Wednesday, January 30, 2008

THERE IS NO MORE BEAUTIFUL PART OF THE WORLD THAN THE GALLOWAY COAST

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Neil Oliver, who presented the BBC series 'Coast', knows a lot about the coast of Britain.

Oliver wrote in the magazine DGB Life, February 2008, that "there is no more beautiful part of the world than the Galloway Coast."

Dumfries and Galloway is a neglected part of the world, particularly when it comes to transport links.

If it was an independent state, like Lichtenstein, Dumfries and Galloway could be rich. But Dumfries and Galloway is not an independent state and it lacks the power to make the big decisions. The really big decisions are made in London. The talented people tend to leave Dumfries and Galloway and head south.

If you cycle off the beaten track in Dumfries and Galloway, you will come across an Enid Blyton - John Buchan - Peter Pan - Rupert Bear - Gavin Maxwell sort of world. Think of mysterious castles, rounded hills and enchanted bays.

J M Barrie went to school in Dumfries, chief town of Dumfries and Galloway, and there he spent the happiest days of his life (Victoria Terrace).

Robert Burns had a house in Dumfries (Burns Street).

Part of John Buchan's Thirty Nine Steps was filmed in the Dumfries and Galloway hills and valleys.

The gentle hills of Galloway are like the ones in the Rupert Bear or Enid Blyton books: gently rounded, with clumps of trees, rocky outcrops, fluffy little clouds and sometimes deep blue sky.

When it's not raining, the light is incredibly bright and the air so very clear, hence the attraction to artists.

This is not sunny Spain, but the climate tends to be mild; a possibly drier version of Cornwall or the Lake District.

Gavin Maxwell, author of Ring of Bright Water, was born in Dumfries and Galloway.

Drumlanrig Castle

Near Thornhill is exotic, multi-turreted 17th century Drumlanrig Castle, which has paintings by Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt.

This is one of Britain's sexiest castles. It is home to the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry. It was a Queensberry who was the father of Lord Arthur Douglas.

Look out for the decorative cupolas, Renaissance-style colonnade, Baroque horseshoe stairway and gorgeous gardens.

Coastal Kirkcudbright is an attractive and aristocratic "artist's town", associated with the Glasgow Boys.

Hornel

Kirkcudbright's Broughton House is where the artist Edward Hornel used to live. For part of the year, you can tour the beautiful house and see Hornel's Japanese-style pictures of little girls, some naked, and his magical garden, which is probably the very best garden in the world.

Kirkcudbright has a wild life park and a fabulous jazz festival each June.

Weapons testing at Dundrennan has led to certain worries. "Although 27 tonnes of depleted uranium have been fired into the sea at the Kircudbright range none of the shells has been recovered despite extensive searches....the controversial shells ...blamed for causing...Gulf War Syndrome..." according to The Galloway News.

Wigtown, which looks rather French, is Dumfries and Galloway's book town and it has at least 20 book businesses.

Gatehouse of Fleet has a large second hand book shop, run by poet Robin Munro. Gatehouse's Cally Palace Hotel has AA one rosette food and a super golf course; Georgian buildings; bonny views of hills.

New Abbey is associated with John Balliol, the founder of Balliol College, Oxford. This pretty village has an abbey, a museum of costume and a tearoom.

Castle Douglas has the best shopping in the area, a caravan park, a cycle shop, golf, a boating loch, a little art gallery, a theatre, one of the best second hand book shops in Scotland and the tiny Sulwath brewery which produces the world's tastiest real ales (Knockendoch is a dark copper coloured brew tasting of deeply roasted malts) and which provides tours. Castle Douglas is close to Threave Gardens and Threave Castle.

Dalbeattie has some of the friendliest people in Britain. It has the fabulous little Dalbeattie Museum of Victoriana (restricted opening hours). The officer on the deck of the Titanic, when it sank, was a man from Dalbeattie. The Dalbeattie area is famous for off-road cycling.

The National Trust's hilly Threave Gardens, near the town of Castle Douglas, has a magical walled garden, glasshouses, an eastern style pond, rock plants, tall trees, rhododendrons and heavenly views on a clear day.

Logan Botanic Garden, 14 miles South of Stranraer, at Port Logan, open March-October, has water, walled, terrace, woodland and other small gardens, with tree ferns, palm trees, climbers... and there's a nice licensed restaurant.

