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.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Kippford: it's history as shipbuilding village

It's been a busy Summer here on the Colvend Coast with record temperatures in July. I guess I must apologise for blog post's being thin on the ground but I hope you will forgive us. There is so much to do around here that we haven't had a spare moment to post. What we do have is lots of material written, in the wings so to speak, and we will be posting it at intervals over the coming weeks.

For all those who haven't managed to visit us in person this Summer here is a virtual visit you can make from the keyboard of your computer. A little web tour through the maritime history of this fascinating coast.

Following Kippford Week sailing Regatta (you can go to the Solway Yacht Club website here for results: The Solway Yacht Club website. It's a handy site to bookmark as they have the weather forecast for Kippford and Rockcliffe on the home page) my thoughts turned to the sailing history of this stretch of coast and so I did a bit of research.

A fascinating resource on the history of the area is the Dalbeattie Museum Trust (www.dalbeattiemuseum.co.uk) so it seemed like a good place to start. The Dalbeattie Museum is run entirely by volunteers on charitable donations and is well worth a visit. It is loved by children and adults alike. You can find it at 81, High Street, Dalbeattie and it provides an amazing glimpse into life along the Solway Coast in days gone by.

Their website has a page on Harbours and Quays from Solway Firth to Dalbeattie and it makes for interesting reading. To quote from their web page:

This area was first known as "Red Bay", until 1964. Originaly a very quiet place until some houses were built, then it became a holiday resort for people out of Glasgow. There was never a jetty or quay here, as the beach was to rocky to land any vessels.
Rockcliffe courtesy of Dalbeattie Museum website.

Kippford was a place that many ships were built in the Cummings yard. He employed 8 shipwrights and 4 apprentices. The apprentices were housed in the cottages along the front at Kippford. On a launch day the children from Barnbarroch School were given the day off. All the ship building in Kippford was done out in the open air. In the early days the ships were built side-on to the river beside Whim Cottage, later they were built on the slipway. A steam box used to steam the planks of wood for fitting to the bows and stern of a vessel, was located next to the road beside the village water pump. Next to this pump could also be found a saw-pit where planks were cut, there was also a tar kettle. The workers in the yards religiously upheld the daily visit to the hotel as soon as the sun got over the yard arm. They each had an allowance of whiskey twice a day There was also a stone jetty which was used to load and unload cargoes for the Quarry at Kippford. This is now used by the Yacht Club at Kippford. 
The vessels were loaded with chippings for Lancashire and as late as World War 2 the Caledonian Granite Company was shipping granite out of this area. Prior to 1887 the Dalbeattie road ended beside the Mariner Hotel. A large rock blocked the road to Kippford. People had to walk along the beach or up over the hill if the tide was in. 1881 was when this rock was blasted to make a through road. Mr Cumming sail loft was used as a dance hall, usually after a ships launch. Mrs Agnes Houston of Brownrigg, Dumfries, was a lady who liked to organise events for the crews of schooners lying at the port. She also organised sculling and rowing races for sailors in 1885 and presented prizes of tobacco, knives and money. This led to the Kippford Regatta we have today in Kippford, held every year. After Mr Cumming death the yard was taken over by Mr Collins from Birkenhead, who ran it for several years till the outbreak of the war in 1914. No ships were built in Mr Collins time but in his time of owning the yard, he was to install a motor engine into local schooner called the North Barrule, during the summer of 1909.

