Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, United Kingdom
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On 21 December 1988, an unassuming little town in south-west Scotland gained a dubious notoriety when Pan Am Flight 103 en route from Heathrow to New York violently disintegrated in the skies above, the result of a terrorist bomb planted on board before take-off. A total of 270 people of twenty different nationalities were killed on the night of the disaster, 259 on the plane and 11 local residents. This incident remains the biggest terrorist attack in Britain to date, and the town is, of course, Lockerbie. I lived and worked in the town from 1990 – 1994 but have visited on a number of occasions since, the most memorable being in August 2009. This was shortly after Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the only person ever convicted of involvement in the bombing, had been released from Greenock Prison on compassionate grounds due to ill health. I made a particular effort on this trip to reconnect with the local people and assess their mood, 21 years after the disaster. I concluded that the intervening years had not changed their kindly nature. The town has never seen the need to ‘court’ tourists, yet it is well worth visiting Lockerbie and the surrounding area of Dumfries and Galloway.
I recommend your first port of call should be Dryfesdale Lodge Visitors’ Centre, about a mile outside Lockerbie on the A709 Dumfries Road. It is open from the end of March to end of October. See the website for times of opening. It is well worth making the short walk from the Visitor’s Centre to the Lockerbie Air Disaster Memorial and Garden of Remembrance to spend a few minutes in quiet contemplation. Consider what else the region has to offer:
The town of Dumfries is 12 miles from Lockerbie and there is a regular bus service. Here you will find many familiar high street stores, but I recommend a visit to Barber’s Department Store, and in particular its restaurant for lunch or coffee and a ‘naughty’ cake.
For something a little different, visit the Dumfries Camera Obscura, although be aware that you will need to climb stairs, as it is housed on the top floor of a converted windmill. My husband is a keen photographer and got a brilliant shot of the rooftops over Dumfries through a window on our way up, so that made the climb doubly worthwhile. Jack and Beverley Wilgus have travelled extensively to visit camera obscuras in the United States and Britain. On their website they comment that “the 1836 camera obscura in the museum at Dumfries is the oldest, best preserved we have ever visited”.
Robert Burns, the famous literary poet, spent his later years in Dumfries and is also buried there. He is well commemorated in the town and there are several visitor attractions, including his statue, the Burns Visitor Centre and Burns Mausoleum.
If castles are your thing, Caerlaverock Castle, just 7 miles south of Dumfries off the B725, is well worth a visit. Built circa 1300, today it is basically a ‘shell’ and very interesting architecturally, being triangular in shape and surrounded by a moat. Children as well as adults will enjoy exploring the accessible areas of the structure. Keen nature lovers and conservationists may also like to include a visit to the nearby Caelaverock Wetland Centre, one of nine such centres run by the Wildlife and Wetlands Trust throughout Britain. Drumlanrig Castle, the home of the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, is situated 17 miles north of Dumfries off the A76 Kilmarnock Road, and is a fine example of late 17th century Renaissance architecture. There is certainly enough here of interest to keep you occupied for an entire day, both in the grounds and the Castle itself. If you do not have the use of a car, there is a bus service from Dumfries which will drop you at the estate entrance.
Excellent road and train links make Lockerbie an ideal base if you wish to go further afield. The border city of Carlisle, just 25 miles south on the M74/M6, is accessible by road, train or bus. A short detour off the M6 10 miles north of Carlisle brings you to Gretna Green, where you can take some time to visit the Old Blacksmith’s Shop Visitor Centre or shop at the nearby discount retail outlet. There is also a large market on Sunday mornings . Keswick in the Lake District is a 60 mile drive. Exit the M6 south at Junction 40 Penrith and take the 4th exit onto the A66. Hadrian’s Wall is likewise easily commutable, with Housesteads Fort and Museum, the most well preserved and famous of the Roman Forts on the wall, just 50 miles drive away near Hexham, Northumberland.
Glasgow is a 72 mile drive north on the M6. Alternatively, you could go directly by train from Lockerbie station. Edinburgh is 74 miles by car, but also commutable by train from Lockerbie station.
Yes, Lockerbie is a small town, but one with a strong sense of community. The local people do not forget the past, but they will not let it define their future.
Enjoy your visit!
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This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.