How in the Heck Do You Pronounce Kirkcudbright?

St. Cuthbert's Cemetery, Kirkcudbright. Searching for dead ancestors includes spending lots of time in graveyards. Note the size of the tombstones. They are filled with writing memorializing family members.

The second day of our Southwestern Scotland tour took us into Kirkcudbright on the River Dee. Once again I was on the trail of dead ancestors…

But first, just how do you pronounce Kirkcudbright? I think it’s a test Scots give to unsuspecting tourists. If you come up with kir-COO-bree and not kirk-cud-bright, you get a gold star.

Kirk, by the way, is a Scottish Church. Cudbright is a reference to Saint Cuthbert, an early luminary of Scotland who is rumored to have said his prayers while standing naked submerged in the ocean.

Why do saints do things like that?

Afterwards, sea otters were supposed to drop by and warm him up. Hmmm.

On our way to Kirkcudbright from Creetown, we stopped by Carsluith Castle where we bought the best, smoked salmon and Brie cheese I have ever had and Peggy posed as Princess. She has a thing for castles. It may be hereditary. Whenever we visit her mom, Helen declares, “The Queen does not cook.”

Carsluith Castle and the Marrbury Smokehouse where we bought delicious smoked salmon and Brie Cheese.

Princess Peggy looking out the window of Carsluith Castle smiles at the mere mortal taking her photo.

Kirkcudbright is a very attractive community. McClelland Castle dominates the town. Our brochure suggested that Robert McClelland of Kirkcudbright built the castle for conspicuous consumption as well as protection in the late 1500s when there was a slight break in Scotland’s bloody history.

McClelland Castle, Kirkcudbright, as it looks today.

An inside view of McClelland Castle. Note the thickness of the walls.

By the mid 1600s the castle was on its way downhill, a victim of the commitment of the Lord’s of Kirkcudbright 2 and 3 to the Covenanter Movement. The Covenanters were serious Presbyterians who firmly believed that Jesus Christ, not the King of England, was the rightful head of their church.

The King didn’t approve. Consequently, there were lots of Covenanter Martyrs, including at least one of my ancestors, John Brown of Priesthill. You will meet John in a later blog.

McClelland could have been a distant relative as well (or not) since Browns and McClellands hooked up in the America of the 1700s. All I have to go on is the strong bond between Covenanter leaders that seemed to transfer to early America.

Peggy, on the other hand, had definite Kirkcudbright ancestors, the Kevans. I suggested possibly they worked as servants for the McClellands and got in trouble (grin). Turns out the Kevan/Cavan family was quite prominent in Kirkcudbright’s history.

Peggy and I dutifully did a walking tour of the town under cloudy skies threatening rain. Highlights included the Tollbooth, an eclectic museum, a Celtic cross and the town in general.

The Tollbooth was once responsible for collecting taxes and serving as a jail for Covenanters and witches. It now serves as an art center.  The museum brought us up to date on just about everything of importance to Kirkcudbright including the towns relationship to John Paul Jones, a native of Scotland and a slave trader before he joined the American Revolution.

The Kirkcudbright Tollbooth which once served as a tax collection center and jail. It now serves as an art center and recognizes Kirkcudbright's commitment to the arts.

Kirkcudbright's Celtic Cross

A walkway off of High Street, Kirkcudbright. We often found these intriguing paths filled with flowers and even art work off of main streets in Scotland's towns and villages.

This 'take the pledge' bowl we found in the Kirkcudbright Museum amused me. I suspect my Scottish Grandmother would have approved.

I was also amused by this gargoyle like cat-man we found over an arch near McClelland Castle. The flowers added a nice touch. I suspect cat man's job was to frighten off evil spirits.

What photographer can resist a picturesque cottage?

Having sated our desire to see Kirkcudbright we headed back to Creetown. Next blog we visit Wigtown, Scotland’s bookstore center, stop by an ancient druid monument, and visit the birthplace of my Great Grandmother, the colorful village of Kirkcolm.

We found this pretty flower box attached to a house in Creetown.

