Isle of Whithorn and Wigtown

Harbour at Isle of Whithorn

A tale of three walks

Easter Saturday (and also John’s birthday) was the first full day of our stay in Galloway.

Isle of Whithorn

Our first stop was Isle of Whithorn for morning coffee in the recently built Village Hall. From there, we set off for a walk round the “Isle” which is actually a peninsula – although Isle Head has a very narrow connection.

From the bay opposite the Hall we continued down Main Street to the harbour.

Looking back from the harbour, we could see on one side the castellated-effect sea wall of  the Captain’s Garden, a 19th century private house, and the Kirk, and on the other side Harbour Row with the Steam Packet Inn, named for the days when the Isle of Whithorn was a key destination for Galloway’s steamship trade.

Onto Isle Head where we found the Solway Harvester Seat, a tribute to the seven-strong local crew of the fishing boat Solway Harvester which sank in a storm off the Isle of Man in January 2000, and a witness cairn dedicated to St Ninian, an early Christian missionary. It’s situated in what was once the Isle’s lifeboat station.

Close by are the ruins of the 13th century St Ninian’s Chapel. And here’s a lovely picture of the birthday boy standing next to it!

Climbing to the top of Isle Head, there were good views back to the chapel and the village.

At the top is the Isle’s most prominent landmark, a square, white tower known as the Cairn which has been a navigational aid for hundreds of years. Next to it is another memorial to the men of the Solway Harvester.

From here, we retraced our steps back to the car and headed a few miles round the coast to St Ninian’s Cave.

St Ninian’s Cave

St Ninian’s Cave is somewhere John remembers visiting as a child, so he was keen to go back. From the car park it’s about a mile down the wooded Physgill Glen to a stony beach.

Turning right, the approach to the cave is obvious (though hard on the ankles).

It’s surrounded by crosses and other tributes in every nook and cranny.

The views back along the beach are beautiful.

Once again, we retraced our steps to the car. This time we were in search of lunch, but were about to learn that this is almost impossible in Galloway after 2pm. We stopped in a few places on our way to Wigtown where, fortunately, we found a suitable café – can’t have John starving on his birthday!


County Buildings

Wigtown used to be Galloway’s chief town, but declined over the 20th century until 1997 when it was designated Scotland’s national book town. The Wigtown Book Festival was inaugurated in 1998, and these two things have kick-started a regeneration as an attractive town for visitors. However, I resisted the siren call of bookshops and we set off on the town trail, starting at the magnificent County Buildings which seems to have pretensions as a French Château.

A short distance away was the church to which we returned via a long loop, enjoying the views from Lovers’ Walk and Windyhill.

A boardwalk then took us to the Martyrs’ Stake. In 1685, five people were executed in Wigtown for refusing to accept Episcopalian services and, in particular, that the King had the right to call himself head of the church. Three men were hanged, but Margaret Wilson (aged only 18) and Margaret McLachlan were sentenced to be tied to a stake within the flood mark of the Blednoch stream until they drowned. Today, a granite memorial marks the spot.

The path continued through wetlands to the harbour (rather muddy looking) and a bird hide before returning to town via Station road – with an appropriate weather vane.

After that it was back to our comfortable Wren’s Nest for the night. The next day did not dawn so bright, but we braved the rain to visit two Galloway gardens.


59 thoughts on “Isle of Whithorn and Wigtown

  1. Achim Spengler July 10, 2017 / 11:15

    Thank you very much for sharing pictures, explanations and description, Anabel. Again very informative. I ‘ve never heard of St. Ninian before.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anabel Marsh July 10, 2017 / 13:45

      Thanks, he wasn’t someone I knew much about either.


  2. karen207 July 10, 2017 / 11:39

    I’m so delighted to have found your blog through our mutual interest in Donna Connolly’s Retirement Reflections.

    This was a really informative and interesting post, Anabel. I look forward to reading many more of your adventures, starting with your earlier posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anabel Marsh July 10, 2017 / 14:06

      Thank you Karen! I hope to catch up with your blog too (busy having more adventures at the moment).


