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Scottish Gaelic: Am Magh Fada (The Long Plain)

Moffat from the surrounding hills
Moffat is located in Dumfries and Galloway
 Moffat shown within Dumfries and Galloway
OS grid reference
Council area Dumfries and Galloway
Lieutenancy area Dumfries
Country Scotland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town MOFFAT
Postcode district DG10
Dialling code 01683
Police Scottish
Fire Scottish
Ambulance Scottish
EU Parliament Scotland
UK Parliament Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale
Scottish Parliament Dumfriesshire
List of places

Moffat (Scottish Gaelic: Am Magh Fada, "The Long Plain") is a former burgh and spa town in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, lying on the River Annan, with a population of around 2,500. It was a centre of the wool trade and a spa town.

The Moffat House Hotel, located at the northern end of the High Street, was designed by John Adam. The nearby Star Hotel, a mere 20 ft (6 m) wide, boasted a record in the Guinness Book of Records as the narrowest hotel in the world. Moffat won the Britain in Bloom contest in 1996.

Moffat is the home to Moffat toffee.

The town is held to be the ancestral seat of Clan Moffat. The Devil's Beef Tub near Moffat was used by the members of Clan Moffat and later the members of Clan Johnstone to hoard cattle stolen in predatory raids.


  • Early tourism as a spa town 1
  • Wool trade 2
  • Notable people 3
  • Famous and infamous visitors 4
  • Tourism 5
  • Education 6
  • Sport and recreation 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Early tourism as a spa town

The old sulphurous well building.

From 1633 Moffat began to grow from a small village into a popular spa town. The sulphurous and saline waters of Moffat Spa were believed to have healing properties, specifically curative for skin conditions, gout, rheumatism and stomach complaints.[1] In 1730 these were complemented by the addition of iron springs. During the Victorian era the high demand led to the water being piped down from the well to a tank in Tank Wood and then on to a specially built bath house in the town centre (now the Town Hall).[2]

Luxurious hotels sprang up to accommodate the increasing numbers of tourists. One such hotel opened during Moffat's heyday in 1878, Moffat's Hydropathic hotel was destroyed in a fire in 1921.

The old well was refurbished in the mid 1990s, and is still accessible by vehicle and foot. The water smells very strongly of sulphur, with deposits on the walls and well itself. At the grand reopening of the well people visiting it were encouraged to drink a glass of it.

The well can be reached by following Haywood Road and climbing up Tank Wood (on the right at the top) - the path at the end was the original route to the well. An alternative is to drive or walk up Well Road and eventually you will reach the Well Cottage and the car park for the well. As stated, when the water was first piped into town for the baths it was pumped uphill to a tank in the appropriately named Tank Wood, before travelling back downhill to the bath house.

Larchhill Well was a Chalybeate well located on Old Well Road near Wellwoodhead Cottage. The well is no longer visible.

Wool trade

Ram statue

Moffat was a notable market in the wool trade, and this is commemorated with a statue of a ram by William Brodie in the town's marketplace. The ram was presented to the town by William Colvin, a local businessman, in 1875. The ram's ears are missing, as they have been since it was first presented.

Notable people

Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding, commander of RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain, was born at St Ninian's School, Moffat in 1882. The former school is now sheltered housing for RAF veterans. There is a memorial to Dowding in Station Park. It is in a local red sandstone with a bronze memorial tablet on the wall and RAF crest badges on the flanking 'wings'. The architect and designer was D. Bruce Walker and the sculptor Scott Sutherland RSA.

D. E. Stevenson (1892–1973) author and cousin to Robert Louis Stevenson. William Carruthers, botanist, was born in Moffat, as was the distinguished mathematical biologist James D. Murray.

Moffat has spawned two full Scotland international footballers, James B Niven and James Fraser, and Indian-Scottish comedian Danny Bhoy. Ivor Robson, the official starter for the Open golf tournament since 1975, lives in Moffat.

Ellen or Helen Hyslop of Moffat is said to have had a daughter, Helen or Ellen Armstrong, fathered by the poet Robert Burns. The gravestone of the mother and her daughter is to be found in the old cemetery. Unusually for Victorian memorials, the name of the father is not recorded on the stone. Ellen died aged 87 and her daughter lived until the age of 98.

