Annan is a small market town in Dumfries and Galloway, in southwest Scotland. It grew up at the navigable limit of the River Annan, which flows into Solway Firth, and the poet Robert Burns briefly worked here as an exciseman. Many town buildings are attractive red sandstone, including the river bridge. This agricultural area was the powerbase of the de Brus family, with Robert the Bruce (1274-1329) winning an early victory nearby over the English-backed Balliol on his path to the crown of Scotland. The philosopher and writer Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) went to school here and was utterly miserable.
During the First World War there was a huge multi-site munitions complex around Annan, Gretna and Longtown in Cumbria. Britain's military firepower depended upon improvised processes involving The Devil's Porridge, Boy Scouts collecting conkers, and the future President of Israel.
Trains run from Carlisle via Gretna to Annan (22 mins) and Dumfries every hour or so M-Sat, every couple of hours Sunday. Some of them continue north via Sanquhar and Kilmarnock to Glasgow, but it's usually quicker to take the fast train between London Euston and Glasgow Central and change at Carlisle.
1 Annan station is 400 yards south of High Street. The old locomotive turntable is still in service in the National Railway Museum in York.
Annan is by-passed to the north by the A75 Carlisle to Stranraer road with links into town at either end. Near Gretna the A75 joins the A74(M) motorway, which becomes M6 as it crosses into England.
Stagecoach Cumbria Bus 79 runs from Carlisle via Longtown and Gretna to Annan, taking an hour. These run M-Sa every 30 min, with buses continuing west hourly via Ruthwell to Dumfries. On Sunday the bus runs Carlisle-Annan-Dumfries every two hours.
National Cycle Route 7 on its way from Inverness to Sunderland passes through Annan; a new bridge over the river has been built to carry it to the south of the town.
The town is compact and can be explored on foot, but you could do with a bike to reach Ruthwell or the Devil's Porridge.
- 1 Annan Museum, Bank Street DG12 6AA, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Apr-Oct M-Sa 11:00-16:00. This houses a permanent exhibition on local history from the prehistoric to the First World War with interactive displays and children’s activities. Free.
- 2 The Devil's Porridge, Near Stanfield Farm, Annan Road, Eastriggs DG12 6TF (3 miles east of Annan on B721), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. M-Sa 10:00-17:00, Su 10:00-16:00. In the First World War, Britain could produce enough artillery shell cases, and the charges to fill them, but lacked cordite for propellant - this required acetone which was in very short supply. A new recipe was devised, kneading nitroglycerin and gun-cotton into a paste that could be shaped to the correct shell calibre, and when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle visited the factory he called it "a sort of devil's porridge". The munitions complex was named HM Factory Gretna but (just in case one part went bang) it straggled over four sites and nine miles between Longtown, Gretna and Eastriggs, the present site of this museum commemorating the factory and its mostly female workforce. Meanwhile a chemist called Chaim Weizman (yes, him) devised another process, not used at Gretna, by fermenting maize starch to make acetone. But maize was difficult to import in wartime, so in a surreally British improvisation, schoolchildren and Boy Scouts were sent out to collect acorns and conkers for fermentation. Adult £6.
- Ruthwell is a tiny village five miles west of Annan with a surprising collection of sights: Ruthwell Cross, a Savings Bank Museum, and Brow Well. It's on B724, the old road to Dumfries; turn off onto B725 for Caerlaverock Castle. Notable place names hereabouts include Cocklicks Farm and Twathats. (Little Cocklick, home of Jean Maxwell "the Galloway witch", is away west near Castle Douglas.)
- 3 Ruthwell Cross, Ruthwell Church DG1 4NP (Off B724 five miles west of Annan). 8th-century Anglo-Saxon High Cross, 18 ft high, smashed in 1642 but restored in 1823, with remarkable carvings and inscriptions in Latin, Anglo-Saxon and Runic. Scholars of runes may struggle as these are not the standard futhorc script, and were probably added in the 10th century.
- The Savings Bank Museum commemorates the world's first savings bank, opened here in 1810 and swiftly copied. It's open Apr-Sept Tu-Sa & Oct-Mar Th-Sa 10:00-16:00, free.
- Brow is a hamlet a mile or so west of Ruthwell on B725, which in Robert Burns' time was "the poor man's spa". The Brow Well was a chalybeate (iron-rich) spring which you plunged into. In the 20th century, it was prettified into a pink sandstone bath. Nearby is a beach for sea-bathing, but only around spring high tides when the sea covers the mud flats. In July 1796 Burns spent 3 weeks here, bathing in sea and spring between quaffing port and writing begging letters to all and sundry. He left, haggard, pale and tottering, in every sense the poor man, to die at home in Dumfries 3 days later. He was 37.
- Walk: one recommended stroll is to walk north (upstream) along the east bank of the river and back down the west bank. If you cross at the first footbridge just before the A75 viaduct it's a two-mile round-trip, via the second footbridge it's four miles, and by the lane bridge at Brydekirk (Brig Inn is here) it's six miles.
- Watch football (ie soccer) at 1 Annan Athletic FC, Galabank, North Street (Half a mile north of centre on river bank), ☏ . They play in the 2nd Division, which is the fourth tier of Scottish football.
- Lonsdale Cinema is just off Lady St.
