Caravanning in Dumfries &
Our Beer Man’s Verdict
A weekend in a caravan in Dumfries in Galloway may not sound like everyone’s idea of fun – but this is a beautiful and largely under-appreciated corner of the country.
Boasting golden beaches with pale blue waters and rolling picturesque countryside, there are few places I would rather spend a long weekend with the family. And tropical temperatures are a pleasant and unexpected bonus on this particular long weekend visit.
It’s worth the bothersome drive south-west from Edinburgh – particularly as that invariably calls for a food break in the small spa town of Moffat.
Jack and Rachel’s Tea Room (65 High Street) is popular, although I’ve always found its café staples disappointing. So I go rogue this time with a Cornish pasty from R Little Bakers (6 High Street) to munch in the sunshine.
It’s a hefty specimen for £1.80: pastry filled with a satisfying if slightly smooth and mushy mix of meat with the traditional veg cubes. It hits the spot, although I still manage to squeeze in a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream (£2) from the shop next door that simply seems to be called Freshly Made Ice Cream (8 High Street). It’s sweet and milky and reminds me – favourably – of childhood ice cream from vans, vanilla in name only.
When it comes to ice cream, Cream o’ Galloway (Rainton, Gatehouse of Fleet, Castle Douglas DG7 2DR) rules the south-west of Scotland. Rightly so. The ice cream is nice – the milk comes from their own cattle, like the beef in the burgers – and they have a fantastic visitor centre and fun park. While the food is good, the wonderfully creamy ice cream is undoubtedly the star attraction.
A scoop of bannoffee pairs perfectly with the caramel shortbread (£3.50 for two scoops) and the following day I opt for rum and raisin along with salt caramel and malt. All are delicious – although the flavours tend to play it safe, lacking the ability to surprise and delight like Mary’s Milk Bar.
Fish and chips is another seaside holiday staple, and Polarbites (Harbour Square, Kirkcudbright DG6 4WS) is one of the best in the area. The four us all opt for haddock and chips in various sizes, with or without chips, with a couple of sides of mushy peas and drinks (around £43).
The large haddock is two generous, battered fillets. They and the chips are freshly cooked, crisp and piping hot. Drowned in salt and vinegar, they hit the spot perfectly. The fish is moist and clings to its crunchy golden batter, and the chips are crisp with fluffy insides. Clean plates – and full bellies – all round.
We’re staying at Cardoness just outside Gatehouse of Fleet, so the Skyreburn Teapot is conveniently located. It’s not salubrious – in fact, it’s a dingy little cottage in a layby. The service is surly. But it does have the best view you can imagine, as the doors open out right on to the golden sands of Solway Coast. My cheeseburger is poor quality, but there’s something strangely satisfying about the gently charred puck topped with just-fried onions and cheese. The bacon rolls and plate of chips – fat and cheap, straight out the freezer – get the thumbs up too.
The sweetie mixture bags bought from the counter on the way out as a munch-on-the-go pud are irredeemably crap, though, and shocking value for 50p per bag: low-cost confectionery including microscopic versions of the classics like false teeth, fried eggs and cola bottles.
A swim in the sea to cool down – yes, in Scotland – and that bum note is quickly forgotten.