A market town, the administrative centre of Dumfries and Galloway, and the largest town in SW Scotland, Dumfries sits close to the Solway Firth at the mouth of the River Nith, 35 miles (56 km) northwest of Carlisle and 90 miles (145 km) southwest of Edinburgh. Its residents are known as 'doonhamers'. When it was chartered as a royal burgh in 1186 Dumfries was already the site of a Benedictine nunnery called Lincluden Priory, founded by the Lord of Galloway in 1170. A royal castle, long since gone, was erected in the 13th century while, in 1306, Robert the Bruce slew the Red Comyn in a Franciscan friary founded here in 1266. The town's motto A' Lore Burne was a call to arms that brought its inhabitants to defensive positions along the line of the Lore Burn, which still flows under the streets. The name also appears in several local facilities and organisations, including the Loreburne Shopping Centre and Loreburn Housing Association.
Dumfries developed as a centre of trade, with local merchants taking particular advantage of the free trade in tobacco offered by the Union of the Parliaments of Scotland and England in 1707. The livestock trade and textile manufacture developed during the 17th and 18th centuries, hosiery and tweed mills being major employers in the 19th century. In 1928 Dumfries incorporated the burgh of Maxwelltown on the west side of the Nith and in the 1990s the former Crichton Royal Hospital complex, established in 1839, was adapted for use as a university campus linked to the University of the West of Scotland and the University of Glasgow, together with Dumfries and Galloway College.
Buildings of interest include Dumfries Academy (1897), Devorguilla's Bridge (c.1430), Moorhead's Hospital (1753), Burns House, home of the poet Robert Burns from 1793 until his death in 1796, and St Michael's Church (1749) in whose churchyard Burns is buried. The Theatre Royal (1792) is the oldest working theatre in Scotland. A windmill built in 1798 and now a museum was converted into an observatory and camera obscura in 1836 to coincide with an appearance of Halley's Comet. The Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Group runs an aircraft museum on part of the site of the former RAF Dumfries which closed in 1957. The museum lies within what is now Heathhall Industrial Estate, which occupies many former air force buildings, including several large hangars.
Dumfries was noted as a centre for witch trials with, for example, seven people executed in 1650, a further nine strangled and burned at Whitesands in 1659 and two more in 1671. The victims were usually poor old women, who were scapegoats for everything from illness to poor harvests. The last conviction came in 1709 when a woman was sentenced to be scarred by a red-hot iron. Also in the 17th century, like many towns and villages in SW Scotland, Dumfries had strong associations with the Covenanting movement, with the graves of three martyrs in the Old Parish Churchyard. In Dock Park, the site of the original harbour of Dumfries, stands a monument to John Law Hume and Thomas Mullin who died on the Titanic. Notable individuals who were born in Dumfries include surgeon Dr. Benjamin Bell (1749 - 1806), artist Thomas Watling (1762 - 1814), Arctic explorer Sir John Richardson (1787 - 1865), actor John Laurie (1897 - 1980), broadcaster Kirsty Wark (b.1955) and racing driver David Coulthard (b.1971).
The town's main festival is Guid Nychburris (or Good Neighbours) which reaches its climax on the third Saturday of June with the Riding of the Marches and the crowning of the Queen of the South.