Regatta Day Kippford
Regatta day at Kippford courtesy of Dalbeattie Museum website. http://www.dalbeattiemuseum.co.uk/stories/harbours-and-quays-from-solway-firth-to-dalbeattie/

The webpage starts it's journey at Caulkerbush (Southwick) and describes each port along the coast along to Palnackie. To read the full text go to: http://www.dalbeattiemuseum.co.uk/stories/harbours-and-quays-from-solway-firth-to-dalbeattie/

Another excellent source of information on the maritime history of the area is to be found on the Dalbeattie Town website (www.dalbeattie.com).  They have a page on the history of Kippford which you can access in full here: http://www.dalbeattie.com/history/kipphist.htm

Their section on ship building at Kippford reads:

There had been boat repair at Kippford for a long time, but in the early 1800s there was construction of small sloops on the shore. By 1860, this was successful enough for Mr. James Cumming to take over some gardens and a section of the beach and to construct a ship, - the Try Again - over some seven years. She was followed by the construction of the Balcary Lass in 1881; the Balcary Lass was lost in 1883 on a voyage from Goole to St. John's, Newfoundland, whilst carrying coals; it is possible that the coal caught fire, as the ship was in good order.

Because of the steep and narrow beach, ships to be repaired were floated sideways onto the beach and then winched onto blocks. This launching system meant that re-launching was also sideways, a difficult procedure that once nearly damaged a newly-repaired schooner. The Cummings then laid down a proper slipway, with a cradle onto which ships could be drawn. Once in place, a capstan winch ashore could draw cradle and ship up the well-greased slipway for repairs, then assist in the careful re-launching.

The slipway was finally disposed of about 1914, as the level of shipping declined. James and his brother John Cumming died, the lease was taken over by Mr. Collins of Birkenhead, but the business dwindled to small boat repair and ended in the 1920s.

There are still many prints of the old ships of the Urr in the 'Anchor Hotel', which was actually the shipbuilders' pub. They received a dram of whiskey twice a day as well as three shillings (36 old pence or 15p.), per day in wages. This was at a time when ordinary labourers received barely half that sum. The publican used to cover the benches in newspaper, as the shipbuilders' clothes were well-tarred from their work.

There is still a small recessed slip, but this is not on the line of the slipway, which was slightly farther to the north. However, the Kippford Slipway Ltd., though largely a boat-chandlers, does keep up some of the old tradition.

My final port of call is the wonderful website Old Kirkcudbright - Glimpses into the history of an ancient Parish and Burgh. You can access it here: www.old-kirkcudbright.net

This site is a marvel and is described as "An Internet Browse Through the History Topography and Genealogy of the Ancient Parish and Burgh of Kirkcudbright"The material is taken from a selection of contemporary books, magazines, documents, maps, illustrations and ephemera. I love to just dip in and browse, I always find something new to intrigue me about the area. The section on Kippford is a mine of information, and far too long to include here, but I recommend you follow this link: www.old-kirkcudbright.net/pages/scaur1.asp

I love this opening quote "I have visited many villages in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, but never have I come across one that could satisfy my longings in every respect, as does the Scaur with its more modern name of Kippford. True it is a place of moods and tenses. When the Estuary of the Urr is in full tide, on whose banks the village stands, and the golden sun is shining on its waters the visitor may think it a perfect paradise." 

The site describes the history and industry of the village as well as the Urr Water Fleet and has some excellent yarns of long distance voyages, shipwrecks and fine old skippers...and there are some evocative old photographs... it's well worth a visit!

Kippford: Sailing vessel crossing the road on the slipway
(Source: www.old-kirkcudbright.net - The Stewartry Museum Collection)

Enjoy your virtual visit to the maritime history of this beautiful coastline...

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Looking forward to Spring Fling 2013 - our final round up of last years event.

Not long now until Spring Fling our local open studios event - 25th to 27th May 2013

We never get the chance to visit all the artists during the open studios event so last year we sent out our roving reporter Lynn Watt who happily accepted the challenge and opportunity for a great day out . Thank you for sharing your day Lynn.