Crossmichael, near Castle Douglas, used to have a Michelin starred restaurant, but it moved to Leith in Edinburgh, which is where the money and the power lie.

Buddhists, and others, will enjoy the Samye-Ling Tibetan Centre at Eskdalemuir. Here you will find a magnificent golden-roofed temple, and the oldest Tibeten centre in the West.



Port Patrick
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Rockcliffe is an Enid Blyton sort of coastal village with mystery islands, beaches, rock pools and (according to the local papers) smugglers not too far away. Great for walks. Nice tearoom. Yachts and pubs at nearby Kipford. (Wash your hands after building castles on the beach. Watch out for incoming tides).

Dumfries is a small town which straddles the River Nith.

Dumfries has some superbly attractive Victorian and medieval buildings which are now right next to some truly hideous 60's buildings and various carparks.
The streets are often covered in chewing gum, plastic bags and vomit.

Dumfries could be as beautiful as any town in Europe. But it is not.

You will see lots of young people who look unemployed and seriously malnourished (drugs? AIDS? poverty?).

Some of the school kids from JM Barrie's old school look as scruffy as you'll get (although they will politely offer directions). You begin to think you are in the Third World.

"A man has been accused in court at Dumfries of being concerned in the supplying of HEROIN to others in the grounds of DUMFRIES ACADEMY.... (The accused) pleaded not guilty to the charge alleged to have taken place over a NINE MONTHS PERIOD..." Dumfries Courier.

You will seldom see a policeman in Dumfries and Galloway when they are needed.

Dumfries has few restaurants we would want to recommend. We did not enjoy our visit to the Linen Room. The pubs tend to sell that terrible McEwans or Tennants beer rather than the tasty local real ale.

Dumfries has a number of attractions:

1. The Gracefield Arts Centre which too often seems to be closed.

2. The house where J M Barrie once lived. But, amazingly, Dumfries has no museum honouring the author of Peter Pan!

"It was the original Never Land, the inspiration for Peter Pan. But the Dumfries townhouse Moat Brae, auctioned yesterday for £80,000, is not destined to become a shrine to J M Barrie...It was in the Enchanted Garden of this house, chasing, climbing, and prowling through the undergrowth, that the young Barrie met Captain Hook, Tinkerbell and the other characters..." -Glasgow Herald.

Had this house been bought by Dumfries Council it could have brought in millions of tourists from all over the world.

3. Dumfries has the fantastic, world-class, Victorian, Chrichton buildings and gardens at Bankend Rd. http://www.chrichton.org.uk/

Formerly this was one of the biggest mental institutions in the world - world famous and set up by a rich philanthropist; now it is university buildings, a decent hotel, museum, gardens, and a smaller mental institution.

4. Dumfries also has one of Britain's best looking churches - St Michaels. Robert Burns is buried outside.

5. Dumfries has a theatre linked to J M Barrie.

6. There is a Camera Obscura and a museum.There are lots of charity shops.

7. Osama bin Laden's Mujahedin received training from the British SAS in mountains surrounding the Criffel near Dumfries in Scotland.(Sunday Mail, Sept 2001)
Former SAS member, Ken Connor, said that training camps were set up in a remote mountain area in 1983. (BBC News SCOTLAND Scots link to US terror suspect / PEN-L message, SAS trained Mujahedin fighters in Scotland)

Loch Ken, near Castle Douglas, is for windsurfers. The Galloway Sailing Centre at Loch Ken can tell you about Dinghy Courses, powerboating courses, canoeing courses, gorge scrambling and quad bikes.

Family fun can be had at the award winning Cream o' Galloway, Rainton, Gatehouse of Fleet, Castle Douglas. Open Easter until October. This place has an adventure playground and nature trail as well as a restaurant selling the best ice cream in the UK.

Cycling was invented in Dumfries and galloway. Cyclists might enjoy the route from Rhonehouse to Kirkcudbright ( 7 miles, deserted road, flowers, sheep, rabbits, little hills like babies' buttocks, country cottages).... or Palnackie to Castle Douglas taking the route over the hills. The Dalbeattie area is famous for having off-road trails and miles and miles of quiet country roads.

www.7stanes.gov.uk/forestry/achs-5rnffw

This area has traditionally been used by the armed forces for hush hush training of special forces (and 'Moslem terrorists', according to newspapers). Expect to see the occasional Hawk fighter, tank, or men dressed as trees.

