Day 2 started as Day 1 ended in the lovely Hunters Lodge Hotel Gretna. The night before we had order 2 To Go breakfasts consisting of a Bacon Roll and Orange juice each to the room for 8:30am. At 8:30am one of the owners of the hotel knocked on our door dropping off the breakfasts. We ended up not really having the breakfast to go. After eating our breakfast we finished packing up, checked out and were on our way bright and early to explore Dumfries and Galloway.
|On the road|
|Waiting in the car park|
Caerlaverock Castle is owned by Historic Scotland, and open all year round (opening times vary seasonly). Entrance fee is £6 unless you have a Historic Scotland membership (or 2nd year English Heritage or CADW membership in which case it is free), or you have purchased an Explorer Pass (£31 for a 3-day pass, £42 for a 7-day pass [adult prices]) which I would recommend purchasing if you are visiting Scotland for a road trip.
After Caerlaverock we headed to Threave Castle about 50 minutes drive away. Threave Castle is owned by Historic Scotland, opening times vary seasonally and the Castle is closed from the start of November to the end of March. An adult ticket is £5.
Caerlaverock Castle has a long history. You will notice when visiting the castle you are actually visiting 2 for the price of 1. Behind the impressive triangle shaped Caverlaverock Castle, built in 1277, can be found the ruins of the first Caerlaverock Castle built in 1220. This first castle is believed to be the first stone castle constructed in Scotland. It was abandoned most likely due to building collapses resulting from the wet and muddy conditions, as the castle was located at the head of a tidal inlet (no longer present today due to changes in sea level).
Owned by the Maxwell family for roughly 400 years, Caerlaverock experienced an unsettled history. Located at an important gateway to Scotland the castle was sieged in 1300 by the English and 1640 by a Protestant Convenanting Army. The siege in 1640 was the last the Castle would see as the protestant army dismantled the Castle so it could no longer be a place of defence. The Catholic Maxwells however, held on to the castle during the siege for 13 weeks, a feat aided by having an internal water supply.
Due to the location of the castle, it was not only a home to the Maxwell family but also a barracks, law court and pit-prison, in which it is believed in 1425 Murdoch, Duke of Albany was located before his execution in Stirling Castle.
The castle has an interesting past and story to tell. It is now in ruins, though much of it still stands to be explored. There is also a tearoom, shop and toilets at the site making it a suitable location for a day out.
|Caerlaverock Castle gate house and moot|
|Caerlaverock Castle gatehouse from the inner court yard|
|Caerlaverock Castle court yard|
|The first Caerlaverock Castle|
Threave castle is situated in the middle of the River Dee and only accessible by a wee short hop of a boat ride from a small jetty 10 minutes walk from the car park. Due to the steep steps in the castle and accessibility of the boat and jetty, this castle is unfortunately not suitable for wheel chair users.
The castle is a tower house built in 1369 by the Lord of Galloway (also known was Archibald the Grim). At 30 metres tall it is the same height as a modern 10 storey block of flats, though in its hayday it was 5 storeys. With 3 metre thick walls, small windows, a prison, and well in the towers lowest floor, and an artillery wall built later in its life, this castle was a strong hold of the Black Douglases, closes allies of Robert the Bruce during the Wars of Independence.
The castle was a strong defence and stood its ground in turbulent times. It also had a unique feature of Scottish towers, in the walls of the top floor were passages with access to holes for a wooden wall top walk which could be used to contain an attack.
To its end Threave Castle held out, however in 1455 the Black Douglases surrendered to a bribe from King James II who had attacked feeling that the Black Douglases were becoming to powerful. The castle was eventually given to state care in 1913.
|Bell to ring for the boat|
|Boat to Threave Castle|
The weather turned whilst we were visiting Threave which made for a wet sprint back to the car. Unfortunately we did have a wee bit of a wait in the rain for the small boat to cross the river, due to a coach trip of passengers causing a queue to cross - luckily we had come prepared with our waterproofs.
Onwards in the rain we headed to Dundrennan Abbey, about a 1/2 hour drive away. It was bucketing it down, but that added to the atmospheric ruins, especially wondering through the graves.
Dundrennan Abbey, now owned by Historic Scotland, was built in the 12th Century and was home to Cistercian Monks for 400 years, until the Scottish Reformation when the abbey was passed to the crown and it subsequently fell into disrepair.
The Abbey was the first of three founded by the monks in Galloway, the others being Glenluce Abbey (which we saw later in our trip), and Sweetheart Abbey.
Famously Mary Queen of Scots stayed in Dundrennan Abbey on her last night in Scotland. She was flee to England supposing that she would be helped by her cousin Elizabeth I. On her arrival in England Mary Queen of Scots was arrested and she never returned to Scotland.
Little is known about the Abbey as not much history has survived, however the abbey is said to have some of the best early gothic architecture in Scotland.
Their is not much cover at the abbey and few facilities (though it does have a toilet), but it is pretty and worth a visit. The enter fee is £5 for adults, do check online for opening times as this site is not open all year.
Like Threave Castle, Cardoness is a built in the Tower house style. It was built in the late 15th Century by the McCulloch family, however it takes the name of the Cardoness family who owned the land previously. The land was most likely acquired by the McCulloch's through marriage to the last remaining member of the Cardoness family.
