A75 Dumfries & Galloway
15 March 2022
Birds, Shopping & Whisky
So close to England, Dumfries and Galloway make a perfect destination for a weekend break. Let's start our journey where the A75 starts at Gretna Green towards Dumfries. It’s a busy freight route connecting the M6 to the ports of Stranraer and Cairnryan where you can take the ferry to Belfast. If you fancy a cheap day-trip just park up the car at the port and jump on the ferry as foot passengers.
First things first, let's get the whisky in for the journey. Located in Annan just 9 miles from Gretna Green along the A75, Annandale distillery is now the closest Scottish whiskey distillery to England. Established in 1836 and bought by Johnnie walker in 1893 it was later closed down in 1924. After extensive restoration work, the distillery was reopened in 2014 by current owners Annandale Distillery Company. By Scottish law, whisky must be matured for a minimum of three years so the first casks were opened in 2017. The historic site, distillery shop and visitors centre are now a tourist destination. Tours of the distillery can be booked in advance where you will learn the distilling process from start to finish and with plenty of opportunities to sample some of the whisky at the end.
The boat to Threave Castle
Threave Castle Ospreys
Threave Castle Ospreys
A 39-mile drive from Annan along the A75, past Dumfries, will bring you to Castle Douglas and the historic site of Threave Castle. Here you can catch a glance at ospreys nesting near the RSPB platform on the river Dee. It’s a popular place for bird watchers and wildlife photographers. It will be a good idea to bring binoculars, but luckily for me there were plenty of telescopes set up by the RSPB which were free to use in exchange for a small donation by way of a collection box in return for a printed leaflet explaining the life cycle of these amazing birds. Did you know that after only three months from birth the young Ospreys migrate the 6000km journey to Africa on their own and learn to fish without any guidance from their parents? They do all this without a map or compass let alone a Satnav, incredible!
You can walk around the grounds of Threave castle and enjoy the wildlife for free, it’s a lovely walk, but if you wish to get closer to the castle you can take a small boat across the river for a fee. Check opening times, access and prices for the castle admission on the National Trust for Scotland site. It’s also possible to keep track of the Ospreys' activity to find the best times to visit by following the Friends of Threave Osprey Facebook page. If you fancy a beer after all that walking, then visit the Sulwath Brewers where there is a small brewery tap bar with friendly locals and a chance to buy a case of local ale in the shop to enjoy at home.
10 miles from Castle Douglas brings you to Kirkcudbright (pronounced kirk-cue-breet by the locals). If you’ve got time for a bit of shopping, take a stroll along the high street in this quaint seaside town, where you will find craft shops and galleries, boutique shops and plenty of places to eat and drink. With a high-street full of colourful Victorian and Georgian buildings and a working harbour on the Solway Coast, it’s little wonder Kirkcudbright is known as The Artists’ Town. There is sure to be something of interest for everyone here, so relax, wander around, and do your own thing!