Whithorn is a royal burgh in the historic county of Wigtownshire in Dumfries and Galloway, about 10 miles (16 km) south of Wigtown. It has a strong association with St Ninian, who brought Christianity to Scotland.
Whithorn is steeped in history. St Ninian, Scotland’s first saint, brought Christianity to Scotland in 397 and died in Whithorn in 431. Every year sees a pilgrimage to nearby St Ninian’s Cave and you can learn the story of the town at Whithorn Priory & Museum.
Whithorn’s town centre retains its street plan from the Middle Ages with wide market square and long garden plots. Many kings and queens journeyed to this small town, over the centuries.
A few miles away, is the Isle of Whithorn; a pretty coastal village which enjoys a picturesque seaside setting and down by the harbour is St Ninian’s Chapel. The original chapel on this site, built in the 1100s, comprised a small nave and a separate, narrower chancel. It stood within a stone enclosure wall, part of which is still standing today. There was also a stone bench, presumably for use by weary pilgrims. A house for a priest and a small burial ground were also probably contained within the wall. The chapel remains a stopping point. Modern pilgrims can add stones to a ‘Witness Cairn’ at the entrance to the field on which the chapel stands. Beside it is a bench commemorating the young fishermen from the Isle of Whithorn who died when their boat, the Solway Harvester, sank in 2000.
As well as visiting the area’s historical sites you can enjoy cycling through the Machars area on marked cycle routes, as well as walking, fishing, golf and bird watching. There are opportunities for eating out and shopping at both locations.
Check out the top 10 cycling routes around the Isle of Whithorn. The routes range from ‘Easy’ to ‘Intermediate’ and ‘Expert’, so there are routes to suit all skill levels.
Burrow Head Coastal Circuit is the southernmost point on the Machars. The Coastal Circuit is a 5.5 mile walk which will take around 2.5 – 3 hours. The clifftop here was used to film the final scenes from The Wickerman and provides dramatic scenery today.
The Isle of Whithorn harbour front offers several rock edge marks that can be fished at all states of the tide in summer, in all but the heaviest of seas. Heavy kelp and rock pinnacles close in give way to a clean bottom within casting distance. From April to mid-October you can expect dogfish, mackerel, garfish, pollack, coalfish, codling, dab, gurnard, wrasse and conger. The occasional ray or huss can be taken and this is one of the few places where you can expect to land a ling. Mackerel arrive between June and September and give a bait supply. The area is quiet during the winter, but there is the possibility of some cod during a southerly or south-westerly sea, when there is plenty of colour in the water. Dogfish, dab, whiting and small pollack are present, but in fewer numbers than in summer.
If you’re looking for a round of golf, Wigtown and Bladnoch Golf Club is a pleasant 9-hole course that offers a good test of golf to players of all abilities.
The Machars Region is a magical place where forests meet the coast, beaches extend for miles, the past meets the present, and nature lives in harmony with human communities. You will find a diverse range of birds including buzzards, gannets, guillemots, kites, geese, waders, curlews, and oyster catchers. Along the rugged coastline you might see badgers, foxes, hares, and rabbits. Even a normally elusive otter may be seen walking down the street in Whithorn!
Whithorn is also a recognised UNESCO Biosphere community. Biosphere Communities are places where local residents and businesses have committed to being Proud Supporters of the Biosphere and to:
- Help to conserve the natural resources of the Biosphere.
- Support the economy to benefit local people and nature.
- Promote cultural heritage and local products.
- Contribute to the health and wellbeing of the community.
- Develop knowledge, understanding and promote research.
- Raise awareness of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere.
Whithorn is a wonderful town to visit when exploring Dumfries and Galloway. It has lots to offer visitors, and for many, it is a place of religious importance telling the story of Christianity’s arrival in Scotland.
If you’re not religious, you could easily lose yourself on coastal walks and pathways, experiencing a variety of inviting beaches. Or, take a wildlife boat trip or do some sea fishing at the Isle of Whithorn.
With dark skies to star gaze and our unpolluted, incredible clear light, this is a dream location for photographers – or just relax, drink, and eat in local cafés, pubs, and restaurants.