The Early Days...
The village was started by Danish Vikings as a fishing and coastal trading port, the sandy
shore giving a hard where it was safe to beach ships at mid-tide on a falling tide, unload or
load them from carts at low tide, then float them off on the next rising tide. At a time when
roads inland were rutted tracks, most freight and much passenger traffic was by sea. This was
only to change with the road improvers like Telford and MacAdam in the early 1800s. The
illustration shows the ''Petrel'' using a spar crane (topping lift) to unload
coals from Whitehaven onto carts at Carsethorn beach as late as 1920.
Built in 1852 at Liverpool, ''Petrel'' was the smallest of British topsail
schooners; it was finally broken up in the 1930s.
Prints in The Steamboat Inn show that that local fishermen still used 'haaf' nets
and worked their boats from the beach until well into the end of the twentieth century.
The Growth of Trade...
The channel of the River Nith moved closer to Carsethorn over time, until the deep water
channel was near the shore. Carsethorn is first mentioned as a port, in 1562, when a ship was
loading for Rochelle and Bordeaux. Later, the 'Carse', as it is fondly referred to,
acted as an outport for Dumfries, with the larger ships anchoring in Carse Bay, before unloading their
cargo. There was a great deal of trade through the 1600s, 1700s and 1800s, chiefly coastal to
ports either side of the Solway, to Ireland and to the Isle of Man.
A Smuggling Past ?...
There may also have been smuggling; until recently, the Blackett family of Arbigland preserved
records of one family member who was both an Exciseman ('Gauger') and a smuggler. The
amusing fact is that he informed on his fellow smugglers, who returned the compliment and so
forced him to resign. However a more lucrative trade was to replace this - Scotland's greatest export has not been its whiskey
but its hard-working and ambitious people. Robert Burns was himself a 'Gauger' when
living at Dumfries, preserving the ambivalent attitude to his trade in the poem
''The Deil's Awa' Wi' the Exciseman''. His
Excise sword can still be seen in the Robert Burns Centre in Dumfries.
John Paul Jones Cottage
(link to official site)
John Paul Jones Was Here...
In 1760, one of the local lads, John Paul Jones, who was later to become famous as the founder
of the American Navy, sailed from Carsethorn to England. He was then only 13. After a career
in merchant shipping, he joined the Revolutionary Navy and crowned his career by defeating
the English frigate ''Serapis'' off Flamborough Head. On one cruise in the Irish Sea,
he burnt coal ships at Whitehaven and raided the home of the Earl of Selkirk near
American visitors may like to see the small cottage on Arbigland Estate where John Paul Jones
was born. A small museum in the building shows what his early life would have been like and
reproduces his cabin aboard his ship, the ''Bonne Homme Richard''.
From Carsethorn to America...
During the late 1700s and early 1800s there was a very high level of emigration to
the American and Australian Colonies and newspaper advertisements show emigrant ships sailing
regularly from Carsethorn. In 1775 the ''Lovely Nelly'', Captained by
William Sheridan, took 82 emigrants to Lot 59 on Prince Edward Island. The reason for the
families going was given as being 'to get more bread' - in Scotland they were almost destitute.
A rather grimmer export trade emerged with the transportation of convicts to Australia. They were
marched down from Dumfries and housed in the barracks (later a warehouse) at the river's
edge. The whitewashed building remains to the south of the bus-stop in Carsethorn.
The Old Pier, Carsethorn
The coastal trade reached its peak in the late 1840's with almost 25,000 tons entering
the river and steamboats such as the ''Countess of Nithsdale'' maintained
long established links with Liverpool. It is said that in 1850, 10,000 people emigrated to North
America, 7,000 to Australia and 4,000 to New Zealand through the 'Carse', leaving from
the jetty which was constructed in 1840 by the Nith Navigation Commission and used by
the Liverpool Steam Packet Company. The remains of that jetty still stand
beside the deep-water channel at the north end of Carsethorn; apparently it was a triangular
structure, whose longest face allowed the steamers a good pierhead to come alongside.
In one photograph of the ''Petrel'' beached at Carsethorn there is a wooden
structure in the background. According to Ernie Robinson and Alfred Truckell, this was the
slipway of a former piloting and lifeboat station run by local fishermen. The garage opposite
'Spindrift Cottage' was at one time the boathouse. The gradual failure of the Nith trade
and of fishing ended this service.
A Slow Decline...
During the 1870s and 1880s the local Captain, John Robson, traded in the
''Defiance'' to Archangel for timber, but this was in the face of a
general decline. The coming of the railway in 1850, along with the ongoing costs of the many
improvements needed to the navigable channel started a slow decline in the seaborne trade
and by the early 1900s very little trade was left.
Steamboat Inn, Carsethorn
The Tourist Future...
The 'Steamboat' was already trading
as an Inn in 1813, but its name first named on the 1854 Ordnance
Map. Bunks where travellers and sailors could sleep were built into
the walls on the Inn and were still visible until a short while
ago. Now it is the centre of a quiet little village, nestling on
the shore of the Solway. The new attractions for visitors lie in
the history of surrounding villages such as New Abbey, Dalbeattie
and Kippford, as well as the local beaches and the bird-rich merse
where millions of seabirds live or over-winter. Visitors to the
National Nature Reserve on the far side of the Nith come round by
the coachload to watch birds on the Carsethorn foreshore, before
continuing to the nature reserves at Southwick and Mersehead. Ironically,
Liverpool firms are often the ones providing the coaches.
