I love Dumfries and Galloway so I was delighted when I was invited to spend the night at Trigony House Hotel, in the heart of the region.
Driving south through rain, mist and low cloud, I feared our day would be spent sightseeing safari park style from the confines of the car!
Our first stop was Drumlanrig Castle. As we wound our way up the castle’s driveway the rain dropped to a light drizzle. Never let Scottish drizzle fool you though – it will soak you to the skin in seconds.
There are great trails to explore on foot or bike at Drumlanrig Castle, but it wasn’t an outdoor exploring type of day. Feeling gallus (Scots for bold), we briefly braved the drizzle to take photos.
even on a dreich (miserable) day Drumlanrig is striking. Built in the late 17th century as the ancestral seat of the Duke of Queensberry, it bears a striking resemblance to George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh.
Outlander fans may recognise it from season two. It’s where the Duke of Sandringham met a grisly end!
With no fixed plans, we headed to Sanquhar next. The drizzle had stopped, and there were tiny patches of blue in the sky which filled our hearts with joy.
If you visit piles of old rubble as often as I do, the first thing you’ll notice when you visit Sanquhar Castle is that it consists of a mish-mash of brickwork from different time periods. There’s a medieval core, then some far more recent additions.
Sanquhar Castle was once a Crichton stronghold. In the late 19th century, the 3rd Marquess of Bute (a Crichton) decided to restore his crumbling ancestral pile. He died in 1900 and restoration work ceased.
An impressive defensive ditch still surrounds the castle. As we skirted the top of it, trying not to slip on mud and fall in, a sheep watched us curiously from the other side.
Sanquhar Castle has attracted visitors far more illustrious than a pair of habitual road trippers with a wee white dug. Once upon a time the castle welcomed the likes of Robert the Bruce, William Wallace and Mary Queen of Scots.
The rain was holding off, so we headed to Crawick Multiverse on the outskirts of town.
Crawick Multiverse is a land art project which has taken the site of a former open cast coal mine, and with the help of landscape artist Charles Jencks, transformed it into a magical landscape.
Wandering past rows of towering stones, I felt like we’d been transported back to Neolithic Orkney. Mr G obviously did too, as he began chatting about the Northern Isles!
The theme of this unique visitor attraction is space, astronomy and cosmology, and for all we known the stones which have stood for thousands of years on Orkney may well be linked to those themes too.
The boy wasn’t interested in trying to interpret the artworks, he was happy just pottering around them.
Lunch and homage to a hero in Dumfries
Hungry from a morning spent exploring castles and strange cosmic landscapes, we headed to Dumfries in search of food.
We found the perfect take-away cafe for lunch there. Deli 56 did homemade soup, sandwiches and coffee – a winning combination! We sat in the car and feasted on chicken and leek soup, and rolls filled with tuna and salad.
Sad Eyes McGhee flashed me his saddest peepers, until every mouthful of sandwich stuck in my throat in a guilty knot! I buckled and let him have some tuna and egg.
You can’t visit Dumfries without paying homage to one of Scotland’s most famous sons. Robert Burns spent the final years of his life in the town, and he’s buried there in St Michael’s Churchyard.
Walk amongst the graves in St Michael’s and you’ll see towering tombstones, but nothing as grand as the final resting place of Burns.
When Burns died in 1796 he was buried in a modest grave. 19 years after his death he was reinterred in an ornate mausoleum, paid for by public subscription. Inside, a statue of the poet is watched over by his muse Coila.
Our final stop of the day was Caerlaverock Castle, 8 miles south of Dumfries. Caerlaverock is one of Scotland’s most striking castles. The medieval fortress which belonged to the Maxwell family, rises from a water filled moat, like an impenetrable shield.
It wasn’t impenetrable though, as despite valiant efforts to defend it during a siege in 1300, it fell to Edward I’s English army. Boooo, to the evil pantomime villain of Scottish history!
Caerlaverock is often considered to be a romantic, fairytale castle but for me it’s Scotland’s creepiest and most foreboding castle. Crossing the wooden bridge into it, you’re enveloped by the gloomy interior.
There’s no denying it’s impressive. There’s beautiful, ornate stonework inside, and its triangular shape is highly unusual, but I think I’d rather have lived outside the castle walls with the peasants, than behind them with the aristocracy.
After exploring inside, then circling the moat we wandered into woodland behind the castle. The remains of the original Caerlaverock Castle lie in a clearing in the trees. Caerlaverock I is also surrounded by a moat – the Maxwell family must have had a thing for water features!
It was time to wrap up our exploring for the day, and check out our hotel.
We were just about to leave the castle car park when I spotted a hare at the side of our car. I shushed Mr G, and watched it delighted. I’m such a sucker for wild beasties.
Trigony House Hotel – a tranquil haven for humans and dogs
Pulling up outside Trigony House Hotel I was immediately impressed. The beautiful 18th century building was once the hunting lodge for Closeburn Castle. Ivy clad, and with lanterns emitting an inviting glow it looked like something out of a Bronte novel.
Inside it was cosy and traditional. Think country cottage – the crackle of a roaring fire, comfy chairs to sink into, and the enticing smell of home cooking.
Our room – The Garden Suite
We were shown to the Garden Suite, and couldn’t contain our delight. It was huge, with a sleigh bed, a conservatory and a private garden – we loved our room.
At Trigony dogs are made to feel every bit as welcome as humans. The place prides itself on being the perfect pet-friendly, escape from it all. On the list of spa treatments available at the hotel you’ll find reiki for dogs.
