Tailor-made, friendly, and exclusive guided touring service in South West Scotland

Dumfries Tours in South West Scotland

+44 (0)7732 224 011

mark@dumfriestours.co.uk

Castles and Abbeys Tour

Being a border region, Dumfries and Galloway has an abundance of castles which provide a fascinating glimpse into the region’s troubled, and often bloody, past. We are also home to the birthplace of Christianity on mainland Scotland. Impressive abbeys and priorys highlight the importance of this region to early Christians and it remains a place of religious pilgrimage. In no particular order, here is a wee taster of some of the historical sites in the this area. There are many more. We visit a number of these places on our tours but if there is anything you would specifically like to see or if there is a route you have in mind then just let us know and we will do the rest. 

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Threave Castle

Threave Castle

Threave Castle on the River Dee

Threave Castle is impressively situated on an island in the River Dee. In a lovely quaint tradition, you ring the bell for the custodian who will row you across the river to visit the castle. Built by Archibald The Grim, Lord of Galloway, Threave was the stronghold of the Black Douglas Clan, the most powerful family in Southern Scotland in the mid 15th century. Ravens now make their home here. Osprey also nest near by.

Dundrennan Abbey

Dundrennan Abbey

Dundrennan Abbey, near Kirkcudbright

Dundrennan Abbey, near Kirkcudbright, was founded by King David I. The abbey is where Mary Queen of Scots spent her last night in Scotland before sailing across the Solway to England where she was imprisoned before being executed on the orders of her cousin, and England's Queen, Elizabeth I.

Glenluce Abbey

Glenluce Abbey

Glenluce Abbey, near Stranraer

As well as castles telling the region’s story, the abbeys in Dumfries and Galloway are also steeped in history. In the west of the region, the 12th century Glenluce Abbey is set amidst some of the most beautiful countryside in the region. The abbey is close to Whithorn, the spiritual home of Christianity in mainland Scotland. Robert the Bruce visited Glenluce and Whithorn on his final pilgrimage before his death.

Sweetheart Abbey

Sweetheart Abbey

Sweetheart Abbey, near Dumfries

One of the most romantic stories of our past can be found in the picturesque village of New Abbey, a few miles from Dumfries. Sweetheart Abbey is the burial site of Lady Devorgilla of Galloway.

Devorgilla married, John Balliol of Barnard Castle, founder of Balliol College, Oxford. Their youngest son, also named John, would become King of Scotland in 1292. 

Lady Devorgilla loved her husband dearly. So distraught was she at Balliol's death in 1268, she had his heart embalmed and placed in a silver casket, carrying this casket everywhere she went. In 1273 Devorgilla established the abbey of Dulce Cor (Sweetheart Abbey) by granting it a charter of endowment. 

After her death in 1289, Lady Devorgilla, and the casket containing her husband's heart, were interred at the high alter. 

Caerlaverock Castle

Caerlaverock Castle

Caerlaverock Castle, near Dumfries

To the east of Dumfries sits the impressive triangular Caerlaverock Castle with its moat and imposing battlements. It is the only triangular castle in the whole of Britain. Its strategic position meant the orginal castle was besieged and battered several times during the wars of independence. 

Sorbie Tower

Sorbie Tower

Sorbie Tower

Sorbie Tower is the family seat of the powerful Hannay Clan and can be found in a clearing in the trees near the village of Garlieston. Still an impressive structure. 

Whithorn Priory

Whithorn Priory

Whithorn Priory

Whithorn Priory was founded in 397AD by St Ninian who brought Christianity to Scotland. It was once the most holy place in the country and pilgrims came from all over the country. In 1329 Robert the Bruce made an arduous journey to Whithorn just three months before his death. The visitor centre is well worth a visit.

Maclellan's Castle

Maclellan's Castle

Maclellan's Castle, Kirkcudbright

Kirkcudbright is the site of Maclellan's Castle. Built as a town house by Thomas MacLellan , the castle dominates the town harbour. Nearby, you will find Broughton House. Now a National Trust for Scotland property, Broughton was formerly occupied by the renowned artist E.A Hornell who took up residence in the town. 