The McCulloch family where known to be rather quarrelsome and reckless. They not only quarrelled between themselves but also with neighbours. In the 1620s they had to mortgaged the castle and the castle changed hands to the Gordon family who left the castle empty preferring to live elsewhere. The two familys did not particularly get along, in fact Godfrey McCulloch was executed for later murdering Gordon of Cardoness. The McCulloch's had moved back into the Castle, but following Godfrey's death the Castle changed hands a number of times; to the Gordons, Maxwells, Stewarts, Murray-Bailles, and back to the Maxwells. In 1927 the castle was gifted to state care, but by this time it had become a roofless ruin.
The Castle has a fascinating history which you can learn about in the onsite exhibition. The Castle is worth a visit, it has a shop, toilets, is in a known local stronghold for Red Squirrels, and at 6 storeys high offers excellent views across the surrounding areas from the top floor. Entry is £5 per adult ticket, and it is also owned by Historic Scotland. Do check opening times online as they vary throughout the year, and the castle is closed from 1st November to 31st March.
|Stairs to a view - Cardoness Castle|
From Cardoness Castle we drove on heading to Whithorn. Along our drive we decided to stop at Cairn Holy I & II, 10 minutes drive away, as the weather was still holding off.
Situated on a hill above Kirkdale Glen, these two chambered tombs date from 6000-4000 years ago. Cairnholy II is the slightly less impressive of the two, however it is said to be the tomb of mythical Scottish king Galdus, and it may have been reused for a later burial at some point. Cairnholy I, on the other hand is believed to have been the place of rest for an important member of the early community who lived here. It is surrounded by standing stones and contained an axe with a stone that originated from the Alps.
Cairn Holy I and II are free to see and open all year, they are maintained by Historic Scotland. There are no facilities, but the site does offer good views of the surrounding countryside.
Back on the road we passed through Scotlands National Book Town, Wigtown (a 25 minute drive away). We didn't stop but we did make a note to come back. The town is a planned book town and official designated in 1998. It is now home to a wide range of book related businesses and home to an annual book festival in Autumn that hosts over 200 events. The official town website describes the town as a 'book lovers haven'.
|Wigtown, Scotland's National Book Town|
By this point in the day we were getting rather tired but we still had one more place to see, Whithorn Prior and Museum, also owned by Historic Scotland and a 25 minute drive from Wigtown.
Whithorn is famously part of a pilgrimage route that follows in the footsteps of St Ninian, a saintly bishop who lived in the 400s and is famed for bringing Christianity to Scotland, converting many to the faith. St Ninian is also believed to have been buried at Whithorn.
Whithorn priory was built on this ancient religious site in the 1100s, later becoming the Cathedral Church of Galloway. It was visited by many including royalty such as James IV. The priory was home to one of the 1st Christian communicates and housed a shine to Saint Ninan. For many years the Whithorn site was a centre of Christian worship, but after the 1560 Protestant Reformation it fell to ruin.
The priory also contained one of Scotlands oldest Christian monuments that of the Catinus stone dating from the 5th Century, it is now on display in the Whithorn museum which houses many engraved stones decorated with interlaced knot work. Most of the stones are from religious sites, apart from the Monreith Cross which is from a court-hill beside the home of a local lord. The Monreith Cross is believed to have been used in punishment. It possibly had 2 iron rings at the bottom to which a person would have been attached by chain and collar.
Whithorn priory and museum has much to see and is well worth a visit. At the time of writing the website did not give a price for tickets but suggested a phone number to call to check. The site is owned by Historic Scotland and open most of the year apart from 1st November to 31st March.
|Whithorn Museum - Monraith Cross left of the picture|
Following Whithorn, we were both quite tired as we had had a busy day and travelled quite a distance, we decided to call it a day and head to the hotel in Portpatrick. The road to Portpatrick was lovely but been tired and hungry it did seem to last a very long time, the drive to the hotel took about 1 hour. Once in Portpatrick we parked up, checked in to The Portpatrick Hotel and headed down into the seaside village to locate somewhere to eat. We came across a pub on the front which was rather busy, but we managed to find a table at the back to have a lovely pub meal before heading off to bed.
The Portpatrick Hotel is lovely. It was a purpose built hotel which opened in 1905. It is located at the top of the hill over looking Portpatrick bay. It is today used by couch tours, but it didn't feel busy or noisy, and the staff were lovely. Our room was on the top floor, it had or in the past had had damp, however it is an old hotel and we were in the roof so this didn't really bother me at all. The bathroom was also quite cute as it was really thin but had still had a bath, though by toilet it was quite spacious. It was a really lovely hotel, and in the room was a local travel information book, and quite a good information pack about the hotel, including its history which was fascinating. In this book I discovered that they offer travellers lunch, a pack lunch for £4.95 each, and a lot about the first manager of the hotel, M. J. P. Mair who was hired from a hotel in Egypt after the owner of The Portpatrick Hotel, Mr C. L. Orr-Ewing, enjoyed his service there. In the next post I may share more about our time at the hotel as we actually spent two nights there.
Scottish Road Trip: Day 3 - COMING SOON
Second Scottish Road Trip Vlog - COMING SOON