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Dumfries eurowalk

Point I - Dumfries High Street

“The County Hotel” (Now Waterstones Bookstore)

The (former) County Hotel, now Waterstones bookshop (Image: P Carson)

Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) was born in Rome and grew up in Italy before travelling to France when he was 24 (1744). He lived in France between 1744 and 1745 planning to travel to Scotland and meeting with those who supported the Jacobites (there were representatives in every key European court).

Prior to his invasion of England in November 1745, Charles set up his headquarters in the County Hotel on Dumfries High Street with room six being known as Bonnie Prince Charlie’s room. The invasion began with the surrender of Carlisle Castle on the 10th November, with Jacobite forces reaching as far as Derby by early December, before retreating to Scotland, culminating at the Battle of Culloden in April 1746.

After his defeat at Culloden, Charles returned to France where he lived in Exile from 1746 until 1766 when he returned to Italy. After his death in 1788 his remains were ultimately buried in the crypt of St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican in Rome.

“The King’s Arms Hotel” (Now Boots Chemist)

Boots the Chemist, once the Kings Arms Hotel and lodging of the serial killer William Hare (Image: P Carson)

The infamous murders carried out by the Irish serial killers William Burke and William Hare in 1828 Edinburgh may seem a great distance removed from Dumfries High Street. However, after giving evidence for the prosecution at the trial of Burke, Hare escaped execution and was granted immunity on 1st December 1828; although he was not released from custody until February 1829, after Burke had been found guilty and had been executed. The last sighting of Hare in the capital following his release, was him boarding a mail coach bound for Dumfries.

Word of Hare’s movements spread amongst the Dumfries townsfolk, as one of the other occupants of the coach recognised their fellow passenger from the trial some months earlier, and it was not long before an angry mob greeted Hare in the town centre. Hare was quickly escorted through to the back of the Kings Arms pub in the High Street whilst the mob chanted “Burke him! Burke him!” outside, wishing he would meet the same fate as his accomplice Burke (i.e. the noose).

The story goes that Hare did not stay long in Dumfries, making an undercover escape in the early hours of the morning, the last confirmed sighting of him was on the Annan Road on his way out of town. Fokelore says he ended up in London as a blind beggar, although it’s not at all clear what happened next. The plaque on the wall, just to the right of the entrance to Boots indicates that he returned to his native Ireland, but in other versions on the story he remained in Southern Scotland under an assumed name of Maxwell.


If you are following the walk in sequence, on the way to your next stop at Burns Square, take a moment to pause by the Midsteeple, the large sandstone building with clocktower in the middle of the High Street. Completed in 1707, it served as a small gaol and the meeting place for the burgh council and it was in the chamber that Burns’ body lay at rest, following his death in 1796. To the right of the building (facing the Santander Bank branch), above the box office on the ground floor, are 4 plaques, celebrating the overseas links established with towns overseas. The formal twinning relationship with Gifhorn, Germany is celebrated here, but also links with Cantu (Italy), Tønsberg (Norway) and Annapolis (USA).

Eastern elevation of the Midsteeple, plaques commemorating links with other overseas towns
(Image: P Carson)