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Kirkcudbright

The Warm Glow Of Kirkcudbright

For more than a century, the inspirational scenery and painterly light
of this charming fishing village has been a magnet for artists and
visitors alike.

BY STEPHEN MCGINTY

If I were to pick an area of Scotland that receives less attention than it richly deserves, it would be Dumfries and Galloway. It is as if tourists and visitors are blind to its beauty and rich cultural history. They head north to Perthshire and then on towards the Highlands, east to Edinburgh or southeast to the soft rolling hills of the Borders, but somehow fail to see the splendour of Dumfries and Galloway beyond the fringe of Burns Country.

In recent years, a lot has been done to address this cultural myopia. The Wigtown Book Festival in September and early October attracts tens of thousands to Scotland's official book town, with many people spending a few extra days to sample the surrounding area. The Dark Sky movement in which stargazers are drawn to places of outstanding natural beauty with the added benefit of no light pollution has also assisted in slowly spreading the word about Dumfries and Galloway and the celestial diamonds resplendent in the sky above.

Yet, an obvious answer to increasing the region's footfall is to encourage a single visit to Kirkcudbright -- I dare anyone to visit once and not wish to immediately begin planning their return. When they do, they will be joining a long litany of visitors, some quite memorable, going back to 1455 when the town was founded.

Situated 25 miles west of Dumfries, Kirkcudbright is tucked in a sheltered nook on the estuary of the River Dee, complete with a bustling harbour, the fifth largest in Scotland, from which two dozen fishing vessels sail out for shellfish and scallops.

The route down towards Kirkcudbright from Glasgow is along the M74 motorway, but once you've passed through Dumfries the land softens into a blanket of green fields and soft rolling hills with the grey-blue of the Irish Sea in the distance. There is always something so pleasant about a rural drive as the patchwork quilt of green and brown rolls by with the promise of delights still to come.

We arrived in Kirkcudbright at around 11 a.m. and began with a walk around the old town with its pastel-painted houses and closes decorated with flower baskets, well-tended plantings and curios. In recent years the town has become an arts and crafts destination, a brand buoyed up by the plethora of independent artists, craftsman and artisan manufacturers who have taken advantage of the cheaper rents in a small, rural town, as well as the attraction of living and working among other artists.

The full text of this article is available in the Winter 2019 issue of Scottish Life.

Click here to preview our feature article on Hiking The West Island Way by Paul Stafford.

Click here to preview our column on The Noble Instrument by Simon McKerrell.

Click here to preview our reviews of Scottish Books.

Photo © Jason Baxter/Scottish Viewpoint