The Dumfries and Galloway Council region is composed of counties and their sub-areas. From east to west:
The term 'Dumfries and Galloway' has been used since at latest the 19th century – by 1911 the three counties had a united Sheriffdom under that name. Dumfries and Galloway covers the majority of the Western area of the Southern Uplands, it also hosts Scotland's most Southerly point, at the Mull of Galloway in the west of the region.
Water systems and transport routes through the Southern Uplands
The region has a number of south running water systems which break through the Southern Uplands creating the main road, and rail, arteries north/south through the region and breaking the hills up into a number of ranges.
The A701 branches off the M74 at Beattock, goes through the town of Moffat, climbs to Annanhead above the Devil's Beef Tub (at the source of the River Annan) before passing the source of the River Tweed and carrying on to Edinburgh. Until fairly recent times the ancient route to Edinburgh travelled right up Annandale to the Beef Tub before climbing steeply to Annanhead. The present road ascends northward on a ridge parallel to Annandale but to the west of it which makes for a much easier ascent.
From Moffat the A708 heads north east along the valley of Moffat Water (Moffatdale) on its way to Selkirk. Moffatdale separates the Moffat hills (to the north) from the Ettrick hills to the south.
National Scenic Areas
There are three National Scenic Areas within this region.
- Nith Estuary: this area follows the River Nith southward from just south of Dumfries into the Solway Firth. Dumfries itself has a rich history going back over 800 years as a Royal Burgh (1186) and is particularly remembered as the place where Robert the Bruce murdered the Red Comyn in 1306 before being crowned King of Scotland – and where Robert Burns spent his last years. His mausoleum is in St Michael's graveyard. Going down the east bank there is the village of Glencaple, Caerlaverock Castle, Caerlaverock Wild Fowl Trust, an ancient Roman fort on Ward Law Hill and nearby in Ruthwell is the Ruthwell Cross and the Brow Well where Robert Burns "took the waters" and bathed in the Solway just before his death. On the west bank, there are several walks and cycle routes in Mabie Forest, Kirkconnell Flow for the naturalist, the National Museum of Costume just outside New Abbey and Sweetheart Abbey within the village. Criffel (569 metres) offers the hill walker a reasonably modest walk with views across the Solway to the Lake District. The house of John Paul Jones founder of the American Navy is also open to visitors near Kirkbean.
- East Stewartry Coast: this takes in the coast line from Balcary Point eastward across Auchencairn Bay and the Rough Firth past Sandyhills to Mersehead. There are several coastal villages within this area – Auchencairn, Kippford, Colvend, Rockcliffe, and Portling. There is also a round tower at Orchardton and the islands of Hestan Isle and Rough Island can be reached at low tide outside the breeding season for birds. Mersehead is a wildfowl reserve. The area has a number of coastal paths.
- Fleet Valley: this area takes in Fleet Bay with its holiday destinations of Auchenlarie, Mossyard Bay, Cardoness, Sandgreen and Carrick Shore. The area also includes the town of Gatehouse of Fleet and the historic villages of Anworth and Girthon – there is a castle at Cardoness in the care of Historic Scotland.
Governance and place names
The region was created in 1975, by merging the counties of Wigtownshire, Kirkcudbrightshire and Dumfriesshire as a two-tier region with the districts of Wigtownshire, Stewartry, Nithsdale, and Annandale and Eskdale within it. After 1996 the unitary authority became known as Dumfries and Galloway Council still with Wigtownshire, Stewartry, Nithsdale, Annandale and Eskdale within it.
County councils as administrative authorities were created in 1889. The present-day, "Dumfries and Galloway Council Area" exist for administrative purposes.
The historic counties of Britain, at least most of them, have existed for around 1,000 years or more and are often logical geographical entities in themselves. In Scotland they originated as Sheriffdoms consisting of a group of parishes over which the sheriff had jurisdiction, replacing native "Celtic" forms of government with Norman feudal structures.