Part two of our road trip through Dumfries and Galloway towards Stranraer…
Isle of Whithorn
In part one of this journey I finished by talking about a village called Whithorn and St Ninian’s ruined priory which is on show there. Further along is another village, called the Isle of Whithorn, which is pictured above, and is a lovely little fishing port. It also contains the chapel of St Ninian, built in at least 1300, which is also a ruin and we had a quick look around, before heading up onto the hill looking out across the sea as the Isle of Whithorn is at the bottom of Dumfries and Galloway and we could just make out the shape of the Isle of Man in the distance.
Pilgrims would visit the island and could see sanctuary in the chapel where they would have given thanks for making it safely across to Scotland.
After we rejoined the A75 towards Stranraer after our long coastal detour, we came off again almost immediately into the village of Glenluce to have a quick look at the abbey just outside the village.
Like most abbeys in the country it is ruined, but the ruins are impressive never the less. The abbey dates back to 1190, by the local Lord of Galloway, Lochlann (Died 1200), but after the Scottish Reformation in which the abbeys were disestablished, it was abandoned in 1560 and ended up in its current state. There is lots to walk around with different areas of the abbey visible from the road. It is easy to find with signs pointing the way from the main road.
Stranraer Castle (Castle of St John)
This is what we were looking for when we arrived in the town of Stranraer, after a day of travelling. It sits in the middle of the town, and is actually free to enter, which is fantastic a lot of castles that are ruined and smaller as well as abbeys aren’t free. Inside it is largely complete and you can go up the very top and get brilliant views.
The castle was built in the early 16th century by the Adairs of Kilhilt somewhere around 1510. It was later used a prison and the different levels housed different criminals in cells, which can still be seen today. Other uses include as a court and a garrison for the military. Today it is open to the public as a museum after it was refurbished in the 1980’s.
It is only a few minutes walk from the sea front and is a popular local attraction and one of several castles in the area, and the third one we had a look at on this trip.
View From Stranraer Castle
There is a fantastic view from the top of the castle, a full 360 look around the town and surrounding countryside. Stranraer stands at the end of Loch Ryan and we could see the full length of it up to where it meets the Irish Sea.
Stena Line ferries to Northern Ireland used to sail from here from the pier but these have since moved further up the Loch on the right hand side to the port of Cairnryan. Scotrail trains from Glasgow terminate at the near end of Stranraer pier enabling only a short walk to the ferry from there but this is now derelict as no ferries call here but the trains do still run, and there are plans to revamp the area.
Other things we could see include the white tower of the Old Town Hall which is further along out of view, as well as a tower monument far away on a hill, known as the Agnew Monument, built in memory of Sir Andrew Agnew (Politician) in 1850.
Even though our end destination was originally Stranraer, we decided to go just a little further and make the 6 or 7 mile journey to the edge of the coast, to the small port of Portpatrick. Looking out from here we could see Northern Ireland, and as it got dark we ended our journey gazing over the Irish Sea (although sadly the pictures didn’t come out as Ireland was so far in the distance).
Its a beautiful little village with an impressive bay and nearby is a 12th century castle named Dunskey Castle that is a 20 minute walk away from the village. We had a walk around the port and headed up to the rock formation in the centre of the port upon which stands a flagpole defiantly flying the Scottish Flag against the elements.