Upper Nithsdale Trail Launched to Boost Tourism

People are being encouraged to ‘Discover Upper Nithsdale’ with the launch of a new tourist trail which aims to ‘change the story’ of the area from economic deprivation to tourism success.

The Upper Nithsdale Trail has been designed to showcase the dramatic landscapes of the Lowther Hills and Nith Valley in south west Scotland, and to highlight the quirky visitor attractions and heritage of the local towns and villages.

The 35 mile route has been developed by members of the newly formed Upper Nithsdale Tourism Partnership; a tourism development collaboration between community groups, local businesses and visitor attractions. The partnership’s stated aim is to stimulate the economies of the communities of Upper Nithsdale, which includes Wanlockhead, Scotland’s highest village, Sanquhar, Kirkconnel and Kelloholm.

View PDF: The Upper Nithsdale Trail

The trail encourages people to discover attractions such as the deep underground mine workings at the Museum of Lead Mining, the historic Sanquhar knitting patterns at A’ the Airts, spectacular land art at Crawick Multiverse and rich history at Kirkconnel Parish Heritage Society. The route also invites visitors to explore the natural beauty of the area, including the stunning Mennock Pass, famed for the Scottish gold found regularly in its stream, hidden picnic spots such as the Soldier’s Pond and the scenic uplands of the Crawick Pass.

Rose Murdoch, Chair of the Upper Nithsdale Tourism Partnership, said:

“We are thrilled to launch this route and to invite people to explore our local area. While our little pocket of rural Scotland is just a stone’s throw from the motorway, we know it remains relatively undiscovered, and we want to change that.

“The towns and villages of Upper Nithsdale have a reputation as being places of economic and social deprivation, and while we recognise the truth of that, we also know the incredible untapped potential of them as beautiful and fascinating places to visit and explore. This project is about changing the story of Upper Nithsdale, from one of deprivation to one of extraordinary creativity, innovation and potential.

“Upper Nithsdale is blessed with incredibly dramatic scenery, quirky places to visit and unusual things to do – everything from gold panning to exploring the Multiverse. This project is about coming together as a partnership of communities to celebrate our scenery, heritage, creativity and, of course, our people.”

Jon Evans of the Museum of Lead Mining in Wanlockhead said:

“It’s been fantastic to bring our communities together to work on developing this trail, and this is really just the start. Members of the group recently organised the first Sanquhar Arts Festival and we have plans to develop more festivals and events, as well as information and infrastructure, to unlock the tourism potential of Upper Nithsdale. The energy, enthusiasm and passion within the group is contagious and we have lots of exciting plans to put our towns and villages in the spotlight.”

Michael Argue of Nithsdale Hotel in Sanquhar commented:

“Upper Nithsdale is at the heart of the Southern Upland Way and the trail is designed for active travel as well as driving. The 35 mile loop through the Lowther hills is an ideal cycling route, and it’s a road-based option for walkers over a couple of days, as an alternative to the cross country walking of the Southern Upland Way. This trail is a great introduction to Upper Nithsdale and we hope it will encourage people to explore the area and to fall in love with the scenery here.”

The history and heritage of Upper Nithsdale is a cultural asset that the group are keen to explore. David Branton of Kirkconnel Parish Heritage Society said:

“This part of Scotland is saturated in tales of the Covenanters; of persecution, secret sermons, fugitives, religious plots and hidden history. It’s also strongly associated with Robert Burns and has a rich industrial and craft heritage. One of the things we are keen to do is to make our local heritage more visible and more accessible, for local people as well as visitors.”

Dumfries based Mostly Ghostly, who specialise in dark history research and storytelling, have also joined the tourism partnership; Kathleen Cronie explains:

“We have absolutely loved being involved with the Upper Nithsdale Tourism Partnership. There’s lots of brilliant work going on here, with innovative and passionate people exploring ways to promote this amazing part of Dumfries & Galloway. It really is an undiscovered part of Scotland but it’s full of history, folklore and intriguing stories just waiting to be told. We are really excited to be part of unlocking that potential and celebrating the unique stories of this fascinating place.”

The group has been supported in its formation by Buccleuch, after a series of Community Conversations identified tourism as a shared priority for all the towns and villages in the area. Anna Fergusson of Buccleuch said:

“The formation of the Upper Nithsdale Tourism Partnership as a result of our initial conversations has been exciting to see and be part of; the team have such a wealth of knowledge and passion. This area of Scotland has such beauty and interest, being able to promote it through the trail will be a real boost.”

The Upper Nithsdale Trail can be downloaded from www.uppernithsdale.com and more information about the route and the communities involved can be found at the Facebook page Discover Upper Nithsdale www.facebook.com/DiscoverUpperNithsdale.