With a population of around 3,500 people, the merry Galloway coastal town of Kirkcudbright (pronounced ‘kir-coo-bree’) punches well above its weight when it comes to artistic endeavours. The town has seven art galleries within its medieval confines, each exhibiting and selling an eclectic range of art produced by an equally diverse range of painters, illustrators and sculptures, many of whom live and work in the town. This has led to Kirkcudbright becoming known as The Artist’s Town.
But why the close correlation between Kirkcudbright and art? In the 14th and 15th centuries, agriculture, fishing and the exporting of cloth were important in establishing the town as a centre for trade, but it was during the 18th century, with the advent of rail travel, that the tourist trade started in earnest and visitors began to appreciate the scenic beauty of Kirkcudbright.
A honeypot for artists
During the 19th and 20th centuries a number of celebrated artists, such as EA Hornel, Charles Oppenheimer, Jessie King and EA Taylor garnered much inspiration from the gorgeous scenery, the wildlife and, most significantly, the quality of light to produce some of the period’s most enduring paintings. Therefore the relationship between Kirkcudbright and art is not a recent phenomenon and today those same elements continue to attract creative types.
Picture perfect market town
Once here, you do not need to stray from this little Galloway town to revel in the joys of art. The chance to visit a studio and watch an artist at work, or to view colourful canvasses in a local gallery, is a worthwhile amble on an afternoon. For the artists themselves the allure of the charming market square, which is bordered on three sides by attractive pastel-coloured houses and shops, and the 16th-century remains of McLellan’s Castle, makes them want to pick up a pencil and sketch.
Or the town’s bustling working harbour, where the textures and vibrant colours of the boats are just crying out to be portrayed by the broad strokes of an oil paint-laden brush, while the likes of oystercatcher, redshank and curlew, scuttling along the banks of the River Dee are readily depicted in soft sweeps of watercolour. It was from this very same port that the first Scottish emigrants left for Nova Scotia in Canada in 1622. What on earth were they thinking?
As well as the town’s arty attractions, Kirkcudbright’s family-owned shops, museums, gardens and nearby coastal walking routes offer plenty of stimulation for body and soul.