Ecclefechan is a quiet village whose remarkably broad High Street suggests it was built to take much more traffic than you see today. It was: for 250 years the village lay astride the main road from Carlisle to Glasgow. Ecclefechan was bypassed by the A74 in the early 1970s, and its quietness is today emphasised by the sound of the traffic passing along the M74, the second generation bypass built a couple of hundred yards to the east of the village in the 1990s.
Ecclefechan's historical role is also obvious from the scale of the Ecclefechan Hotel, whose white-painted frontage dominates the main junction in the village. This started life in the 1730s and was later converted into a coaching inn. Stagecoaches called diligences linking Glasgow and London paused here from 1788. These left Glasgow at midnight each Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday night and arrived in London, 403 miles away, at 9.00pm six days later.
This coaching traffic contributed to the village's importance during the 1800s, when it held 12 fairs or markets per year, more than just about anywhere else in southern Scotland.
Ecclefechan's most enduring claim to fame is as the birthplace in 1795 of Thomas Carlyle, the essayist, satirist, and historian. The cottage he lived in as a child stands to the west of the stream that runs along part of the High Street. It houses a recreation of an 1800s cottage and is run as a museum by the National Trust for Scotland.
There are a number of striking buildings in Ecclefechan. Hoddom Parish Church was built, as the Johnstone United Presbyterian Church, in 1866. At the south end of the village the ex-Free Church built in 1878 is now used as the church hall. One of the oddest buildings in the village lies on the north side of the street opposite the Ecclefechan Hotel. Here you find Hoddom Court. This small housing development built in 1989 incorporates the tower and belfry of Hoddom School, built on this site in 1875.
Today's Ecclefechan has a slight feel of somewhere rather left behind by history, bypassed by both the A74 and the M74. And although the West Coast Main Line Railway that put the coaches out of business from 1847 still passes just to the east of the village, Ecclefechan's station closed in the 1960s. Yet the village also has many attractive nooks and crannies, with the area around Carlyle's Birthplace strongly evoking an age that has all too often disappeared elsewhere.
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