By Judith Lloyd
Galloway, home of the “Belties”, the Black
Douglases, John Balliol, Robert Burns, Gretna Green (the destination
of eloping couples), Thomas Carlyle (noted writer and historian),
Archibald the Grim, Lady Devorgilla, and birthplace of John Paul
Jones, “Father of the American Navy” along with Dumfries is the
third largest area in Scotland. It also has at its most
southwestern point at the end of a peninsula, which juts into the
Irish Sea, the Mull of Galloway, which has the distinction of being
the southern most point of Scotland.
Its geography varies from over 200 miles of coastline
(where many shipwrecks lie or float) with the topography varying
from cliffs to seashores in the west to hilly, rugged terrain in the
From its western cliffs you can
see Ireland, England, and Wales. Galloway is very rural and its
current product is chiefly dairy. It is here that the belted
Galloway, known as Belties, was developed in the 16th century. This
beef cow is noted for the wide band of white circling its belly with
the rest of its body being a black, dun, or red color.
The climate is unusual for
Scotland and many beautiful gardens such as Threave Gardens (a
popular tourist attraction) are found here.
There are many rivers, lochs,
reservoirs, and of course, the long coastline, so fishing is also
one of Galloway’s industries. Its rivers include the Border Esk,
the Annan, Nith, Cree, and Bladnoch as well as smaller rivers such
as the Urr, Dee, and the Water of Luce where a fish called tope is
I’ve written earlier about the
areas of the Annan (home of the older Bruces) and the Nith.
John Balliol was noted in Scotland’s history when he
was chosen by Edward I to be king, over Robert the Bruce, after the
death of the Maiden of Norway on her way to receive the crown of
Apparently both John and Robert
were entitled by birth to claim the crown. Both the Galloway and
Dumfries area people supported John over Robert.
John swore loyalty to Edward and
Grim was a Douglas (the illegitimate son of James, the Douglas
entrusted with the heart of Robert the Bruce), born around 1320.
He was known as a statesman and soldier. In 1384 he defeated the
English at Lochmaben Castle (one of the Bruce’s homes) thus clearing
Annandale of the last of the English at that time. He held the
titles of Lord of Galloway and Earl of Douglas.
To mark the occasion of receiving
the title of the Lord of Galloway he built Threave Castle on an
island in the middle of the River Dee. It was here that he died on
Christmas Eve, 1400.
Two centuries later the
Covenanters besieged the castle and when it was abandoned they
caused all floors, iron, and wood to be removed. The remains of
the castle still stand on its little island in the Dee in
Kirkcudbrightshire in Dumfrieshire.
Lady Devorgilla is best known for carrying her
embalmed husband’s heart with her until she died. She had an abbey
built in New Abbey near Dumfries in his memory. When she died she
was buried there with her husband’s heart. The monks subsequently
renamed the abbey from New Abbey to Sweetheart Abbey. Lady
Devargilla’s tomb can still be seen there.
Robert Burns lived in Galloway for a good part of his
life and wrote many of his poems there.
With such a large coastline and with its proximity to
Ireland, Galloway was very likely have been the exit point for many
Scots fleeing their homes and persecution, famine, etc.
Not much is heard or read about Galloway, but the
area has contributed a great deal throughout Scotland’s history,
just not as vividly nor infamously as the Highlands, Edinburgh, the
Borders and other more ‘colorful’ areas of