We had a really good day out in Castle Douglas during our recent holiday to Kirkcudbright in Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland. Not too much crammed in, but not too slow either. We did a bit of shopping, had a nice lunch and an exquisite local beer, and then attempted to walk off the calories round the local National Trust haunt, Threave Gardens. The latter also involved sitting on some Belted Galloway cows. Naturally.
Here’s the lowdown…
An introduction to Castle Douglas: food town and more
Castle Douglas is an historic little market town about 20 minutes’ drive from Kirkcudbright, where we usually stay in the area. Like most of the towns in Dumfries and Galloway, it’s got a little highstreet, which is a perfect size for exploring on foot. It’s also surrounded by stunning countryside and coast.
Known for being a food town, it’s a proper foodie hotspot. It throws regular food fairs, has lots of places to eat and there are plenty of independent shops selling local produce. There’s also a brewery, which makes some of the best beer either of us has ever tasted. Regular readers will know that pretty much all our holidays revolve around eating and drinking, so it’s no surprise that I’ve always liked Castle Douglas.
As well as stuffing your face, there’s plenty of other things to do in Castle Douglas. Namely my other passion that isn’t eating: shopping. It reminds me of places like Shrewsbury and Kirkby Lonsdale, full of cute independent shops where you can get gorgeous homewares that will make you want to go home and redecorate your entire house.
Shopping in Castle Douglas
Obviously, we only spent a morning/early afternoon going round the shops this time. So there are loads more that I’ve not mentioned – especially food-wise, because we couldn’t take much of that home with us. Castle Douglas is really good for food shopping though – if you were staying somewhere self-catering locally, you could have an absolute feast every night.
Homewares and gifts
Angels’ Portion – This is probably my favourite – it sells ridiculously beautiful home things. We got a cushion with a wintery scene on it of all sorts of woodland creatures frolicking in the snow. So cute. Also, we had to buy a Scandinavian-inspired picture frame. I say had to because it happened to be the perfect size for the print we purchased in Gatehouse of Fleet. I love it when a plan comes together.
Country House Interiors – If you’re after a tartan cushion with a Highland cow on it (and let’s face it, who isn’t?) this is where to go.
Tessera – Another interiors shop, also selling bags/scarves/jewellery. I spotted a really cute cheese knife set with handles in the shape of mice in there once. It would be great if I wasn’t the kind of person who just claws cheese apart and directly into my mouth with my bare hands.
Designs Gallery & Cafe – Also where we had lunch (scroll down for that). Above the café is a little shop selling all kinds of unique homewards, arts and gifts. Honestly one of the prettiest shops I’ve ever been in.
Clience Studio – A visit to Castle Douglas wouldn’t be complete without popping into local artist Angela Lawrence’s shop. She paints stunning coastal landscapes of the local area. We’re mildly obsessed with our placemats and coasters that we’ve collected on our last two trips.
In House Chocolates by Design – They sell locally handmade, delicious chocolate. Hilariously, it’s listed under ‘Nightlife in Castle Douglas’ on TripAdvisor. I’m picturing the scenes now. People pouring out of Castle Douglas’s pubs and bars at closing time – are they off for a greasy kebab? No. They’re off for an artisan hot chocolate.
AD Livingston & Sons Furniture – An antique furniture shop, with an enticing little alleyway entrance. It’s lined with some lovely pieces of furniture and wicker baskets.
Hazel’s Antiques [no website] – A higgledy-piggledy shop down a side road. You could spend ages rummaging through their second-hand bits and bobs. It’d be great for getting some old chairs to upcycle into shabby chic masterpieces.
Where to have lunch in Castle Douglas
We discovered this fantastic café-under-a-shop, Designs Gallery & Cafe, when hunting out a lunch spot on a visit a few years ago. It’s one of those places where you can get a proper lunch-sized portion of food that features something green. Often a struggle, am I right? If you’ve read our Kirkcudbright post, you’ll know that we were on holiday with my mum and dad this time. All four of us had really nice lunches – but I have to give my milkshake a special shoutout. 10/10 for that. I’m obsessed with plain vanilla milkshakes but only allow myself one a year because life is cruel and fat. So this was a momentous occasion.
