Kirkcudbright and Five Red Herrings

Last weekend, to avoid the Bank Holiday crowds, we decided to travel north to the Scottish Borders and explore a few places of great interest to us.

Our first destination was Kirkcudbright. I'm sure I have visited this lovely little town before, probably as a child, but I have no recollection of the pretty, riverside artists' colony which is modern day Kirkcudbright. I would have been inclined to think that the arty Kirkcudbright was a modern phenomenon if it wasn't for the fact that Dorothy L Sayers set one of her wonderful Lord Peter Wimsey novels in the town.  
Kirkcudbright's pastel cottages
In Five Red Herrings, unlike other Sayers' novels, the setting is entirely real, being set in south-west Scotland around Gatehouse-in-Fleet and Kirkcudbright, which Sayers knew well. In the foreword to the novel, Sayers writes "here at last is your book about Gatehouse and Kirkcudbright. All the places are real places and all the trains are real trains, and all the landscapes are correct, except that I have run up a few more houses here and there".

Sayers' main characters, apart from Wimsey, Bunter  and the police, are primarily artists: in the first sentence of the novel Sayers reports that “If one lives in Galloway, one either fishes or paints. ‘Either’ is perhaps misleading, for most of the painters are fishers in their spare time.”

Kirkcudbright's pretty harbour
Wandering around modernday Kirkcudbright, it was easy to imagine it in the 1920s, full of artists and fishermen. Today the small town is home to a host of interesting art galleries, small shops and teashops. The riverside setting gives a seaside feel to the town. Many of the houses are painted in pastel colours and this all adds to the sense of gaiety which pervades the town. If we hadn't been surrounded by lilting Scottish voices, we could have been in St Ives or Padstow.

There is a ruined castle in the centre of the town: MacLellan's Castle, which we explored thoroughly.
MacLellan's Castle

When we got home I hunted out the wonderful Ian Carmichael as Wimsey in the BBC adaptation of the novel and we started watching. Bliss!