Located in the north of the Biosphere, Sanquhar is a bustling small town with a rich history and fascinating local sites.

It sits on the River Nith, which rises in the hills of East Ayrshire and flows for 70 miles to join the Solway Firth in Dumfries & Galloway. Local people and visitors are able to enjoy a wide range of pursuits from cycling to arts and crafts, all while surrounded by the rolling landscapes of Upper Nithsdale. Sanquhar became a designated Biosphere Community in early 2024.

Heritage & Culture

Sanquhar, known in Gaelic as Sean Caer meaning ‘the old fort’, has a diverse history dating back to the Roman times, when the fort was established. During the 14th century, the Crichton family acquired land around the town, occupying Sanquhar Castle, from where they ruled over its people for centuries. One notable visitor to the castle during this time was none other than Mary Queen of Scots who was hidden by the Crichton family following her defeat at the battle of Langside.

The Queen was not the only one to seek refuge in Sanquhar over the years; the town has strong connections to the Covenanters who are thought to have found shelter at the Pamphy Linns, a ‘fairie glen’ within an old tree plantation. It was in Sanquhar that two famous declarations were posted on behalf of the Covenanters, which formed the basis of religious freedom in Scotland. It was also here that prisoners of the Napoleonic War found freedom through the granting of a ‘parole of honour’ which allowed them to enjoy a swim in Crawick Water and a walk up Crawick Glen.

Granted the status of Royal Burgh by King James IV in 1598, Sanquhar was able to accelerate trade in the area. Old industries within the area include the Buccleuch Brickworks where terracotta bricks were made; these can still be found on local buildings. The town was also a prime location for the mining of coal which dates as far back as the 1700s. To get a deeper insight into the old industries of Sanquhar, a visit to the town’s Tolbooth Museum (pictured) will not disappoint.

Wildlife & Natural Beauty

Sanquhar is set in a beautiful landscape filled with wildlife. There are many local walks to discover the natural beauty of the area, including the walk to Pamphy Linns. The rivers are habitats for trout and salmon. Local wetlands attract coots and moorhens, ducks, herons, frogs, toads and newts. Gulls such as lesser black-backed gulls arrive each year to nest.

Red kites have recently colonised the area and their farmland habitat is also home to buzzards, red-legged partridge, pheasants, moles and foxes. On the moorlands, rare birds such as golden plover, black grouse and hen harriers are present.

The woodlands and gardens attract woodpeckers and sparrowhawks, hedgehogs regularly visit, and bats roost in buildings and trees. Each spring, migrant birds such as warblers and swallows arrive from Africa to breed in the area.

Recreation & Enjoyment

Surrounded by stunning natural landscapes, Sanquhar is an ideal location for walking or hiking. A book titled Walks Around Sanquhar is available in local shops; it details picturesque trails including forest walks in the Holm Woods, riverside jaunts along Euchan Glen, and hillside hikes around Black Loch. The town sits on the Southern Upland Way, and cycle routes are plentiful within the area, most notably the mountain bike trails within Sanquhar woodlands where routes cater for novices and more experienced riders.

The town has a variety of sporting opportunities. Try your hand at a spot of fishing in nearby rivers and lochs, or tee off at Sanquhar Golf Club and enjoy a round amidst beautiful scenery. Community hub and arts centre A’ the Airts offers Tai Chi, line dancing, yoga and pilates. With a local swimming pool, football team and bowling club, as well as a family farm park at Clark’s Little Ark, there really is something for everyone.

Horse riding is a popular activity within the town with Happy Hooves offering lessons, trek rides and pony care days, while Upper Nithsdale Riding for the Disabled provides the same for the disabled community. The Riding of the Marches is when the town showcases its strong equestrian tradition. This event takes places annually with townsfolk and visitors turning out in large numbers to watch and participate. From following the Burgh piper, watching the coronation of the Sanquhar Queen and the decorated floats and bands as they make their way around the town, then to the entertainment at Lorimer Park, the day really is something to behold.

Local Produce

Sanquhar produces eggs, beef, lamb and wool, and the town has independent bakers and butchers. Industry in the area includes manufacturing and forestry. There is a strong history of crafts, with art and pottery produced locally.

Most famously Sanquhar is known for knitting. The textile industry was a highly lucrative cottage-based industry, subsiding incomes for a vast number of locals for generations. The Sanquhar knitting pattern is a world-renowned geometric design consisting of several distinct, named patterns, and while the industry went into decline following modernisation, Sanquhar knitting still attracts tourists from across the globe to participate in tours and workshops at A’ the Airts as well as other creative activities. The importance of knitting in the area has helped to build an underlying artistic culture within the town. A’ The Airts is now the principal home of Sanquhar patterns and knitting machines, with a shop for people to purchase beautiful knitted products.


It is not hard to find tranquillity in the rich artistic culture of the town and its strong knitting heritage, as well as the beautiful landscape that surrounds it. Crawick Multiverse perfectly combines the two by providing the local community and visitors from afar with a place to reflect and embrace the peacefulness of the artistic sculptures merged into the landscape. Built upon the remains of one of the town’s coal mines by American landscape designer Charles Jencks who used 2,000 boulders found on site, the multiverse embraces the past by turning derelict, scarred land into something positive and inspiring.


In Sanquhar, inspiration comes from landscape, history and culture. Walking groups meet to explore the area, from the Southern Upland Way to the riverside of the Euchan and the Nith. The dark skies of the area provide inspiration, especially through the stunning Northern Lights and the cosmic artland that is Crawick Multiverse. Local culture includes the famous Sanquhar knitting and the stories from Sanquhar’s history can inspire a huge variety of personal interests and projects, whether you love the literature of Robert Burns, are intrigued by the drama of Covenanting times, the social history of coalmining families, or the unique heritage of the world’s oldest working post office! Local arts channel Summerhall TV captures and documents expressions of art, film, theatre, and literature within the town.

Find adventure, discovery and inspiration in Sanquhar and beyond

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