The Stables at Kirklands: luxury, self-catering in Dumfries and Galloway

We recently enjoyed a self-catering break in Dumfries and Galloway. Our home was The Stables at Kirklands – a luxurious, three bedroom eco lodge. The Stables was converted in 2022 using salvaged and recycled building materials where possible.

The Stables is one of two holiday homes located in the grounds of Ruthwell Manse, the historic home of owners Mark and Julie. The other – The Pod on the Pond is a cute glamping pod for two, which is nestled on the edge of a pretty pond.

Robert Burns visited Ruthwell Manse in 1796, to meet with the widow of the late Reverend John Craig and her daughter. The daughter, Agnes later married her father’s successor, the Reverend Henry Duncan. Duncan founded the world’s first savings bank when he set up the ‘penny bank’ for his parishioners.

Day One – Things to do in Dumfries and Galloway
Hartfell Spa, near Moffat

Our first Dumfries and Galloway stop, was for a walk (3.5 miles) to visit Hartfell Spa – an 18th century healing spa near Moffat.

We began the walk by following the course of a burn (stream) uphill. Curious sheep watched as we picked our way across a field to reach a heather covered hill track.

The track led us towards a big scar on the hillside known as ‘The Cleugh’ (gorge/ravine).

As we were nearing Hartfell Spa the heavens opened. We were dressed for the sunny walk we’d set off on, so were soon soaking wet.

Any hope of finding shelter in Hartfell Spa were dashed when we discovered it was wetter than an otter’s pocket inside.

Hartfell Spa was discovered by John Williamson in 1748, when he was leading a mining operation in the area. The water was reputed to have healing properties that could cure anaemia and debility. Nowadays, it looks like it’d cause not cure ailments.

Thankfully, while we were at Hartfell Spa the rain stopped, so we had a sunny end to our rugged ramble.

Now, it was time to relax.

The Stables at Kirklands

We loved The Stables at Kirklands from the minute we set eyes on it. The rural location was gorgeous.

The L-shaped stable conversion, had a grassy inner courtyard, and a spacious outer garden with a wood-fired hot tub, large patio, fire pit and plenty of garden furniture, where you could sit and enjoy the calm of the countryside.


The inside was gorgeous too. We entered into a small hallway with a utility room, WC, TV lounge and huge open plan living space off it.

The living space had a modern kitchen with high-end appliances, including a boiling water tap. No kettle boiling for three days – yippee.

A welcome pack with Irn Bru, Tunnock’s Teacakes, chilled champagne and fruit and chilies grown in the garden at Kirklands was waiting for us. All guests staying at The Stables receive the welcome pack, which is a lovely gesture.

We had a dining area that could seat six round a large marble table, and a lounge space with comfy leather sofas, a rocking chair (I spent three days coveting) and a living-flame fire for chilly nights.

Tasteful artworks, lamps, rugs, cushions and real flowers added nice pops of colour to the accommodation’s subtle colour palette.

Which bedroom?

There were three beautiful, big en suite bedrooms, each with a private terrace. We chose a bedroom with a fabulous beamed ceiling and two interior stained glass windows, made by Tessa MacKenzie – a freelance glazier from Glasgow.

Our ensuite was on the other side of the stained glass windows and had a bath with steps leading up to it and a pretty rural view.

The other bedrooms were located off a large hallway. Both had modern wet rooms.

The inner hallway was my favourite part of the house. It had a bookshelf, filled with books and window seats covered in sheepskin rugs. The seats had been carved from a tree that blew over in a storm. They were perfect reading neuks.

And unwind

After unpacking, we changed into our swimwear and headed to the hot tub, which Mark had kindly heated for us. It was the Rolls Royce of wood-fired hot tubs, with jets and lights.

Time slipped away as we sat chatting, listening to birdsong and watching our neighbours – a herd of cows who lived in a field opposite The Stables.

Later, in our gorgeous bedroom, we turned the lights off (except the ensuite light) and slipped into crisp, white sheets. The ensuite light cast an ethereal glow through the stained glass windows, which lit the boy up like a piece of amber.

Day Two – Things to do in Dumfries and Galloway

We woke the next morning after a wonderful sleep, and were keen to discover more of this lovely corner of Dumfries and Galloway.

First, we tucked into a hearty bowl of porridge each.

Ruthwell Cross, Ruthwell

Our first stop of the day, took a minute to reach – Ruthwell Church, home of the Ruthwell Cross.

The early 8th century cross stands 17 feet tall. It’s been described as the most significant carved sculpture to have survived from the Anglo-Norman period. You may wonder why it’s in Scotland. The answer is simple. When the cross was carved, this part of Scotland was in the Anglian kingdom of Northumbria.

The Ruthwell Cross is decorated with religious scenes and more unusually, a poem written in Ogham script. ‘The Dream of the Rood’ is one of the oldest surviving Old English poems and the only other surviving version of it, dates to hundred of years after the Ruthwell Cross.

