The village of Southerness occupies the land behind Southerness Point, which projects out into the Solway Firth some 14 miles south of Dumfries. You reach it by turning off the main A710 a mile south of Kirkbean. The last couple of miles into Southerness reveal very clearly its major asset: the huge views over the Solway Firth to the English Lake District.
Southerness itself is a fascinating blend of old and new, an old core which has seen the addition of layers of modern holiday development in recent decades. The end result has a very unique feel.
Southerness is quite unlike anywhere else in Scotland, and while the blend that has emerged may not be to everyone's taste, the village is well worth visiting simply because it is so unusual: and to enjoy those views.
The oldest buildings still on view in the area predate Southerness itself by a clear margin. Standing by the minor road two miles north-west of the village is the stump of Wreaths Tower. This is all that remains of a tower house built by the Douglas family in the 1500s. It was part of the estates owned by James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton, at the time of his execution by James VI in 1581 and subsequently passed to the Maxwell family.
In rather better shape is Southerness Lighthouse. When it was completed by Dumfries Town Council in 1749 to serve as a beacon for shipping in the Solway Firth, it was only the second lighthouse to have been built in Scotland. The original structure was increased in height in 1785 and again in the 1840s. It is no longer in use, but it remains a striking white landmark and adds a great deal of character to the village.
Some time in the 1770s Richard Oswald of Auchencruive, a landowner with estates in Ayrshire, became convinced that there was coal to be mined at Southerness Point. He purchased land in the area and developed a model village of single storey cottages close to the shoreline. He then, presumably, brought in miners to live in the cottages and prospect for coal. It is unclear why Oswald thought there was coal to be found here: but whatever his reasons the venture was a complete failure.
In 1946 Major Richard Oswald, a descendent of Richard Oswald of Auchencruive, paid for the design and construction of a championship golf course on the family estates at Southerness. This was completed in 1947 to a design by golf course architect Philip Mackenzie Ross. The course that emerged is consistently rated as being amongst the top 100 in Scotland, and is also viewed as being exceptionally challenging.
The golf course was the first of a series of leisure developments in Southerness. 1954 saw the opening of the Paul Jones Hotel in the village. This was named after John Paul Jones, the local man credited with founding the US Navy, and continues to provide the village with a focal point. The 1970s saw the arrival of a large holiday park, and this was followed by another caravan park and various leisure and amusement developments.
As you drive into Southerness your attention is seized by the holiday park, golf club and developments like the Family Fun House. Yet as you walk from the village car park to the shore you pass the old (and some not so old) cottages en route to the lighthouse. We've said it before on this page, but Southerness really is an intriguing mix of old and new.
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