Military aircraft have crashed into local farms. "The latest crash was only seconds away from Lockerbie, in one direction, and Dumfries in the other..." according to The Dumfries Courier.

Lockerbie is famous because of Major Charles McKee - Pan Am Flight 103 hit Lockerbie on 21 December 1988.

On that flight "were at least 2 US Intelligence agents and a Mr Khalid Nazir Jafaar." The Dumfries and Galloway police began to investigate. But for two days it was "difficult" for them to collect evidence as "CIA agents combed the countryside for the luggage of the dead American intelligence agents and a suitcase full of heroin.... 59 bodies were left lying around Lockerbie until 24 December...but by then there were only 58 bodies..." according to Lester Coleman.

TRANSPORT

Much of the rail network is gone. The road network is poor. The nearest airport is at Newcastle in England. As transport is the key to the success of an area, Dumfries and galloway has its problems!

National Express coaches will take you from London, Birmingham, Manchester etc to Dumfries and beyond.

A grotty little train will transport you, amid much litter, from Carlisle to Dumfries. The train used to go to Stranraer, but not any more.

Bus services are poor. Many local buses travel too fast. Stagecoach buses have little leg room and usually no toilets even on the longest journeys.

"MacEwans Coaches boss is ready to defend his company after it was branded unreliable this week... Members of the environment and infrastructure committee were told that while Stagecoach Western - which has also attracted a significant number of complaints - had improved, MacEwans had failed to and in some cases had become worse..." Dumfries Courier Oct 13, 2000.

Dumfries by William Miller

WHERE TO STAY?

Brighouse Bay leisure park takes caravans and tents and has lodges and cottages. It "boasts a vast range of on-site facilities that appeal to everyone, from small boats on the pond for the younger generation to Quad Bikes for the thrillseekers. The indoor pool complex offers swimming for all ages with a jacuzzi and steam room for a spot of relaxation after all that work.The 18 hole Golf Course is championship length and has glorious views across the Irish Sea. There is also a 9 hole par 3 for all the family."

Similar to Brighouse Bay is Sandyhills Bay, sitting at the foot of wooded hills and close to a sheltered sandy beach.

There are many other caravan and camp sites.

You could stay in DUMFRIES which has at least one good Bed and Breakfast.

CASTLE DOUGLAS has a number of Bed and Breakfast places.

GATEHOUSE's Cally Palace Hotel has AA one rosette food and a super golf course; Georgian buildings; bonny views of hills.

NEWTON STEWART, a quiet contry town in the middle of John Buchan style countryside, has the excellent KIRROUGHTREE HOUSE hotel which has an AA 2 Rosette restaurant! The hotel is AA 3 stars. Lovely, posh country house interior.

PORTPATRICK, on the coast, somewhat remote, has the wonderful KNOCKINAAM LODGE HOTEL, the restaurant of which has AA 3 Rosettes! (same as London's River Cafe, Bibendum....)

Hotels & Accommodations

“First Class accomodation in a beautiful location”

“fell at a few hurdles”

“A Home from Home”

“Take an overcoat”

“WOW Factor in the new rooms”

“Mostly Good, but?”

Views In Galloway !!

THE PEOPLE?

The people of Dumfries and Galloway are the people who ran Hong Kong (Jardines and Flemings...) and ran a large part of the Empire! You'll bump into Galloway people in Africa, South America and Australasia.

Strangely, this area has quite a few millionaires. Lots of big houses. They must like the scenery.

"Scotland puts a smile on your face" according to the Glasgow Herald. "The Scots are the happiest people in Britain, according to a new study of the nation's mood....In Scotland the LifeIndex score was 6.6 out of ten. London had the lowest score 5.4 ....."

Dumfries and Galloway has a lower crime rate than Glasgow, London, Rwanda..... It has the best crime clear-up rate in Britain.

TO SUM UP - THIS IS BETTER THAN the Lake District or Cornwall if you have a romantic sort of mind and a car or a bike.

Dumfries and Galloway will appeal to -
CYCLISTS, fishermen, WALKERS, foodies, CARAVANERS, booklovers, JOHN BUCHAN/JM BARRIE/GAVIN MAXWELL FANS, Bird watchers, WALKERS, Enid Blyton children..........

Threave Garden
Robert Burns House
Drumlanrig Castle
The Stewartry Museum
World Famous Old Blacksmith's Shop Museum
Cardoness Castle
Cream 'o Galloway
Threave Castle
Broughton House
Globe Inn

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