We have a passion for exploring historic and forgotten kirkyards, the joy of discovery providing a strong and irresistible pull. It is this passion that has inspired us to create a series of three historic churchyard tours for Dumfries which we aim to expand further. These walking tours will take place in St. Michael’s, St. Mary’s and Troqueer Churchyards respectively, and will comprise of stories behind the stones, deciphering and understanding funerary symbolism and admiring some of the very best in local graveyard architecture.
So why do we love visiting these places? The reasons are plentiful; often, you are blanketed in a sense of peace, even when close to the constant rumble of life. These are places of respect, of contemplation, somewhere you can wander freely and immerse yourself in the beauty of Gothic headstones, sprawling vegetation and in the case of our tours, the stunning backdrop of a beautiful old church. As you meander along uneven pathways, your eye will be drawn to a symbol or inscription, detailing past lives that are still relevant to people today, be they geneologists, social researchers or just curious passers-by, these stone memorials are a doorway to our past, a starting point for further study. I am particularly drawn towards mortality symbols such as the skull and crossed bones, which can be found in a variety of styles, each individual to the mason who carved them. There are trends – fashions – that become evident the deeper you delve.
Being storytellers who love all aspects of local history, particularly the darker side, tales of Dumfries’ past are all around, waiting to be discovered within the crumbling stones. Each symbol is a picture connected to that individual’s life, death and the era from which they came. You can learn all sorts of interesting things from examining a gravestone; where a person lived, their occupation, cause of death, family connections, social standing and how their loved ones viewed the afterlife. Visiting such historic sites is a consistent source of stimulation and intrigue and we are keen to share these fascinating resources with you; notable people, curious epitaphs, skilful sculptures…
We work hard to promote local tourism and constantly strive to seek out unique or lesser known aspects of our region to highlight to the wider world as well as our local communities. Sometimes you can live in a place for many years and never know what’s on your doorstep. This has become increasingly apparent through projects such as the Dumfries Ghost Walk and Ghosts and Graverobbers Tour. Upon entering St. Mary’s Churchyard, many a local resident has expressed they had no idea that behind its outstanding Gothic-style church and scattering of impressive gravemarkers to the fore of the churchyard, lies a large area of sloping burial ground.
We regularly highlight through e.g. our FB page, fascinating headstones and monumental inscriptons from around Dumfries and Galloway, generating comments, discussion topics and the sharing of personal photos from visitors to the page. This subject is clearly a popular one.
This gives you an idea of why we enjoy visiting graveyards and are keen to share their stony secrets with others. Our tours focus on the historic element, they will not encroach on the more modern areas, some of which are still in use. These walks are underpinned by a strong respect for the dead, and very much for the living. We appreciate the support from local ministers, Dumfries & Galloway Council and other interested parties and hope that through these privately booked tours, we can raise the profile of our region and encourage people to find out more about their local history while gaining an affection and appreciation for these inspiring sites.
Look out for a page detailing graveryard tour booking information and in the meantime, if you’d like to find out more, we welcome your enquiries through our website or by phoning 07791 047835 or 07912 145865. You can also FOLLOW us on Twitter and LIKE us on Facebook