Saturday 8 August 2015
Stranraer to Wigtown
Driving tour, 3 mile walk
Ali’s house, Edinburgh
I woke to a beautiful sunny day and packed up quickly to make the most of the early morning. My first stop was the Mull of Galloway, the Southern tip of The Rhins and Scotland’s most Southerly point. I parked the car and walked to the tip. Wow. It was glorious, and there was no one around so I got it all to myself – the quiet, the light, the creeping warmth of the sun. How lucky am I?
As I was leaving I spotted a strange round tower in a field that had steps all around it. I always have to climb these things, just for the hell of it. I began the long drive around Luce Bay (I think they named it after me). It was a lovely drive and Luce Sands looked like a lovely big beach.
On the East side of the bay I stopped in Port William, a pretty little town full of the same terraced houses I’d seen going up the East coast of Scotland. Killantrae Burn flowed through the town and right past the old piggery and abattoir. Although no longer used for that purpose, it’s history was celebrated by filling the yard with plastic pigs. I quite liked it.
There was a wonderful statue of a man looking across the sea to Ireland.
Just after Monreith I stopped to look at a memorial by the side of the road. It was an otter and celebrated the author Gavin Maxwell who was from the area and had kept pet otters.
At the eastern end of Luce Bay, just before Burrow Head, is St Ninian’s Cave. I parked up and walked the mile or so down Physgill Glen to a small beach with a cave at one end. This was apparently the place where Scotland’s first saint retreated to pray and reflect. It is clearly still a pilgrim site as there were many crosses, carvings and prayers on the walls. Quite an amazing place.
Next stop was the Isle of Whithorn. It’s not actually an Isle but a small town at the end of a natural inlet.
On the headland is the remains of St Ninian’s Chapel. St Ninian was the first Christian missionary to come to Scotland around 400AD. For centuries, Isle of Whithorn was the landing place for pilgrims coming from Wales, France, Spain, Ireland and Scandinavia.
There is a huge witness cairn and the whole place had an incredible feel to it.
Just inland from the Isle of Whithorn was Whithorn so I diverted there to take a look.
Here was Whithorn Priory, the earliest known Christian foundation in Scotland. It was established about 500AD by St Ninian, whose monastery became a site visited by the likes of Robert The Bruce and King James IV. He also built the Candida Casa, the little white church. So much history in one small corner of Scotland!I finished my day with a quick stop in Wigtown; I had no idea this was Scotland’s National Book Town. So many book shops to choose from but I picked one and went in to buy a book. I came away with Gavin Maxwell’s Ring of Brightwater, and John McNeillie’s Wigtown Ploughman.
It was time for my road trip to come to an end and, as I was a long way from Inverness where I had hired my car, I had negotiated to drop it back at Heathrow Airport, which isn’t too far from home. That way I could visit home for a couple of weeks. I had decided to drive via Ali’s house in Edinburgh to collect my old tent and rucksack that she had been keeping for me.
It was lovely to catch up with Ali and Morna again, and nice to spend the evening with friends before my long drive home tomorrow.