Operation Vacation: Dumfriesshire, Scotland
You can be as pampered or as independent as you like in Dumfriesshire. Any of the hotel proprietors can make arrangements for you. You can bring your own tackle, get a permit, and reserve a spot on a section of a river or loch through a site called FishPal, which has a thorough index to the region.
The shooting season begins with grouse on August 12 and continues with rabbits and pheasants. You can go out with a gamekeeper and a rod and shotgun and take whatever you find for $32 to $60 plus the number of birds you book to shoot. Or you can go for a week with a few friends, learn to shoot the way aristocrats did, stay in Drumlanrig Castle (provided Green favors you), and even meet the duke if you're lucky—although the cost is unspeakable or at least unprintable (1848-331555). This being Scotland, there's an abundance of golf courses, in the spare, rough-and-ready Scottish style, from the Thornhill Golf Club, about three miles down the road, to the Southerness, a small, somewhat undiscovered jewel right on the coast of the Solway Firth, at the mouth of the River Nith, down past Dumfries.
Where to stay
The Trigony House Hotel, a former ducal hunting lodge just off the road to Dumfries, is the most elegant and high-priced option, with a formal cottage garden and a view of the hills beyond. You can sign up for a falconry tutorial and even hunt with the birds on the grounds. For those who don't care for blood of any kind, there's a kids' playground of royal proportions at nearby Drumlanrig Castle, awesome mountain biking, hiking, and Land Rover tours—all readily bookable (1848-331211; doubles, $208-$248).
On Drumlanrig, Thornhill's main street, you'll find the Thornhill Inn, a traditional white stucco building with black wood beams (1848-330326; doubles, $120); its satellite B&B, the Gillbank House, is a homey, spacious spot that was once a summer house for the owner of an Edinburgh department store. An alternative to TV is watching outdoor bowling—a private club meets next door (1848-330597; doubles, $120).
Built by the duke as a carriage stop in the 1850s, the imposing Buccleuch & Queensberry Hotel is comfy on the inside, with a fireplace and ancient fly rods galore. Its lounge is a popular local hangout (1848-330215; doubles, $112).
For a vacation that includes golf, a good bet is the Best Western Hetland Hall, a country house on 18 acres just outside Dumfries—although getting back to Thornhill is a hike (1387-840201; doubles, $136-$176).
Where to eat
The restaurant at the Trigony is in the same key as those in town but more refined and symphonic. Everything's organic where possible (the land surrounding the hotel is an organic dairy farm), sourced locally (Solway scallops, blackfaced lamb), and cooked by friendly young co-owner Adam Moore (entrées, $18-$32).
In Thornhill, what's for dinner is most often local beef and lamb, balanced with the sweetness of a fruit sauce: good, unfussy, non-fashion-forward food. The steak at the Thornhill Inn was highly praised (entrées, $14-$30). At the Buccleuch & Queensberry, my first experience with haggis (with a bit of béchamel) was a happy one, with a tang and texture that somehow brought to mind caviar—I told the waitress I'd eat it every day, which isn't strictly true (entrées, $13-$22). Sprinkled along Thornhill's main drag are pubs like the Farmers Arms, one much like the next but good for a crawl.