Visit Moffat: Places to stay, things to do

Who needs the Highlands when the south of Scotland has so much to recommend it? Nick Peers discovers an old spa town is the perfect spot for exploring this beautiful area of the UK


© Copyright Colin Pyle and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Why go there
Depending on the weather, you can either use Moffat as a base to explore the surrounding countryside or to soak up the atmosphere of this tourist-friendly spa town, which came to prominence in the Victorian era, reflected in many of its buildings. It also boasts a number of independent shops, plus a healthy collection of eating establishments, should the weather drive you indoors, plus a museum dedicated to the town’s spa origins.
If the weather doesn’t put you off, you’ll find numerous walks for all abilities are flagged at the town’s official web site, including a number on the Southern Upland Way, which passes close by Moffat on its 212-mile route from Portpatrick to Cockburnspath.
Places worth visiting nearby include Grey Mare’s Tail Nature Reserve, which is named after the 18m (60ft) waterfall that takes the waters from Loch Skene in the Moffat Hills into the Moffat Water Valley. Parking costs £2, and you can access the loch through the reserve.
Most of Drumlanrig Castle’s attractions are closed over the winter, but you can still make use of its waymarked trails and cycle routes. Nature lovers should consider a trip south to the coast to Caerlaverock Wetlands Centre or the RSPB reserve at Mersehead.
Where to stay
If you don’t mind staying just outside Moffat, you can base yourself at the stunning Auchen Castle, which was built alongside the ruins of the original 12th century castle in 1849. It’s set in 34 acres of private grounds and woodland, and offers accommodation in the hotel itself or in a number of lodges. Prices start from £67 for a standard single, or £109 for a standard double room in the castle itself, which includes breakfast.
Where to eat
Moffat is renowned for its eateries, from Italian food made from local ingredients at Claudio’s to unfussy local cuisine at the Limetree Restaurant. However, it’s the Annandale Arms which has won a number of awards for its food, including a Good Food 2009 prize, and boasts mouth-watering dishes based around locally sourced Scotch beef, wild salmon, scallops and lamb.
Tell us a local secret
John Loudon Macadam, who pioneered the road-building technology still in use today, is buried in Moffat’s old cemetery, which is opposite Chambers Art Gallery and Bookshop in the town.