In 1642 the cross was damaged after being named as an idolatrous monument in a Church of Scotland act. It was pulled down, but the quick-thinking, local minister recognised its significance and protected it as much as possible, before burying it for safekeeping.

Brow Well, near Ruthwell

Next, we visited Brow Well a short distance away from our accommodation. Robert Burns visited the Brow Well in July 1796. At the time he was suffering from a case of what he described as ‘flying gout’ and had been advised to drink the iron rich water from the well and bathe in the Solway Firth nearby. Sadly, Burns was suffering from rheumatic fever and died shortly afterward.

Caerlaverock Castle

After leaving Brow Well we visited one of Scotland’s most iconic medieval fortresses.

Caerlaverock Castle is probably what you imagine, when you conjure up an image of a castle. There’s a moat, drawbridge , towers and (near) impenetrable curtain walls.

Caerlaverock Castle was built by the powerful Maxwell family in the 13th century, to replace an older castle which stood nearby.

All was calm and the sun was shining when we arrived. The tranquility belied the castle’s turbulent past. In July 1300 Edward I of England besieged Caerlaverock Castle. The garrison inside surrendered after two days. An exhibition on site, tells the story of the siege and includes artefacts from it, including what’s thought to be an early hand grenade.

In 1640 Caerlaverock Castle was besieged again. This time, because Lord Maxwell supported Charles I in his treatment of the Covenanters. The siege lasted 13 weeks, before the garrison inside surrendered. Afterwards, the castle was stripped and one of the walls demolished, to stop it being used defensively again.

After exploring the castle, we went for a short walk through ancient woodland to visit the site of the earlier castle. The outline of the walls and moat still survive.

Before leaving, I popped into the castle shop. I bought us coffees, and treated myself to a couple of new books. Then, we sat in the sunshine and drank our coffees, enjoying some down time.

Wardlaw Hillfort

It was too early for lunch, so we decided to do a short walk near Caerlaverock Castle first.

Ward Law (also known as The Wardlaw) is a small, tree-covered hill with an Iron Age hillfort on the summit. It’s reached via a short walk, up a grassy track.

All that’s visible of the hillfort is some grass covered earthwork, but it’s worth climbing for the views alone. They stretch for miles and take in a huge swathe of the Solway Coast.

Drummuir Farm Ice Cream Parlour, Collin

We’d been excited about lunch all morning.

Drummuir Farm Ice Cream Parlour is a firm favourite with locals and visitors. It’s not dog friendly inside, but has outdoor seating should the weather suit al fresco dining. And as luck would have it, it did when we visited.

After devouring awesome Cajun chicken paninis and soup, turning our attention to ice cream. There were so many flavours to choose from (all were made on the premises). I eventually opted for two scoops of ice cream, one coconut and one peanut butter – topped with sprinkles and marshmallows obviously. Mr G chose coconut and raspberry ripple. And not to leave the boy out, we bought him a wee tub of gluten free ice cream.

One word – heavenly.

Waterloo Monument, New Abbey

Now we had calories to burn. We like walks that get the heart rate up, offers views and have interesting things to see en route.

We found one that fitted the bill perfectly, on the outskirts of New abbey. The pretty village is most famous for its romantically named abbey – Sweetheart Abbey.

From ground level the hill doesn’t look too taxing, but climb it on a muggy day and it’ll feel like the North Face of the Eiger.

To reach the summit, what feels like a million, roughly hewn steps of varying heights need to be tackled. They’re crazy steep in parts, and there are few suitable places to stop and catch your breath.

Mr G and the boy breezed up, but humidity made it more challenging for me. If truth be told, I would’ve found it easier, if I hadn’t wasted so much breath cursing.

It was worth the effort though. The tower or Waterloo Monument as it’s known, was built in 1816 to commemorate Britain’s victory against Napoleon’s army at the Battle of Waterloo the previous year.

The boy and I climbed into the tower and were content to sit in the doorway, but Mr G wasn’t happy until he’d scaled the narrow, worn steps to take in a lovely, but unprotected view from the top of the Waterloo Monument.

We lingered at the summit for a while, then started making our way downhill gingerly. Too fast, and we’d have ended up gathering pace and galloping to the bottom.

Unwind time

Later, back at The Stables, I sat outside with a cup of coffee and my new books – aaaaand relax.

Later still, Mr G and I soothed our tired muscles in the hot tub. Then, when dusk fell, all three of us gathered by the fire pit.

It was a perfect end to the day.

Day Three – Things to do in Dumfries and Galloway

The last day of our stay at The Stables dawned, and since it was Sunday we took things at a slower pace.

After a cooked breakfast, we treated the boy to a pamper session at The Stables ‘doggy spa’. There were lots of doggy products to choose from inside. The boy tried some nose balm and scented spritz, and seemed to approve of both.

 Powfoot Beach

Our first activity of the day was a gentle stroll on Powfoot Beach, a short hop away from our accommodation.

