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Nithraid 2022

Team spirit, strong community and fantastic weather made our action-packed, fun-filled day a success!

Photography by Kirstin McEwan

This year, the famous Coo was sprayed golden and gets a great view of the Suspension Bridge!

On 13th August 2022, we welcomed teams of sailors, coastal rowers, canoes and kayaks to the River Nith as they battled it out for the fastest time from Glencaple to Dumfries and back.

Competitors get warmed up at the starting line down in Glencaple

It was a bright, warm and sunny day which made for perfect conditions for those who joined us to watch the race at Mill Green, or taking part in the activities we had running across the day.

Some spectators took to the shade while watching the race – a smart move!

Produced by The Stove Network and supported by Dumfries & Galloway Council and Historic Environment Scotland, we were pleased that this year’s event attracted a record number of race participants not only from the local area, but from across Scotland too!

The teams get ready to launch into the river at Glencaple

This year, the boats transported a signal flag, each created by young people during EcoArt’s flag making workshops in the weeks preceding the race. 

One of the colourful flags waves in the breeze as the boat makes its way along the Nith

As the boats arrived the flags were raised over the town’s iconic Suspension Bridge, proudly welcoming the racing vessels and signalling the halfway point of the race.

Rows of bold flags lining the Suspension Bridge, Dumfries

(EcoArt is a grassroots charity connecting community, art & sustainability. Find out more about the LAND project and EcoArt here.)
Good spirits as the race preparations get underway at Glencaple

“For me a real highlight of this year’s Nithraid was to see more boats in the middle of town than ever, including spectators on the river, taking part in a celebration of the Nith in the heart of Dumfries. It was the largest entry to date for the event with huge increases in the Coastal Rowing and the Racing Kayak elements.”

Mark Zygadlo, Race Organiser

Nithraid is an event for the community, not just those who take part in the race itself.

Two cheerful competitors stand proudly with their vessel before making their way down the Nith

“We were thrilled with this year’s race entry list, it is testament to the hard work the Nithraid team have put in over the years to build a following for the event. Nithraid has faced a few challenges over the years, with bad weather, COVID, etc, but this year really did feel special and we’re so happy that the event attracted people to Dumfries from all over Scotland, some visiting the town for the first time. Nithraid is a real celebration of the Nith and of Dumfries and we hope that we develop the event for next year and attract more people to our beautiful town.”

Sal Cuddihy, Nithraid Project Manager and Head of Production at The Stove Network
Boats pass under Suspension Bridge, by Mill Green

This year in addition to the annual River Race, the Stove Network led a series of family-friendly activities throughout the day, all free of charge and accessible along the banks of the River Nith, including:

  • EcoArt Flags – Land: Signals to the World – Signal flag designing workshop
  • Migratory Trails’ – A stamp sheet treasure hunt at Dock Park
  • Find the Coo’ – Treasure hunt from Dumfries to Kingholm Quay
  • Simon Lidwell’s Viking Cluaran
  • Source to Sea’ – A pre-recorded QR audio performance by Hugh McMillan
Mill Green revellers learn how to row just like the Vikings did
A kayaker unloads to take a well-deserved rest at the finish line
Simon Lidwell of Wordsmith Crafts provides immersive storytelling down at Mill Green

In addition, many of the town’s pubs joined in with the festivities, offering live music and special Nithraid-themed hospitality. We had The Dougie Arms, Coach and Horses Inn and The Riverside Bar all joining in on the fun!

But, let’s get back to the race…

A rowing team pushes on up the River Nith

Though conditions were grand for all those enjoying the race more comfortably on dry land, the warm weather added an extra challenge to our incredible competitors who all did extremely well to endure the heat and complete the race!

Some competitors make hard work look easy!
Give us a wave!
Team effort is needed to get these rowers moving quickly upstream
The bright yellow vessel was hard to miss on the River Nith!

We can’t thank you enough for all the hard work you put in to giving us another brilliant race this year, you’re all winners in our eyes.

A cause for celebration as the results are announced at Barbour Hall in Glencaple

However, we think it’s important to give credit to those who battled it out for the fastest time and we know how integral the competitive element of the race is to those who take part, so here are this year’s winners!

Coastal RowingFirth of Clyde Rowing Club#12
SailingGareth Jones#14
Racing KayakWill Stevely*#28
MiscellaneousDave Golding#25

We would like to take this opportunity to apologise for an error we made earlier in our announcing of the winner of the racing kayak category. The correct winner has been shown above*, and we’d like to give thanks to the competitors for your brilliant sportsmanship and camaraderie for bringing this to our attention.

Nithraid 2022 wouldn’t be Nithraid without the race, so we want to say a HUGE thank you and well done! to all who took part this year and gave us a wonderfully memorable and exciting race.

