We had a day out in Gatehouse of Fleet and nearby Mossyard beach during our recent holiday to Kirkcudbright in Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland. It’s quite a good combo for a day out, because it’s always good to do a town in the morning, eat, and then do something beachy/rural later. We were away with my parents for this trip and this is the fourth part of our little Dumfries and Galloway mini series. You can also read about Kirkcudbright, Rockcliffe and Kippford, and Castle Douglas if you’re interested.
Here’s what there is to get up to on a day in and around Gatehouse…
An introduction to Gatehouse of Fleet
Gatehouse of Fleet used to be the industrial centre of South West Scotland, with mills, its own port, and all that kind of thing going down. It’s quite small, with one main high street. It’s quiet, surrounded by rolling hills, and on the banks of the river Fleet. The kind of place you can stroll round at your own pace. But like Kirkcudbright, it has an arty vibe, with creative events and exhibitions going on, especially in the Mill on the Fleet (more on that later).
Like everywhere in this part of the world, it’s really pretty, with colourful rows of houses lining the streets (Only spoilt by ugly cars. Standard). The main road leads up to the clock tower, backed by stunning scenery. Nearby Cally Palace (a posh golfy hotel) has a woodland, with a chance to spot red squirrels if you miss them in Rockcliffe.
You can find the original gatehouse of Gatehouse of Fleet (!) by the Murray Arms at the end of the main road. Oh and there’s a castle nearby, Cardoness Castle, which I don’t think I’ve ever actually been to even though we’ve been going here since I was a child. Disgraceful.
At this point, I should also keep my mum happy by saying that our ancestors are originally from Gatehouse of Fleet, which is how we know the area. I’m sure she would happily write an entire spiel for me about family history and who lived where in Gatehouse, but I’ll spare you that torture.
The Mill on the Fleet
So, as mentioned above, the Mill on the Fleet is the big deal in Gatehouse. This is where we always go when we’re there, and where we started off our day this time.
It’s a former textile mill, now converted into a really good visitor centre. It’s set in an idyllic scene on the banks of the river. The best view/photo opportunity is from the bridge. If you’re lucky, you can strategically angle the camera to avoid getting anyone sat outside the cafe in the shot. People are always trying to ruin photographs by existing, aren’t they.
The visitor centre itself is all about the history of Gatehouse of Fleet, but more about the people/society than boring stuff about kings etc. They also have one of those scale models of the town and surrounding area. The whole thing is really well done. It’s displayed over several floors, with lots of natural light and whitewashed walls. It feels almost Scandinavian as you’re walking round, which if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know is definitely a good thing.
Also inside the mill is the local tourist information centre, an amazing bookshop and a gift shop (more on these further down). Oh and a really good cafe, because everything has to come back to food on this blog doesn’t it.
The Mill on the Fleet cafe
Wikipedia informs me that Gatehouse of Fleet has the second oldest average population of towns in Scotland, which must account for the quality of the cake in the cafe to some extent. It is a truth universally acknowledged that old people can sniff out a decent Victoria sponge from several kilometres away.
Fighting through hordes of aggressive OAPs, we managed to have a really nice soup/frittata combo for lunch, followed by said excellent cake. Great buttercream:jam ratio going on there.
You can sit outside by the river, which is really good if you like being mugged by sparrows in 31-degree sunshine like we were. Summer is my favourite day to visit Scotland.
Inevitable purchases in the Mill on the Fleet gift shop
Going off on a mild tangent here, but why are museum/gallery gift shops always so good? I often enjoy them more than the actual thing I’m visiting. This one is particularly exquisite. It has loads of local artists’ work, postcards, prints, jewellery, scarves and the like. You could spend hours (and a fortune) in there.
Chris got some lovely vintage-style postcards and I bought this hilarious print by a local artist called Little Dot Creations. She makes all her artwork from dots. It’s ridiculous how many brilliant and quirky artists there are in D&G. I then managed to get a perfectly sized frame for it the next day from Castle Douglas. What a time to be alive. I’m looking at it right now as I’m typing this – it has pride of place in our new kitchen.