How to Get Lost in Scotland

The Southern Highlands of southwest Scotland are both impressive and beautiful. "Lowlands" don't create waterfalls like these between Thornhill and Moniaive on Highway A 702.

Years ago my father told me that our family came from southwestern Scotland. I was mildly disgruntled. It would make me a Lowland Scot. I wanted to be a Highland Scot, a man of the mountains.

I have just completed a tour of southwest Scotland and I’ve changed my mind. The Southern Highlands produce some quite respectable mountains, or at least high hills, thank you very much.

And the whole area is beautiful.

We started our tour with a day in Edinburgh. Peggy and I, along with her sister Jane and husband Jim, took the train up from Long Eaton, England where we had just completed the narrow boat tour on the Trent and Mersey Canal I wrote about in my last blog.

While Peggy, Jane and Jim explored the city, I worked out our tentative Scotland itinerary. Having travelled a lot, I like to keep my plans flexible. Opportunity may knock.

While I worked on planning our itinerary, Peggy, Jim and Jane did a tour of Edinburgh. This was their tour bus. Could it be more garish?

Edinburg has a lot to offer in sights, however, as this view of Edinburgh Castle suggests.

A cannon view of the Walter Scott Monument looking down from Edinburgh Castle. The writer Walter Scott and poet Robert Burns are highly honored as national heroes in Scotland.

A final view of Edinburgh looking up toward the Nelson Monument (on the left) from Waverley Station. We took the photo while picking up our rental car. Not many parking lots can claim such scenery.

The next day was a parting of the ways. We taxied together to Waverly Station where Jane and Jim had booked a train to London and Peggy and I had reserved a rental car. Quite to our surprise, the rental agency had upgraded us to a brand new Mercedes with a total of two miles on the odometer.

Peggy behind the wheel of our brand new Mercedes rental car. Note both hands grip the steering wheel and Peggy looks slightly wild-eyed as she chants her Scotland driving mantra... left, left, left.

New car or not, I do not recommend left-hand-side-of-the-road driver training in Edinburgh. To start with, the traffic sucks (bad word but applicable). Even more irksome, street names seem to change every block or so. And then there are roundabouts to master. A wrong turn can mean serious dislocation.

Peggy was the driver and I was the navigator. I am happy to report that one of us performed like a pro. Peggy was unflappable.

I, on the other hand, had us hopelessly lost in five minutes. In my defense, the car rental agency had given us two routes out. Both were blocked by construction. By the time we managed to work around street blockades, we had gone beyond the ability of my two downtown tourist maps to save us.

All I could recommend was full speed ahead and damn the double-deckers. An hour later we actually found the road I had intended to have us on in five minutes. Ten minutes later we were admiring the countryside.

A view of the country just outside of Edinburgh on Highway A 702. The square stones in the front of the fence were likely part of/or recycled from an old structure. The yellow flowers are Scotch Broom. Appropriately, I might add. We were to see lots of it.

Our first day’s goal was the small community of Creetown on the Wigtown Bay. Google informed me the trip was 110 miles and would take 2 hours and 47 minutes. But Google hadn’t planned for my extensive tour of Edinburgh, or the detour I took out of Moniaive. I missed a jog left.

Our ample two-lane road became a narrow two-lane road and then a one-lane road with passing pullouts, and then a bumpy one-lane road filled with sheep that behaved like they hadn’t seen a car in months. Maybe they hadn’t…

These two fellows pretty much dominated our bumpy single-lane road, and wondered what we were doing on it.

While we were waiting for our two road companions to decide whether they would bother to move, I took a photo of this fluffy guy. I think he was trying to decide if he should charge.

All’s well that ends well, however. Six hours after leaving Waverly Station we arrived at our B&B in Creetown, the Ellangowan Hotel. It was time for a pint. (Next blog: How in the heck do you pronounce Kirkcudbright?)

Our first nights lodging in the small community of Creetown. Peggy was impressed by our canopy bed that featured lace curtains. I was more impressed with the bar that featured fine Scottish Ale and Indian Curry. Of special note: Most restaurants/pubs we visited in England and Scotland featured at least one Indian dish. Given my love of hot curries, I was one happy camper.