|Culzean Castle, Scotland|
I'll get to the north of the country in a future post, but am starting where we started - in the south-west corner. We based ourselves in Dumfries, which is a small town 30 miles north of the English border and 75 miles south of Glasgow. We chose it as a base for the south-west and because it was one of the closest Scottish towns we could drive to. However, as we only had 1.5 days in the region we didn't spend much time in Dumfries itself, and even less there in daylight. What we did see was pleasant enough but I can't pretend to have a good grasp of the town.
|Dumfries' 15th century bridge|
What we did see in the area were two magnificent castles. Culzean Castle, pictured top and below, is the flagship property of the Scottish National Trust. As English National Trust members we could visit for free, and got in just before the property shut for winter (it shut in November and we visited on the 30th October!).
Culzean is more of a stately home than a castle, but it is impressive and we were blessed with gorgeous weather - not at all what I expected in Scotland. It is perched on the very western edge of Scotland and overlooks the sea. The castle passed through various lines of the Kennedy family from the 16th century, but the current structure dates primarily from the 1770s. It also sits within a large country park, which we also enjoyed exploring.
|Culzean country park estate|
Our second castle in the area was very different, being more castle like and less intact. Caerlaverock Castle is only a few miles south of Dumfries and is a ruined medieval castle that you can wander and climb on at leisure. We like those sorts of castles, and on the day we visited, the sunshine was swapped for grey skies that were less scenic but seemed appropriate to the setting.
There are actually two Caerlaverock Castles, with the remains of the original castle positioned a short walk from the remaining one. The original fort on that site dates back to Roman times and there is British input from 950 - amazingly old. The current (semi-ruined) castle was built around 1270, which is still amazingly old. It is understandable it isn't fully intact.
I was excited to try the vegan haggis, which came in a stack with "maple braised red cabbage, apple & cranberry, roasted parsnip and potato" as well as a creamy spinach sauce (£10.50). Regular haggis is not something I like to think about very much (I won't share details, but look it up if you are curious and don't know of the dish!) and I was interested to see what a vegan version would be like. In effect, it was nut roast but made slightly softer and in this dish, exquisitely seasoned. I picked up lentils, onions and an array of spices but couldn't guess beyond that. The other vegetables in the stack were also delicious and whilst I didn't much like the sauce, I was grateful it was provided on the side so it didn't detract from my meal.
|Vegan haggis stack|
Mr Bite also ordered from the vegan menu, selecting the "ultimate vegan burger" with a spicy chickpea pattie, grilled vegan cheese, beetroot hummus and a crispy fried onion ring, served on toasted ciabatta with potato wedges and garlic and chilli vegan mayonnaise (£10.50). He liked it, but wasn't very enamored with the onion ring, and found that when he removed it he lost a lot of the beetroot hummus.
The restaurant itself is set above a theatre and caters to theatre attendees with early dinner options. It is a small space but nicely set out, and we were pleased to be positioned by a window overlooking the river.
We only had 2 nights in the south-west corner but it felt like longer by virtue of what we were able to see. It was a nice entree to Scotland!
Culzean Castle is run by National Trust for Scotland and details are available at http://www.nts.org.uk/Property/Culzean-Castle-and-Country-Park . It is shut over the winter months.
Caerlaverock Castle is run by Historic Scotland and details are available at http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/index/places/propertyresults/propertyoverview.htm?PropID=PL_047&PropName=Caerlaverock%20Castle . It is open most of the year.
Hullabaloo Restaurant is located on Mill Road in Dumfries and is open for lunch Monday to Saturday and dinner Tuesday to Saturday. Details are at http://www.hullabaloorestaurant.co.uk/.
Do you have favourite local attractions?