Monday, September 29, 2008

Robert Burns in Kirkcudbright: toilet seat tribute paid to Scottish poet (1759-1796)

As the BBC reports, the owners of the Selkirk Arms Hotel in Kirkcudbright, South West Scotland, Chris Walker and Douglas MacDavid, have immortalised one of Scottish poet Robert Burns' most famous works on a toilet seat.

The hotel, where Burns is known to have been a guest, is reputed to be the location where he wrote his famous "Selkirk Grace":

"Some hae meat and canna eat, And some wad eat that want it, But we hae meat and we can eat, And sae the Lord be thankit."

The Selkirk Arms Hotel had already begun commemorating its connection with the Bard in the year leading up to the 250th anniversary of his birth by serving a real ale called "The Grace", brewed by Sulwath Brewers from the neighbouring town of Castle Douglas.

The toilet seat promotion was an additional idea developed after Chris, an avid marketer by his own admission, came across a company called Loo Prints at one of the summer agricultural shows.

Burns loo seat at the Selkirk Arms Hotel, Kirkcudbright, South West Scotland

The poem now "graces" the lids of all the lavatories in the Selkirk Arms, which feature an image of the poet as well as a range of other characters from his works.

Burns, buried in nearby Dumfries, where he died relatively young at 37, would probably have been highly amused by this "toilet humour" designed to raise awareness of both his works and his connection to the Selkirk Arms - and which also gives the travel industry colloquialism "bums on seats" a whole new meaning!

Robert Burns in Kirkcudbright: toilet seat tribute paid to Scottish poet (1759-1796)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Scotland Photography And A Top Photographer: Allan Wright, Right On Our Doorstep

Allan Wright, who lives in Dumfries and Galloway in South West Scotland, is one of the top photographers in Scotland - and of Scotland.

Earlier this month my daughter did a week of "work experience" with Allan Wright at his publishing house Cauldron Press, set on the shores of Loch Ken in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, just north of the market town of Castle Douglas (also known as Food Town).

As it is quite some way from where we live and she was going to have to go by bus and get off "in the middle of nowhere", so to speak, we drove over on the Saturday before to do a dry run as it were, and had a pleasant chat with Allan in his garden before retuning via the Queen's Way through the Galloway Forest Park and past Clatteringshaws Loch.

Allan Wright has produced a large number of coffee table books, calendars and in particular you see his postcards all over Scotland (and especially in Dumfries and Galloway). He has also made a series of multimedia photo and music CDs of Scotland.

There are too many titles to link to here, but his latest book, which is about to be published, is "Scotland's West Coast", which you can order already in the UK here. At the time of writing it doesn't appear possible to advance order in the USA yet, but to get a taste of his work take a look at "Edinburgh" (USA) ("Edinburgh" UK here):

Edinburgh by Allan Wright

or "Arran" (UK only):

Arran by Allan Wright and Tony Bonning

Allan is also responsible for the cover photo (of Gatehouse of Fleet) of what I consider perhaps the best book there is on Galloway, certainly the most readable, i.e. "Galloway: A Land Apart" (USA) by Andrew McCulloch. In the UK it's no longer that easy to come by, but you can try here if you're interested:

Galloway - A Land Apart by Andrew McCulloch

In any case, Allan Wright is a very talented photographer, we have had his postcards of Dumfries and Galloway on our walls for many years, and I am sure if you come to the region you soon will have too.

By the way, for general information on photography in Scotland, in particular if you are interested in taking photographs of nature in Scotland, take a look at the relevant page on my website: Scotland Secrets: Nature Photograph.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wild goose chase begins around Dumfries and Galloway in South West Scotland

The phrase "wild goose chase" takes on a different meaning in Dumfries and Galloway this March 2008.

It's an event to draw attention to the thousands of Arctic geese - six different varieties - that spend the winter on the mild shores of the Solway in South West Scotland.

The centre of attention is Britain's largest Local Natural Reserve (LNR) at Wigtown, 25 miles east of Stranraer.

