Dumfries: The Queen of the South
Dumfries is an ancient town, and it was here in 1306 that Robert the Bruce killed his rival for the throne of Scotland. Red’s murder took place beside the high altar of Greyfriar’s Monastery, so the Pope promptly excommunicated Robert the Bruce. It didn’t worry him at all. He immediately had himself crowned King of Scotland at Scone, in the presence of Scottish bishops, and they continued to give him communion. Red was buried where he fell, and some shops were built on the site. An ignominious end!
Dumfries is nestled handsomely on the banks of the River Nith, and was granted its charter by William the Lion, King of Scotland, in 1186—150 years before Robert the Bruce started getting peevish with the English. Good records have been kept, and if you’re interested in genealogy, Dumfries is for you. There are archives about local history and many families and clans.
Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet, wrote what he considered his best works here, and he raised his family here (Actually a few families, but that’s another story.) You can still visit the Globe Inn, Burns’s favorite haunt. It’s just the narrow passage of a main street. While Burns was looking for a job, he lived here. After he landed a job, he brought his family down from Ellisland.
Robert Burns’s seat is still on display at The Globe. On one of the aging windowpanes are some verses he scratched on the glass. Some words are from “Lovely Polly Stewart,” and some others are from, “Comin’ Through the Rye.” Nearby, are the ruins of Alloway Kirk, and the 13th century Brig O’ Doon. Dip inside and soak up some ambiance.
If you’re into graves, Robert Burn’s can’t be missed. He died at a relatively young age, and requested to be buried in a simple grave. His wife agreed. Later, the Wordsworth’s, having made a pilgrimage to see the grave of Robert Burns, were appalled. They built a Grecian Mausoleum for the man who was the poet of the people, and Burns’s body was moved. His wife, somewhat stunned, agreed. It’s pretty over-the-top, it’s a good story…and true! The residents of Dumfries and called “Doonhamers,” so it’s easy to believe anything could happen here.
There is plenty to do in this fine area of Southern Scotland: Devorgilla’s Bridge connects Dumfries with Maxwelltown, and it was built in 1431—it is the longest medieval bridge in Scotland. The scenic drive from the ancient city of Dumfries along the coast takes in some of the prettiest towns along the southwest shoreline. The Castle Douglas is a charming, old market town with plenty of intriguing streets and charming shops to explore. Dumfries has been voted as having the best quality of life in all of Britain…more than once.
And, about ten miles from Dumfries, there are two ancient burial sites at Cairn Holy that are more than 3,000 years old. The main site, Cairn Holy I, is 170 feet long. It has a pillared façade and two tombs that would have been covered by a huge mound of stones. A sidetrip to Galloway Forest Park will surround you by moorland and conifer plantations, herds of wild deer and wild goats. Fantastic! Check out the Raiders’ Road. It’s a forest track that follows an old cattle rustlers’ route—just as common then as it was in the American Southwest!