A team of rowers give the photographer a cheery wave

Thank you also to EcoArt, Simon Lidwell & the Cluaran Heritage Project clan and Hugh McMillan for the wonderful entertainment and activity at Mill Green; the safety boats who were out on the Nith all day to keep the competitors safe; Nith Inshore Rescue, who do the vital work of keeping our waters safe all year-round; all those who volunteered at this year’s event to help us set up and facilitate the race; and the businesses around Dumfries who set up special live entertainment around the town to help us celebrate Nithraid more widely this year – The Dougie Arms, Coach and Horses Inn and The Riverside Bar.

A view of Mill Green from Suspension Bridge, above the River Nith

We’re thrilled at the success of Nithraid 2022 and are grateful for all the help and support we’ve received to help make it happen.

This glorious day in the sunshine is one we will remember for some time…

The Stove Network

For more information on Nithraid, visit our webpage here.

News Project Updates

Nithraid 2021

Wow… can you believe it’s been two weeks since Nithraid 2021?!

It was a spirit-filled, action-packed day, with lots to do and enjoy despite the wet weather!

We’re so pleased that everyone who took part in the river race was able to do so safely, braving the elements to give us a race to remember.

We also had some great activities taking place at Mill Green, with help from Dumfries Fountain Project, Creative Spaces, TS Beall, Heather Molloy of PAMIS and Simon Lidwell of Wordsmithcrafts.

It was brilliant to see some old friends and new faces taking part in the river race and visiting Mill Green, which really put into perspective how fortunate we were to finally be able to facilitate the race after a long, two-year wait. 

“Nithraid this year was a triumph in the face of the double adversities of Covid and the weather, we had a record turnout of boats and all the participants, as ever, were thrilled by the unique experience of journeying up our beautiful river on a big tide. The current context meant that we reached out wider than ever before through digital platforms meaning that people who cannot normally attend the event were brought into the heart of things – we also catered for people with multiple additional support needs and the D/deaf community with activities on site…”

Heather Molloy (PAMIS) as The Spirit of the Nith
Simon Lidwell (Wordsmithcrafts) as The River Rambler

…Nithraid is about bringing people together to celebrate the role of our River Nith in the town and region The Stove continues to find new ways to fulfil this mission and open up the fun to everyone in our community, demonstrating that community spirit for our visitors.”Matt Baker, Orchestrator

We’d like to say a huge, special thanks to the following individuals and groups who helped us to bring together Nithraid 2021:

All our partners and funders, as always, for their support: Historic Environment Scotland, Creative Scotland and Dumfries and Galloway Council

Mark Zygadlo, as always, for ongoing support with organising and facilitating Nithraid

Hamish Denerley for lead commentary during our livestream
Winston Denerley for BSL interpretation and livestream commentary

BattleStations for their technological support and facilitating our livestream

Heather Molloy from PAMIS Scotland and Simon Lidwell of Wordsmith Crafts for their immersive and tactile storytelling and performance of Source to Sea

Dumfries Fountain Project for their creative workshops

TS Beall, in collaboration with the Scottish Showpeople, for the informative and insightful signposting around the history of the suspension bridge

PAMIS for the supply of the ‘Changing Places’ toilet, helping us to provide accessible facilities at Mill Green

Only Foods and Sauces for providing on-site refreshments at Mill Green

Our volunteers for providing help on the day – you’re stars!

Barbour Hall at Glencaple for giving us a dry, warm place to brief and prepare all those involved in the race

Annan Harbour Action Group and their safety boats for ensuring the safety of those involved in the race

Andy Jardine for the beautiful on-site photography at Glencaple and Mill Green

…and last, but definitely not least, a HUGE thank you to all that made the race possible by taking part and those who joined us at Mill Green or tuned in to our livestream. 

It’s safe to say Nithraid’s return this year was a success, and we’re so excited for what’s to come in Nithraid’s future.

From all at The Stove Network, thank you, stay safe and have fun out there!

Until next time.



Source to Sea: A Reflection

Post by Nithraid Producer, Sal Cuddihy

Nithraid River Festival has been running as an annual event for the past eight years and I have had the absolute privilege of being the producer for the last five of them.  Last year’s event saw flood, rain and high winds pushing our team to the limit with adapting last minute to still deliver as much of the event as we physically could. After 2019 we thought, “Well, we’re not going to get anything more difficult than that”. Boy, were we wrong.

When the news hit in March that the entire world was under threat from a global pandemic, we were left with complete uncertainty and dread – much like the rest of the world. What is this thing? Are people going to be safe? How long will it last? When did lockdown and furlough become common words that we use in almost every conversation?

