Its sheltered position close to a tidal bay at the mouth of the River Dee has long made Kirkcudbright a draw for both the fishers of men and the more traditional sort, the fishers of fish.

To the second first. Kirkcudbright’s fleet has waxed and waned over the years and was at a low ebb in the 1950s, but today the town can lay claim to the busiest commercial harbour in Dumfries and Galloway. Over 20 vessels call the port home and between them they land some 7000 tonnes of fish annually, mostly scallops. You’ll find examples of the catch on most menus in the town. The Selkirk Arms Hotel, for example, pairs them with a smoked ham croquette and butternut puree.

And the fishers of men? The 17th century historian John Spottiswoode places a Franciscan monastery in the town by at least the 12th century. Certainly one stood by 1455. There was a convent and a nunnery, and the medieval church of St Andrews once stood opposite the 17th century Toolbooth. St Andrews later gave way to the County Buildings and to another church, St Cuthbert’s. It shares its name with Kirkcudbright itself, which is derived ultimately from the Gaelic for the chapel of Cuthbert. The remains of the 7th century Scottish saint were exhumed from his resting place on Lindisfarne in the 9th century ahead of a Danish invasion and spent seven years being hauled from place to place around the country, during which time they passed through Kirkcudbright – at least according to an 1849 account by clergyman Charles Eyre, later Glasgow’s first Catholic Archbishop since the Reformation.

The same things that made Kirkcudbright a centre for commerce and religion gave it strategic importance. By the late 13th century there was a fortification at Castledkyes which featured in the Wars of Independence in 1300 when Edward I stayed there as his fleet lay off the Dee estuary. This picture shows the harbour at low tide with the mud flats exposed, and rising behind them the ruins of a later structure, MacLellan Castle. Completed in 1582, it was built on the site of the then-ruined Franciscan monastery by Thomas MacLellan of Bombie, and used stone from the monastery.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, however, Kirkcudbright’s best known residents were painters and designers. A colony formed around Edward Atkinson Hornel, one of the so-called Glasgow Boys, who grew up in Kirkcudbright. In 1901 he bought Broughton House on the High Street, a grand townhouse with an equally grand garden dropping down to the Dee. Today, it is maintained as a museum. Most notable among the other artists who lived and worked in Kirkcudbright was Glasgow-born illustrator and designer Jessie M King, who died there in 1949 aged 74. You can still visit her house too. Not for nothing is Kirkcudbright known today as the Artists’ Town.