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Dumfries Travel Guide - Scotland

Dumfries is the largest town in the Dumfries and Galloway Region and has consistently been voted the best place to live in the UK. This is partly due to good amenities but also to its mild climate and beautiful setting.

It is known as "Queen of the South" and its inhabitants are called "Doonhamers". The town is mainly built in the local red sandstone, which comes from Locharbriggs and which was used for many public and private buildings throughout Scotland, especially in Victorian Glasgow. Most recently it was the medium for a rather controversial art exhibit in Edinburgh, which consisted of hundreds of bricks.

Most famous for its association with Robert Burns – he lived in the area from 1788 until he died, in the town, in 1796 – it therefore boasts Burns' House, Burns' Museum, Burns Street, Burns' Mausoleum and, his regular pub, the old Globe Inn. If you're lucky the landlord will take you upstairs and show you Burns' bedroom and if it's sunny you can sit outside and admire the mixture of old and new architecture.

Bridge across the River Nith Whitesands, on the banks of the River Nith with its wide area formerly used for cattle and horse markets, is now the bus arrival point and a good place to park. It still has an open–air market at weekends. Few traces of the original medieval town remain – the town celebrated 800 years in 1986 – but Devorgilla's Bridge, built in the 15th century, still spans the Nith.

The banks on the opposite, Maxwellton, side of the river is now laid out as public parks. Whitesands also has many "inns" – some more salubrious than others – the names of which give a glimpse of the area's history (Ye Olde Friars' Vault; the Coach & Horses, etc). Although the times have long past when respectable doonhamers were terrorised by medieval gangs giving each other the "Lockerbie Lick" with their "quhingers" (short swords) Whitesands can still be a lively area after dark. It also, on occasions, is flooded by the river.

Dumfries has good shops (Marks & Spencer, James Thin Bookshop, Barbour's department stores among others) and many interesting corners and unexpected nooks and crannies to be explored. These streets too reveal history – English Street, Irish Street, and Friars Vennel. The main shopping street is the High Street with its red sandstone, early 18th century Midsteeple and it is pedestrianised, with many places to sit and watch the bustle. This area also is where the spectacle of the "Guid Nychtburris" festival week takes place in . Horses are ridden through the town and there are all kinds of entertainments. There is also an Arts Centre, a theatre, cinemas and festivals at various times of the year. Check with the Tourist Board for details.

Dumfries is also a good centre for touring the rest of the area – Gretna Green and Dumfries; the spectacular triangular Caerlaverock Castle and its nature reserve; New Abbey and the Solway Coast – and a starting point for travelling west into the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright and the rest of Galloway. There are direct buses to Glasgow, Edinburgh and Carlisle; Trains run to Glasgow and south to Carlisle. The A75 is the main Euroroute between Europe and Ireland. Roads are generally good and remarkably free from heavy traffic.

Late afternoon shot of the observatoryin the snow
Looking north towards Burns Statue from top of Friars Vennel Dumfries