South Scotland

Wanlockhead community buyout: Why buy Scotland's highest village?

Wanlockhead Image copyright Lincoln Richford

Sitting at a height of 467m (1,532ft), it claims to be the highest village in Scotland.

And now the residents of Wanlockhead in Dumfries and Galloway have some pretty lofty ambitions for its future.

The local community trust recently held talks about a buyout involving purchasing land which is part of the Duke of Buccleuch's Queensberry Estate.

They hope to improve economic development and enhance tourism and leisure in the area.

But what potential do they see in the south of Scotland village?


What is its history?

A village in the Lowther Hills, at the head of Wanlock Water, it sits about 11 miles (17km) north of Thornhill.

The area around the village and its neighbour, Leadhills, was long a centre for lead-mining.

The mines round Wanlockhead opened in 1680 and finally closed in 1959; Wanlockhead is now home to the Museum of Scottish Lead Mining.


Gold in them thar hills

Image copyright Sara Bain

Gold has been found in the streams round about, and small quantities are still found by eager panners.

Last year a nugget estimated to be worth £10,000 was discovered.

Gold from the area was used in the crown of James V, in a ring for Queen Mary and in a brooch for Queen Elizabeth.


Any famous figures?

Born in nearby Leadhills in Lanarkshire, William Symington became a mechanic at the Wanlockhead mines.

In 1787 he patented an engine for road locomotion and, in 1788, he constructed a similar engine on a boat fitted with twin hulls and paddle-wheels, which was launched on Dalswinton Loch.

In 1802 he completed at Grangemouth the Charlotte Dundas, one of the first practical steamboats ever built.


Commuter belt

Image copyright Leadhills and Wanlockhead Railway

A narrow gauge railway runs between Leadhills in south Lanarkshire and the village.

It became famous earlier this year when it offered an unusual "commuter" service while the road link was closed for resurfacing.

It offered a "replacement train" service to allow people from Wanlockhead to get to the doctor's surgery as well as ferrying some staff at the Museum of Lead Mining.


Cycling challenge

Image copyright Ross Dolder

A gruelling cycling challenge has its starting point in the village.

The Snowball Sportive allows riders to tackle some of the highest roads in the country.

But with six major climbs along its route, it is not for the faint hearted.


On the piste

Image copyright Ross Dolder

Winter sports fans can join the south of Scotland's only ski centre.

The Lowther Hills Ski Club is situated near the village.

Volunteers who run the club believe that, with improved facilities, they could draw hundreds of people to the region.


Will the buyout happen?

First talks between the Wanlockhead Community Trust (WCT) and Buccleuch were described as "very productive".

Lincoln Richford, who chairs the WCT, said: "We look forward to working further with Buccleuch Estates. I believe that we can find a mutually satisfying solution for both parties that will ensure a bright future for our village."

John Glen, of Buccleuch, said: "We were pleased to have had this initial meeting with the trust as the estate is committed to playing its part in local economic development. We have held discussions with various interest groups over the years and there is a range of options that we should all consider that could help improve the sustainability of the area. As there are many complex issues to discuss, it is too early to form any conclusions or reach decisions. However, we look forward to continuing a constructive dialogue with the trust's representatives and villagers."

Further meetings are planned and the WCT is expected to register a formal interest in the land with the Scottish government later this year.

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