Garvellan Books: above the Mill on the Fleet
What a treasure trove Garvellan Books is. It’s on the top floor of the mill and not only does it have that lovely secondhand book smell, but also fairylights everywhere. What more do you want?
I’ve picked up some fantastic old horsey books from here over the years, but this time I got ‘The best of BB: an anthology‘ in perfect condition. If you’re wondering, and I know you weren’t, BB was an author who wrote about the countryside and nature in ye olden days. He did children’s books but also other stuff and I’m mildly obsessed with him. So this was a good find, and like in all the best book shops, poking round looking through books was all part of the joy.
10/10, would rummage again.
Some pretty houses
Dragging ourselves out of the Mill on the Fleet bubble, we wandered up the main road to check everything was still as it always is. You know how it is when you go back to places over time. Sometimes they change things.
We headed up to my favourite area, by the Murray Arms pub. I’m obsessed with these gorgeous little cottages there. That blue door with the blue sky above! I wish I could grow something round our front door like that.
This part of Gatehouse feels like you could be walking into the past. You can mooch further up this side road and find more lovely old houses and gardens to gawp at, too.
A secret garden
We then headed back down the main road and nipped into this little bit.
If you worked in Gatehouse of Fleet, this is where you’d bring your lunch on a nice day. The best place I can eat my lunch is a train station carpark, so…
This lovely, pleasingly symmetrical garden is tucked away off the main road through this archway. The back of the garden goes down into some woodland where you can explore/walk.
Shops in Gatehouse of Fleet
Although it’s only small, there are a few shops definitely worth a look in Gatehouse:
- Galloway Lodge is fairly big – just over the road from the Mill on the Fleet – and sells all sorts of gifts and food.
- Fleet Gallery a bit further away from the centre has local art and crafty gifts.
- We got some really nice rustic tea light holders from The Potting Shed florist a few years ago.
When you’ve wrung Gatehouse of Fleet dry, there are plenty of beaches to explore locally. A good one is nearby Mossyard beach.
We only found Mossyard in relatively recent years, even though we’ve been going to the area forever. Maybe because it’s a little bit hidden because you have to drive/walk down a farm track to get to it.
Unlike the wonderfully deserted option of Carrick Bay or the quieter Kippford/Rockcliffe walk, Mossyard is a fairly popular beach on a warm day. I’m sure if you time your visit for early or late on in the day or on a cooler day, you could get it quiet and free of children (always a factor for me!).
It’s quite sheltered in parts, with good areas for a sit on a windy day. There are some brilliant views, punctuated by boats bobbing about. Lovely stuff. Like Carrick, it’s mostly sandy and has some good rockpools for rootling for crabs.
Gatehouse of Fleet and Mossyard beach, Scotland: useful information
How to get there (and away)
Sadly, we break our no-driving rule when it comes to a trip to Dumfies & Galloway. To get to Gatehouse of Fleet, we drive from Kirkcudbright and it takes about 15 minutes. I won’t patronise you with a link to Google maps, but it’s easy enough. Mossyard beach is then a 10-minute drive from Gatehouse.
Where to stay
There are places to stay in Gatehouse itself, including a really nice-looking B&B called the Ship Inn. I can’t recommend anywhere personally as I’ve never stayed there, but that would probably be the one I’d try. We always stay in the nearby town of Kirkcudbright, which is an ideal base for days out.
When to go
We went in July this time and got lucky with the 31-degree weather. As I’ve said in my other posts in this little Dumfries and Galloway series, nowhere gets too heaving with tourists. Gatehouse of Fleet is no exception. In fact, it was probably the quietest place we visited on this particular trip, which was lovely.
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If you liked this post, you might also like others in my Dumfries and Galloway series:
- a Kirkcudbright travel guide
- a walk between Rockcliffe and Kippford
- a perfect day in Castle Douglas
- a secret beach: Carrick Bay
- visiting Sweetheart Abbey in New Abbey.
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