After lunch, we popped into Earth’s Crust Bakery to get some takeaway sweet treats for later on. Now, Castle Douglas isn’t exactly the kind of place you’d expect to wander into a very trendy (dare I use the word ‘hipster’?) bakery. But lo and behold… Earth’s Crust has mismatched, retro furniture and the kind of vibe you’d find in somewhere in Manchester’s Northern Quarter or Liverpool’s Bold Street. It’s brilliant. As well as mouth-watering cakes/pastries, they do their own sourdough and all kinds of other bready delights. I would not advise stalking their Facebook page if you’re hungry.
Drink local beer at Sulwath Brewery
Sulwath Brewery is an absolute treat. Unlike our usual beery tipple of American-style craft IPA, Sulwath beer is traditional British bitter. And it’s exceedingly high quality.
You can find the brewery tucked away down a side road (handily round the corner from the bakery). It’s sort of charmingly unpolished. There’s always a table of locals by the bar. That’s the kind of vibe you’re after.
Their beers are all named after local stuff – for example, The Criffel. That’s a hill in Dumfries and Galloway that looks like a massive mountain due to its location – a bit of an optical illusion.
You can go on a tour of the brewery every Monday and Friday at 1pm. Oh and you can buy bags of beer to take home, which we always do – and we save some of The Grace (our favourite) for with Christmas dinner. Luckily, you can order their beers online too for all the times you ‘forget’ and drink it in August.
Threave Garden and Estate
After a drink, it was about time for some National Trust action. When isn’t it?
Threave Garden is a five-minute drive from Castle Douglas centre. As regular readers know, we both hate driving and avoid it at all costs but this holiday was car-heavy. However, walking/public transport is always at the back of my mind. I thought that this one you could easily get to on foot. It’s only a mile and a half from the town and I’m fairly sure the road had a pavement the whole way, including going past a rather nice loch.
Anyway, Threave is a really good National Trust garden, probably one of my favourites. It’s divided into different themes, including water features, a walled garden, a rose garden, woodland and rockeries. The garden is looked after by students at the National Trust for Scotland’s School of Heritage Gardening, so that must be why it’s so varied.
The shop at Threave is also really good – loads of scarves/mugs etc that would make good birthday/Christmas presents for your mum. There’s a little area outside selling plants. Obviously a cafe too, because this is the National Trust and people need scones.
Oh and there’s Threave House. I can’t remember if I’ve ever been in it over the years to be honest – I always prefer gardens to houses. I seem to remember reading that it’s by appointment only for a guided tour – good if the weather was crap.
There’s also plenty of wildlife (namely bats and wildfowl) at Threave, not that we’ve managed to see any on our last few trips. But that’s okay, because the pièce de résistance is obviously the family of model Belted Galloways.
If you read my Kirkcudbright travel guide last week, you’ll know that ‘Belties’ are the local flavour of cow and are a must-see on any trip to Dumfries and Galloway. So if you don’t manage to meet any real ones, you still have the option of a selfie with a less mobile version of them at Threave. They are specifically designed to be straddled by 30-something humans and are definitely not a feature for children.
Castle Douglas, 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 Castle Douglas, we drive from Kirkcudbright and it takes just over half an hour. I won’t patronise you with a link to Google maps, but it’s easy enough.
Where to stay
There are places to stay in Castle Douglas itself, but I can’t recommend anywhere personally as I’ve never stayed there. We always stay in the nearby town of Kirkcudbright, which is an ideal base for days out to places like Kippford and Rockcliffe and of course, Castle Douglas. I like the Selkirk Arms there, but see our Kirkcudbright travel guide for more info.
When to go
We went in July this time and got lucky with the 31-degree weather. Tropical Scotland! As I’ve said in my other posts in this little Dumfries and Galloway series, nowhere gets too heaving with tourists. Castle Douglas is no exception. Obviously at the height of summer there are more people around, but it’s always acceptable. My inner radar for screaming children didn’t go off once this holiday.
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If you enjoyed this post, you might also like others in my Dumfries and Galloway collection:
- a Kirkcudbright travel guide
- a walk between Rockcliffe and Kippford
- a day in Gatehouse of Fleet and Mossyard beach
- a secret beach: Carrick Bay
- visiting Sweetheart Abbey in New Abbey.
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