- 2 Powfoot Golf Club, Cummertrees DG12 5QE (off B724 five miles west of Annan), ☏ . M-F 08:00-17:00, Sa 08:00-15:00, Su 09:00-15:00. 18-hole course (6274 yards, par 71), half links, half parkland, redesigned by the legendary James Braid in 1923. Next to Powfoot Hotel, see "Sleep". Round £40.
- 3 Broom Fisheries, Broom Farm Estate, Newbie DG12 5PF (Off B724 two miles west of Annan), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 08:00-18:00. Five lagoons for coarse and match fishing, with a tackle shop, caravan & camping site, toilets and ample parking near the waters.
- 4 Annandale Distillery, Northfield DG12 5LL (Two miles north of town off B722, which bridges A75 without a junction.), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Tours daily 10:00-16:00. This whisky distillery started in 1836, became part of Johnnie Walker but closed in 1924. It re-started in 2014, with its first modern produce coming to market in 2018, branded as "Man O'Words" (unpeated) and "Man O'Sword" (peated). They give guided tours and have a shop and café. Tour £12.50.
- 5 Dino Park, Hetland Garden Centre, Carrutherstown DG1 4JX (off A75 between Annan and Dumfries), ☏ . Apr-Oct daily 09:00-17:30. Dinosaur-themed park and soft-play area. No dogs. Family day-pass (2+2) £19.
- The Common Riding of the Marches is a 600 year-old ceremony to mark the boundaries of Annan, and ensure that its various landmarks, cairns and other features are in good order. That's if anyone can maintain good order with over 100 horse riders cavorting about, massed pipes and drums, decorated floats, and similar razzmatazz of a 600 year-old nature. It's held on the first Saturday in July so the next event is Sat 4 July 2020.
There's a Tesco just south of Scott's St. But the big retail park hereabouts is Gretna Gateway Outlet Village ten miles east, see Gretna page.
- Cafe Royal, 95 High St DG12 6DJ, ☏ . Daily 07:00-20:00. Breakfast, fish & chips, filled rolls, sit in and takeaway.
- The Lounge, 116 High Street DG12 6DW, ☏ . M-Sa 08:30-16:00, Su 10:00-15:00. Pleasant place for a coffee break or breakfast.
- The Coffee Lounge Bar of The Corner House Hotel serves coffee, soup and light meals 08:00-23:00, see "Sleep."
- Del Amitri Restaurant is within Powfoot Hotel, 3 miles west of Annan, see "Sleep."
- The Anglers, 61 High Street DG12 6AD, ☏ . M-Sa 12:00-00:00. Cocktail and sports bar. Also tea room and coffee shop.
- 1 Blue Bell Inn, 10 High Street DG12 6AG (next to River Annan bridge), ☏ . M-W 11:00-23:00, Th-Sa 11:00-00:00, Su 12:30-11:00. Traditional pub with Robert Burns' quotes on the walls; ever-changing selection of real ales, including "Mote & Bailey" brewed on the premises, live sports on TV. Holds a Beer Festival on the English August Bank Holiday weekend.
- The Shed, 7 Lady Street DG12 5DA. M-W 11:00-00:00, Th-Sa 11:00-01:00, Su 12:00-00:00. Sports bar and more including live music, disco and karaoke.
- Farmers Inn, in Clarencefield five miles west of Annan, serves real ale, and does meals daily 12:00-14:00 & 19:00-21:00 (Sa Su from 18:00), see "Sleep."
- 1 Corner House Hotel, 78 High Street DG12 6DL (Corner of Lady Street), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. With 18 en-suite rooms, free Wi-Fi available in the coffee & lounge bar. On-site car parking, with CCTV system. B&B double £75.
- 2 Queensberry Arms Hotel, 47 High St DG12 6AD (On main street opposite war memorial), ☏ . 3-star with 21 en suite bedrooms. B&B double from £50.
- 3 Firth Hotel, 41 Scotts Street DG12 6JE (on B721 just east of town centre), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Family-run B&B and licensed bar.
- 4 Farmers Inn, Main Street, Clarencefield DG1 4NF (on B724 five miles west of Annan), ☏ . Motel-style accommodation in lodge at rear of the Inn. B&B double £85.
- 5 Hoddom Castle, Hoddom, Lockerbie DG11 1AS (5 miles north of Annan on B723), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. The castle itself is a 16th C tower house, ramshackle and without accommodation. In the grounds, open April-Oct, are caravan facilities, camping pitches and pods, fishing, golfing, walking and children's play area. £25 for two adults.
- 6 Powfoot Hotel, Powfoot DG12 5PN (Off B724 three miles west of Annan), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. By golf links overlooking the coast, well-run friendly hotel. With Del Amitri restaurant. B&B double £110.
- Go west via Dumfries, where Robert Burns spent his last years, and further west to Stranraer for ferries to Northern Ireland.
- To Edinburgh most people race north up A74(M) then branch onto A702. Slower scenic routes are via Gretna and Longtown onto A7, thence via Hawick and Selkirk in the Scottish Borders; or leave A74(M) at Moffat for A708 past Grey Mare's Tail, Ettrick Forest and Innerleithen. These are glorious when it's sunny and the heather in bloom, nerve-wracking in bad weather or with a low fuel tank.
- Go south via Carlisle to reach the Lake District.