"One of the many charms of Spring Fling is tootling around pretty countryside lanes and coming across all sorts of lovely venues & varying styles.  Within a couple of miles of the Carsethorne coast we came across:

Ailsa Black
Wee red boat
Wee Red Boat
Along at Kirkbean Village Hall, with teas on offer, we found a huge selection of original paintings, varying sizes of prints, and cards. Ailsa’s distinctive style makes use of a strong but limited palette with powerful pops of colour, often phone- or letter-box red (quite literally!) beautifully offset by blue seas & skies. Taking inspiration from Scottish fishing-village life, albeit one where a seal and seabird confer – or a sheepdog & bird head out on the ‘Randan’  – Ailsa uses repeat motifs  with beautiful design and gentle humour  to fabulous effect.  Wonderful stuff!  
Ailsa Black's Art at Kirkbean Village Hall
Val Macadam
starry kippford night      wee daisies
Starry Kippford Night and Wee Daisies
White geese transforming into white sheets on a washing line, the black & white markings of a cow called Daisy merging with daisies in the field! Val’s eye for soft colours, pattern and quirky humour work brilliantly with her skilled detailing.  And never more so than in her delightful village- & town-scapes, capturing local scenes in infinite detail or much-loved homes and gardens for personal commissions. We can see where Val gets much of her inspiration -  her lovely cottage, which she turns into a gallery for the Fling, has fabulous views of the Solway, is surrounded by fields and her gorgeous cats, who often feature in her  ‘Wee prints’ and cards, were posing to order!  
Sadly Val is not opening her studio this May but you can view her work at www.valmacart.com  www.facebook.com/valmacadamart
Val Macadam's Studio Entrance
Lettie Blackett

Lettie’s studio is a relaxed, easy-going space; ancient, rough stone walls with glimpses of garden beyond, decorated with fabulous flowers. And paintings & mixed media!  We loved the Indian paintings which capture the tremendous colour and speed of Indian street life, but with a magnetic stillness around the central figures. Lettie hopes to return to India soon to gather more inspiration – already looking forward to seeing the results next year."

You can find out all about this years Spring Fling at http://spring-fling.co.uk/
With 93 visual artists, makers and designers participating in this great event.

Submitted by Lynn Watt busy Editor and manager of  luxury BirchLea Holiday Lodge  Kippford.
Art work shown  with the kind permission of Ailsa and Val. All art work and photos are copywrited.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Threave Castle Home of Archibald the Grim and Ospreys.

I have always enjoyed the short walk down to Threave Castle . As a child, I always ended up running there with great  excitement at the opportunity of ringing the custodians bell to call the ferryman before my sister.
I just loved the little boat ride over the river Dee.
 In those days it was a rowing boat now its a much quicker journey with an outboard motor so sea sickness tablets are not necessary.
Crossing the River Dee to Threave Island and Castle
Now its more of a wander down the path and an opportunity to learn more about the fascinating history of the area and spot wildlife. I spotted two deer on this walk.
This trip was prompted by hearing the news that two Osprey a male and female had returned to the nest near the castle so I waited in the hide in anticipation There are five hides along the river and marshes and there is often a RSPB volunteer on hand who can give you lots of information. This time I was unlucky but have had reports from our guests who have seen them. I have been trying to find out if there are any eggs yet but have not heard.
If you are interested in Ospreys you can keep up to date by following the National Trusts Blog for Threave Estate.
The hard working NTS Staff have really made a difference on the Estate managing 1500 acres, laying paths, planting trees, encouraging wildlife and  building hides. Earlier this year work was carried out to ensure the Osprey platform was secure and safe.
 Threave Estate was designated as Scotland's first Bat Reserve in 2010 with seven species recorded. There are two Bat trails  around Threave Gardens and Kelton Mains. Bat detectors are available to hire from Threave Gardens visitor centre
To learn more about Threave Estate and Gardens

Crossing The River Dee
A thousand years ago Threave Island was said to be the home of the ancient rulers of Galloway. The tall, forbidding tower that now dominates the island was built for Sir Archibald Douglas in 1369 and is all that remains.
Sir Archibald had recently become Lord of Galloway, but is better known as Archibald ‘the Grim’. His Father had been King Robert the Bruce's friend during the Wars of Independence against England. Archibald continued that fight. The English gave him the name The Grim due to his frightening appearance in battle.
  In 1400 he died at Threave and was by then the 3rd Earl of Black Douglas, the most powerful magnate in Southern Scotland.

