Dumfries and Galloway

©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland


A charming royal burgh in Dumfries and Galloway, Kirkcudbright is located 28 miles (45 km) southwest of Dumfries at the mouth of the River Dee which flows into Kirkcudbright Bay. Named for the Kirk of St. Cuthbert, it was created a royal burgh in 1330, while its layout and many of its buildings date from the 17th and 18th centuries. Kirkcudbright Castle (late 13th Century) exists today only as grass-covered mounds while MacLellan's Castle, a late 16th century tower-house, is remarkably intact except for its roof, and was built using stones from the old friary. Trade declined until the 19th century when it became a fashionable residence, and in the 20th century several notable artists based themselves here, including Sir James Guthrie (1859 - 1930), E.A. Hornel (1864 - 1933), W.Y. MacGregor (1855 - 1923), S.J. Peploe (1871 - 1935) and E.A. Taylor (1874 - 1951). The artist-illustrator Jessie M. King lived in Kirkcudbright from 1915 until her death in 1949. Marketing itself as Scotland's Artists' Town since 2000, tourism represents an important part of its economy.

Notable buildings include Dundrennan Abbey, several churches, including Greyfriars (built on the site of a 15th century Franciscan convent church), the 17th century Tolbooth, the Town Hall (1878-9), the Stewartry Museum, and Broughton House (mid 18th century home of the Murrays of Broughton and of E.A. Hornel during the period 1909-33).

Kirkcudbright's Tolbooth was the model for the prison in Sir Walter Scott's novel 'Guy Mannering' (1815) and the town features in Dorothy L. Sayers' novel 'Five Red Herrings' (1931). John Paul Jones (1747-92) was imprisoned here, charged with the death of a ship's carpenter who died after being flogged. The Sheriff Court (1866-8, by David Rhind and including the old jail with its tower) closed in 2013 bringing to an end the dispensing of justice in Kirkcudbright after more than 550 years.

Kirkcudbright's biggest employer was its creamery, opened by the Stewartry Dairy Association on Merse Road in 1921. It was rebuilt in the 1950s but closed in 2010 with the loss of 120 jobs. Today, facilities include a post-office, Kirkcudbright Hospital, Kirkcudbright Academy, a primary school, four churches, a lifeboat station, a local historical society, swimming pool and Kirkcudbright Golf Club. The local football team is St. Cuthbert's Wanderers which plays at St. Mary's Park.

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