The Granite Town of South West Scotland
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The town of Dalbeattie was founded in 1793 as a mill town, a port and a granite quarrying centre. It has still got its Craignair Hill quarry, but now makes most of its income from tourism and service industries. Visitors to Dumfries and Galloway (south west Scotland) are invited to try our town for themselves. It looks good in any kind of weather and we offer a warm welcome.
The town originally started as a coastal port making use of the natural basin where the Dalbeattie Burn enters the River Urr. The town really began in 1793 during the first Scottish Industrial Revolution, from mill-sites using the water-power provided by the steep descent of the Burn into the Urr Valley. The Maxwells of Munchies and the Coplands of Colliston encouraged development of the town on a grid-plan, reflected in the present street layout. Granite quarrying in and around the town gave it a period of prosperity in the 1870s, and many of the fine granite buildings in the town date from this period. From the 1900s Dalbeattie developed other industries in support of agriculture and forestry, the most unusual being from 1940 to the 1960s, when the extensive Ministry of Supply site first manufactured explosives and later (as Royal Naval Armaments Depot Dalbeattie) stored surplus naval munitions. See Ministry of Supply Factory Dalbeattie for more information and the workers' Roll of Honour.
Centralising of industrial production and distribution, and the closure of the railways, have ended the industrial phase, although light industry remains a significant employer. There is much seasonal work in the tourist industry during the summer, but this is largely casual employment. Development of new businesses in this greenfield and peaceful area is of growing importance.
The nearest town of any size is Dumfries, about fifteen miles to the northeast. Dumfries is the administrative centre of the Region and has a population of about 44,000 people. Across the Urr, and seven miles to the northwest is the town of Castle Douglas, with a population of about 3,600 people. Further west, eighteen miles along the coast from Dalbeattie, is the town of Kirkcudbright, once the county town of the Stewartry and still an important centre. Its artists' colony has been active since the 1900s, and was immortalised by Dorothy L. Sayers in her crime novel 'Five Red Herrings'.
Several villages and hamlets are sited within or near the Urr Valley, those on its east side including the Haugh of Urr three miles to the north, Kippford and Rockcliffe six and seven miles to the south. Kippford is an important sailing and golfing centre. The important Barend coastal resort at Sandyhills is about nine miles southeast along the coast road, with the large holiday village of Southerness a further nine miles along the coast to the east.
Across the Urr from Dalbeattie is the small hamlet of Buittle. Though now only a handful of farms, at one time its Buittle Castle was the family home of the McFergus family and of Princess Devorguilla of Galloway. To the south of Buittle, and about four miles from Dalbeattie, is the small town of Palnackie. This small port was once an outport of Dalbeattie but is now more famous for its annual 'Flounder Trampling' contests. Further south and seven miles southeast of Dalbeattie, is the former fishing and smuggling village of Auchencairn. Halfway between there and Kirkcudbright is Dundrennan, whose beautiful Abbey was the last place visited by Mary Queen of Scots before she fled south into exile in England.
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