town and former burgh in Kirkcudbrightshire, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, UK

Kirkcudbright (pronounced "kuh-KOO-bry") is a coastal town in Dumfries and Galloway in southwest Scotland, with a poppulation in 2020 of 3350. Farming and fishing are its main trades. In the late 19th century several artists were attracted to paint in this area, notably EA Hornel (1864-1933), who came to live in Broughton House. Variously described as "The Glasgow Boys" or as Impressionists, they were much influenced by Japanese print, by French realism and by the natural scenes they found in Scotland — and above all they loathed the snooty Edinburgh art establishment. Their art movements eventually dissolved into others but Kirkcudbright continued to attract painters, so today it has a collection of galleries out of proportion to its size.

Understand edit

Visitor information edit

Get in edit

Map of Kirkcudbright

Kirkcudbright is almost cut off from the public transport network. The nearest railway station is Dumfries, 27 miles east, with trains every hour or two between Carlisle, Kilmarnock and Glasgow Central.

DGC Bus 505 / 555 is a school bus — anyone can use it but it only runs once on schooldays, from Kirkcudbright around 9AM via Castle Douglas to Dumfries, taking 75 min, and setting off back around 2PM. A second bus only runs from Dumfries as far as Castle Douglas.

Bus 517 runs once M-F from Gatehouse of Fleet via Borgue, taking 40 min to Kirkcudbright.

So you need a car. Follow A75 west from Carlisle and Dumfries towards Stranraer, and branch south onto A762.

Get around edit

Walk around town, but you need your own wheels for outlying sights and accommodation.

Taxi operators are BPs (+44 7711 903928), Nicky's (+44 7397 874439) and Allans (+44 1557 331663).

See edit

The witch who wasn't

It sounds medieval, but belief in witches, and legal or church persecutions, were uncommon in Britain until the 16th century. Then the belief system grew, witchcraft was made a capital crime, and people started seeing them everywhere. King James VI and I was particularly obsessed by diabolical plots, personally attended some trials and wrote a tract against witchcraft. Scotland had witch-hunts out of proportion to its population, with some 4000-6000 tried and 1500 put to death. Prosecutions were especially common in Dumfries, Galloway and the East Coast, with those convicted being hanged or strangled then their bodies burnt. But scepticism grew in the 18th century, and the laws were changed in 1735-36.

Jean Maxwell, the "Galloway Sorceress", might then seem unlucky to be tried in 1805 in Kirkcudbright, for the crime of pretending to be a witch. Damned if you do and damned if you don't? But it was bad enough: she was abusing a gullible young farm servant, extorting "protection money" from her against the devil, amid sulphurous threats, eye-rolling and hocus-pocus. Maxwell was convicted under the 1735 laws and was jailed for a year. Heaven knows what might have happened 100 years earlier, to her and anyone associated with her.

  • 1 Broughton House and Garden, High Street, Kirkcudbright DG6 4JX, +44 1557 330437. mid-Mar to Oct: Th-M 10AM-4PM. This house built in 1734 was the home of Scots impressionist artist E. A. Hornel between 1901 and 1933, with Japanese-influenced gardens. Limited wheelchair access. Adult £8, conc £7, child £1, NTS / NT free.    
  • MacLellan's Castle, Castle St DG6 4JD (100 yards east of Broughton House). Closed. Ruins of a 16th-century L-plan tower house, with a reconstructed kitchen. Adult £4.80.    
  • Art galleries dot the town. Kirkcudbright Galleries on St Mary St is the civic collection, open M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su noon-5PM. Tolbooth is the civic art space. The others are commercial and exhibits are for sale. Those open in 2022 are Ochre next to Tolbooth, High Street Gallery next to that, Whitehouse Gallery on St Mary Street, Julie Hollis opposite, Harbour Cottage on Castle Bank, and Cornerways south on Selkirk Rd.
  • 2 Stewartry Museum, St Mary Street DG6 4AQ, +44 1557 331643. M-Sa 11AM-4PM. Displays local history, artifacts and photos. Free.    
  • 3 Girthon Old Church was built in 1620 and fell into ruin from 1818.
  • 4 Cardoness Castle, Castle St, Gatehouse of Fleet DG7 2EH (off A75). Closed. Well-preserved 15th-century tower house, uninhabited since 1697. The owner Sir Godfrey McCulloch shot dead a rival, escaped to France, but quietly returned to live in Scotland under an alias; but he was spotted and guillotined. Adult £6.  
  • Anwoth Old Church is a ruin of 1626 a mile north of Cardoness Castle.
  • 5 Dundrennan Abbey, Dundrennan DG6 4QH. Closed. Cistercian Abbey, built in Romanesque style from 1142. It fell into ruin after the Reformation but its hard-wearing grey sandstone means it's reasonably well preserved. Adult £6.  
  • See Castle Douglas for Orchardton Tower further east.

