Headline photo

Headline photo
Rockcliffe and Kippford from South Glen Brae: Ed Iglehart [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Introductory text

Kippford and Rockcliffe are on the East Stewartry Coast, an unspoilt National Scenic Area with two other NSAs in close proximity. It is in Dumfries & Galloway, South West Scotland, a region known for it's wonderful scenery, biodiversity, turbulent history, smugglers and black and white 'belted' cattle known as Galloway Belties. This stretch of coastline has many names. Known locally as the Colvend Coast or the 'Secret Coast' (due to the peace and tranquility) it is often referred to as the 'Scottish Riviera' due to it being the holiday resort of choice for Victorian millionaires and having a Gulf Stream influenced microclimate: evidenced by palm trees in some gardens. Castle Douglas, the food town is a short drive away and Kirkcudbright, the Artists Town is over the next headland.

This a scenic and unique part of the world and we started the blog to share the experience of living in this wonderful place. We hope that it will be of interest to others who live here and give those planning to visit the area a taste of all it has to offer.

The blog has a correspondent in both Kippford and Rockcliffe village, you can also follow their Twitter feeds on the right of the page. If you would like to get involved we look forward to hearing from you.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

A Recipe for Christmas ....

Galloway Louche Cake - its so easy.

Following on from the success of this fridge cake at our recent Macmillan coffee morning I thought it would be nice to share it with you. Not the cheapest cake to make but a small piece with a coffee makes for special me time and don't even think about the calories! Keeps in the fridge for about five days but I guarantee it won't be around that long.

I have renamed this recipe to give it a local twist and tried to make it using mainly local ingredients as Dumfries and Galloway has such a rich larder. You can pick up all the ingredients in Castle Douglas which has been awarded status of a Food Town. Here you will find many individual retailers selling and producing quality local products.

Galloway Louche Cake

180 grams of raisins
180 grams of undead glacé cherries halved
225 grams of Irvings Shortbread or digestives in 1cm nibs
300 grams dark 70 percent chocolate from In House Chocolates in pieces
120 ml of fresh squeezed orange juice
180 grams diced Loch Arthur I salted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons golden syrup
Icing sugar to dust

23cm square tin lined with baking paper.

1. Simmer orange juice and raisins in a small pan until juice absorbed. Leave to cool.
2. Slowly melt butter, chocolate and syrup in a bowl over a saucepan with simmering water. Stir.
Add raisins biscuits and cherries and coat in the mixture.
3. Spoon the mixture over the base of the lined tin and smooth down/ flatten. Cover with cling film and pop in fridge for a few hours until hard.
4. Remove from tin and dust with icing sugar when serving.Use a sharp knife to cut in to squares or fingers.


Our local suppliers.

Chocolate from In House Chocolates 128 King Street, Castle Douglas, Manufacturers of handmade chocolates. All truly made by hand in their workshop. A wide range of chocolates, truffles , bars and lot lots more.
Biscuits from Irvings producers of traditional homestyle baking based in Castle Douglas. Making a range of biscuits, tray bakes, loaves and sponges.
Butter from Loch Arthur Creamery in Beeswing a working Community which includes men and women with learning disabilities.

Credit: Original recipe from Country Living magazine some years ago.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Scoffing yummy cakes for charity - how brilliant is that?

The blog thanks two local ladies (girls?) for their enterprise and initiative in organising a Macmillan Coffee Morning last week.

Linda of Millbrae House, Rockcliffe and Lynn of Birchlea Lodge in Kippford got together and held a Macmillan "Worlds Biggest Coffee Morning" event last Thursday in Rockcliffe.

The cakes, scones, cup cakes, tray bakes and cookies all laid out... where do I start?
The Macmillan cancer charity is one close to all our hearts as there can not be many who are untouched by the distress of this indiscriminate disease. As it says on the Macmillan website 

"Cancer is the toughest fight most of us will ever face. Macmillan is here to make sure no one has to go through it alone. Whatever you raise, you will be helping to improve the lives of people affected by cancer across the UK."

A huge thank you also goes to the friends, neighbours and family who came along and donated, the people who donated items for the fabbie Raffle Prize and especially the two spouses in the kitchen who washed and dried with gusto! Well done chaps, nice one!

