LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Annan

Tales of the Galabank, by the English border

Teams, tales and tips – a guide to the local game

North of the Solway Firth that cuts between Scotland and England, Annan has historic connections with famous names in Scottish history but lacked tradition as far as senior football is concerned.

Its location, almost walking distance from the border, was the setting for Robert the Bruce’s battles and Bonnie Prince Charlie’s retreat – but did flagship club Annan Athletic few favours.

Unlike neighbouring Gretna, there is little record of football in Annan before Athletic were formed in 1942, perhaps specifically for the Dumfries & District Youth Welfare League, a war-time tournament.

Welcome to Annan/Tony Dawber

Like Gretna, Annan then played in the Carlisle & District League south of the border. Further gerrymandering of the gazetteer saw Annan then join the South of Scotland League, then the East of Scotland – while fielding their reserve side against clubs from Dumfries and Stranraer.

While the team bus driver has been kept on his toes, the one constant in all this has been Galabank, the club’s riverside home since 1953, replacing the previous Mafeking Park. Near the river the town is named after, the ground in turn has in turn provided the club with one of its nicknames, the Galabankies. It previously also hosted South of Scotland club Mid-Annandale, otherwise based in Lockerbie – yes, that Lockerbie.

Neat Galabank was the main factor in the Scottish League choosing Annan over four other candidates, including Edinburgh City, after the controversial demise of Gretna in 2008. Scottish Cup finalists in 2006, missing out on the trophy on penalties, Gretna had been bankrolled by a Walter Mitty character known as Brooks Mileson, a life-long Carlisle fan later to die, penniless, in his own garden pond.

Welcome to Annan/Robert Proud

Gretna’s dissolution gave the green light to Annan, who joined the lowest league tier in 2008 and, despite near misses for promotion, stayed there for 15 years until 2023. A play-off win over Clyde then broke the pattern. 

Justifiably outraged Gretna fans soon formed Gretna FC 2008, playing most of their first season at the Everholm Stadium, a multi-sports ground alongside Galabank in Annan. Later moving back to the original Gretna’s old ground of Raydale Park, in 2013 the club became founding members of the Lowland League, offering automatic promotion to the Scottish League.

Keeping in tune with their roots, Gretna FC 2008 feature an anvil on the club badge, a symbol of the runaway weddings with which this border area is most associated in popular culture.

Getting Around

Arriving in town, local transport and tips

The nearest airport to Annan is Prestwick 108km (67 miles) away. For a train to Annan (£20) every 2hrs or so, you need to change at Troon and Kilmarnock, overall journey time around 4hrs. It’s quicker to run up to Glasgow Central (45mins) and then back across to Annan. Airport passengers may also claim a 50% discount on their train ticket to Glasgow, regular price also £20 all the way to Annan (2hrs from Glasgow). 

Glasgow International is 135km (84 miles) from Annan. From Stance 1, Glasgow Airport Express bus 500 runs to Bothwell Street/Hope Street by Glasgow Central station (£10, journey time 15mins) every 12-15mins. 

Edinburgh Airport is 134km (83 miles away). There is no direct train service to Annan from Edinburgh Waverley station. – you’ll have to change at Carlisle, overall journey time 2hrs 30mins-3hrs (online advance single, £15).

Annan station is south of town, a short walk up St John’s Road to the town centre, a longer one (15mins) to the ground continuing in the same direction over the High Street.

The only bus service of any note is the Stagecoach 79 route, hourly (Sun every 2hrs) from Carlisle and Gretna, which calls at Butts Street in the centre of town before heading west to Cummertrees. It’s not handy for either the train station or football ground.

Fox’s Taxis (07391 722 225) offer a friendly local service.

Where to Drink

The best pubs and bars for football fans

Pubs line Annan’s High Street, the ones nearest to the river and Lady Street handier as pre-match options. At No.128, the traditional Commercial Inn, close to the bus terminus at Butts Street, offsets the chatter of regulars with a TV and dartboard. The Anglers at No.61 shows sport, serves food and stages live music.

Lively and family-run, The Buck Inn sits diagonally opposite pre-match haunt The Shed, keeping locals entertained with quiz nights, legless bingo and parties in the popular upstairs space.

Annan is surrounded by attractive pubs, starting with the Wayside Inn, with plenty of TV sport, darts and pool. Set on Annan Road at Eastriggs, on the 79 bus route into Annan four miles away.

As rustic as its name suggests, the Farmers Inn in Clarencefield, five miles west of Annan, offers fine ales and top food, plus lodging if required. The hourly 79 bus runs into Annan.

Where to stay

The best hotels for the ground and around town

Annan Online has a handy database of local hotels and B&Bs.

Best choice for the travelling football fan is the Corner House Hotel, not least because it’s nearest to the ground and a popular pre-match sports bar. Smart, family-run and modern, it contains 18 en-suite rooms and a busy coffee bar, all set behind an authentically historic sandstone façade from the 1800s.

Close by, the family-run Queensberry Arms Hotel comprises 21 affordable en-suite rooms, quality restaurant and bar, all within a historic coaching inn. Equally stately looking, the Firth Hotel on Scotts Street, a continuation of the High Street, is a family-run B&B in its own grounds, with a bar and breakfast room.

Near the station are two guest houses, the ten-room Rowanbank House set in a pretty Victorian villa, and the five-room Old Rectory, offering facials and massage treatments.

Halfway between Annan and Lockerbie, the Ecclefechan Hotel in the small, quiet settlement of Ecclefechan dates back to the 1730s and is ideally suited to a relaxing weekend of golf, hiking and fishing. Nearby stands a monument to Thomas Carlyle, the literary giant born here.