It became apparent very quickly to our team that even though the festival was scheduled to be in August, there was a high chance that the event would have either have to be cancelled completely or we were going to have to try and adapt the festival to a digital format – so we decided to flip Nithraid on its head. We looked at the core values of the festival and the reasons why we do it and who do we do it for?

To cut a long story short – we came to the conclusion that we do it to celebrate the River Nith. We celebrate its history and uses, we celebrate its beauty and we use it to inspire our creativity. We use it to teach our children about the wildlife and environment (special mention goes out to Huffy the Heron!) – but most of all we use it to connect with communities. With all of this in mind, we created the Nith inspired ‘Source to Sea’ project, exploring not just Dumfries but the entire River Nith and the communities that it travels through. Throughout lockdown, it was obvious we were on the right path as all over social media people were photographing the river on their daily walks and were appreciating it as they never had before.

Once we had a concept, the challenging part was trying to figure out how we were going to share all of these elements of the river as well as creating and sharing activities for families and children who were finding themselves stuck at home with little to do. We were delighted to have one of our fantastic funders, the Holywood Trust, on board with our reimagined River Festival. The Holywood Trust were a huge support to Nithraid and our entire team throughout the whole project, and we wouldn’t have been able to do this without them – thank you! This scale of online activity was very much new territory but I have the privilege to work with much more tech savvy individuals than myself and we were able to come together to figure out how to present our festival online. I think as it stands, we are now in Version 652 of the project as it turns out there was more than one problem that arose on a very regular basis. I give them all my love and respect for not running away at Version 150 (I will do the embarrassing shout out at the end!)

As we come to the end of our journey, we’ll be pulling all over the research together and sharing it with you in a beautifully designed map, created for us by local artists and graphic designer, Jamie Stryker. This map is the culmination of everyone’s incredibly hard work over the past 6 months. We’ll also be sharing Hugh McMillan’s lovely Source to Sea poem, where he has a dedicated verse for each area that we explored.

One of the hardest things about the lockdown was the difficulty in being able to research and that we were unable to reach out communities and go out and explore. But now we have information, footage and stories about the River Nith that you can use to learn about these communities yourself. I hope the project does what we set out to do and celebrates the river that connects us and brought so many people a sense of calm in amongst the chaos.

Big shout out time!

And a special thanks to Derry and Greg from BattleStations who trekked through the Carsphairn hills with  a lot of kit to try and find footage of the source of the Nith – which turns out wasn’t where I told them, sorry! You got the shot though!

All of those that took the time to chat to us as we were researching the content. One of my favourite moments was when Bob Clements told us the story of the Thornhill’s Rock Festival on the back of a lorry that was plugged into a house!

Finally, a massive thank you to the team that has held this all together. You have done so much more than these basic titles I have written but I have rambled enough and don’t want you thinking I have gone soft.

  • Rob Henderson – web design and master of tech-like witchcraft
  • Kirstin McEwan – marketing and social media queen that makes this stuff look easy!! It’s not!
  • Ruaridh Thi- Smith – project support and all round support to my sanity.
  • Liam Morrison- Gale – community lead & ultimate research Jedi Master
  • Jamie Stryker – Graphic designer and hero that makes the best maps in the whole wide world!
  • Martin O’Neil – Programmer, Word Wizard and keeper of the creativity.
  • Graham Rooney –  Stove Project manager and dude that keeps every single one of us from spontaneous combustion.

Thank you all! All the best,

Sal Cuddihy
Nithraid Producer


Salty Coo

Every year the Salty Coo makes a return to the centre of our Nithraid festival, from pride of place in the procession to lofty heights above the river, you will see our Coo everywhere during the Nithraid! But why a salty cow?

The Nithraid looks to create a bit more recognition for the river as a central focus for Dumfries, as the towns history originates from it’s location and the historical importance of the river has been crucial to Dumfries over the years.

The race arrives on the highest tide of the year, mixing the salt water of the sea with the river water flowing downstream – double the challenge for our racegoers!The boats each bring a cargo with them from Dumfries’ trading past, and this year each boat will be carrying a small quantity of salt.

Keep an eye out on the day for salt bearers, salt themed workshops and artworks, performance and food all themed around this crucially important material.

The winning boat arriving in 2014! (Skippered by Roger Blamire)

This years Nithraid takes place on Saturday 31st August 2019.


Nithraid 2018 Celebrates with Dumfries Community!