The cakes were made by Linda, Lynn and their Mums (aren't Mums brilliant!) and were absolutely delicious.

Around 23 people came despite the rain and enjoyed the scrummy home baking and fairtrade coffee. Our local ukulele group DUKES also supported the event by purchasing raffle tickets and Colvend Shop sold some of the cakes too. These, including the very generous donations and raffle ticket sales at the coffee morning, raised an amazing total of £300.49  for Macmillan. 
My favourite was the chocolate Louche (forground)
but I managed a slice the carrot cake on the stand too. Top marks!
The raffle, a beautifully arranged and decorated box stuffed full of locally made items and produce was drawn on Monday evening and won by Mrs. H. Congratulations!

Locally made and produced items for the Raffle were donated by friends and family. 
Lynn and Linda were like whirling dervishes, the perfect hostesses, greeting everyone personally and making sure everyone was topped up with coffee, cake and lots of chat. It was a lovely morning and all the better for being in aid of a good cause. 

If you would like to donate to Macmillan please click here www.macmillan.org.uk/. Thank you.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Spring Fling Round Up along the Colvend Coast

Memories of Spring Fling 2012
Part 1.

For those of you who were unable to do the rounds at this years Spring Fling we sent out our team of trusty local correspondents who shared their opinions with us. Here is just a taste of the 57 Spring Fling artists who opened their studios.  With the blog having a Rockcliffe and Kippford focus, these are the artists and studios easiest to access from our villages, we would love to have travelled further afield across the region but there's always next year! 

Phillipa Sinclair: Colvend Village Hall
My first visit of this years Spring Fling was to our very own Philipa Sinclair who lives in Rockcliffe. Philipa's signature colour palette was much in evidence as was the European influences on her work. Philipa's paintings, which also include many local scenes and motifs are bold and vibrant and I noticed that she had done some exciting designs on fabrics and cushions which I had not seen before. 

Philippa Sinclair's work displayed at Colvend Village Hall

Philippa, never afraid to experiment, had also achieved some wonderful effects with subtle metallic highlights in some of her work. However, the paintings which really caught my eye, and that of several other visitors, were several exquisitely simple flower studies. Confident and graphic yet conversely subtle and delicate they reminded me of Japanese flower studies and I so wished I could have taken them home with me.
Philippa's website
Philippa is currently exhibiting at Castle Douglas Library Hall until the end of the month.

Phil Mcmenemy: The Gallery, Lauriston
I was introduced to the work of, Twitter addict, Phil at the CatStrand earlier in the year and fell in love with his almost abstract botanic studies so I was keen to see a larger body of his work and hot footed it over to his delightful gallery. The gallery is a converted Galloway barn and with it's simple white walls, slate floor and exposed beams is an ideal gallery space in which to showcase Phil's stunning prints. I was like a kid in a sweet shop, there are so many evocative views and landscapes. Being reared on the Narnia Chronicles, The Little White Horse and Tolkien, Phil's woodland scenes take me straight back to the lands of myth and legend to a time when they were populated by faerie folk. I fell in love with a large black and white print of a close up of the muzzle of gorgeous Galloway cow but it was a bit large to smuggle out under my coat (and I am sure Phil can run faster than me!)
Phil Mcmenemy teamed up with local songwriter and musician Zoe Bestel for Spring Fling on Friday afternoon

The afternoon turned out to be a rare treat as my visit coincided with an unplugged set by local musical phenomenon 14 year old singer/songwriter Zoe Bestel. Zoe, who accompanies her haunting lyrics with a ukulele, sat surrounded by an entranced and very appreciative audience in the corner of Phil's studio and played a selection of her own work and a couple of inspirational cover versions. As I joined the queue to buy her latest single I was touched by her natural confidence and easy way with people. I am sure we will all be seeing and hearing a lot more from her. We are delighted to be told that Zoe's "Just Another Girl" has been short listed to win a Young Song Writers’ Competition. The competition is held annually and is run by an Anti-violence Against Women team here in our local region of Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland You can hear her song and vote here  Just Another Girl

As if the afternoon hadn't been memorable enough I can't fail to mention the awesome afternoon tea and cakes in the Lauriston Village Hall. A choice of three cakes selected from a whole A4 sheet list and either coffee or tea. This must surely be heaven! Thank you ladies.