Cardoness Castle

Cardoness Castle

Cardoness Castle, Gatehouses of Fleet

Cardoness Castle is a 15th century tower house is near the old harbour in Gatehouse of Fleet where sailing ships used to arrive with cotton from America. The Millhouse, which is now the Fleet Visitor Centre, explains the history of the town. The mills are no longer in operation but Gatehouse remains a thriving village. It has several inns, restaurants and tea rooms. Galloway Lodge Preserves has a coffee shop and prides itself on its local produce. Well worth a stop. There are lovely riverside walk if you want to get some fresh air and stretch your legs.    

Morton Castle

Morton Castle

Near Thornhill

Built in the late 1200s or early 1300s. Morton Castle is situated on a triangular spur of land, surrounded by steep drops to an artificial loch. The castle's remote location means you a likely to have the place to yourself as you have a look around.

The castle and its beautiful surroundings feature in the 1978 adaptation of John Buchan's spy thriller 'The 39 Steps' starring Richard Powell. The original 1935 movie was directed by Alfred Hitchcock. 

Powell plays Richard Hannay, an engineer who stumbles upon an international espionage plot, and must flee for his life. He is pursued by both the police and enemy agents, from the start of his ordeal in London, all the way up to the Scottish Highlands (but actually filmed in southern Scotland) and then back down to the capital for the final dramatic scene. 

Drumlanrig Castle

Drumlanrig Castle

Drumlanrig Castle, near Thornhill

Drumlanrig Castle is still occupied and offers tours of the Duke of Buccleuch's home. Set in impressive grounds, this magnificent castle features in season 2 of Outlander. 

Frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions

FAQs

Who are you? - Your tour guides are Mark and Joyce. Dumfries born and bred. Mark did work away from home in Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Manchester for a number of years. He often brought friends to the region and showed them round. They were amazed by the stunning scenery and the rich history of the area. Mark moved back to Dumfries a couple of years ago to reconnect more fully with nature, history, and the varied landscape of Dumfries and Galloway. I guess the pandemic made a few us re-evaluate what was important to us. We hope to share our passion for this region with you on one of our tours.

Should we contact you pre-arrival to discuss our options? – Absolutely. Please contact us before booking so we can discuss your interests, requirements, and expectations. We can adapt your tour as required. Contact can be made by emailing Mark@dumfriestours.co.uk or by calling or messaging  +44 (0)7732224011. 

How long have you been operating the business? - We took over the business in 2022 from our friend Robin who ran it successfully as Galloway Holidays for over 12 years. We have re-branded the business and given each of the tours a specific theme. However, Robin still acts as a consultant to ensure we provide a premium service.  

Where are you based and how do we get there? - We are based in Dumfries which is about 14 miles west of Lockerbie. It's only an hour to Lockerbie by train from either Glasgow or Edinburgh, two hours from Manchester, and just over four hours from London. You can also travel direct to Dumfries by train from Glasgow or from Carlisle. Dumfries also has frequent bus services from major cities. We can pick you up from Lockerbie or Dumfries and transfer you to your first night's accommodation. We can also arrange pick up from Glasgow, Edinburgh, or Ayrshire (including airports) if required. 

On what day do the tours start? - Depending on our availability, your tour can start and end on any day of the week.

How long do the tours last? - They are full days. We usually start at 9am and aim to get you back to your accommodation by 5.30pm each day. We recommend three day tours (or more) so you can fully immerse yourself in the history, culture, and scenery of the region. However, if available, can also offer one day tours. 

How much does the tour cost? - We offer 1 day to 7 day tours. Each tour is tailor-made to match your interests and requirements. After you make contact, we will draw up an itinerary and quote you a price.

What’s included? – Pickup from and return to Lockerbie or Dumfries railway or bus stations. If you need picked up from Edinburgh, Glasgow or Ayrshire, we will incorporate this in our price quote. You will have the exclusive services of your very own an expert local tour guide and driver throughout your stay, with transport between all locations. These are exclusive tours; no sharing with any other parties. Ideal for couples and/or friends. We can accommodate up to 4 people from the same booking party. 

What's not included? – Does not include accommodation, meals or entry to visitor sights and attractions. 

What about accommodation? – We can recommend the best, well located, family run guesthouses, hotels, self-catering lodges, and country houses in the region. We can even recommend rooms in a local castle. If you have already arranged your own place to stay, we can pick you up from your lodgings and begin, and end, your tour from there. 

What about food and drink? – We know the best tea rooms, coffee shops, farmhouse cafes, restaurants and bars in the area. With this local knowledge, we make appropriate stops on route to ensure you are suitably refreshed throughout the day while enjoying fine home-made, and locally sourced, produce.