Other sites include Caerlaverock, close to the famous triangular castle, as well as Mersehead, Loch Ken and the Ken-Dee Marshes, Threave (with another of Dumfries and Galloway's historic fortresses, this one on an island in the River Dee) and Loch Ryan.

The six geese varieties you can see in the area are the Barnacle goose, Canada goose, Brent goose, Pink-footed goose, Greylag goose and the Greenland white-fronted goose.


If you go to the Visitors' Room at the top of the proudly restored County Buildings in Wigtown, you can get a bird's eye view of the Wigtown Bay LNR (I get the same view out the front window!) or you can watch the geese up close from the Wigtown Harbour Hide for a closer look.

From Friday 14 to Sunday 16 March you can take part in a special events weekend.

If you come to the County Buildings at the crack of dawn (Saturday and Sunday at 5 a.m.) you can watch the dawn flight of geese as they leave their overnight roosting places in Wigtown Bay.

And at the Harbour Hide, binoculars and telescopes are being made available on these days, with knowledgeable volunteers on hand to help and answer questions.

There will be a series of goose related talks and films in the Wigtown County Buildings at 11 a.m. on Saturday 15 March and Sunday 16 March, and at 7 p.m. on Friday 14, Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 March.

Other related events around Dumfries and Galloway can be found here and here on Facebook any time.

For up to the minute details of all the free events you can also call (+44)(0)1988 402401 in Wigtown, or the Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) office in nearby Newton Stewart on (+44)(0)1671 401075, where you can also order a free new 24 page booklet "Welcome to Wildlife in Dumfries and Galloway".

For more information on birdwatching in Scotland, including where to get a free guide to the wildlife of Scotland, also see the dedicated page at my website Scotland Secrets: Bird Watching Vacations.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Extra Mile Scotland - a website acknowledging good service in Scottish tourism

Here's a great idea to help you get the best out of your visit to Scotland - and to encourage people in the Scottish tourism sector to provide the best service they can!

Two experts on the industry, Gilbert Summers and Johanna Campbell, have set up a website where anyone who has experienced out of the ordinary service of any kind anywhere in Scotland can leave a comment highlighting the fact, and can also provide a hyperlink to the website of the business they are praising for going the extra mile.

It is best explained in their own words:

"What exactly is Extra Mile Scotland?

Scotland has plenty of training schemes for those within the tourism industry. And there are lots of good places with lots of qualifications and awards. You’ll also meet plenty of people who are proud of both their country and their business. Taken altogether, there should be instances where it all comes together and you, the end user, are highly pleased by the experience. That’s what we want to hear about!

And, given that tourism is a ‘people business’, we also think that even the everyday can be illuminated and made special by someone who tries that bit harder.

That’s the Extra Mile. It’s all about situations where the service ‘exceeded expectation’. If you appreciated it, then this is the place to acknowledge it for the benefit of other visitors.

Click on the interactive Scotland map on the right to see who’s already there. You can view the comments here by location or by list.

Or let us know now who should be in. Remember, we’re not just looking for five-star places. We are interested in specific examples from any kind of venue where you’ve left feeling good about your treatment, for whatever reason.

What Extra Mile Scotland is not

By the way, we haven’t got this cool site designed so you can whinge about somewhere you didn’t like. Quite the opposite. Our philosophy for this site is that if it ain’t good, it ain’t in. (Though, to be fair, if you really do disagree with an entry you should still let us know.)"

So, if you have had a really good experience during a Scotland vacation, let everybody know.

Likewise, you can make good use of this site when planning your holiday in Scotland to make sure you receive excellent service everywhere you go!

Here's that link again:

Friday, May 18, 2007 - New Website For Bikers Features Southwest Scotland And Northern Ireland

Here's a nice example of regions working together that aren't even on the same island!

Rather than write a comment, I'll just let you read the press release from VisitScotland:

Another First for Dumfries & Galloway!

A new website for motorcyclists travelling around Dumfries & Galloway and then over to Northern Ireland has been launched and it’s the first time two countries have joined forces to promote to Motorcyclists across the UK.

The website includes maps and listings for 70 accommodation providers, who welcome bikers, and many of which are bikers themselves.

