting upon such places as Dalbeattie with its handy, coastal haunts like Kippford, Rockcliffe and Colvend. Castle Douglas, too, the principal market-town of Galloway, into which the mountain shepherds for miles around bring their flocks to the great sheep fairs, is interesting and inviting. It looks out over Carlingwark Loch, placid and island-studded, and not far away on an island in the Dee stands the ruin of Threave Castle. North-ward sweeps the Ken Valley, but before one explores its various beauty some time must be spent in the old-fashioned town of Kirkcudbright at the estuary of the Dee, which overlooks an attractive bay, cliff-grit and sprinkled with islands, with woods reaching to the water's edge. Behind, rise fields and wooded slopes to higher hills. There is something of the fishing-place atmosphere about it, and artists delight in capturing the subtle and changing tones around the bay. On St Mary's Isle is the old home of the Earls of Selkirk, where Burns composed the laconic "Selkirk Grace." An old Tolbooth in the main street is a grim reminder of the medieval days, and the roofless shell of M'Lellans castle rises above the Dee. An exhilarating walk along the cliff eastwards leads to bonny Auchencairn. Only a mile or two from the coast lies Dundrennan Abbey where the Queen of Scots spent her last night before sailing across the Solway to England.
On a day of wild squall and scudding, sunshot cloud, one feels the true spirit of the gaunt, surf-slashed cliffs, of the mysterious Barlocco caves, of Heston Island that Crockett made the "Isle Rathan" of "The Raiders," of the Rocks of Ross with lighthouse guarding the Solway, of Dirk Hatteraick's Cove, and of the screaming gulls over the marshes. And the Bay of Auchencairn itself, shadowed by Bengairn (1150 feet) is an unsuspected gem.
Westwards from Kirkcudbright runs that magnificent coastal road through Gatehouse of Fleet to Creetown - here sweeping through luxuriant glades with furtive vistas of the sea - there under shaggy hillsides, gorse and bracken-clad, and anon full open to the bay with views over the Solway, out to the Isle of Man and towards Mull.
From Creetown the road heads inland to Newton Stewart, the finest centre for the Galloway Hills. Whichever way is chosen leads in time to the solitudes and the wilds. The landscape is austere rather than beautiful, but romantic. The huge creatures hinted at from afar as hidden in darkness and shadow or in kindlier moments streaming out of blue and gold, are beheld as a stern reality. Glens break into them and foaming streams hurl torrents - such as the Grey Mare's Tail - over rocks. Lochs lie in the hollows. Heather, grass, and bracken in parts relieve the naked stone. At the head of Bargally Glen stands an obelisk in memory of Alexander Murray, the shepherd land of Dunkitterick, who made an astounding mastery of several languages and became Professor of Oriental Languages in Edinburgh University. Through such country - the old Drove Road way - with views of Cairnsmore of Fleet and Cairnsmore of Dee - we come to Clatteringshaws, whence the outlook is dominated by an immense dam that supplies the whole of Galloway with electric power.
At New Galloway the valley of the Ken unfolds. Its lower reaches are remarkably enhanced by Loch Ken, affording fresh vistas at every turn, with Kenmure Castle, seat of the Lords of Galloway, in a beautiful setting, and beyond, the charming spots around Balmaclellan, Lochinvar and Dalry to the Glenkens, where burns break in from the Rhinns of Kells. Higher, cliffs and deep ravines, old mills and bridges and rustic cottages, lend variety to the river's course.
The Water of Doon (from Loch Doon) unfolds its scenic treasures and at Carsphairn the atmosphere reverts to one of mountain and moor. The bleak, boulder-strewn summit of Cairnsmore - of Carsphairn (2612 feet, highest of the three) looks northward into Ayshire - alluring - if the mists keep off - and so one might drop over to Sanquhar and Moniave and make a slight detour to see Irongray churchyard where Helen Walker, the prototype of "Jennie Deans" of "Heart of Midlothian" is buried; the Benedictine Abbey of Lincluden, and the actual "Maxwlltown Braes" in Glencairn.