Ruled by his stomach, more than his desire to achieve zen like calm, the boy was sold on Trigony as soon as he discovered a doggy welcome pack waiting for him. The home-baked biscuit in it was devoured in record time.
Biscuit gone, he was ready to explore his swanky room. No corner was missed in his epic sniff-a-thon. He took a particular shine to the conservatory. A hotel room with a conservatory was a first for him – and us too.
Wine and beer o’clock arrived and we headed to the bar to quench our thirst.
As we were enjoying our beverages, we were offered banana loaf and shortbread – ahhh, the good life.
Dining at Trigony House Hotel – Dinner
That evening, we had a table reserved in the bar for dinner so the boy could join us. With a brilliant day in D&G to toast, we ordered some bubbles.
Choosing something from the menu wasn’t going to be a problem, it all sounded delicious.
Mr G started with Polish beef, paprika and mushroom soup with spinach and ricotta dumplings. One spoonful was all it took to start him raving about how exquisite it was.
I had penne pasta, and Italian organic fennel sausage in a white wine sauce. It was fantastic. I love fennel, so this dish was always going to be a winner for me.
For main we both (unusually) opted for veggie dishes.
Mr G has penne pasta with tomato, roast garlic and basil sauce. Being a spice lover I chose courgette, potato and sugar snap curry with basmati rice. Both mains were really tasty and got a big thumbs up.
As luck would have it we’d managed to leave enough room for dessert.
Mr G’s marmalade and ginger pudding with homemade custard looked amazing. He confirmed that it was, but his covetous glances at my pudding told me there was some serious pudding envy going on!
I’d chosen a rich chocolate and walnut fondant with pouring cream. Digging my spoon into the soft, chocolatey centre I took a taste.
Oh my – I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I grudgingly let Mr G taste it, but watched him like a hawk just in case he took more than the meagrest of morsels!
Unwinding at Trigony House Hotel
After dinner we took our fizz, and sat in a cosy lounge we’d spotted earlier. It was the perfect chill out room.
Fizz finished, we wanted to enjoy the fabulous Garden Suite, so we retired there with a nightcap of Scottish gin. PJs on, we were soon relaxing in the conservatory by the fire. The boy got into position to toast his tummy and was counting sheep in no time. We chatted and listened to the rain (which was back) hammering on the conservatory roof. There’s something really comforting about listening to rain when you’re snuggled up warm indoors. Our G&Ts were slipping down nicely – mine was Harris Gin infused with seaweed salt, and Mr G had opted for another Hebridean gem, Barra Gin.
Dining at Trigony House Hotel – Breakfast
The next day, we woke early and were excited by the prospect of more delicious Trigony dining to come.
Having our own enclosed garden meant we didn’t have to traipse the boy through the hotel to take him outside. He loved exploring his new garden.
The boy joined us for breakfast in the bar, as he’d heard a rumour that sausages might be on offer. He was spot on, and his breakfast order was taken with ours.
The breakfast menu was just as tempting as the dinner menu had been. We started with homemade granola, fruit salad and greek yoghurt. That was followed by a nice pot of coffee and warm buttered toast.
As we waited for our Eggs Benedict and Eggs Royale, hotel hound Roxy joined us. She took a shine to Mr G, and flirted outrageously. When he stopped petting her she nudged his hand for more.
Only interested in sausages, The Wee White Dug left Roxy to hog the limelight. His patience was soon rewarded with a nice, breakfast sausage.
Sausage devoured he turned his attention to our posh eggs. We pretending not to hear his low, menacing, feed me growl and tucked in.
Like all good stays, our time at Trigony flew by far too quickly. We were sad to leave, but delighted to have discovered a new gem in a region that we both love.
A snowy detour home to enjoy more of Dumfries and Galloway
In no hurry to leave Dumfries and Galloway, we took a scenic drive through the Dalveen Pass to visit a favourite place, before heading home.
The further into the hills we drove the whiter the landscape became – it was stunning.
Scotland’s highest village
After a spectacular, snowy drive we arrived in Wanlockhead – Scotland’s highest village.
We stopped to snap the obligatory photos of the village sign, but had to clear thick snow off it first.
In a clump of trees near the sign I spotted sheep huddling together for warmth. It looked like a scene from a painting. I tiptoed close enough to snap a photo without scaring them off.
I first visited Wanlockhead to attend primary school camp when I was 11 years old. It was a stark contrast from the housing scheme I lived on – I loved it. When I returned many years later it looked exactly as I’d remembered it.
The picturesque mining village sits nestled in the Lowther Hills. It was once home to a thriving lead mine, which can still be visited today. Lead wasn’t the only valuable resource found in the hills. There’s gold in them thar hills too! It’s said the gold in the Scottish crown came from these parts.
If you visit Wanlockhead’s Museum of Lead Mining you can even try your hand at gold panning. The 11-year-old me tried it and loved it. I only found fools gold, but I remember being delighted.
As we wandered through the village, passing the historic mine, miners cottages and old mine workings, it started to snow. Muffled sounds, the crunch of snow underfoot, and the boy ecstatic to be out in his favourite weather – it was perfect.
The best things in life are often simple, and free.
Thanks to Trigony House Hotel for inviting us to Dumfries and Galloway. Although our food and accommodation were provided on a complimentary basis, all opinions contained within this blog are my own.
Until next time ……….