    • Donna July 10, 2017 / 16:44

      Thanks, Karen. I am delighted that you have discovered Anabel’s blog. I know that you will find it very interesting!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Susan at FindingNYC July 10, 2017 / 12:20

    It looks like you had a very nice walk. The story of the martyrs was tragic – what a terrible way for those women to die, and so interesting that the stake is still there. It’s a grim warning against religious intolerance.


    • Anabel Marsh July 10, 2017 / 13:49

      I know, it’s a terrible story. Good that it’s being remembered though – we rail against current religious fanatics but it’s there in our heritage too.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. shazza July 10, 2017 / 12:46

    Oh this reminds me of my stay in Dumfries and Galloway in November. We had a walk to st Ninian’s cave and we visited Wigtown too. Great post!


  5. the eternal traveller July 10, 2017 / 13:00

    Such a pretty landscape and I love the coloured buildings, but what a tragic story about the religious martyrs.


    • Anabel Marsh July 10, 2017 / 13:55

      It is very sad that such things could happen. That and the memorial to the list fishing boat made it a sombre walk in parts.


  6. Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor July 10, 2017 / 14:00

    Well, that’s sneaky to call yourself an isle when you really just a peninsula. 🙂 Great pictures as always, particularly love the one of the sailboats.


    • Anabel Marsh July 10, 2017 / 14:11

      Well, I wonder why you liked that one! As for the Isle, I suspect it was at one time then it got joined on at the narrowest part. Still sneaky, though I guess Peninsula of Whithorn doesn’t have the same ring to it 😉


  7. Donna July 10, 2017 / 16:43

    I absolutely love how your walks are richly steeped in history and beauty. I grew up reading about those saints and martyrs so this was a particularly interesting walk for me. Such beauty and such tragedy combined.


    • Anabel Marsh July 11, 2017 / 00:38

      Thanks Donna – we are never far from history (often tragic) in Scotland.


  8. Jemima Pett July 10, 2017 / 19:27

    You had lovely weather for it! St Ninian’s Cave reminds me of something… and the view of the beach reminds of something else, totally unconnected. I wish I could put my finger on the St Ninian bit…


    • Anabel Marsh July 11, 2017 / 00:39

      Hope it comes to you – there’s nothing more annoying than something flickering at the edge of your memory!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. July 10, 2017 / 21:44

    You have such amazing history in your part of the world. And cemeteries! You know how I love old cemeteries! Great pictures.


  10. Su Leslie July 10, 2017 / 23:06

    Thank you for sharing your Easter (and birthday) holiday Anabel. The only thing missing for me in these lovely guided walks is the actual exercise!


    • Anabel Marsh July 11, 2017 / 00:41

      Ah, can’t help you there! But I know you have lovely places to walk too.


      • Su Leslie July 11, 2017 / 02:42

        True! My walks have been a bit curtailed by an arthritic knee which has developed some tendon damage as well. Grrr.


  11. Pit July 10, 2017 / 23:40

    Looks like wonderful walks, Anabel. Thanks for taking me with you. 🙂


  12. Birgit July 11, 2017 / 00:13

    Beautiful walking tour even though I’m surprised you couldn’t find much open after 2pm. It looks like John had a great birthday Che king out those caves. Always sominteresting to find out some history even when it is tragic


    • Anabel Marsh July 11, 2017 / 00:42

      It’s a problem in some country areas. Your hunger has to abide by their rules 😦


  13. Blue Sky Scotland July 11, 2017 / 01:15

    Most folk south of the border race up to the Scottish Highlands but Galloway has some lovely spots as well. The Portpatrick peninsula is another gem down there.


  14. Green Global Trek July 11, 2017 / 15:27

    Fabulous. Those are the cutest little villages. They look like villages we visited years back in Holland! That’s some pretty dramatic seascape too! Beautiful.



    • Anabel Marsh July 11, 2017 / 15:56

      Thanks Peta! It’s a lovely, and somewhat under-rated, part of the country.


