Location: The Crichton and the Nith,


Grade: Easy park and riverside walk

Distance: 7km/4 miles

Time: 2 hours

Legacy of a Lady

It is very evident from this walk that Dumfries is proud of its long heritage and intends to do all it can to maintain and enhance it, which is very encouraging for visitors to the town known as the Queen of the South. One lady in particular would be pleased if she could come back today.

Elizabeth Crichton, whose modest statue you pass on the walk, used her husband’s considerable legacy in the mid 19th century to set up a hospital specialising in the treatment of mental disorders, a very forward-looking initiative for the time. For a century and more ‘The Crichton’ as it became known flourished and expanded but the buildings inevitably began to show their age and it would have been very easy for the site and its superb landscaped grounds to be abandoned.

Instead, it was bought by Dumfries and Galloway Council in 1995 and handed over to a Trust who, while fully protecting the historical aspects of the site, have encouraged development into a campus area (an offshoot of Glasgow University), offices, a hotel and function rooms. The magnificent Crichton Memorial Church, designed by Sydney Mitchell, was built in 1897 to mark the 50th anniversary of the hospital. You will see all this and much more as you walk through The Crichton: trails have been set up and there is plenty of interpretation.

One curiosity at The Crichton is a garden devoted to phenology, which is the study of lifecycles of animals and plants and is very relevant to climate change research.

Dock Park also shows positive signs of regeneration with a recent refurbishment and makes a very attractive start and end to the walk. It features a superb bandstand dating from 1898 and a very good kids’ play area.

After leaving Dock Park you pass the Kirkpatrick Macmillan bridge, built as part of the cycle network and opened in 2006, and enter Castledyke Park. This is the site of the old Royal Castle of Dumfries, dating from the late 12th century and used by Robert the Bruce in his fight to overcome the Comyns and claim the throne of Scotland.

After visiting The Crichton you walk down to Kingholm Quay, a seemingly quiet little place which has an extraordinary history. From the mid 18th century onwards, ships regularly left from here and from Glencaple, a little way downriver, packed with emigrants heading for the Colonies in Canada and the USA. So much human traffic came this way that it was known as the Liverpool of Scotland. It is hard to imagine the feelings of the people being herded into dirty airless holds and faced with a rough month or more at sea before reaching a wholly unfamiliar land.

All is peaceful today, and a modern development in the shape of a surfaced cycleway leads you easily back towards Dumfries. There is usually a good variety of birdlife and on a calm day the river makes a gentle companion. In stormy conditions the Nith can play very rough. I hope your walk has no such perils.

Roger Smith


Map: OS 1:25,000 Explorer sheet 321 (Nithsdale & Dumfries).

Start/finish: Dock Park car park, Dumfries (GR: NY975757)

Distance: 7km/4 miles

Time: 2 hours

Public transport: Trains and express buses to Dumfries from Glasgow. www.travelinescotland.com

Information: Dumfries TIC, 01387 253862.

Route: Follow riverside path through Dock Park. Exit park and continue by river to Kirkpatrick Macmillan bridge. Cross road at lights to enter Castledyke Park. Follow main path curving L then R. Exit park, TR and in 400m follow cyclepath signs up to L into The Crichton. At main drive cross and take path down into gardens. Pass pond and go up steps. Follow path beside playing fields. At far end go up steps and take righthand path ahead, up to church. Beyond church, TR. At end of car park follow red markers through campus and back past Phenology Garden. Go L and R past Fresco Café. TL down narrow lane (No Entry sign). At foot go L and R down Kingholm Loaning. TR at Kingholm Quay. TL at cyclepath sign to access riverside path leading back into Dumfries.