Simon Baldwin takes a visit to the Cairndale Hotel in Dumfries, and shares what he discovers.

What’s the buzz? How often do you think of the Roman Empire? This question – that went viral on TikTok – wasn’t uppermost in our minds arriving at the Cairndale Hotel. But as it turns out, the ancient sea port owes a great deal to the Romans.

They were among the first to sail up the tidal River Nith – some nine miles inland from the Solway Firth – and Dumfries’ maritime air and stunning coast have ensured many have made it their ‘hame’ ever since.

The Cairndale, a short walk from the historic Midsteeple and a stroll from the river and its iconic bridges and weir, boasts great facilities including a pool, sauna and steam room. Known for entertainment – dinner dances, ceilidhs and live music – the hotel is also a golfers’ choice: they have a golf coordinator on hand to help plan itineraries across Dumfries and Galloway.

What are the rooms like? One of Scotland’s largest, privately owned hotels, the Cairndale has celebrated its ruby anniversary under the stewardship of the Wallace family. Three generations have grown the offering, adding the leisure facilities, a ballroom, function suite and conference centre.

There are now 91 ensuite rooms – from classic twin and doubles to deluxe suites. The views are of the town and its rooftops. You are in the centre of Dumfries, so there is an inevitable background hubbub. The rooms are well designed and very comfortable – as are the beds and pillows. A must on a short break.

All rooms can be accessed via the hotel’s lift. The Cairndale prides itself on working with guests and groups who require special assistance. Last summer, two thirds of their rooms were occupied by entrants from five countries taking part in the UCI World Paracycling Championships.

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Best sea view? Dumfries stands astride the River Nith. Beautiful scenic drives lead west and east to the Solway Firth, taking in views across the broad estuary and landscapes of rural Dumfries and Galloway.

Go west and you’ll reach the picturesque fishing village of Kirkcudbright – famed for its arts and crafts trail. East? The National Cycle Network combines with walks and trails that take in views across the Firth to Cumbria – and allow you to discover hidden gems such as Caerlaverock Castle, once on the shoreline but now a walk inland through enchanting woods.

How about the food? The Reivers is the hotel’s restaurant. When we stayed, it was split with a visiting coach party on one side. Spacious enough to accommodate all in comfort, the Reivers offers a very good choice including a children’s menu.

Among the dishes we enjoyed? Starters – grilled Crottin goat’s cheese with marinated beetroot, rocket and peppers; Barony smoked salmon served with niçoise salad, and marinated tomato and buffalo mozzarella bruchetta.

As mains: breast of duck served with asparagus tips; roast breast of chicken with a wild mushroom tagliatelle, as well as seared fillet of sea bass served with braised fennel. Desserts? Summer pudding, trio of chocolate and passion fruit cheesecake all hit the mark!

Attentive staff made us most welcome – in the restaurant as well as in the Forum Cafe and Bar for pre-dinner drinks. Hearty breakfasts are self-served from a buffet selection.

What will it cost? Double rooms from £121; suites from £194.

How do I book? Visit, phone 01387 254111 or email [email protected].