Links between Scotland and Italy go back 100s of years. At the end of the 19th century and beginnings of the 20th century, with an ailing Tuscan economy, suffering under the decline of the silk industry young, impoverished Tuscans were forced to emigrate in search of work to support their families. Some of these immigrants discovered the Scots sweet tooth and used their skills to make gelato that really began to see success. Coupling their ice-cream with fish and chips, a dish made with the two ingredients most abundant in Scotland, they soon began to integrate into Scotland’s communities by opening cafés and restaurants. These Italian Scots call themselves the Italoscozzese, and many have made Dumfries their home, Amanda Rosa, a world famous interior designer had a family cafe in Dumfries and Ivanos Italiano on the Whitesands is run by Ivano from Lucca in Tuscany who moved to Dumfries some 20 years ago.
Make your way back to the museum by way of Devorgilla bridge over the river Nith, named after Lady Devorgilla of Galloway (1210-1290). Her husband, John de Balliol (eponym of Balliol College, Oxford) was appointed as protector of King Alexander the 3rd of Scotland. Devorgilla paid for a wooden bridge over the river Nith later to be replaced by the famous stone bridge that takes her name. She also financed the New Abbey seven miles south of Dumfries, now known as Sweetheart Abbey.
Before you cross the bridge, immediately adjacent to the steps is a recent addition to the range of landmarks commemorating the deep 20th century association with Norway. Unveiled in September 2023, by a Norwegian civic delegation and the country’s defence attaché to the UK who travelled to the town for the occasion, the stone quarried near Sandefjord in southern Norway is fitted with plaques commemorating the connection between Norway and Dumfries.
As you cross the bridge look to the west (away from the town centre) and up Corbelly Hill and you will note a Benedictine Convent, opened in 1884 for nuns of the Perpetual Adoration. We believe that the name Corbelly may be another Scots exonym, this time for Corbeil in France, the significance of which is detailed in the Castledykes park stop.
The convent housed an order of nuns originally from Arras in France also later served as a girls’ school, but has been empty from the late 20th century. It found fame again in the early 2000s, when it was was used as the location for much of the filming of Peter Mullan’s The Magdalene Sisters, detailing the abuse of four women at one of the infamous Magdalene laundries in 1960s Ireland. Regrettably, the building has fallen victim to vandalism in recent years and a substantial fire occurred in August 2022, mainly affecting the chapel. A further fire in May 2023 caused a large section of the roof and the spire to collapse . Given the remainder of the structure which is standing is private property and that parts of the building may be unstable following the fires, we would ask that you take in the view from a distance, please do not attempt to enter the former convent’s grounds.
If you have been following the walk in sequential order, this is your final stop. From the bridge you can also see the windmill tower at the museum starting point should you need to return there. If returning to the museum, we would encourage you to take some time to enjoy the rich collections to be found within. Or perhaps you will take the time to have a drink or bite to eat in one of the many bars, cafes or restaurants in the town centre.
Thank you for visiting Dumfries, we hope you have enjoyed finding out more about the town and its European links and wish you a safe onward journey, wherever it takes you. Haste ye back!