When James II tried to overthrow the over-mighty Black Douglases about half a century later, after a two-month-long siege at Threave, the island stronghold reverted to the Crown.
Threave Tower
I am always delighted to see Dumfries and Galloway in the National Press and receive recognition for being such a wonderful area and here is an article on a walk around the Estate published in The Guardian.
Threave Island was also recently listed in UK'S Tiny Islands Top Ten Hidden Gems 
The Island is managed by Historic Scotland for details of opening times please visit their website

© All images and video subject to copyright - not to be reused, copied or altered without written permission

Monday, 25 March 2013

Making the most of a snowy weekend

This week-end has been a real treat: Being at sea level we don't usually get much snow along the Colvend Coast and so  we got out there and enjoyed it!

Although areas over higher ground had more, in Kippford, Rockcliffe and Sandyhills we had about 6 inches of lying snow with drifts to around a foot high. On Friday we were snowed in after heavy, constant snowfall throughout the day but, not to be deterred (and having an impatient collie reminding us it was time for 'walkies') we got togged up and walked along a snow covered, almost traffic free A710, then out over the sands at low tide. It was bracing to say the least but very exhilarating. We felt a bit like Scott in the Antarctic as on the return we were walking into biting winds and falling snow but hot chocolate and a good movie curled up on the sofa afterwards made a great reward.

Saturday was overcast and felt very cold due to the strong winds but as the roads had cleared a bit we just wrapped up warm and snug and headed out for RSPB Mersehead.

Due, no doubt, to a desperate search for food we had good views of Snipe, Fieldfare, Redwing, Mistle Thrushes, Blackbirds and of course the geese. This video clip shows a very excited collie on the beach enjoying the expanse of virgin snow. Yes, it was pretty windy but not nearly so bad as the sound on the video clip suggests!

On Sunday things were very different, the roads were clear and we had a bright sunny day so a walk around Rockcliffe was in order. Here are a few of the photos!

Very artistic!
The glorious yellow and coconut/vanilla scent of the Gorse contrasted beautifully with the crisp snow and blue skies and made a memorable sight.

The snow doing it's best to blanket the Gorse blooms

Rockcliffe beach doing a good impersonation of a Christmas card
The dogs had a great time racing around on the beach but poor Hamish (a Sproodle puppy) had problems with snow balling up in his fur so had to be carried home for an early bath!
Looking across to Rough Island with Rascarrel in the background
One of the great things about walking the dogs in the snow is that instead of having to wash off mussy paws or brush sand out of long coats they come back clean and sweet smelling. Just a brisk rub with a towel and they're done.

Walking in the snow is soooooooooooo exhausting!
However, it's not been good for everyone this weekend. I know that there will be many people across the region, especially those living further West in places like New Galloway and Newton Stewart, gnashing their teeth reading this, as roads have been closed and many homes have been without power. Our sympathy goes out to them as they have has a difficult time (particularly those caring for livestock which is never easy in deep snow). Also birds and wildlife will have suffered. We have reports of a Little Egret casualty along the frozen shores around Kirkcudbright Bay which is a real shame. 

Here along the the Colvend Coast we were lucky to have just enough snow to make it picturesque, so we got out there and made the most of it. It's thawing rapidly now and the roads are clear with traffic moving easily so it's back to normal!

