The Glenkiln Outdoor Sculptures

A unique countryside setting that was once the home of famous sculptures




4.75 miles (7.6kms)

312ft (95m)
2hrs 30min

About the walk

During the mid-1950s Tony Keswick, a Dumfriesshire landowner with a penchant for sculpture, acquired a copy of August Rodin's John the Baptist from the Musée Rodin in Paris. Keswick did not hide it away in a darkened vault or even in a gallery but located it outside in open countryside, atop a hillock, its outstretched arm beckoning across the water of Glenkiln Reservoir.

An Amazing Collection

Keswick was given the hill farm of Glenkiln by his father in 1924 as a 21st birthday present but he rarely visited it until the 1950s. That first Rodin was the start of an amazing collection of art. On a visit to the studio of Henry Moore, he immediately recognised that Moore's Standing Figure would be ideally placed on a large flat boulder that stood by the roadside near the farm. This was followed by Moore's King and Queen. Of the six casts made, the Glenkiln piece was the only one in a private collection. Keswick tried a number of sites around his land before placing it on a hillside overlooking the reservoir. The sculptures looked out serenely over their domain, separate from, yet part of the landscape that surrounded them.

Hard Times

Epstein's Visitation is in the collection of the Tate Gallery in London. Keswick obtained Epstein's own copy purely by chance. He was with the artist when a group of workmen arrived to cart the work off to melt it down. Epstein, although famous, was so hard up that he was selling some of his work for scrap to pay the foundry bill for a bust of Winston Churchill he was working on. Keswick was appalled and promptly bought the statue. It depicts the Virgin Mary with folded hands, head slightly bowed and an expression of utmost serenity on her face. Keswick located it off the beaten track and surrounded by Scots pine within the tumbledown walls of a long abandoned sheep fold. To stumble, seemingly almost by accident, on this figure, particularly on a slightly dark and misty winter's day, when the sheep have gathered around her, was one of the magical moments of Glenkiln. Glenkiln has been a popular attraction since Tony Keswick placed his first sculpture out of doors. He positively encouraged people to come and see the collection. Unfortunately, advice from the police following the theft of Moore’s Standing Figure in 2013 meant that all the sculptures except "Glenkiln Cross" have been removed for security reasons and are no longer available to view.

Walk directions

From the car park, return to the main road and turn right. Cross a cattle grid then turn right and go past the statue to the Marglolly Burn. Turn left and walk along the bank towards Cornlee Bridge. Just before the bridge turn left and head back to the road. You'll come across the stone on which Henry Moore’s Standing Figure was mounted. All that remains are a few metal stumps where thieves cut the sculpture. 

Turn left and head back along the main road. Just before the entrance to Margreig farm on the right is a muddy track running across the field to a gate in the dry-stone wall. Head up and through the gate then keep straight ahead, uphill and towards a telephone pole. At the pole veer left and follow the track uphill. The Glenkiln Cross should now be visible in front of you.

There are several footpaths and tracks available here. Take the one that is closest to a large tree in front of you. Cross over a burn at the tree and then take the path that skirts to the left of it. Veer right and then head for the high ground. Once the cross comes into view again continue ahead directly towards it.

From the cross turn to face Glenkiln Reservoir and then head downhill towards a telephone pole. Go through a gate in the fence at the bottom of the hill and then turn right on to the road. After a short distance along here a farm track leads uphill to the right. Go through a gate and on to it. To your right on the hillside was the spot where Henry Moore's King and Queen used to stand.

Continue on this track. Go through a gate, pass a small wooded area on your right and then bare hillside until you spot a small stand of Scots pine on the left. Leave the track at this point and continue to the trees where you will see the stone that Epstein’s Visitation was mounted on. All that now remains is a shattered plinth. Return to the track and then continue to the end where you go through a gate, cross over a bridge then turn left on to the road.

Go downhill on this road for 0.5 mile (800m), crossing a cattle grid. Just before the end of the conifer plantation on the left, was where Moore's Two Piece Reclining Figure No 1 was once sited on your right. Follow the road all the way downhill from here, turn left at the junction and continue on this road until you reach the car park.

Additional information

Country roads, farm tracks, open hillside

Hills, woodland and reservoir

Keep on lead on farmland, particularly at lambing time

OS Explorer 321 Nithsdale & Dumfries

Car park at the end of Glenkiln reservoir

None on route or near by

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About the area

Discover Dumfries & Galloway

Dumfries and Galloway is a wonderfully undiscovered corner of Scotland – a romantic land of wooded glens, high hills and exposed moorland, haunted by its colourful past and the ghosts of those who fell in fierce and bloody battles. Heading west from Gretna Green you soon reach Dumfries, straddling the River Nith, where you may see red-breasted mergansers in summer.

The market town has strong associations with one of Scotland’s most famous sons, Robert Burns, who farmed nearby and returned to Dumfries towards the end of his life. You’ll find Burns-related visitor attractions around town, plus a portfolio of other sights ranging from ruined castles and abbeys to quirky museums. You can see for miles from the Camera Obscura, which occupies the top floor of the 18th-century windmill.

To the north lies a vast and endless landscape; mile upon mile of open moorland and afforested slopes stretching towards the Ayrshire coast. On the long haul to Stanraer, you’ll want to make regular stops and visit places like Gatehouse of Fleet, a delightful 18th-century planned town, and Creetown, a planned village on the estuary on the River Cree. Perfect for walking and fishing, Dumfries and Galloway seems gloriously untouched by 20th-century progress.

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