Little is known about the estate prior to 1679 when the Craik family bought it from the Earl of Southesk, only that it changed hands twice in the Middle Ages.
Its early inhabitants would have seen Devorguilla of Galloway build Sweetheart Abbey as a memorial to her husband John Balliol, King of Scotland, in 1273 at New Abbey 5 miles away. In the 1500s, Arbigland would have fallen prey to the border reivers on their infamous cattle rustling raids and, during the 1600s, Galloway witnessed the rise and bloody put-down of the Covenanters. There are still many local memorials to them.
The 1700s saw the Agricultural Revolution. Arbigland was fortunate that, for most of that century, the laird was William Craik (1703-1798), a man who seized the new ideas and put them into practice. Craik designed and built Arbigland House, no longer part of the estate since 2000.
A classical Georgian house in the Adam style, it was completed in 1755.
An agricultural improver, Craik drained the land, reclaiming some merse from the sea and laid out the park and fields seen today with their drystane dykes. It is thought that he was able to afford to do this from the receipts of brandy smuggled across the Irish Sea from the duty free ports on the Isle of Man.
Scotland’s National Bard, Robert Burns, who was an exciseman in nearby Dumfries, was a frequent visitor to Arbigland as a friend of the daughter of the house, Helen Craik, also a poet and novelist.
But Arbigland's most famous claim to international fame is that the estate was the birthplace of John Paul Jones who went on to become the Founding Father of the United States Navy.
Born John Paul, the gardener's son, in a cottage on the estate in 1747, he eventually emigrated to America where he became a hero of the revolution. He returned to terrorise the coast of his homeland in the American War of Independence.
The estate has been home to the Blackett family and their forebears, the Stewarts, since 1852 when General William Stewart purchased the estate.
General Stewart had served in the Coldstream Guards and also owned the St Fort estate in Fife.
The estate then passed to his nephew Colonel Kit Blackett, who had served the Sutherland Highlanders in the Crimean War where he was part of the 'thin red line' that held off the Russian Army at the Battle of Balaklava. He transferred to the Coldstream Guards in the Crimea and took over Arbigland in 1872.
Today, Arbigland Estate has a mixed farming operation producing enough beef every year for over half a million burgers, enough wheat for 1.2 million loaves of bread and enough potatoes for 2.7 million portions of chips!
The Estate is also home to a herd of pedigree Luings, a composite breed based on the Shorthorn and the Highland breeds. The Estate offers some of the best coastal holiday accommodation in Scotland including bed and breakfast accommodation and self-catering holiday lets. Visit the Arbigland Estate website for details.
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