Why Annan's historic harbour is key its bright future - and why you should take the water with the coastal rowers

Once key to the local economy through shipbuilding, commerce and fishing, Annan’s historic harbour remains a vital part of the identity of the town, and is at the heart of a multi-million pound regeneration project which is set to transform the area’s fortunes.

Annan Harbour Action Group believes the regeneration of the harbour is vital to the town’s future and it has been awarded £11.9m from the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund for its ambitious and “game changing” project. Reconnecting the town with its maritime and natural heritage, it includes the creation of a watersports lagoon, footbridge across to the Minister’s Merse, and the development of the old warehouse at the Burgh Quay into a café and heritage centre. The Harbour Hub will focus on Annan’s fishing, shipping and boatbuilding history, with other interactive exhibits covering the area’s unique haaf net fishing and its smuggling past, including links to Robert Burns when he was an exciseman.

Manager Alan Thomson with rowers Aileen Chalmers, Amanda Rodger, Isabel Martin, and Liudmyla PetrovaManager Alan Thomson with rowers Aileen Chalmers, Amanda Rodger, Isabel Martin, and Liudmyla Petrova

AHAG has been working hard for a number of years to breathe new life into the harbour area with an expanding events programme including markets and festivals, a busy youth work programme, and a Men’s Shed, as well as the popular coastal rowing run by the Annan Harbour Coastal Rowing Club.

AHCRC runs weekly public rowing sessions and takes part in coastal sporting events both locally and nationally, including the SkiffieWorlds, Nith Raid in Dumfries, and the thrilling Bell Raid race across the Solway; a re-enactment of a 1626 invasion of Cumbria to steal the bells from St Michaels at Bowness-on-Solway.

The club goes out most Sundays (when tides and weather allow), all year round, with rowers crewing the St Ayles skiffs Pride of Annan (built in 2014) and Pride of the Solway (built in 2016).

AHCRC encourages people of all ages and abilities to try rowing as an activity that delivers both physical and well-being benefits. “It’s great way to exercise, enjoy the company of others and experience being out on the water.”

Hayden Shawin on the safety boatHayden Shawin on the safety boat

Club treasurer Amanda Rogers got involved in 2019 when the SkiffieWorlds were held in Stranraer, and having never rowed before then, went on to compete for Annan in the SkiffieWorlds in Holland in 2022. She says: “Rowing is an ideal combination of physical exercise, fresh air, team effort and good companionship: you cannot fail to feel better for it I hope never to forget the absolute delight of rowing out into the Solway the very first time and being surrounded by such wonderful scenery: we are so lucky to have that experience.”

Rower Aileen Chalmers started rowing five years ago, when she retired. “For me it is all about the exercise and positive mental health benefits, being part of a team and meeting new people and the amazing rowing out on the Solway. I love it, I am addicted.”

For more information see: www.annanharbour.org.uk/annan-harbour-rowers/ Training and safety equipment are provided.

Annan Men's Shed volunteer Mike EvansAnnan Men's Shed volunteer Mike Evans