South Scotland

Dumfries and Galloway's literary links aim to aid post-pandemic recovery

The 39 Steps
Image caption John Buchan's novel The 39 Steps - which has been regularly dramatised - was set in south west Scotland

Famous works of fiction could have a part to play in the post-pandemic recovery of south west Scotland.

The Wigtown Festival Company, based in Scotland's national book town, is leading efforts to make the region a centre for literary tourism.

The Spot-lit project, which will run for a year, is supporting a range of initiatives across the area.

It aims to allow businesses and organisations to make the most of links to famous writers and poets.

Among the works it is hoped could help attract visitors is John Buchan's The 39 Steps which was set in the region.

Image copyright Wigtown Festival Company
Image caption It is hoped the links to books might help bring people back to the area

Connections to Robert Burns, JM Barrie and SR Crockett could also be exploited.

In Gatehouse of Fleet, The Mill on the Fleet visitor centre intends to create a wide range of activities from trails to specialist tours.

Ken Smyth, who chairs the centre, believes the area's links to famous writers could help attract more people.

He said: "Burns wrote Scots Wha Hae while staying at the Murray Arms, there are links to Buchan's The 39 Steps, and Gatehouse is also in the middle of the country where Crockett set his Galloway adventure stories like The Raiders.

"Dorothy L Sayers wrote The Five Red Herrings while she was staying at the Anwoth Hotel - now The Ship Inn - and was quite exact in her descriptions, so you can easily identify many places she mentions.

"It would make a superb literary trail and the opportunity for guided tours - perhaps led by her detective, Lord Peter himself."

Image copyright Wigtown Festival Company
Image caption There are plans for a range of activities at the Mill on the Fleet

Spot-lit is an international project funded by the European Union backed Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme with Wigtown Festival Company leading it in Scotland.

Adrian Turpin, the company's creative director, said Covid-19 had had a "devastating effect" on tourism and culture.

However, he said Spot-lit might help the area to rebuild again.

"Holidays and short breaks with a focus on famous authors and stories are hugely popular, and people are increasingly interested in discovering contemporary writing and storytelling," he said.

"Dumfries and Galloway has an abundance of both - as well as being home to Scotland's national book town, so we hope Spot-lit will help establish the region as the country's literary heartland."

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