  15. rosemaylily2014 July 12, 2017 / 08:04

    Beautiful scenery although I can well imagine it must be rather desolate on a cold day. Some of the history sounds quite haunting too! Glad you managed to find lunch somewhere in the end. Great post – such a good read 🙂


    • Anabel Marsh July 12, 2017 / 15:25

      Thank you! I imagine it would be quite windswept in bad weather. Great on a sunny day though.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Jessica (Diverting Journeys) July 12, 2017 / 14:35

    Yikes, being tied to a stake until you drown – now THAT’S a martyrdom! Seriously though, it sounds horrific. Those poor women! Seems similar to the practice of burying women alive because hanging wasn’t “modest” enough…ugh. The rest of the isle looks beautiful though.


    • Anabel Marsh July 12, 2017 / 15:27

      Yes, I expect they’d have taken temporary deportation if it had been an option!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Anabel Marsh July 12, 2017 / 15:28

      Maybe some day you will! Scotland is beautiful, and not just the Highlands.


  17. Kathleen Jennette July 13, 2017 / 01:08

    I’d like to enter that cave. Does it go in far? In my DNA that I have been researching, I am a bit more Scottish than Irish after all! McMillan. Can’t wait to visit, in the meantime, I am living vicariously through your writings.


    • Anabel Marsh July 13, 2017 / 01:19

      A good Scottish name! No, the cave doesn’t go very far back, no tunnels to explore.


  18. hilarymb July 13, 2017 / 08:20

    Hi Anabel – cruelty at its worst … probably a few others lower down the scale, but honestly – didn’t people realise the cruelty of drowning that way. St Ninian’s cave … and those walks – looks a beautiful series of opportunities for visiting and pondering … fascinating part of the world to visit I’m sure … and glad John did get something to eat on his birthday … and you had a happy time exploring – cheers Hilary


    • Anabel Marsh July 13, 2017 / 14:21

      Thanks Hilary. They probably did but thought they deserved it. We’ve come along way in terms of cruelty to those who don’t conform – though not far enough.


  19. jazzfeathers July 13, 2017 / 08:37

    Beautiful place! It was a nice gift to John, anabel 🙂

    My goodness, those poor girls! I always wonder how people can 1. kill other people in the name of ‘justice’ and 2. how they come up with such horrendous way to execute people.


    • Anabel Marsh July 13, 2017 / 14:24

      I know, it’s terrible – but unjustified killing still goes on, thinking of recent events in Manchester and London.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. corinnevail July 13, 2017 / 15:56

    I would love the St.Ninian’s cave walk…love exploring forgotten spots!


  21. Paul July 15, 2017 / 11:01

    They both look lovely areas to explore. It’s been many years since I wandered through Whithorn and it was long before my photography days, I’ll need to head back for a visit. Some lovely pictures Annabelle. Hope your well.


    • Anabel Marsh July 15, 2017 / 13:22

      It’s a beautiful area which tends to get overlooked. I’m fine thanks, hope you are too.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. restlessjo July 16, 2017 / 07:19

    The Isle of Whithorn looks such a picturesque location, Anabel, and I love your beach scenes too. What a lovely round up of history and nature. Reminds me, I must use circles occasionally! They’re effective in the right setting. 🙂 🙂


    • Anabel Marsh July 16, 2017 / 16:42

      Thanks Jo! Fairly sure I got the circles idea from you originally. In this case i thought as there were only two photos it focused in on them more than a 2 picture gallery would.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Ariel Hudnall July 16, 2017 / 19:09

    I’m always impressed by the amount of history you uncover while “about.” A friend of mine is actually moving to Ireland in a couple of years, and I intend to recommend your blog, since she loves hiking!


    • Anabel Marsh July 17, 2017 / 01:27

      Thank you! We have a lot of history here to uncover, it’s very rewarding to find out about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Ruth Livingstone July 21, 2017 / 17:12

    I loved the Isle of Whithorn, and the walk from there along the coast to St Ninian’s cave is really worth doing. There is supposed to be a wonderful site of prehistoric standing stones somewhere close to Wigtown. Did you ever visit them? I keep meaning to go back to try and find them.


    • Anabel Marsh July 22, 2017 / 01:22

      No, we didn’t see them either. I loved the area too.


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