Rivers are made up of countless components that interrelate with each other – the tributaries, the stones, the kingfisher all work in coexistence. The river can also be an idea and has been at the centre of our collective human consciousness for as long as we have walked along their banks, caught their fish and drank their waters. People’s lives have also been built along our rivers over generations, their stories, words and ideas constantly flowing and evolving. The Nith is no different.
The most famous words come from the poet Rabbie Burns who wrote about one of the Nith’s tributaries, the Afton:
Flow gently, sweet Afton! amang thy green braes,Flow gently, I’ll sing thee a song in thy praise;My Mary’s asleep by thy murmuring stream,Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.Thou stockdove whose echo resounds thro’ the glen,Ye wild whistling blackbirds in yon thorny den,Thou green-crested lapwing thy screaming forbear,I charge you, disturb not my slumbering Fair.How lofty, sweet Afton, thy neighbouring hills,Far mark’d with the courses of clear, winding rills;There daily I wander as noon rises high,My flocks and my Mary’s sweet cot in my eye.How pleasant thy banks and green valleys below,Where, wild in the woodlands, the primroses blow;There oft, as mild Ev’ning weeps over the lea,The sweet-scented birk shades my Mary and me.Thy crystal stream, Afton, how lovely it glides,And winds by the cot where my Mary resides;How wanton thy waters her snowy feet lave,As, gathering sweet flowerets, she stems thy clear wave.Flow gently, sweet Afton, amang thy green braes,Flow gently, sweet river, the theme of my lays;My Mary’s asleep by thy murmuring stream,Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.
Sanquhar to Drumlanrig Castle
Durisdeer is one of Dumfries and Galloway’s hidden gems that people may miss as they travel through to the Dalveen pass. The village was originally built on a Roman Road stretching from Nithsdale to Clydesdale and is still home to one of the best-preserved Roman fortlets in Britain. Durisdeer’s main focal point is its parish church and particularly a memorial marking the place of a burial vault depicting the Second Duke of Queensberry and his wife Mary, which was erected in 1713.
Sanquhar has long been known for its weaving and handknitting, in particular, its distinctive and beautiful knitting patterns. The Sanquhar knitting pattern, with its two shades and variety of features, has long been a favourite with keen knitters. While historically these industries played a big part in the prosperity of the town, the cottage industry no longer survives as it once did. Despite this, it is a source of pride for the people of Sanquhar and continues as an important symbol of the town.
Crawick Multiverse is a stunning land Art installation created by the famous artist Charles Jencks. Jencks used inspiration from cosmology and art to transform what was an old mining pit into a beautiful land art attraction. Consisting of eight different landform artworks, the Crawick Multiverse is a breath-taking location to learn about our galaxy, art, the local area and join in on a summer programme of activities.
A’ the Airts
A’ the Airts is a small arts and crafts centre on the High Street in Sanquhar and a hive of activity with a café, a small theatre/cinema and a shop where local crafters sell their creations. The Centre is a community hub for local people and visitors and holds many events and classes that can be accessed by the public. Home to the famous Sanquhar Knitwear, garments are made and sold in the centre.
Thornhill to Moniaive
Moniaive Michaelmas Bluegrass Festival
MMBF started in 2009 and eleven festivals later is the only bluegrass festival held in Scotland. Around 800 festival attendees come to Moniaive for concerts, workshops and to jam along with others on the campsite and in local pubs.
Every business in Moniaive reports significant financial benefits from holding the bluegrass festival so it helps drive the local economy. The mix of performers from Scotland, Ireland, England, continental Europe and the USA adds significantly to the social and cultural activities in the village.
The George and The Craigdarroch Arms Hotels host great sessions all weekend as well as an Open Mic which welcomes all styles of music. Bands play in Glencairn Memorial Hall on Friday & Saturday and a Bluegrass Gospel Service is held on the Sunday morning.
Dumfries & Galloway is now firmly on the bluegrass map!
In the small but ceaselessly creative village of Moniaive, a yearly comic book festival takes place which aims to celebrate the achievements of comic book artists and the rich worlds they create. The event is organised by local Sue Grant whose partner Alan Grant has written Batman and Judge Dredd comics. This unique and relaxed festival attracts families and young people to be part of a colourful and creative programme of discussions and activities around comic books, guest appearances by some of the industries most exciting contributors, and creative workshops where people can conceptualise and create their very own comic book narratives.
Photographer Kim Ayres has worked with models and stylists from Basement 20 in Dumfries to create a series of conceptual photo shoots each year to capture the unique spirit and artform of this industry.