Phil's website

John Threlfall: Rockcliffe Gallery
No Spring Fling is complete for us without a visit to see John's work. John, deservedly voted Bird Artist of the Year 2007, also lives in Rockcliffe so can often be seen out and about, particularly at the RSPB Mersehead Reserve where he gets lots of inspiration. 
John Threlfall at work at the Rockcliffe Gallery on Sunday morning
Two things struck me at John's show this year: first there was an interesting mix of media with some exiting new work using both oil pastels and acrylic paints. Two paintings in particular used this to great effect, Puffins and Eider Ducks, both of which John has had made into very accessible giclee prints. The second was the stronger use of colour. Influenced by the local landscape John's earlier work adopted a more muted palette but since his visit to a Tiger Sanctuary in India where he painted the local wildlife, his palette includes stronger bolder colours giving his work a new edge. His signature bird studies were much in evidence and sadly for me (but fantastic for John) my favourite painting of two Lapwings sold to his first visitor on the first day of Spring Fling. I did not go away empty handed though. Being unable to chose between the strong graphic image of a Tern in water colour or the detailed subtlety of two Rooks executed in pastel I solved the conundrum by buying them both!

John's website

Christine Smith: Barnbarroch Pottery, Barnbarroch
The creative talents of Christine Smith are showcased at this working pottery which once housed the local school. Christine's unique style and quirky humour produce some fascinating and distinctive pieces which seem to draw on local influences and medieval bestiaries in equal measure. The shop glows as the lights reflect the subtle pigments and glossy glazes of the pieces ranging from simple domestic ware to complex and monumental flights of fancy. On Monday afternoon the pottery car park was jam packed, a tribute to the wide appeal and enduring popularity of Christines work. The pottery is open all year round and has a shop where Christines work can be viewed and purchased.

The Barnbarroch Pottery website

Spring Fling is planned from the 25th to 27th May. Part two of Memories of Spring Fling will be posted soon.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Rockcliffe to Kippford - Kippford to Rockcliffe Walk

The best ever family walk... (in our humble opinion) is the Rockcliffe to Kippford - Kippford to Rockcliffe Walk which takes in the famous Jubilee Path.

We have fond memories of doing this walk as youngsters with stop offs at shell beach and, what was then the Post Office and general store and now is, The Ark for ices creams! It is ideal for everyone with (on the whole) fairly level, man made paths or tarmac and not much in the way of hills. You can do it in either direction but we recommend starting from Rockcliffe as there is a good sized car park (and you can get an ice cream at The Ark half way round!).

Rockcliffe to Kippford Return - Jubilee Path
Time Allow 25 Minutes each way. Distance Approx 2.5 miles
Shoes Sturdy Comfortable the path is usually dry in Summer odd muddy patch during Winter. Path made up of grit/gravel and later tarmac.
A lovely walk with beautiful views out to sea and across the estuary on land managed and owned by the National Trust of Scotland. Lots of memorial seating on  the way where you can relax and enjoy the views. The Jubilee Path has been a favourite for many years and was named to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee

Pier at Rockcliffe overlooked by the Mote of Mark
Park at Rockcliffe car park Grid ref. NX847537 walk around the bay and take the path to the left of the public toilets. Pass through two kissing gates and in to meadow. Follow the path left and over a small wooden bridge. At gravel lane turn left you will see a gate on the bend on your left this takes you to the little pier with lovely views of Rough Island.

The path follows the shoreline at this point and passes two lovely, typically local granite Victorian cottages
Continue on gravel road through gate at cattle grid and straight on past the cottages with the Estuary on your left. After a slow incline you will see a cottage ahead of you,  take the right turn signed Kippford on a carved granite boulder. (see below)

Boulder Signpost for Kippford as modelled by Murphy
Follow this path, trying to suppress your curiosity and exploring all the little trails leading off from it. ( I always take a different path and always seem to end up in Kippford - although in different parts of the village. ) In our eight years of running the B&B and recommending this walk regularly we have not lost any guests on this walk day or night - yet!!

