Low-cost AND child-friendly – there’s plenty to do in and around Dumfries, Scotland

Sometimes, we all need time to rest and recharge our batteries, without the children.

I was lucky enough to be able to spend the weekend with my own mum, and it was wonderful to be able to put my feet up without calls of “Mu-u-um…?” and “I need a drink”, or “I’m hungry”, and “I need a weeeeeeeee!” as soon as I’d sat down. Despite that, I missed my girls terribly and as they were never far from my thoughts, I frequently swept my analytical eye over the attractions I was lucky enough to visit without the crazy brood in tow.

Of course – these are just a snapshot of some of the things you can do in this curious part of Scotland. I’m intrigued to learn more about the area – I have strong family connections to the area as it’s where my mother’s family hail from. I’ve reached an age where I feel I need to know more about my own heritage and history (and this of course has nothing whatsoever to do with a certain fictional character named Jamie Fraser – ahem), and intend to revisit as soon as I can with my husband and children.

Drummuir Farm Ice Cream Parlour

Why it’s good for kids

It’s ice cream.


No, seriously; this place is fantastic for children. Not only do they sell a child-sized ice cream for less than £1 (and at the time of writing, the adult-sized cone is also only £1), but there’s a (small) indoor softplay area, an outdoor park, and lots of fun illustrations of ice-creams and cows dotted about. And you know only the best ingredients go in this ice-cream – the “dairy deer” (cows) who supply the milk themselves can be seen on site, from either inside the parlour looking out the window onto the vast expanse of field, or from the super-fun play area for the kiddies.


Why it’s good for grown-ups

Because “without ice cream there would be darkness and chaos”.
Seriously, do I need to even answer this one? It’s ice-cream. What’s not to love?
It’s an ice-cream parlour.
And not just ice-cream. Cones, waffle-cones, sandwiches, tea, coffee, play area for your children to play in while you scoff your ice-cream. Proper down-time – and perfect whatever the weather. You can eat it inside, you can take it away, or you can soak up some sun in the outside area in the unbelievably hot Dumfries summer. (Disclaimer: The photo above depicts a particularly wet and rainy day. But don’t be all judgy; how do you think this beautiful land gets its luscious green grass?)

You can even visit in winter. Because as the ice-cream parlour itself quotes: “It’s never too cold for ice-cream”.

The Jolly Harvester pub and restaurant – Dumfries

Why it’s good for kids

With seating outside and a green space for the children to run around on (although watch the younger ones near the cars in the car park, and neighbouring road), this welcoming pub is ideal for an hour or two on a Saturday afternoon. They also cater for children, provide high chairs and have a dedicated baby-changing facility. The establishment is very family-orientated, and it’s not unusual to see the restaurant full of families on a Saturday night.

Why it’s good for grown-ups

The staff are very attentive, welcoming you in as soon as you arrive through the door. If you haven’t booked (and if you’re lucky enough that one should be available), you’ll be shown to your table where the friendly staff will take your drink order and return shortly after for your food requirements. The menu is traditional pub fare – fish and chips; scampi; steak pie etc, and is beautifully cooked and well-presented for a very reasonable price. Portions are a decent size, and after a pleasant evening in a warming ambience, you can be sure of leaving the Jolly Harvester feeling rather… well; jolly.


Carlaeverock Castle

Why it’s good for kids

Just look at the detail in those towers. What little girl wouldn’t love to see the mystery of this castle; imagining herself stood at the top, her Rapunzel-locks tumbling down to the bottom to let her prince climb up and rescue her? And as for the wee laddies – what young man doesn’t love to imagine he’s a knight fighting for his King and Country? Charging on his horse, wielding a sword? It’s the perfect place to let their little imaginations run riot, and you don’t even have to pay to see much of the castle; a skirt around the outside of the ruins affords you a glimpse inside the castle keep. If you would like to pass through the castle gate, entry can be bought for a very reasonable £5.50 for adults and £3.30 for children, at the time of writing (check the website for full details).
IMG_0165Not only this, but with a number of benches adjacent to the car park and a vast expanse of lush green, it’s a great place to take a picnic and let the wee ones run around in the fresh air. There’s also a children’s play area (did I not mention that?), so you can be sure if the children get bored of the history side of things, they can certainly find other ways to burn off their energy.


Why it’s good for grown-ups

The romantics among you might enjoy a stroll in and around the castle grounds. Behind the castle, a curious path lures you through the woods via a boardwalk over boggy lands, to the original site before it was moved around AD 1270. Stand inside what would have been the castle walls, and let time stand still as you imagine residents and servants bustling about their daily lives. The atmosphere is almost eerie – it’s incredibly peaceful and secret, tucked away in the marshes at the northern edge of the Solway Firth. Once you’ve explored the remains at your leisure, you can rejoin the path and navigate through the ancient native woodlands to the Nature Reserve. On returning to the estate entrance, you might want to indulge in something from the tea room; having worked up an appetite from the fresh country air. Spend a few moments browsing the little shop, and then read all about the history of this beautiful Scottish gem from the small but very informative exhibition before you go.


With Dumfries and Galloway, there’s so much more to uncover, and plenty more places to visit with the family that will cost next to nothing. There’s nearby Maybie Forest (wonderful for walks and some incredible views), the Solway coast with beautiful sandy beaches, and miles of rolling hills topped with lush, soft green grass.

So – we’ll be returning to Dumfries, pre-armed with a selection of activities that we can enjoy together as a family, that don’t have to cost the earth.


This post was written for WikiPlacesForKids.com – THE website for Kids AND Grown-Ups! Packed with awesome reviews of epic trips out, and a top resource for that much-needed hour out of the house. 


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