Monday, 26 May 2014


Having holidayed in Scotland for many years my next few posts
will be about the attractions which Scotland has to offer
together with some interesting facts about the various areas.

I am starting in the south west - Dumfries & Galloway and Ayshire

GRETNA GREEN  is a village in Dumfries and Galloway near the mouth of the River Esk. It was historically the first village in Scotland on the old coaching route from London to Edinburgh.

Wikipedia tells us :

‘It has usually been assumed that Gretna's famous "runaway marriages" began in 1754 when Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act came into force in England. Under the Act, if a parent of a minor (i.e., a person under the age of 21) objected, they could prevent the marriage going ahead. The Act tightened up the requirements for marrying in England and Wales but did not apply in Scotland, where it was possible for boys to marry at 14 and girls at 12 with or without parental consent (see Marriage in Scotland). It was, however, only in the 1770s, with the construction of a toll road passing through the thitherto obscure village of Graitney, that Gretna Green became the first easily reachable village over the Scottish border.[3] The Old Blacksmith's Shop, built around 1712, and Gretna Hall Blacksmith's Shop (1710) became, in popular folklore at least, the focal tourist points for the marriage trade. The Old Blacksmith's opened to the public as a visitor attraction as early as 1887.

The local blacksmith and his anvil have become the lasting symbols of Gretna Green weddings. Scottish law allowed for "irregular marriages", meaning that if a declaration was made before two witnesses, almost anybody had the authority to conduct the marriage ceremony. The blacksmiths in Gretna became known as "anvil priests", culminating with Richard Rennison, who performed 5,147 ceremonies.’

The Old Blacksmith’s Shop is still a popular venue for weddings.


This area is probably best known as Robbie Burns country.
Burns was born in this cottage at Alloway to the south of Ayr in 1759. The Burns Birthplace Museum now incorporates the cottage and the Aud Kirk, together with a visitor centre, The Burns memorial and parkland on the north bank of the River Doon. All now in the care of The National Trust for Scotland.

The Burn's Memorial, designed by Sir Thomas Hamilton, was built in 1820. The 70ft high Grecian style temple has nine pillars which represent the nine muses of Greek mythology.
Brig O'Doon the setting for Tam O' Shanter
Burns 'father was a farmer and Robbie was his labourer until he took a farm tenancy of his own. However his heart was not in farming and his great passion was poetry for which his reputation grew steadily. Burns eventually moved to Dumfries with his wife Jean Armour and growing family where he obtained a position as an excise man.
In poor health he died at Dumfries in 1796 at the young age of 37.
The River Nith at Dumfries 
The family moved to this house in Dumfries in 1793.
In poor health Burns died in this house in 1796 at the young age of 37. 
His wife and family lived here until Jean died in 1834.
Both are buried in St Michaels churchyard at Dumfries.
Burns was a frequent visitor to the various pubs in Dumfries, especially The Globe which is known as 'Burns Howff'.




This pub in Dumfries was also one of Burns' haunts.

Burns was the president of the Bachelor Club at Tarbolton not far from Ayr. It was a debating club held in this fine 17th century building in Sandgate Street which is now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland.

The churchyard at Kirkoswald near Ayr is famous as the burial place of  Tam O' Shanter and Souter Johnie, two of Robert Burns best known characters.    A gravestone, in this churchyard was erected by Douglas Kennedy in memory of his father Scipio Kennedy who died June 24 1774 aged 80 years.   
Scipio was a former African slave who made good.

In the 18th century it was fashionable to employ black servants and as early as 1702 a Captain Douglas of Mains in Dumbartonshire brought a young boy from Guinea in West Africa as a slave.   He named the boy Scipio and when the Captain’s daughter married John Kennedy of Culzean Castle in 1705, Scipio became their servant.  They obviously thought a lot about the boy and he was given the surname of Kennedy. The Kennedy’s subsequently became Earl’s of Cassillis

After 20 years with the family Scipio signed a legal contract to continue service with the family for a further 19 years for twelve Scottish pounds yearly, plus ‘a share of the drinks money’ ?

One argument against slavery was that it was offensive to Christian teaching.  However it was also thought that as African tribes were not Christian, then slavery was beneficial to ensure Christian teaching.  Thus Scipio was converted to Christianity in Scotland and so became a free man.   He married a local girl, Margaret Gray and they and their family took the Kennedy surname.  They were given a home and a plot of land on the Culzean estate and Scipio remained in the employ of the Earl until his death in 1774.

The mighty Kennedy stronghold of Culzean Castle on the Ayrshire coast
is now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland.


Culzean was well prepared for the threats of Napoleon

One needs to be careful whilst travelling along the A719 coast road in this area and to be aware of the Croy Brae or Electric Brae

Devorgilla, Lady of Galloway, founded a Cistercian Monastery,beautifully situated on the banks of the Pow Burn near Dumfries, in 1273 in memory of her husband, John Balliol, father of King John of Scotland and founder of Balliol College, Oxford.  When he died, Devorgilla had his heart embalmed and she carried it around in a casket.   When she died in 1289, she was buried with the casket in front of the high altar of the abbey.   Thus the word  sweetheart  became part of the English language and the abbey became known as  Sweetheart Abbey.   The ruined abbey still stands in the village of New Abbey.


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