Grand Tours of Scotland’s Rivers episode 4: Paul discovers the source of the remarkable River Nith, high in a remote forestry plantation. Heading downstream, he hears the story of the Knockshinnoch mining disaster – how 116 men were saved from entombment after a massive earth collapse.
At Sanquhar, once famous for its unique and distinctive knitting pattern, Paul tries very hard to knit a glove before it all unravels. Kirkpatrick Macmillan was the man first credited with making a bicycle with pedals. Paul wobbles in his wake aboard a replica at Drumlanrig Castle, before heading south to Ellisland – once the riverside home of the poet Robert Burns.
In Dumfries, Paul learns how astronaut Neil Armstrong might not have walked on the surface of the moon without the optical skills of a local man. Journey’s end is at Caerlaverock Castle overlooking the shining sands of the Solway Firth.
Seasoned traveller Paul Murton sets off downstream to explore five rivers over six programmes from source to sea. Paul Murton is a Scottish television presenter and broadcaster, film-maker, and historian, working primarily on the BBC with an emphasis on travelogues in Scotland. Born in 1957 and raised in Ardentinny on the shores of Loch Long, Argyll, Scotland, where his parents ran a small hotel, Murton is best known for his series Scotland’s Clans, Grand Tours of Scotland, Grand Tours of the Scottish Islands and Grand Tours of Scotland’s Lochs.
Murton is a graduate of the University of Aberdeen and the National Film and Television School. Before writing and presenting his Grand Tours series, he directed several TV dramas, including Bramwell, The Bill, Casualty and River City. In 2021 he wrote the biographical novel The Highlands, published by Birlinn. He is married with five children and lives in Scotland.
Grand Tours of Scotland’s Rivers episode 4
The River Nith is a river in south-west Scotland. The Nith rises in the Carsphairn hills of East Ayrshire, more precisely between Prickeny Hill and Enoch Hill, 4.4 miles (7.1 km) east of Dalmellington. For the majority of its course it flows in a southerly direction through Dumfries and Galloway and then into the Solway Firth at Airds point.
The estuary of the River Nith is an internationally important winter feeding site for waders, geese and other wildfowl, and is for this reason protected at an international level as part of the Upper Solway Flats and Marshes Ramsar site and Special Protection Area. The SPA supports virtually the entire Svalbard population of barnacle geese during winter.
The area also forms part of the Solway Firth Special Area of Conservation, which is protected due to the presence of several priority habitats, and as well as populations of sea lamprey and river lamprey. At a national level, the area is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is within the Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve.
The Nith Estuary National Scenic Area recognises the scenic value of the area. It is one of 40 such areas in Scotland, which are defined so as to identify areas of exceptional scenery and to ensure its protection from inappropriate development by restricting certain forms of development. The Nith Estuary NSA covers 14,337 ha in total, consisting of 14,310 ha of land and intertidal sand and mudflats, as well as a further 28 ha that is below low water. Management of the NSA is the responsibility of Dumfries and Galloway Council, who have produced a management strategy for the area.