With the exception of a couple of dog walkers, the beach was deserted – just how we like it. We enjoyed a nice, peaceful walk along a vast stretch of sand.

Lunch – Frothy Bike Co, Dumfries

After our walk, we drove to nearby Dumfries for lunch. Frothy Bike Co makes a mean cup of coffee and their soup and paninis are pretty awesome too. They’re also dog friendly, so what’s not to love?

Moat Brae, Dumfries

Our penultimate stop of the day was somewhere I couldn’t wait to visit. Moat Brae is an elegant Georgian mansion, best known as the birthplace of Peter Pan. It was the home of JM Barrie’s school friends, the Gordon brothers. He spent many happy days there, playing pirates in the garden. Barrie later describe the garden as an ‘enchanted land’. We know it better as Neverland, the home of Peter Pan.

Peter Pan was my favourite book as a child – I adored it. As an adult, it’s still a firm favourite.

Moat Brae opened to visitors in 2019. Besides a cafe, shop and large garden to explore, three floors of the house are open to the public.

The cafe, shop and garden are dog friendly, but the house is for humans only.

Back to childhood I go

After buying tickets, I charged into the house like an excited five-year-old, while Mr G and the boy headed to the garden.

I knew I’d love Moat Brae, but I was surprised at how deeply it tapped into my inner child and how emotional that made me feel.

Starting on the ground floor, I learned about the history of the house and JM Barrie’s links to it. There were armchairs that read you stories and shadows of character from Peter Pan to look for.

On the first floor, my childlike state was further stimulated. Besides Peter, Wendy and co, I was reacquainted with other old friends from the pages of my childhood storybooks. I almost jumped for joy when I discovered a yellow brick road I could walk on. It was magical – like stepping into a book.

On the second floor, I put Nana in her kennel, clapped my hands, because I do believe in fairies, and tried to catch Tinker Bell.

By the time I met Mr G and the boy downstairs, I was beyond hyperactive.

Mr G visited the house next, while I calmed myself down (briefly) in the garden.

Not growing up in Neverland

Then, it was time for the three of us to explore Neverland. We visited Wendy’s House, looked for crocodiles, slid down pirate chutes and tried on mermaid tails. It was awesome.

Before saying goodbye to Moat Brae, I visited the shop. Like a child with pocket money, I bought the boy a tin of Nana’s dog biscuits and myself, a beautifully illustrated edition of Peter Pan.

Burns Mausoleum, Dumfries

Before leaving Dumfries, we paid homage to another Scottish literary great. Robert Burns is buried in an ornate mausoleum in St Michael’s Cemetery. Having followed in Rabbie’s footsteps during our D&G trip, it felt fitting to end our explorations by his graveside.

More unwinding

Our final night at The Stables at Kirklands, was just as blissful as the other two had been.

The Stables is up there with the most comfortable and relaxing places we’ve stayed. The whole ambience of the house is incredibly calm. It’s also one of the most beautifully designed houses we’ve stayed at. It’s stylish and arty, with simple Scandi design touches, and the odd nod to Boho-chic thrown in for good measure. We absolutely LOVED The Stables at Kirklands and will remember our stay there fondly.

We stayed at The Stables as part of a paid partnership with At Kirklands. All opinions are my own.

Until next time …

13 thoughts on “The Stables at Kirklands: luxury, self-catering in Dumfries and Galloway”

  1. merrylbethelhouse – Australia – My garden is full of delights! It fills the senses with beauty, color and wonder. It helps me to understand beautiful truths about God, the Creator of heaven and earth.
    merrylbethelhouse says:

    Lovely. Thankyou.

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Samantha Grant says:

      It’s beautiful isn’t it? Thanks for joining us for a virtual tour.

  2. Oh my stars! What a wonderful adventure you have all had. The pictures of wee Casper looking a bit drooned tugged at the heart strings! I visited Dumfries and Galloway in 2017, and will most definitely visit Moat Brae on my next trip. Just reading about it made my skin tingle with excitement!

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Samantha Grant says:

      Glad you enjoyed it. Moat Brae is a must for your next visit.

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Samantha Grant says:

      Thank you 😊

  3. My goodness Samantha, I absolutely love coming with you on your journeys! Thank you so much for your wonderful writing style, taking your wee white dug with you, and your absolute joy in your subject-matter. As always, be well!!!❤️

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Samantha Grant says:

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read Sue and for your lovely feedback.

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Samantha Grant says:

      Thanks for reading and for your lovely comments. I’m so glad you enjoyed the blog.

  4. Oh I so enjoyed your tales (tails) and a 3 day journey is certainly not long enough for all the sites you crammed into 3 days. Like a good book, I will be waiting for the next chapter and Casper’s next escapades. And, oh, I’m loving the history of the places you are taking us.

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Samantha Grant says:

      Thanks for reading, I’m so glad you enjoyed the blog and a virtual tour of a beautiful corner of Scotland.

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