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Nith hotel and glencaple History

The village of Glencaple was developed as a port for Dumfries (which is just 4 miles north up the River Nith) in 1746 for vessels who were unable to sail their cargoes up to the burgh.

Shifting silt and sands and rocky outcrops made the Solway Estuary and the Nith difficult to navigate.

Local stone, from the Bankend Quarry was used to build the Quay and was gifted, along with the land, by The Laird of Caerlaverock, William Maxwell. The Quay or Auld Quay, as locals still call it, was finished in 1747. Then houses were built in the rows you see today along the east shore of the Nith. Glencaple was born!

Situated in the heart of Glencaple village the Nith Hotel; formerly the Nith Coffee House has operated since the late 1800’s and has a long and established history of providing service to travellers.

Close connections were built between Glencaple and Liverpool in the late 1700s. Vessels brought and took goods between the ports, and steamers also regularly carried passengers. Smuggling boomed during these years, growing to its height in the late 1750’s. The smugglers were like heroes to the locals, who would defend the smugglers against the police.

In the mid nineteenth century, Glencaple was thriving, and housed a boat-yard as-well-as many small businesses associated with the riverside location.

Around the early 1800’s, the ship-building industry, on the site of the Nith Hotel, launched two vessels of around 60 tons annually. Once the railways reached the area towards the end of the 19th century, ship-building began to flounder. It was, however, a popular destination for families of Dumfries town and surrounding villages.

Fishing has always been important to Glencaple locals. Salmon was caught by ‘haafers’ or ‘haaf-netters’ who stood in line to catch fish using haaf-nets. The technique was thought to have been brought to the shores of the Solway by Norse invaders. At that time, locals ate salmon 3 times a day! Salmon certainly didn’t have the value it holds today. There are still a few haaf-netters on the Nith today, holding onto a centuries old tradition. And the only place it is still practised is around the Solway Estuary.

Fire at The Nith Hotel!

Back in January 1964, on a Sunday night, the hotel went on fire… It was full of wildfowlers who had booked in for a week’s shooting. They ate at pub but slept at various houses in and around the village. They had to pump water from the river to fight the fire due to the hydrants being frozen up.

Local, Tom Brown recalls that ‘If I remember there was a Kirk Douglas Western on the TV’!  Thankfully, there were no fatalities but there was extensive damage to the hotel, ‘all the bedrooms were destroyed and it was pretty much burnt down to the ground. The hotel required extensive refurbishment, however the bar was up and running again a few days later’!

A Family Hotel

The Houliston family have owned The Nith Hotel for over 60 years – Billy & Betty Houliston were the first generation to take control. Billy was a former Scotland International Footballer who also played for the Dumfries Queen of the South Football Club. He was a well-known local celebrity. His son, the late Keith Houliston took over the hotel with his wife Joan. Today, mother and daughter team Joan & Jennifer Houliston manage the hotel. Providing quality at an affordable price is the aim of Jennifer, the 3rd generation to run the hotel.

Have a look at our Location page to find out about historic places to visit in the Caerlaverock area. Steeped in history, it includes Caerlaverock Castle, the Iron Age Wardlaw Hill, Dumfries Museum, the Robert Burns Centre and many more local historic attractions. The Caerlaverock Community Association History page has interesting local articles, if you’d like to find out more.

Thank you to all providers of the old images used on this page, including the fantastic ‘Old Dumfries‘ Facebook page. As it is difficult for us work out the original source of these old images, if we have used a photo of yours and would like credited, please let our webmaster know and we will be glad to credit or remove the image at your request.