The path winds through National Trust for Scotland woodland 
After a few minutes the path splits, follow it to the left and down the hill. Its a little rocky here but the scenery at the bottom is beautiful. You descend to a T junction which is the private (no-through) road to Rough Firth (pedestrians and residents vehicles only )
In front of you there is a lovely shell beach and a bench a good place to rest a wee while. (the left turn is a dead-end but worth a peek as it takes you to the other end of the shell beach and the start of the causeway across to Rough Isle) 
Note: Dog owners please be aware that although very pretty, the shells can cut soft paws! 
Shell Beach Kippford looking South towards Hestan Island
At this point (signpost pictured above) take the road right and follow it in to the village. 

View looking up the Estuary from Rough Firth, North towards Palnackie  
Funny Faces along the side of the road at Rough Firth

As you walk along the road you will see funny statues and amusing sculptures in a local artists garden on your right. A favourite with for children of all ages.

The yacht club pontoon and moorings, Kippford - Urr Estuary
When you reach  the newly renovated bus shelter and The Ark, you are at in Kippford, the halfway point of your walk. 
If you fancy a break or need sustenance for the return trip, you can stroll along the sea wall to The Anchor or The Mariner for lunch or pop into The Ark a lovely little coastal themed gift shop  which also does takeaway coffee, sandwiches, cake and ice cream.

From here take the road up the steep hill (this is the only steep bit, promise! Its a tarmac road, only a short hill and has good footing) and follow the Jubilee Path back to Rockcliffe past The Muckle and the Mote of Mark. This path has lovely glimpses of the Estuary, Hestan and Rough Island and several benches along the way. I love it as it changes with the seasons.

The National Trust for Scotland own and manage the area. Removing invading sycamore and creating habitats with the felled timber. Standing dead wood in the alder woodland creates opportunities for the great spotted woodpecker and the oak woodlands support more than 280 bugs and beasties along with jays and red squirrels who collect the acorns.

Photos taken with my Nikon D130 all photographs copyright: L Birdsall, Millbrae House
NTS copy taken from leaflet 'Mudflats to Meadows'

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Solway artist Ailsa Black

Being huge fans of Ailsa Black's whimsical work we invited her to write a post for the blog. Her work is characterised by wonderful skills of observation, an amazing attention to detail and a unique perspective on the world around her.  In short... we love her quirky, contemporary naïve  style which really distills life on the Solway Coast and connects with those who love the area. This is one of my own particular favorites (but then again being a Collie owner I am biased!): 

Pep talk by Ailsa Black

Ailsa lives on the Solway Coast here in Dumfries and Galloway and it is from the countryside, coast and seascapes of the area that she takes her inspiration.  

Ailsa describes her work as an expression of Scottish contemporary rural life and she focuses on the interaction of landscape, animals, birds and people that surround her.  She is interested in the use of these core influences, which merge with her imagination, to convey a light-hearted, quirky and whimsical narrative on aspects of rural life. 

Hoppity poppity by Ailsa Black

 Her works, in acrylic paint on canvas board, utilise a limited, but bold, palette of signature colours and simplify form to bring a modern decorative clarity and simplicity to the image. 

 So, over to Ailsa

I'm very lucky to live in a tiny coastal hamlet in South West Scotland, it has a few houses, a ruined pier, a phone box and a pub.  My studio is in the converted attic and looks onto hills and fields at the back and the sea at the front.  Out the front I often can see porpoises, seals, boats and sometimes otters, but mostly I see people walking their dogs and wandering about quite unaware that they are being watched.  
Salty seadog by Ailsa Black

Out the back of the house I can watch cows and sheep.  Everywhere there are birds of all shapes and sizes.  I feature all these aspects in my work...what more inspiration would you need?

I have always loved drawing and painting and would do so at every opportunity throughout my life.  I was lucky to have a couple of great art teachers at both primary and secondary school.  When I left school I went to art school and had a great tutor there.  Also my mum is a keen painter and I remember having to sit for her while I was quite young so she could draw me, she has always been very encouraging.

I have a need to capture and express my experience of life and the things that surround me.  I try to add a touch of humour and sometimes a word or two of Scots to my painting titles.  Life is too precious not to try and have some fun!
Moonlit escapade by Ailsa Black


Ailsa sells cards and prints to trade at over 30 outlets across the UK.  She has exhibited paintings at the Royal Glasgow Institute and the Paisley Art Institute.  She has completed many private commissions and her work is increasingly being collected across the UK and internationally.

