Character and Charm
Kirkcudbright (pronounced ‘ker-coo-bree) is a pretty harbour town with cobbled passages and pastel-coloured houses, nestled amongst the Galloway hills at the edge of the Dee estuary as it flows into the Irish Sea.
Kirkcudbright has friendly people who will smile and say hello to you as you pass in the street and who have a positive outlook and take great pride in their town. Being a conservation area, pastel coloured houses are maintained and repainted when necessary and flowers and plants adorn external walls, windows and entrances. Behind the houses are little hidden cottage-lined passages known locally as ‘closes’, usually cobbled and nearly always decorated with colourful flower pots, window boxes and little benches and other garden ornaments.
The town has an ancient castle, four beautiful churches, a museum, a harbour and marina, a conservation wildlife park www.gallowaywildlife.co.uk , golf course, swimming pool www.kirkcudbrightswimmingpool.co.uk , and plenty of shops, coffee shops, tearooms, pubs and restaurants.
Known as ‘the artists town’, Kirkcudbright also has a number of art galleries including the ancient ‘Tolbooth’: a debtors prison in ancient times and on which iron manacles are still attached to its external walls! The Tolbooth www.dumgal.gov.uk/museums , just along from Baytree House in the High Street, was refurbished and opened by Her Majesty the Queen in the mid-nineties. The building now houses a coffee shop, a small film-theatre and an art gallery. The film theatre features a 10 minute film that informs the viewer of the town’s art history.
Renowned artists such as Jessie M King, Oppenheimer, E A Taylor and E Hornel settled in the town in the early 1900’s and artists have since followed in their footsteps to make it a well-known artists colony to this day. It is said that the town has a special light that aids the artists’ work when painting the spectacular landscapes in and around the town.
Celebrated artist, E Hornel’s house, Broughton House www.nts.org.uk , is also along from Baytree House in the old High Street, including his studio and Japanese-inspired garden. The house was gifted to the National Trust for Scotland and is now open to the public.
Events and Festivities
Throughout the summer the people of Kirkcudbright organise a range of events, including a four-day Jazz Festival www.kirkcudbrightjazzfestival.co.uk, a floodlit military tattoo, a vintage car rally, a four-day arts & crafts trail www.artandcraftstrail.co.uk , a children’s festival, parade day, marathon day, Riding of the Marches, historic re-enactments and a medieval fayre. Every Thursday is ‘Scottish Night’ where Scottish country dancing and pipe bands perform in the harbour square and a local historian hosts walking tours around the town. Details of all Kirkcudbright's summer festivities and events can be viewed on: www.kirkcudbright.co.uk
On Friday nights Maggie’s Tour is an experience not to be missed. Starting at one end of the 'L'-shaped old High Street and costing just a £1 contribution to the town's summer festivities per person, Maggie will guide you along the street, passing some historic sights on the way to the harbour. Many local characters of the past are encountered along the journey, bringing history to life and making for an interesting and highly entertaining and amusing tour.
Throughout the year the town plays host to a variety of shows, exhibitons and musical evenings. Recent popular events have included a Scottish Chamber Orchestra concert and the ‘Glasgow Boys Art Exhibition’.
Scotland's bard, Robert Burns, who once lived in Dumfries, visited Kirkcudbright on many occasions during his life and is said to have written 'The Selkirk Grace' at an old Inn in the High Street, now the Selkirk Arms Hotel. The hotel serves a beer brewed by Sulwath Breweries in nearby Castle Douglas in honour of the Bard, known as 'The Grace'. I am told on good authority (my husband, Joe) that it is a very good ale indeed!
There is always something to see or do in Kirkcudbright and natural beauty surrounds it in abundance, with rivers, beaches, lochs, rolling green hills and forests, (including the Galloway Forest Park, Europe’s first designated ‘Dark-Sky Park’ www.forestry.gov.uk/gallowayforestpark.co.uk) all within a few miles of the town. The perfect destination for anyone who enjoys woodland/coastal walks, cycle rides, fishing, golf, water sports etc. and with no traffic lights or roundabouts for miles, driving becomes a pleasure again!
Geraldine Joshi 2011
Please click the images below to enlarge.