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Pints & Parkruns: Crichton, Dumfries

The serendipity of the Parkrun community

By Andy PottsPublished 11 months ago 3 min read

The Parkrun family will find you, whether you look for it or not. I’d only spent a couple of days in Dumfries, and pretty much the only people I’d spoken to in that time were connected to the ice hockey tournament where I was working. The exception was one lady who I met at the Moat Brae Centre for Children’s Literature. So, knowing approximately one local, it was somehow improbable and inevitable that she was the first person I bumped into at Crichton Parkrun the next day.

That may not be Crichton’s only Moat Brae connection. The museum opened in 2019 in a fine old townhouse where a young J.L. Barrie once played in his days as a Dumfries High School pupil. As a Centre for Children’s Literature, it plays heavily on the role that the house and gardens played in inspiring Peter Pan and Neverland. However, Barrie also wrote The Admirable Crichton, a withering look at Edwardian class consciousness among Britain’s bourgeoisie. The eponymous Crichton is widely believed to be named for the 16th-century Scottish polymath James, murdered at the age of 21, possibly as a result of being too clever by half. However, Barrie would surely have been aware of the legacy of the Dumfries Crichtons, who admirably spearheaded the town’s public healthcare and left a large park. That park, dominated by an imposing late Victorian church, is the parkrun venue.

Certainly, the Barrie connection is more encouraging than the Crichton’s history as the site of the Dumfries psychiatric hospital. You don’t have to be mad to do parkrun, but ...

This would be my first Scottish Parkrun (up to five countries now, with Poland, Finland and Wales as well as England). Fittingly, it’s the closest to the border (Stranraer is slightly to the south, but much further west) and turns out to be south of several Northumberland courses like The Pastures and Druridge Bay. In keeping with the general ambience of Dumfries, it’s a chatty, welcoming gathering, popular with tourists and keen to get to know its visitors.

As for the run, it’s definitely safe for road shoes. Even on a cold, frosty January morning, a mix of pavement and gravel path through the rockery gardens is reliable underfoot. The route is two-and-a-bit laps, starting and finishing next to that church. Having concluded that Dumfries was a largely flat town, my heart sank a little on the way over as the road rose to the park entrance and, sure enough, the course turned out to be up and down. A nice fast downhill start means, of course, a steady climb on the second half of each lap; the kicker comes in the ‘bit’, where an unwelcome rise back up to the church knocks the wind out of a few sprint finishes.

Crichton's rockery garden is a pleasant spot - especially when you're not running through it full pelt!

That apart, it’s a scenic run. The rockery garden is well worth investigation after your run: concentrating on recovering from the latest incline, I rather missed the water features dotted around. And that church is a spectacular bit of late 19th-century gothic, not to mention a handy answer to thoughts of ‘how much further?’. And while the park, now home to assorted Scottish universities, tends to be quiet on a Saturday morning, the airy café at Crichton Central admirably meets any refuelling needs.

The Pint

The craft beer hotspot for Dumfries is clearly Beer Without Borders. A spacious bar on Friars Vennel, one of the streets that slopes down towards the river Nith, its owners have a passion for great beer from near and far. Unfortunately, though, proximity to the river brings its own, all-too-predictable problems, and a storm on December 30, 2022 resulted in serious flooding. That meant the bar was closed for a clean-up, and the quest for local brews had to move elsewhere. The Dumfries Larder, on Market Street, stepped up and provided a couple of bottles from the Sulwath Brewery in nearby Castle Douglas. Beer Without Borders also has a bottle shop in Castle Douglas, which sounds like a town worth a look for beer lovers. It's also worth checking out their online offer.

First visit: Jan. 2023. PB: 26:40.

Thanks for reading. For more Pints & Parkruns stories, please visit my website.

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About the Creator

Andy Potts

Community focused sports fan from Northeast England. Tends to root for the little guy. Look out for Talking Northeast, my new project coming soon.

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    Andy PottsWritten by Andy Potts

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