You can see Ailsa’s work at www.ailsablack.com  or follow her at

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Shambellie Autumn Fair - update

A date for your diary...

You are invited to an Autumn Fair at Shambellie Walled Garden and Nursery (New Abbey) on Saturday 22nd September.

Image courtesy of: http://www.shambelliewalledgarden.co.uk/

Shambellie Walled Garden, until 2005, a derelict and weed-choked space, (being abandoned in the 1960's) has been brought to vibrant life by dedicated enthusiasts and  is now a paradise regained and will, I am sure, prove a lovely setting for the Fair which runs from:

10.30 - 4.00pm

Apart from the lovely gardens there will be:
Floral Display Demonstrations
Hand Crafted Gifts
Vintage Finds
Home-made Notebooks
Home Produce
Girt ideas... and more!

Coffee and shortbread served all day!

For more information contact: Sheila Cameron 01387 850463


Tuesday, 21 August 2012

A visit to Rough Island Bird Sanctuary: National Trust for Scotland

To me, what makes the Urr Estuary so pretty and distinctive is not only the backdrop of hills (the highest in the area being Screel) but also the two small islands just sitting off shore.

Hestan, the larger of the two has a lighthouse and is the furthest from Rockcliffe and Kippford. Rough Island is the closest to the two villages and is an 8 hectare bird sanctuary; part of the 120 acres owned and managed around Rockcliffe and Kippford by the National Trust for Scotland. The NTS owned areas around Rockcliffe can been seen marked in lilac on this OS map. They are chiefly along the coast to the North West and South East of the village, including Rough Island Bird Sanctuary and described by the NTS as:

" A network of small paths, running through a mosaic of woodland, meadow and heather-topped granite outcrops, offer walkers fantastic views out to Rough Island and the Solway."

 More information can be found here: NTS Rockcliffe

Looking towards Rough Island and Castle Point from Kippford
The National Trust for Scotland protect this acreage and care for the meadows. Their management of these i.e. cutting, raking and grazing. (You will see Highland Cattle grazing the meadow near the Mote of Mark in the Winter months ) over a period of time has resulted in a rich and diverse mix of wildflowers and grasses. In turn these meadows are the home to many mammals, birds and invertabrates. 

These photographs were taken on an evening walk out to Rough Island in early August. We always look forward to the end of the bird breeding season when it's OK to walk out there at low tide. (Always check the tides before setting off as they come in very swiftly)

(PLEASE NOTE:To prevent disturbance to courting,nesting and breeding birds please do not visit the island during May, June and July.)

Shell Beach at Kippford
Although you can wade through the mud direct from Rockcliffe beach, there is a causeway across to the island which runs from the shell beach along from Rough Firth, Kippford. You can see the causeway in the photo below. I have been accused in the past of only photographing the area with the tide in. I think its just as beautiful with the tide out as it takes on a different beauty. It's this dynamic vista that makes the area so appealing. 
Causeway to Rough Island

A big feature of the Estuary is the intertidal mud flats created by sediment washed in from the sea. This mud is inhabited by a large number of invertabrates which adapt to live in this environment. Its these worms crabs and shellfish that provide a meal for ducks and waders.

Looking from Rough Island towards Rockcliffe
Once on the island, thanks to the diligence of the NTS, it is pleasant to stroll up the spine of the island to the stone cairn, a jumbled pile of rocks assembled, no doubt, by many generations. This is a lovely spot to sit and look out to Hestan Island, Castle Point and across to the Cumbrian Coast with the peaks of the Lake District behind. Hidden in the cairn is a (pre-Geocaching) time capsule, a battered biscuit tin full of pens, notes, tickets, business cards etc., that you can add your own messages to or leave small mementoes in. The children love it so if you discover it please make sure it is left intact and sealed for others to discover and enjoy.

From the cairn, Rough Island: the Urr Estuary towards Kippford with the Muckle to the Right
From the cairn, Rough Island; looking North West
From the cairn, Rough Island; Hestan Island

The Island is an important place for nesting waders due to its limited accessibility resulting in less disturbance for nesting birds. On the Island's beaches Oystercatchers and Ringed Plover scrape out shallow depressions in order to nest and can lay up to four eggs. In order to protect these birds, whose eggs are hard to spot amongst the pebbles and shingle, it is not permitted to visit the  the Island in May, June and July.