Do edit

  • Dark Space Planetarium, St Mary Street G6 4EG, +44 1557 337213. F-Su 10AM-4PM. Exhibits and displays of space, which starts only 60 miles away, closer than Kilmarnock. Adult £15, conc £12, child £8.
  • St Mary's Isle is a pleasant 4 mile loop trail south of town. In medieval times it was a tidal island and had a priory, but that's been cleared away and St Mary's is now a bosky peninsula.
  • The Swimming Pool on Castledykes Rd is 20 m by 8.5 m, max depth 1.5 m. It's open M-F to 8PM and Sa Su to 4PM.
  • Golf: Kirkcudbright Golf Club is on Stirling Cres half a mile north of town. White tees 5717 yards, par 69, visitor round £35. Other courses are at Cally Palace Hotel in Gatehouse of Fleet, see Sleep, and Brighouse Bay southwest on the coast.
Portrait of EA Hornel
  • Beaches are some miles out. On the Solway coast east of the river are Howwell Bay and Mullock Bay. West bank of the Dee estuary along B727 is the attractive beach of The Dhoon. Further south down a lane is Brighouse Bay, with a campsite, riding centre and golf course. Continue west towards Gatehouse of Fleet to reach Carrick Beach.
  • The Gralloch is a bike race on hillside dirt tracks, held in the forests above Gatehouse of Fleet on 18 May 2024. It acts a qualifier for the UCI World Championships in Belgium in October.
  • Kirkcudbright Jazz Festival is next held 13-16 June 2024.
  • Riding of the Marches is the civic custom of "beating the bounds" with a cavalcade of riders in mid-July.
  • Kirkcudbright Country Fair is held at The Carse on Tongland Rd, same weekend as the Riding.
  • Kirkcudbright Tattoo is fireworks, floodlights, pipe bands and general razzmatazz in late Aug.

Buy edit

  • Tesco is the main store, on St Cuthbert St in town centre, open M-Sa 7AM-10PM, Su 9AM-6PM.
  • Co-op Food store next to the castle is open daily 7AM-10PM.
  • Farmers Market is held on the fourth Sunday of the month 11AM-3PM, various central locations.

Eat edit

  • Castle Street Bistro, 5 Castle St DG6 4JA, +44 1557 330569. M-Sa 6-10PM. Good food with views over castle.
  • Kirkcudbright Bay Hotel at 25 St Cuthbert Street has rooms but is primarily a pub with good grub.
  • Thai Kitchen is north end of town near the golf course.
  • Cream o' Galloway is a dairy farm with an ice-cream shop out at Rainton near Gatehouse of Fleet. You can make your own and watch the process from cow to carton.

Drink edit

MacLellan's Castle

Sleep edit

Connect edit

Kirkcudbright and A75 have 4G from all UK carriers, though Vodafone is patchy, and there are lots of dead spots on the nearby highways. As of March 2022, 5G has not reached this area.

Go next edit

This city travel guide to Kirkcudbright is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.