Cairn Chorus Community Choir
Cairn Chorus is a community performance choir based in Moniaive, Dumfries and Galloway. Founded in 2007 the intention was to encourage the joy of singing as an inclusive community activity. The choir is now 12 years old and continues to take on fantastic international repertoires and ambitious new challenges. Choir members hail from all corners of Dumfries and Galloway and learn the songs by ear and/or sheet music in order to give lively and engaging performances.
CAMPLE LINE is an arts organisation based in Dumfries and Galloway, located about 15 miles from Dumfries town. Founded in 2016, it is a distinctive and independent presence in the Nithsdale area and presents thought-provoking contemporary arts of international scope for residents of the region and visitors from further afield.
Nor far from Moniaive are three beautiful sandstone arches known as the Striding Arches. These arches, designed by landscape artist Andy Goldsworthy, are situated on the hilltops near Cairnhead but similar structures were also built by Andy in Canada, the United States, New Zealand and elsewhere. Each one represents a key area of Scottish emigration over the past 200 years and connects the modern diaspora together. Each block was quarried from red sandstone sourced from Dumfries and the structures consist of 31 blocks weighing 27 tons, standing at 4 meters high and spanning across seven meters.
Each year the village of Moniaive hosts the Moniaive Folk & Jazz festival. The festival draws in visitors from across the country and all over the world to enjoy a series of intimate gigs with fabulous performers of many kinds.
Moniaive probably has more musical events and festivals (per head of population) than anywhere else in the country. And with a sizable group of traditional musicians living in the village and surrounding countryside, our pub sessions are among the finest.
Sessions, piping competitions, workshops, and more.
Allanton Peace Sanctuary, just south of Auldgirth, is the European home of May Peace Prevail On Earth International. The Society was founded in 1955 by the Japanese teacher, philosopher and poet, Masahisa Goi (1916-1980), who dedicated his life to peace and humanity. May Peace Prevail On Earth International is a grassroots, a global movement to inspire, and re-awaken the inherent consciousness of love, peace and harmony which exists in every one of us. They regularly run projects that seek to bring people together, so check out their website to see what is going on right now.
Created by the renowned landscape artist, the late Charles Jencks, in his own 30 acre back garden. The mind bending, masterpiece is based on the topics of science and mathematics. It uses sculpture and land formations to explore themes such as Black Holes, Symmetry and Fractals. The Garden is open once a year on the May Bank Holiday with all profits going to the cancer charity, named after Jencks’ wife, The Maggie Centres.
Dumfries & Galloway is famous for its art and artists and a good place to explore this is at Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries. The Gracefield Arts Centre houses a permanent collection of over 600 Scottish paintings from the 1880s to the present day and features artists with links to Dumfries & Galloway. It also hosts a busy programme of collection exhibitions and contemporary exhibitions featuring regional, national and international artists and craft makers, along with art and craft workshops for adults, children and families. The Arts Centre also has a craft shop, café and an active print studio.
The Oven opened in 2018 under the umbrella of the Midsteeple Quarter Project as a pop-up community and creative space with a wide variety of projects from sign writing to stamp clubs. Through this time an enormous amount has been learned that has gone into the design of the new spaces and there is an excitement and anticipation within the creative and community sectors for thenew facility that will be open on the High Street in the middle of 2022. In 2019 The Oven launched Oven Arts as a DIY arts organisation that brings together a diverse range of activity from printmaking to electronic music.
For Enjoyment was created by art teacher Frank Hayes and began as an evening art class called Drawing for Enjoyment. No previous skill is required to join the group and the ethos remains that ‘anyone can learn’. Since its beginning, the organisation has expanded to include Photography for Enjoyment and has adapted its classes to an online platform. For Enjoyment is not only an art group but has now become a solid community group that seeks to support people to come together through peer learning as well as guided classes.
Battle stations are a local organisation that use modern technologies and media such as virtual reality and 360 filming to promote communication within communities and explore topics such as isolation and mental health. Their platform allows people who may have mobility needs to experience locations and interactivity that they may not normally have access to on a daily basis. The Battle Stations team have built a highly advanced Gaming Bus that can be brought to events and schools for both education and play.
The Theatre Royal Dumfries dates back to 1700s and is Scotland’s oldest working theatre. Renovated and reopened in 2015, it sits at the heart of Dumfries and plays a central role in bringing people together to enjoy live theatre, stand-up comedies, live music, pantomimes and more. They also regularly run workshops and support volunteers who want to learn more about things like designing sets and costumes.