The National Trust for Scotland is a charitable organisation with its aim to promote, conserve and manage Scotlands natural and cultural heritage. You can find out more and can join at:

All photographs taken with my Nikon. Copyright L. Birdsall
Source: Mudflats to Meadows Rockcliffe Dumfries and Galloway produced by National Trust for Scotland

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Rockcliffe to Castlehill Point: A walk for spectacular views over the Solway

Rockcliffe to Castlehill Circular Walk 
2 miles allow 1hr to 1.15 hrs
Footwear: Sturdy/walking boots or wellies when it's been raining.

This is a pretty walk where you follow the coast so you have great views at all times. I did it at 7pm and the sun came out. The wild flowers were beautiful. The path was a little slippy underfoot, but it had been a wet day. Not my best photography as taken with a phone. I will get my new camera out next time.
Sign Post to Castle Point in Rockcliffe village

Park at Rockcliffe car park (free parking GR852535) and turn left down the road past the take away tea shop/ antiques. Just before the bay opens out in front of you turn left down the Merse - private road pedestrians only. You will see a sign post for Castle Hill 1 mile.

Rockcliffe and wild flowers
Near the end of the Merse (tarmac road), as the road turns  left and goes uphill, take the little path off to the right signposted Castle Point (see photo below).
Scottish National Trust Trail to Castle Point
As you walk along this stretch there are plenty of little paths off to the right to the shore and a few lovely benches to sit and admire the view over the Solway.

Hestan Island
Carry along this path and over wooden foot bridge (below). The path then splits take to path to the right so you are close to the shore.

At low tide you may see Mallard and  Wigeon. Along with various waders like Oystercatcher, Redshank and Curlew.

The path then opens out on a peeble beach but follow the curve around and head towards Port O' Beagle cottage and you will pick up the path again.

Back in to an area of hedgerow follow coastal path (you will see a few paths going up left ignore these thse bring you along the gravel lane to the camp site, the route we take back to the village)

Nelsons Grave

The story behind the grave of Joseph Nelson, which lies adjacent to the shore path (OS Map ref NX 852 528) is told in the History of Galloway dated 1841: -

'At the mouth of the Urr the headland of Castle Hill stands out boldly, bearing on its summit vestiges of an old Norse fortress. Here, in January 1791 a smuggling vessel from the Isle of Man went ashore and all hands were lost. Only one body, that of Joseph Nelson of Whitehaven, was cast up the following July. It was buried where it was found and where later his widow caused a stone to be erected'

Joseph Nelson was 69 years old and was buried on the shore rather than a cemetery as he was believed at the time to be a smuggler. Later his wife placed the gravestone in his memory.

Just after Nelsons Grave go through Kissing Gate and up small incline to the meadow.
Castle Hill Point

Where the path joins the meadow you can see Castle Point to your right. Head right towards it keeping to the edge of meadow to avoid damage to the grass or frightening any livestock that may be grazing. If there is livestock please keep any dogs under close control.

View South Eastward to Hestan Island

Castle Hill is the site of an ancient fort which was occupied in the iron age. You can see the mountains in the Lake District, St. Bees Head and the Isle  of Man on a clear day from here.
Grid Ref NX8552

View from Castlehill Point
The sure of foot may want to pass though the kissing gate and scramble down the path to the pebbled visible beach below. It's a bit of a pull back up but well worth it! 

To return back to Rockcliffe, retrace your path back to the edge of the meadow and at the point where you entered meadow carry along the edge of the field and through a gate. Please make sure all gates are closed. Follow the road past a few houses and through the caravan site. After a small slope at a small bridge where the gravel road turns to tarmac either turn left and you will be back at the wooden bridge along the path near the coast and follow the path back to village. Or carry straight on Barcloy Road until you join the road in to Rockcliffe and turn left down the hill back in to the village.
Around the meadow Rockcliffe in the distance
As always all images are copyright of the blog writers. Please do not use or reproduce them without permission. Thank you.