William Dickson Ll.D. (1751-1823) from Moffat was secretary to the Governor of Barbados for 13 years. There he witnessed slaves being brutally treated. From January to March 1792 he toured Scotland from Kirkcudbright to Nairn presenting evidence of the evils of the slave trade. This evidence was summarised in 'An abstract of the evidence delivered before a select committee of the House of Commons'.[3] He wrote a book Mitigation of Slavery on the subject.[4]

Famous and infamous visitors

Robert Burns came for the waters and frequented the local bars.

The infamous murderer and alleged graverobber William Hare may have stayed in the Black Bull Hotel during his escape to Ireland after turning King's evidence against William Burke. (Main article West Port murders)

In 1935, the remains of the victims of the Lancaster murderer, Dr Buck Ruxton, were found in a stream near The Devil's Beef Tub. A landmark case in legal history, it was the first in which the murderer was successfully convicted using the type of highly sophisticated forensic techniques which are taken for granted in the 21st century. The bridge at the top is still used to this day - near the very top it is a switchback that is not quite wide enough for two vehicles to pass on. The area is colloquially known as "Ruxton's Dump".The bridge from which Ruxton threw the parcelled remains has been straightened and widened; Gardenholme Linn, the deep wooded defile into which the packages were thrown is on the east side of the road.( A701)

Samuel Wallace, a Victoria Cross recipient, died in the town


Post Office
Observation platform on the Archbank Bridge near Moffat Well.

The town attracts many tourists all year round, both as visitors and as walkers in the surrounding hills. Notable buildings include the Annandale Arms Hotel and Restaurant which recently was awarded 4 stars by Food Review Scotland[5] as well as The Real Food Award by Scottish Hotel Awards 2009. Shops include the Moffat Toffee Shop and The Edinburgh Woollen Mill, while its restaurants and cafes include The Bombay Cuisine, Claudio's, Arietes, The Rumblin' Tum, The Balmoral and the Buccleuch Arms Hotel and Restaurant. The Buccleuch has also been awarded Gold in Visitscotland's Green Tourism Business Scheme.[6]

It also has a recreation park with a boating pond and a memorial to Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding.

There is an official Camping and Caravanning Club campsite (for tents, caravans and motorhomes) that is open all year as of 13 March 2008. This is situated next to the Hammerlands Centre - a combination garden centre, gift shop, restaurant, fish farm and children's play area with farmyard animals.

For walkers there is also the Gallow Hill, which has been used for hanging. Moffat is also situated only a few miles from the Southern Upland Way where it passes through Beattock, and the Sir Walter Scott Way starts here.

North-East of Moffat is the Grey Mare's Tail waterfall. This hanging-valley waterfall is 60m tall and lies within a nature reserve.


Moffat Academy teaches pupils of Nursery, Primary and Secondary School age, there are currently 301 pupils taught at the school. It was in its former location in the north of the town since 1834. In February 2010 the school moved to a new site in the south-east of the town on Jeff Brown Drive.

Sport and recreation

Town Hall and originally the Bath House.
Robert Burns' haunt, the Black Bull Hotel.

Moffat RFC caters for all ages from 6–80 years. The 1stXV which plays in The Scottish Rugby Union league structure. They are also known as "The Rams" after the statue in the High Street. The ground wholly owned by the club is situated at The Holm, Selkirk Road.[7]

Moffat's main football club is Upper Annandale F.C., who represent the town in the South of Scotland Football League.

Moffat Golf Club was founded in 1884. In 1904, Ben Sayers of North Berwick was invited to design the present 18-hole course. Located high on Coats Hill overlooking the town it is some 670 feet above sea level.[8]

A 53 mile long-distance walking route called Annandale Way[9] running through Annandale (from the source of the River Annan to the sea) was opened in September 2009.[10] The route passes very close to the town of Moffat and a diversion from it into the town adds very little in distance.

The nearby Moffat Hills[11] offer many excellent walking routes and the town itself is the closest base for access to these hills.


  1. ^ Hewison, James K. (1912). Cambridge County Geographies Dumfrieshire. Cambridge University Press.
  2. ^ Bradshaw's Handbook, 1863: Beattock
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^

External links

  • Visit Moffat - the official website for visitors to Moffat and the surrounding area
  • The Moffat Tourist Information Website
  • Video and commentary on The Moffat Mineral Well
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