Located several miles south of Newton Stewart along the Machars peninsula, you will find Wigtown, Scotland’s official book town.
Formerly known as Wigtownshire, Wigtown was once the chief town of Galloway as well as the main ferry point to cross the tidal river up until the 19th century. At one point, this now popular town was one of the most rundown cities in Scotland and had skyrocketing unemployment rates.
Today, Wigtown is a thriving town with a rich history and is surrounded by a plethora of beautiful landscapes, rugged coastlines, and green forests.
It was in 1998 that the new Scottish Parliament dubbed Wigtown Scotland’s National Book Town.
Visitors travelling to Wigtown can look forward to a selection of book-related businesses, making it the perfect holiday location for anyone who loves to bury their head in a good book.
There are also several amazing cafes and restaurants in town where you can indulge in some local favourites. Cobwebs, Café Rendezvous’, and The Frying Scotsman are just a few of the spots that come highly recommended.
The Annual Wigtown Book Festival – A Book Lover’s Dream
Wigtown’s annual book festival is attended annually by locals and tourists alike.
Taking place during September/October, the book festival is held over 10 days and includes activities for all ages, including art, music, theatre and more.
The opening night of the festival begins with a bagpipe procession through the streets from Mercat Cross to the Bayview Nursery and is followed by fireworks and a hog roast.
One of the main highlights of the event is, of course, the literary workshops. Festival organisers run a number of author events and workshops that include thought-provoking panel discussions.
Entrance to the festival is free, but there’s a cost for any of the events and workshops you would like to attend.
Explore Wigtown’s Historical Sites
Even though books are the heart of Wigtown, there are also a few sites that history lovers can explore and enjoy.
The Wigtown museum is housed in the County Buildings, which were constructed in 1862 in a beautiful French gothic style. These County Buildings were once used as the administrative centre for Wigtownshire before they were renovated years later.
The Wigtown museum is dedicated to the story of the Burgh, which was a constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of Great Britain from 1708 to 1800. The bronze weights and measures that were acquired by the Burgh in 1707 is the main display in the museum.
If you make your way down to the ground floor of the County Buildings, you will find the remains of an 18th century prison cell known as ‘The Martyrs Cell’, which is associated with the Wigtown Martyrs.
Wigtown Martyr’s Stake
Located in the east of Wigtown, the Wigtown Martyr’s Stake was erected in 1858 to commemorate the Wigtown Martyrs, who were Margaret Maclauchlan and Margaret Wilson. These women were Scottish Covenanters who were executed by Episcopalians in 1685. The Episcopalians executed them by tying them to stakes on mudflats. As soon as the tide got high enough around the stakes, they drowned.
Torhouse Stone Circle
This historical monument is located in the Bladnoch Valley, which was one of the most important landscapes in Wigtownshire. This beautifully preserved circle is made up of 19 stones that are graded in height. There are also three boulders in the middle. This stone circle serves as a mark of King Gauldus’s tomb, which was erected in 1684. While very little is known about King Gauldus, it is said that he was a Scottish Chief who fought the Romans.
The Book Shop
Established in the 1970s, The Book Shop is Wigtown’s oldest second-hand bookstore. Upon entering, you’ll be met with over a mile of shelving that houses roughly 100,000 books. The store stocks books on an array of subjects for all ages and is a marvel and a must-see. The store was started after the owners decided they no longer wanted to sell books through online monopolies, and they’ve been going ever since.
The Crook of Baldoon – Something for the Nature Lovers
One of the many things that Scotland is known for is its preservation of wild places and spaces, and Wigtown is no different.
If you’re planning a trip to Wigtown, be sure to take some time to explore the Crook of Baldoon. This breathtaking nature reserve has some of the best views in the area. Once there, you can look over the Cree Estuary all the way to the Galloway Hills. These hills are the backdrop for the saltmarsh and mudflats, which is always teeming with birdlife.
If possible, make a point of visiting during the winter months when the geese and waders bring the coastline to life. Shelducks, oystercatchers, pintails, ringed plovers, whooper and mute swans are also frequent visitors. During the summer months, you can enjoy the breeding skylarks and lapwings.
And if you would like to see the ospreys fishing in the bay, head to the osprey viewing room in the County Buildings, which has a live camera feed of a nest site.
For those who would like to explore a little further, you can walk the 13 km/8 mile trail, which passes the Bladnoch Distillery and Bladnoch Inn, crosses over the Bladnoch River to the Wigtown Airfield, and ends in the reserve. This is one of the best trails to attempt if you want to explore more of what Wigtown has to offer.
The Crook of Baldoon reserve is open throughout the year, and there is no cost to visit. However, donations are encouraged. Unfortunately, due to the livestock in the reserve, only dogs on a short lead will be permitted.
Plan Your Trip to Wigtown
Wigtown has something for everyone, no matter their age or interests, but it is truly a must for avid readers and literature lovers. However, nature and history fans won’t be disappointed either. You can view some of the top accommodation spots in Wigtown on the official Wigtown website.