We begin at Dumfries Museum where you are able to leave your car in the carpark (if you have driven) and set off on foot, but before you leave, take some time to enjoy this as your first stop.
The museum, sitting atop Corbelly Hill and looking down over the town on the western bank of the Nith , is also the site of a Camera Obscura, the oldest working example in the world. If visiting during the Spring or Summer when the Camera Obscura is operational, take some time to wonder what those in the 19th century would have made of the projected moving image of the town outside, long before the concept of television. The distinctive white building housing the camera obscura was once the tower of a windmill, and a replica of this same windmill (as it would have originally looked) may be found in Dumfries’ twin town of Gifhorn, Germany which hosts an international wind and watermill museum covering 40 acres and has 16 mills from 12 different countries!
The museum itself has another Teutonic connection, it hosts the collected works of the photographer and ethnographer Dr Werner Kißling. Born in Silesia (then part of the German Empire, now forming part of southern Poland) in 1895, Kißling spent the early part of his career as a diplomat for the post WW1 Weimar Republic. His final diplomatic posting was to the German Embassy in London in 1931, where he became increasingly distressed by the gains made by Nazism in his native country ultimately resigning his post following Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, he would never return to Germany.
Inspired by a postcard from the Western Isles of Scotland he received as a boy, Kißling set off to Eriskay in 1934, creating a short film on the lives of the crofting population on the island, A poem of remote lives which was to be one of his most well-known works. As well as the Western Isles Kißling studied crofters in South Uist, the farmers and fishermen of Dumfries and Galloway, the Māori of New Zealand, and craftsmen of North Yorkshire. He spent his final years basing his research from Dumfries Museum and died in the town in 1988. The postcard of the Western Isles sent by his mother was found amongst his possessions. You can find out much more about Dr Kißling’s work and his links with Dumfries here: Dr Werner Kissling (futuremuseum.co.uk)
In the grounds of the museum in front of the Camera Obscura can be found a memorial in the style of a Tuscan temple. This was erected in memory of Dr John Sinclair, a young Naval Surgeon from Dumfries who was killed in an accident in Portsmouth in 1840. The day before his tragic and untimely death, Dr Sinclair’s name was drawn in a lottery, winning two statues, Old Mortality and his Pony (from the Sir Walter Scott novels) – which are displayed within the temple memorial to this day.
Also in the front grounds of the museum a Russian cannon, captured during the Crimean war (1853-1856), is displayed. Many such cannon were captured by the British army during the conflict and were subsequently distributed for display around UK towns and cities. The example here was allocated to Dumfries and originally placed in town centre but later moved its present site, in preparation for the erection of the statue of Robert Burns (Point J of this walk).