The site has over 1,300 miles of suggested routes, designed by local bikers, around Dumfries & Galloway and over into Northern Ireland. More routes will be added to the site in the future.

Dave Smith, Buccleuch Hotel, Moffat said: “It's so good to see local businesses working together to realise the potential of the bikers market".

Karen Wilson from VisitScotland said:

“We hope that bikers from Ireland and the rest of the UK will use the site when planning trips to Dumfries & Galloway. Accommodation Businesses featured on the site are there because they have a genuine desire to attract bikers. A lot of the businesses have special offers available for bikers through the site, and some businesses are members of our Bikers Welcome Scheme.

“Many of the owners are bikers themselves and are happy to provide safe parking or suggestions for great routes to see the area at its best. The site also has live traffic and weather information as well as an up to date list of bike related events.

“Our roads have always been popular with bikers and the recent good weather has added to this. There will be a lot of bikers travelling through the region in the next few weeks for events like the North West 200. We hope that they will use this site to find accommodation that they know will cater for their needs, or to find a good run they haven’t done before!”

Local bikers are invited to give suggestions for more gorgeous routes in the west which can be added to this website.

The site was developed after research carried out last year identified motorcyclists as a good market for accommodation providers. Dumfries & Galloway LEADER+ linked up with other LEADER companies in Northern Ireland to work on the project. Funds for the Scottish side of the initiative were provided by VisitScotland Dumfries & Galloway and LEADER+ Dumfries & Galloway.

Visit the site at or contact Helen Keys for further information at, Tel: +44(0)28 8674 7908

For further information, please contact:
Karen Leithead, External Relations Executive
Tel: +44(0)1750 23818
Mobile: +44(0)7785590123

Incidentally, Wigtown (Scotland's National Book Town) is not on any of the routes shown (yet), but close to two where they touch Newton Stewart. Deborah and Andrew Firth of Hillcrest House Guesthouse and Restaurant are particularly welcoming to motorcyclists and frequently have visitors on their way to or from Northern Ireland. I know this because we used to live across the road from them!

For more information on things to do in Scotland visit my site at

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Connage Highland Dairy

A connoisseur of fine Scottish cheeses pointed out this site to me as the "rising star in Scotland's cheese firmament" (the cheese that is, not the website!).

The Connage Highland Dairy is on the family farm Milton of Connage, which is fully organic, at Ardersier on Moray Firth - just up from Inverness, the battlefield of Culloden, and Cawdor (remember Shakespeare's Thane of Cawdor from Macbeth and Cawdor Castle, home of the Queen Mother?) .

Its 130 cows "feast" on "luscious clover pastures" to produce the milk used to make a range of handcrafted vegetarian cheeses using traditional techniques.

These include Clava (Brie style), Dunlop, Cromal (a semi hard cheese), Smoked Dunlop & Crowdie , of which, my expert Gordon tells me, Connage Dunlop is the star! (He says although he still prefers the Wester Lawrenceton Farm Sweet Milk, this runs it a close second!)


If Scottish food interests you, you should definitely check this out!

Connage Highland Dairy

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Whisky Tours in Scotland : West Coast Whisky Trail

I just came across this website promoting "The WhiskyCoast".

According to the BBC, sixteen whisky brands have joined forces to form a new company to promote the produce of coastal distilleries under this banner. They have been joined by three tour companies, 18 hotels, restaurants, golf courses and attractions.

The area being promoted goes from Campbelltown in the south to Fort William and the Isle of Skye in the north. The Whisky Coast is intended to encourage tourists to spend more time in and around the west of Scotland.

In addition to the website, a 30 page brochure has been created.

On the website you can find information about Islay/Jura/Campbeltown, Arran, Oban/Mull and Fort William/Isle of Skye, including details of how to get there.

Under "News & Events" you can sign up to their (e)mailing list and get a "whisky feed" (RSS of course, what were you thinking of....;-) ).

It says you can book a tour, though I couldn't find where (except to fill out the contact form perhaps), I also couldn't find where to order the brochure, but perhaps that is all coming, as of writing this the site - and the initiative - has just launched.

