Saturday, September 08, 2012

A day out in Dumfries.

The summer of 2012 hasn't been one of our better ones, has it?  A total wash-out, with rain almost every day from the beginning of June until the end of August.  Not just rain, but often torrential rain, the kind of water-up-to-your-knees rain which makes you wonder if you should invest in a canoe as a mode of transport.

So a dry day was the exception rather than the rule.  On what felt like that one dry day in August, we headed down to Dumfries, not just for a day trip, but for an emotional journey back in time.   (For my international readers, Dumfries is a town in south-west Scotland in case you don't know)

As a child, I remember spending summers at my aunt and uncle's home in Dumfries.  In that typical nostalgic way, the weather was always good, the sun was shining and the simple pleasures were the best.  Like taking a walk down by the River Nith, looking at the waterfall, crossing the Devorgilla Bridge back and forth, heading down Friars Vennel to my favourite toy shop Newall's and ending up in Fusco's for ice cream. 

As I got older, we continued to take regular holidays in Dumfries.  It was our only opportunity to catch up with our much loved relatives as they were getting old and weren't fit enough to travel up here.  At one point I even considered moving to Dumfries for good, however that never materialised.  As the years passed, my uncle passed away and my aunt became too frail to host the family holidaymakers.  Eventually she also passed away and our link with Dumfries was broken. 

Over recent years I resolved to visit the town again one day, and that finally came last month.   The first thing you see, getting off the bus at the Whitesands, is the lovely River Nith, which isn't so lovely when it bursts its banks: quite often in our rather wet climate, as you would imagine.  My waterfall is still there.  (As if it would have gone anywhere else!?!)

But things change, and you wouldn't expect Dumfries to stay the same after all these years.  Friars Vennel (below) is not how I remember it: the toy shop and Fusco's are long gone, and in this economic climate you can expect to find an empty shop or three.  However it still has a unique feeling and is worth a visit, even if it's only as a thoroughfare on your way up to the High Street.  They also have an inventive way of covering up empty shops with painted murals! 

Dumfries' most famous inhabitant was also Scotland's most famous poet, Robert (known as Rabbie) Burns.  He spent the last years of his life living in Dumfries and the Burns House is one of the town's tourist attractions.  Of course I remember visiting it on one of my childhood holidays.  In the town centre he is also commemorated with a statue in the main square.  He's not the only famous inhabitant of Dumfries of course - a certain Calvin Harris also originates from the town.  Maybe he'll get a statue one day too, you never know :)

Dumfries town centre has a fine selection of shops, including its very own shopping mall, the Loreburne Shopping Centre, and all the usual high street favourites.  And Costas of course for a much-needed coffee after all that exploring :)
But it is back at the Nith that you really feel the unique magic of Dumfries.  And that was where the memories came flooding back.  Crossing the river and finding the bus stop where we used to get the bus to my aunt and uncle's home, and seeing some other landmarks which haven't changed so much since the 1970s and 1980s, brought out a number of emotions, being in a town which I associate so much with loved ones who are no longer with us.  But they will always be remembered with happiness and love, so that's why Dumfries will always be special. Faithful travelling companion had also previously visited Dumfries, but our trip was a good opportunity to introduce him to "my" Dumfries.  There was just one more ritual to do before heading home. 

The Hole I' The Wa' Inn (above) is one of the most famous pubs in Dumfries, and I was curious to see how it had changed since my last visit.  Happily, it hasn't :)  There was a flat-screen TV on the wall showing Olympics football, which was yet another spooky coincidence as on my last visit it was the European Football championships on the TV screen, back in the day! 

All in all, a very enjoyable trip and a nice journey through the south of Scotland too.  It wasn't just a journey back down memory lane, but it was a chance to make new memories too.  Hopefully we won't leave it so long till we return to Dumfries again.

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