Around Carsphairn, the moors and fells roll in unbroken rhythm, wide open to the sky, and it is here that one falls under the real spell of the Galloway Hills. Back yonder, haunt of the mists and the shadows, rise some old rugged humps, set and solemn like spirits of the hills in conclave. Mystery lurks behind them and a gleam of light straying from the cloud but deepens it.
Villages are left, and even hamlets. One has discovered a kingdom utterly removed from the everyday world - in reality, the Kells. Its people are the shepherd-folk, rugged as the hills their sheep graze upon, but kindly-natured (if reticent), warm-hearted and innately courteous. Their homes lie deep in the mountain glens; low, white steadings or shielings with a solitary, walled, green plot - and somewhere near - a cow, and maybe a pony, and always a peat stack or two. There are mountain homes still miles from neighbours and out of reach by ordinary roads. Shadowing the wee hoose are Corserine and Millfire - hills akin to the Cheviots - with Loch Dungeon below them. And the weird, grey, boulder-strewn waste it looks our on - the watershed of the Dee and Doon - part of the old Forest of Buchan - is as desolate as the Isle of Skye. In keeping with the spirit of the place are the Black Water of Dee, the Lochs of the Dungeon, Nick or Cauldron of the Dungeon, Mulwharchar, "Hill of the Hunting Horn," where the wild deer may still be spied; the Dow Spout of Craignaw, the "Wolf's Slock," the "Murder Hole" and the Merrick, the "Fingers of the Awful Hand."
The way up to the Merrick is through the Nick and over the ridge to Loch Enoch. Loch Enoch is a solitary study in grey, particularly impressive when mists swathe but not obliterate the granite screes and the scattered granite boulders, and a thin rain stirs the sunless waters and patters eerily on the sandy shores.
The Merrick is distinguished as the highest hill (2764 feet) in Galloway and the highest on the Scottish Mainland, south of the Grampians, and looks out over its satellites and Kirkcudbright and Wigtown Bays, across the Solway, to the peaks of Arran and over to the Isle of Man and Ireland. Glen Trool may be reached along the mountain spurs overlooking Loch Neldricken (with dried-up pool, the "Murder Hole"), Loch Valley and Loch Dee, or by descending the saddle on to Benyellary and down to the shepherd's cottage at Culsharg, whence a rocky path skirts the Buchan Burn into the glen.
In amazing contrast with the scene on the far side of the Merrick, a smiling loch with wooded islands lies like a jewel in the girdle of hills. At the finest coign of vantage stands the rough-hewn granite memorial to Robert the Bruce, King of Scots.
From the foot of Glen Trool a moorland road runs northward by the Water of Minnoch into Ayrshire. Through the flatter country of Carrick various ways lead to the coast, between Girvan and Ballantrae, where the bay receives the streams from the lovely valleys of the Stinchar and Glen App. But the Cree gives access to the moors of "The Shire" - peat-mosses for the most part, sprinkled with lochs, perfumed with bog-myrtle and threaded by old drove-tracks and with frequent traces of primitive man and with the inevitable "Covenanting stones."
On a hillside, overlooking a bay, stands Wigtown itself, a quiet, clean and airy place that once had a busy harbour.
Across the Machars -farming flat-lands washed by the sea - a glimpse is afforded of Whithorn and the sacred Isle of Whithorn, where St Ninian built his little stone church, the "White House." Beyond Burrow Head - conspicuous over a good part of the coast - and at the edge of the Sands of Luce, is Glenluce and its Cistercian abbey. A short neck of land forms a link with Stranraer, a historic and busy poet which serves as the market for the extensive dairy-farming districts of Wigtownshire.
Westwards, still, stretches the long peninsula - the "Rhinns of Galloway" - almost a detached kingdom, like an island. Its seascape is eloquently expressed around Portpatrick, where jagged cliffs and rocks and coves conjure up stirring scenes of a picturesque past. Here on Galloway's most southerly outpost, one might, if not too unimaginative, catch subtly something of the delicious aroma in the wind and the waves.