August 11th saw our sixth staging of Nithraid, a fun family event that takes place on and around the river with an estimated 2,000 in attendance. The daring sailing race, which involved two races this year, starting from the Solway Firth and sailing up the river Nith was made possible by one of the highest tides of the year. While waiting for the boats to arrive, visitors and families were invited over to The Mill Green to enjoy our Nithraid Village which had food, live music, free activities and entertainment.We would like to say a big thank you to everyone who came along to Nithraid this year, and a special thanks to those who were involved making it one of our biggest Nithraids yet – whether you were working, volunteering or just came along to cheer on the sailors. We were happy to see so many stay on for our second ‘Nithraid Nighttime’ as well and help us continue the celebrations into the evening.Nithraid is a celebration of the town’s long relationship with its river, highlighting the way the Nith connected Dumfries to the rest of the world through trade, goods (including Coos) and sailpower. It is created and produced by The Stove Network and is part of our mission to make creative opportunities for local people to be involved in the future of Dumfries. A total of 8 boats took part in the sailing race, with all boats carrying a small cargo which must be delivered into the town to complete the race. The winner of the sailing boat race was Mark Zygadlo and the coastal rowing race was won by Alnmouth.

Mark was absolutely delighted to have won after five years of trying. Commenting on his win, he said, “Nithraid is a unique race; it takes you from the sea right into the centre of Dumfries and is visible from the shore along most of its length. It is such a good sail that the competitive aspect of it, though definitely there, is not the only thing that matters to the sailors. There’s time to chat to other boats as you pass them and negotiating the bridges is always an exciting spectacle. Dumfries is really fortunate to have such a glorious river at its heart and Nithraid celebrates it.”A large crowd of people joined in with the legendary Salty Coo procession, starting from The Stove and finishing at the Mill Green. This year, Dumfries based production and arts company ‘The Maddjakkalls’ were commissioned to create a magical and mysterious procession with their collective of artists and performers.Visitors to Nithraid were then treated to an afternoon of great food and fun family activities. Local music acts played throughout the day, organised by young musician Ruari Barber-Fleming. Amongst the acts were Ellie McConnachie, Liv McDougall, Corrie Russel, Kate Kyle and Benji Haynes. Community groups and organisations hosted several free workshops including zine making, badge making, stone carving and mosaic making. This year, Nithraid also celebrated international relationships with young people from around the world through the ‘Amaze Me Leader’ Project. Their week-long visit to Dumfries and Galloway culminated in volunteering for the day at Nithraid and helping organise events and activities.

As part of Nithraid 2018, The Stove Network commissioned local musicians Double Down Disco to create a performance for Rosefield Mills – something to publicly mark the moment of this much-loved local landmark waking from a long sleep. Double Down Disco provided a sonic adventure in two parts which visitors enjoyed on the Double Down Disco dancefloor in the Dock Park. The soundwork included sounds from the hillsides to the mill, woven into a worker’s story, then fast forwarded to a place brought back to life and play.For the second time, Nithraid also continued into the evening for ‘Nithraid Nighttime’. Visitors to Nithraid were invited back in the evening for food, an outdoor cinema, campfires and tales from Mostly Ghostly and music provided by Soundsystems.


Nithraid: Cargo and International Links

Did you know? Each boat that takes part in the Nithraid is given a small cargo to bring upriver, and the race is only completed with the safe delivery of these cargoes to the finishing point on the central pontoon! The cargo’s have been inspired by Dumfries’ historical role as a trading point and port receiving goods from around the world at one point for distribution around the region. The trading route was dependant on the river’s tides to allow boats upriver to points at Carsethorn, the Kingholm Quay and Dock Park.

Image Credit: Andy Jardine

The Nithraid Cargoes are:

Tropical goods from the Carribean: Rum, sugar, cocoa/chocolate, coffee

Southern USA: Cotton, Tobacco.

Northern USA & Canada: Timber, Fur.

Baltic: Timber

France: Wine, Brandy.

Mediterranean: Oranges, Lemons, Limes, Sherry, olives, Fish

England: Manufactured Goods, Slate, Coal

Wales: Slate

Indian ocean: Cinamon, (Sri Lanka), Peppar (India), other spices,

China: Tea, silk.

Scotland: Salt.

These goods would have come by a number of routes. Anything from the colonies before the end of the 18th century was subject to the Navigation acts and had to pass through a British port (English before the act of union) which meant that for instance spices etc. would have come via Liverpool or London, and coastal shipping from there on. But Tobacco and other goods of the triangular trade may have come direct because Whitehaven was a regional centre where they had quays called, the Sugar Tongue Quay, The Fish Quay and the Lime Tongue Quay.

And then there was the Free Trade, smuggling, which was a major factor of this region for a while at the end of the 18th Century. Dumfries as a port would not officially have been involved but with a shortage of customs men and huge profits to be shared, unofficially it’s reasonable to assume that many thousands of tons of tobacco, for instance, arrived at Carsethorn and disappeared.

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