Situated as it is almost in
the middle of the coast between Dalbeattie and Dumfries, the Steamboat
offers an excellent base for those wishing to walk in the nearby
hills - including the famous Screel, Scotland's most southerly mountain
- and cycling in the nearby woodlands. Dalbeattie Woods and its
Seven Stanes cycle track is within easy reach. For the less vigorous,
the ever-changing panorama of sea, sky and distant Cumbrian Hiaals,
are a splendid sight. We encourage you to enjoy our menu and to
enjoy our range of Real Ales,.
Walking, Boats and Cockling ...
Carsethorn is right beside one of Scotland's most southerly but
challenging mountains. The Criffel summit can be reached with varying degrees of difficulty from New
Abbey, Kirkbean and Ardwall Mains, by experienced hill walkers. The Criffel is just the highest of
a small mountain range stretching from Mabie Forest (extensive woodland walks, near Dumfries) down to
the Sandyhills area, beside the famous walks and cycle tracks of Dalbeattie Forest. The Steamboat Inn is
a good base for walkers wishing to attempt the range and the variety of walks further north and west
in the Galloway Forest Park.
Whilst the pier is no more, the beach is frequently visited by
pleasure boats and yachts, some of which anchor in the mouth of the burn north of the old pier. An
unusual recent matter since 2006 has been the revival of the cockling industry, with cockles being
harvested at low tides by professional collectors. Sadly, local cocklemen have not taken up many of
the licences, most of which have gone to commercial cockling firms from Wales. A further and more
serious problem for the industry, the HM Coastguard and the Police, is that unlicensed criminal
cockling gangs have been raiding the cockle beds, endangering themselves and others. Illegal immigrants,
such as the Chinese who drowned in Morecambe Bay, are often used, although they know nothing of the
dangerous tides and quicksands that are a hazard even to experienced cocklers.
Click for Map
To Find Carsethorn...
Take the A710 from Dumfries through New Abbey, turning left at Kirkbean down the road to
Carsethorn. Alternatively, take the A711 from Dumfries or Dalbeattie to Beeswing and follow
the minor road to New Abbey before turning right onto the A710 at New Abbey and proceeding south
towards Kirkbean. Visitors coming from Dalbeattie should follow signs towards Kippford and
Southerness, but stay on the A710 coast road until they reach the junction at Kirkbean.
See Map for details.
The Steamboat Inn at Carsethorn provides an ideal
base from which to explore the beautiful Solway Coast.
At Kirkbean, a few minutes by car or a one-mile walk from Carsethorn, there is the splendidly
laid out Kirkbean Fishery, where Fly Fishing for Brown and Rainbow Trout can
be enjoyed by all at a very reasonable price.
For the sportingly-minded and for those who like a challenge, the magnificent Championship Links
Golf Course at Southerness Southerness Golf Club is only 5 - 10 minutes away
The Solway Links Golf Course is on the same road to Southerness, and here the
Pay and Play system has proved popular with all ages and categories of players.
Some details of each course - on the Tourist Board Gateway to Golf scheme - are given below :-
Southerness Golf Club : [G2G]
Telephone : 01387-880677. Fax : 01387-880644. Secretary Bill Ramage.
Address : Southerness DG2 8AZ. (16 miles south of Dumfries off A710 near
Yardage : 18 hole - 6566 yards - SSS-72. Championship Links Course.
Clubhouse : Modern, roomy, comfortable, ladies and gents changing, toilet
and shower facilities. Lounge, dining room and bar. Excellent views of the
Solway Coast, sometimes the Isle of Man. Site shop sells golf equipment and
'Southerness' souvenirs. Booking essential, - time sheet operation in summer
months so contact the Starter to have tee times allocated. Handicap
certificates are required.
Other Comments : Designed by MacKenzie Ross in 1947. Championships held here
by the R & A, the Scottish Golf Union, Scottish Ladies Golf Association and
the Ladies' Golf Union. Course in superb condition, greens a joy. Not for the
beginner, - sea winds, gorse and heather.
N.B. : £ 5.00
supplement for playing using Gateway to Golf pass.
Solway Links Golf Course (11 Holes) :
Telephone : Mungo Clark : 01387-880323
Address : East Preston Farm, Kirkbean, Nr. Southerness.
Yardage : 11-hole - 3062 yards - par-41 for 11 holes. Links type.
Upgrading towards 18 holes 1999-2000. Sea winds.
Clubhouse : Converted farm cottage. Basic facilities. No dress restrictions.
Other comments : Fine views of the hills and sea. 'Pay and play' site. Clubs
etc. for hire. Very well drained, - very rarely closes.
Grateful thanks to Mr. Alfred Truckell, Mr. Ernie Robinson and Mr. Harry Kidd,
for most of the historical information and illustrations on this page.
Other information and photographs © Mr. Richard Edkins.