There is also an interactive tour map showing the 16 distilleries, each with its own brief description - check it out!

Check out my site Scotland Secrets too for other useful information about Scotland.

Whisky Tours in Scotland : West Coast Whisky Trail

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Complete Guide To: Book towns - Independent Online Edition > UK

I found this item on Book Towns after clicking on a news link on my own blog! Try it, you never know what you might find. Further down the article it had this to say about Scotland's National Book Town, but I suggest you go and read the article in its entirety, it's very interesting (at least if you're into books and small country towns...). Anyway, here's the extract about Wigtown:


Wigtown, in Galloway, became Scotland's National Book Town in 1998 ( The sign as you arrive says, "Wigtown. Welcome. Bide A While", and that is easy to do - it is a charming town, with pretty public gardens, colour-washed houses and the Galloway Inn. There is a fine County Hall, with a viewing room to observe the local celebrities: a pair of nesting ospreys. When they return to the nest, or when an egg is laid, a bell is rung.
Wigtown also has one of the biggest selections of sci-fi books in Scotland in a range of shops, including Transformer (01988 403 455). It has around 20 other bookshops, such as the children's-books specialist Box of Frogs (01988 402 255). The oldest bookshop in Wigtown - and the biggest second-hand bookshop in Scotland - is called simply The Bookshop (01988 402 499; Reading Lasses (01988 403 266) has the biggest women's-studies collection outside London. It also has a highly rated café with home-made soups, locally smoked salmon and Galloway cheeses - it even got a mention in the recent book by Alex Kapranos, lead singer of Franz Ferdinand.
Authors attending Wigtown's spring and autumn literary festivals tend to stay at the Kirroughtree, outside nearby Newton Stewart (01671 402 141; In town, there's Lochancroft, a self-catering cottage, owned by a bookshop owner (01988 402 499; Another good option is the Galloway House Estate in nearby Garlieston (01988 600 694; the organic farm there are three properties: Stables Bothy, Stable Cottage and High Lodge, a restored 18th-century gamekeeper's cottage (powered by a small windmill and solar panels).The Bladnoch Inn (01988 402 200;, opposite the distillery where festival events are held, serves home-cooked food.<

Actually there is also the Wigtown Ploughman in Wigtown for eating out or having a drink, The Grapes, and between Wigtown and Bladnoch is the Fordbank Country House Hotel, specialised in hunters and anglers. The town also has a couple of other cafés.

Go here for the rest of the article:

The Complete Guide To: Book towns - Independent Online Edition > UK

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Future Museum South West Scotland

My son was just on a school outing on the trail of Mary Queen of Scots just before she left Scotland forever, i.e. in our local region of Galloway.

While at Whithorn Priory he picked up a leaflet about the Future Museum of South West Scotland, which is a virtual museum. On the website it says:

"Future Museum provides free access to the museum collections of Ayrshire and Dumfries & Galloway and creates a valuable resource for people of all ages."

There are links to key areas that distinguish South West Scotland from the rest of Scotland, namely its people (Lives in Key Periods, Key People), industries (Key Industries, Social History) and arts (Arts, Crafts, Decorative Arts).

I haven't had a chance yet to look at the whole site, but under Lives in Key Periods I found quite a bit of interesting history, including about family names of the region. The Bruces and Stuart kings, among others, have their roots in South West Scotland.

Future Museum South West Scotland

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Webcam of Princes Street, Edinburgh

Follow this link to see the view from a webcam on Edinburgh's Princes Street, the main shopping thoroughfare. In the early hours of Hogmonay (local time in Edinburgh, the date shown above this post is US time), known elsewhere as New Year's Eve or in some countries Sylvester, you could see the preparations being made for the annual street party to celebrate the New Year Scottish style.

Whatever the time of year though, it's worth taking a look.

On the same page as this webcam you will also find links to other webcams all around Scotland, such as the Mull of Galloway, Scotland's southernmost point in Galloway.

Check out Scotland Secrets for tips on other aspects of Scotland.

Webcam of Princes Street, Edinburgh