On the banks of the river Nith lies a very special building. Moat Brae was not only the home of author J.M.Barry but also the place where he wrote the novel Peter Pan (and a source of inspiration). The building has since undergone renovations and is now a national hub for children’s literature and education. They have a fantastic education centre and park and for those who feel like a cuppa while visiting this local treasure, a café.
Big Burns Supper
Big Burns Supper is an annual festival run by local theatre company ‘Elektronika’ and is based around the life of Scotland’s most famous poet, Robert Burns. BBS is the world’s largest Burns celebration which centers on the beautiful 800-person capacity, Spiegeltent and includes lantern processions and pop up performances all over Dumfries. The event most certainly brings the region alive at an otherwise generally quiet time at the tail end of January.
Dumfries and Galloway Art Trail
This is an artist trail that runs through Dumfries town centre and includes craft shops, galleries and studios. The locations include Alison Fair Bixler (artist), Cloud 9 Studio Gallery, Elegant Originals, Hand made at Hellen’s, KGR Glass Design, Ottersburn Gallery and Picture Framing, The Art Room within the Old School, The Handmade Craft house, Wordsmith crafts and The Yellow Door Gallery. Links to all are via this website.
Bunbury Banter are a theatre group that aims to be as multi-sensory and inclusive as possible and have a range of projects running in and around Dumfries and Galloway. In particular, they work with youth theatre and a lot of their productions are on challenging topics that younger audiences can relate to. One of their critically acclaimed productions “Beneath the Dust” is not for the faint hearted (if you love a good horror) as the immersive experience added a whole new level to an already thrilling play. Stay posted for 2021 horror fans!
The Bridgend Theatre
Located next to the river Nith, the Bridgend Theatre was originally constructed as a church in 1891. The Dumfries Musical and Operatic Society (who later changed their name to Dumfries Musical Theatre Company) took over the Bridgend in 1971. The DMTC still own the theatre and uses the space for their own productions and as a venue for visiting groups and events.
D-Lux light festival
D-lux is a light-based festival that is now in its third year of operation. D-Lux takes place in January in Dumfries town centre turning the dark nights of winter into a playground of light. Uses gaming as a theme to address topics such as connectivity, mental health and town regeneration through it’s amazing interactive instillation. Find out more on there website.
The venue is a two-story night club and music venue that has seen acts come from all over the UK to perform. Dumfries’ location makes this a prime spot for touring music artists as they travel around the country and the Venue, with its state-of-the-art lighting, sound production and layout, is a prime spot in Dumfries.
Small Sown Sounds
Small Town Sounds is a locally run music-based website that has been active since 2015. It’s the best place to go to find out about bands and musicians from the region and includes fantastic reviews of artists, albums and tracks, plus interviews with local musicians. STS is also a resource for gig listings around Dumfries so you can stay up to date on exciting news in the music scene. Check all this out on their website!
DG Arts Festival
Dumfries and Galloway Arts festival has been running for over 40 years and brings together many local and international artists for the annual event that spans 10 daysin May. Alongside this, they run a year-round program that consists of theatre, dance, music and comedy that is performed across the region and supports hundreds of artists to showcase their work.
Formally known as ‘Gigs in and around Dumfries’ this a Facebook page, run by musician Peter Jamieson, dedicated to letting people know what’s on and where. Peter does a stellar job of sharing, promoting and keeping everyone up to speed with what’s going on in the music scene of D&G.
Glencaple to Caerlaverock
Oak ‘Boat’ Benches
The town of Glencaple is set in a stunning location that encompasses views of both the River Nith and Criffel Hill. Perhaps the best way to enjoy these vistas is to take a moment to sit on the beautifully carved Oak Boat Benches. These three benches are shaped like boats and can be found just by the river itself. They also offer the opportunity to learn more about the history of Glencaple as they are carved with information about the rich maritime heritage of the port.
Although cancelled this year due to Covid, Caerlaverock Castle has played host to a fabulous jousting tournament for several years. Each summer, spectators can come and choose a champion to support as they engage in competition for victory. Visitors can also wander the knights’ camp and enjoy the sights and sounds of Medieval life as well as try food from the period and wonder at the beautiful and artistic armour, tapestries and banners.
The striking ‘Shambellie House’ close to New Abbey has been many things over the years, including the National Museum of Costume!
Having closed in 2013, the house is now the focus of an exciting plan to create a sustainable hub for tourism, supporting micro-businesses, and promoting local culture. With a vision to offer craft courses among other creative and sustainable activities, local volunteers want to transform Shambellie into a centre for the future!