© All images and video subject to copyright - not to be reused, copied or altered without written permission

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Mull of Galloway: just had to share this fantastic story

'Scotland's Land's End'

nature reserve plan 

backed by locals

Mull of Galloway
The Mull of Galloway Trust balloted residents in the area, garnering 98% support
Scotland's most southerly tip could become a nature reserve after local residents almost unanimously backed a proposed community buy-out.
A local trust is confident of raising the £300,000 asking price for the Mull of Galloway, mainly through the government's Scottish Land Fund.
The Northern Lighthouse Board is selling the 30-acre site as part of an asset disposal programme.
Its lighthouse tower is not included in the sale and will continue to function.
RSPB Mull of Galloway
The lighthouse tower is not part of the sale and will continue to function
The Mull of Galloway Trust was set up to secure the site, which includes cottages and other buildings, as a nature reserve and tourist attraction.

However, it needed to demonstrate community support to attract funding.
In a ballot of 541 local residents, 347 votes were cast, with only three voting against the proposal and two papers being spoiled.
That represents 98.5% support on a 63.8% turnout.
The trust's next step is to prepare a business plan and formal funding application.
It has said it wants to preserve the area as "a place of beauty", "a place of tranquillity" for locals and visitors and to avoid any possibility of commercial exploitation of "Scotland's Land's End".

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-south-scotland-21741256

Saturday, 9 March 2013

A great walk for spectacular views: Mark Hill, Rockcliffe

Spring is here so it's time to dust of your walking boots and get out there.
We highly recommend this walk to guests at the start of their stay, especially if they are new to the Colvend Coast, as it gives you a really great view of the local area so you can orientate yourself.

Mark Hill Walk - Forestry Commission Scotland

Kippford and the Urr Estuary From Mark Hill

Time  - allow about 25 min's each way and time to take in the view.
Distance Approx 2 Miles
Shoes - sturdy, comfortable.
Difficulty - Moderate, A short walk on forestry paths but rough terrain and steep, rocky path up and down Mark Hill. Path made up of gravel road, wood chip, rocks, boulders. Muddy in Winter

Why do it - Amazing view

Rockcliffe and Castle Hill Point from Mark Hill

Start: From Rockcliffe car park turn left down the road (footpath) and walk down the hill towards the beach. Follow the road and go about threequarters of the way around the curve of the bay.

  Where a lane joins the road at a 90º angle, turn right (signposted to Barons Craig Hotel) and then left at the T junction towards the Barons Craig Hotel (closed this year for maintenance ). 

Walk along the path flanked by stone walls until you come to a 5 bar gate and clearing in the woods.

Here you have four other path choices, you need to take the third exit. First left takes you to the Mote of Mark, second left (straight on) is the Jubilee Path to Kippford. Take the next path which is a gravelled forestry road (3rd Exit ) to the left of this road there is a Forestry Information Board with the Mark Hill Walk outlined on it. This walk detailed on the board is longer and two miles from this point. Great for the more energetic.

Forest Path opening out at Mark Hill
Walk up the Forestry Road about 4 min's (few hundred yards) and at the blue marker on the left turn left  again on a forestry road. As I write this there is a lot of work being done on these roads  but the work should be completed soon. Please adhere to all route closures and diversions for your own safety.

Blue Forestry Marker and Path to Mark Hill
Walk up this hill for about 10mins and you will see a small path leading in to the forest. Turn left at blue marker in to the Fir trees

A beautiful February Day
The path starts to get a bit rocky and a bit of a pull but you will soon be rewarded by the view.
West to Glen Isle
At the top of the hill follow the plateau to the left (South) and it will start to go downhill. This path is quite rocky so take care. Once at the bottom you join the Jubilee Path and can turn left back to Rockcliffe and the car park or right towards Kippford.

Jubilee Path towards Rockcliffe
 All photographs copyright - © L Birdsall, Millbrae House

The first sign of Spring at Sweetheart Abbey

Last week I spotted what must be the first signs of Spring: a people carrier full of visitors getting out of their vehicle at Sweetheart Abbey! 

I was driving to Dumfries on a glorious, clear, crisp Spring day and has chosen to take the coast road (the A710), which is my favourite route as the scenery is stunning, when I spotted them as I turned the bend next to the Abbey Tea Room in New Abbey.

