From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present


Dumfries and Galloway
54° 49′ 55.2″ N, 4° 2′ 52.8″ W
12th Century

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Kirkcudbright is a town located on the River Dee, southwest of Castle Douglas, in Dumfries and Galloway.

The town was originally known as Kilcudbrit, deriving from the Gaelic name Cille Chuithbeirt translated as Chapel of Cuthbert, the saint whose remains were kept at the town between their exhumation at Lindisfarne and re-interment at Chester-le-Street. Kirkcudbright was claimed to have been established in the 12th century by the Franciscans or Grey Friars. No Greyfriars dwellings have been found in Kirkcudbright.

In 1453, the town became a royal burgh, then about a century later, the town obtained permission from Queen Mary to use part of the convent and nunnery as a parish church. In 1570, Sir Thomas MacLellan of Bombie, the chief magistrate, received a charter for the site, its grounds and gardens. MacLellan dismantled the church in order to obtain material for his new castle, which was built on the site.

After defeat at the Battle of Towton, Henry VI of England crossed the Solway Firth in August 1461 to land at Kirkcudbright in support of Queen Margaret at Linlithgow. The town also for some time withstood a siege in 1547 from the English commander Sir Thomas Carleton but after the surrounding countryside had been overrun was compelled to surrender.

Kirkcudbright Tollbooth was built between 1625 and 1629 and served not only as the tollbooth, but also the council offices, the burgh and sheriff courts, the criminal prison and the debtors' prison. One of the most famous prisoners was John Paul Jones, hero of the American navy, who was born in Kirkbean.

The Kirkcudbright Railway opened in 1864 but the railway line and station closed in 1965.

Like many other remote areas during the Second World War, a 4,700-acre area to the southeast of the town and extending to the coast of the Solway Firth, was acquired by the Army in 1942, as a training area for the D-Day invasion. The area remains in active use for live-firing exercises to this day. Part of the training area is the Dundrennan Range, a weapons development and testing range. The use of this range for the testing of depleted uranium shells has been controversial. The range also contains one of the two surviving A39 Tortoise heavy assault tanks from the six prototypes originally produced. The 32-pdr gun has been removed and the tank is used for target practice. Due to the range's designation as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, removal of the tank to a museum is unlikely.

The town also provided locations for the cult 1973 horror film The Wicker Man. Several parts of the town can be easily recognised in the film.