|There's been a settlement in Castle Douglas
for many centuries, although until the end of the 1700s it was known as
Carlingwark. From the early 1600s the town benefitted from being on the route
of the military road built by James VI/I to to support
the plantation of Ulster.
Carlingwark became Castle Douglas in 1792 after Sir William Douglas laid out a new village on the site of
the old. Today's street plan has changed little over the past two centuries. It
is rectilinear in form, comprising three long parallel streets linked by cross
The main street is King Street, with to its east Queen Street. A clue to the original purpose of Castle
Douglas can be found in the name of the third parallel street: Cotton Street.
Castle Douglas was established as a centre for the hand spinning of
cotton, as one of the industries introduced by Sir William. For a time the plan succeeded, but in the long term there was no way Castle Douglas
could compete with industrialised cotton spinning in huge water-powered mills
like those at established seven years before Castle Douglas itself.
But if the town did not succeed as a centre for cotton spinning, it certainly did in other ways. Later
roads, up to and including the current A75, tended to follow the general route
of the first military road. The evidence of the importance to the town of the
through traffic across south west Scotland is clear from the presence of a
number of large hotels whose origins obviously lay in the coaching days of the
The railway came to Castle Douglas in 1859, only to disappear along with many other rural lines in 1965.
But throughout the period Castle Douglas's role grew as the largest market town
for a considerable distance in any direction. Evidence of this can be seen from
the Auction Mart towards the east end of the town. The typical hexagonal market
building built in 1900 is accompanied by extensive stock yards indicating the
scale of activity here.
The most outstanding feature on King Street is the large octagonal clock tower built in 1935 on the site of
an earlier town house and steeple which had burned down. A short distance along
Abercrombie Street from the clock tower is the town hall dating back to 1863,
while nearby is the RC Church of St John the Evangelist, built in 1868. This is
one of five churches in Castle Douglas, including the Parish Church in Queen
Street and the nearby former Parish Church, converted to a theatre in 1992.
Castle Douglas is increasingly seen as a base for those touring South West Scotland. It is
centrally located in a part of the country which always turns out to be larger
than expected. It also has a couple of outstanding visitor attractions in its
own right. Just to the south west of the town are Threave Gardens, run by the National
Trust for Scotland; while a mile or so further west is Historic Scotland's
Threave Castle, spectacularly located
on an island in the River Dee, and which features so strongly in
Less well known, is the Douglas
Mausoleum, also just outside the town.
• Douglas Arms