How did I know they were visitors? Well the walking gear, cameras and binoculars were a hint, but the reason they caught my eye was that, even whilst getting out of their vehicle, they were already staring with wonder and awe at the towering red sandstone walls of the Abbey. 

View of Sweetheart Abbey from the carpark next to the tearoom

Their total focus was the amazing and evocative building in front of them, everything else was being done on auto setting. It reminded me of my first sight of this amazing place, not without a whiff of nostalgia I have to add, and reminded me that it is easy to take these spectacular places for granted and to forget that unique feeling you get when seeing something truly amazing for the first time. I have to admit I felt envious of them experiencing the Abbey, for probably, the first time.

And Sweetheart Abbey really is amazing as it is a place of personal devotion and a monument to the love of one person for another. 

In 1268, Lord John Balliol, husband of Lady Dervorgilla of Galloway, died. His grieving widow had his heart embalmed and placed in an ivory casket which she carried with her constantly.

Lady Dervorgilla undertook many charitable acts in his memory but the most significant must be founding of the Cistercian abbey of Dulce Cor (Latin for ‘Sweet Heart’) in 1273. When 
Lady Dervorgilla died in 1289, she was laid to rest in front of the abbey church’s high altar, with her husband’s heart to her bosom.

View of Sweetheart Abbey from a distance
Sweetheart Abbey’s conception as a shrine to human and divine love is a deeply appealing concept as is its attractive, rural village setting. The imposing ruin nestles between the grey bulk of Criffel to the West and the shimmering waters of the Solway Firth to the South, whilst its dark red sandstone walls contrast with the lush grass of the pastureland at their feet.

For more information on Sweetheart Abbey follow these links:
Historic Scotland - access information and prices

History and background

As Spring is definitely here it's a good time to be thinking of getting out and about with the walking boots on so the next post is a great walk for orientating yourself along the Colvend Coast, great views and yes, a bit of a climb, but well worth it!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Happy Birthday to the Rock-Ford Files

It came as a huge surprise that, as of 11 Feb, we have been writing the Rock-Ford Files - Kippford and Rockcliffe blog for one whole year... so I hope you will join me in singing 'Happy Birthday' to the blog!

This iconic wee cutie is seen regularly at Millbrae House or Riverview Lodge by guests. Red Squirrels seem to love it around the Colvend Coast and we are understandably proud that they choose to live here. (Could be something to do with the well stocked nut ad seed feeders)

It seemed that we should mark the occassion in some way so I thought I would change the type face to a more modern one and report on the success of the blog and key milestones

The blog now has 15 followers (Hello to you all and thank you for following, please encourage your friends and family to follow suit) and is read by lots of others on an ocasional basis world wide... YES! world wide, as this latest breakdown of recent readers shows.

United Kingdom
United States

This came as a (very pleasant) surprise to us as we thought that interest would be mainly from the UK. So a very special 'hello', hi y'all, 你好, привет, bonjour, guten tag, Hallå, Привіт to anyone reading from outside the UK. 

We are all-so celebrating another milestone. We have just hit 4000 page views and averaged over 330 visits a month!

Over the past year we posted 48 posts on a wide range of subjects from walks, recipes and events to concerts, local celebrities and charity fund raising, which included some lovely images of the area, who knows what we will be writing about this year? 

Mersehead Sands with the dune system in the foreground and Castle Point, Rockcliffe in the distance.

Our aim this year is to achieve at least one post per week (as you can imagine things slide a little around out busiest times of year) and we have some interesting and informative ideas in the pipeline including more local walks, recipes and events.

With 2013 being the Year of Natural Scotland and 2014 being Homecoming Scotland we have plenty of scope and are looking forward to welcoming lots of new visitors to the area!

Looking North from the peak of Screel.

If you have any thoughts on the blog, would like to contribute to a post or simply get in touch please do, it would be great to hear from you.

Best wishes
The Editor

NOTE: All images are copyrighted. Not for use or publication without written permission.