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.


  1. All three of these walks look like a great way to celebrate Easter and John’s birthday, Anabel. I love the sea walk and the loop around Lover’s Walk and Windy Hill. Fabulous views in every direction! 🙂


  2. This post was fascinating, thank you so much for the bit of history. You ramble much as we do, we see something interesting and go have a look then try to learn more about it.

    As for your ‘Grouse’, that looks like what we would call a Pheasant. We had them in the midwest, before corn became king and factory mega farms ripped up hedgerows and ditches to plant as much crop as possible. I don’t believe we ate them all, as I understand it we took all their cover, poisoned them with herbicide and coyotes got the rest. 35 years ago they were so numerous they could be a driving hazard flying up out of the ditch and into your windshield. And now I don’t see them. Are they doing well in your corner of the world?


    • Thanks, glad you enjoyed it! Further investigation with Mr Google shows you are right and this is a pheasant not a grouse – my bird identification is not the best as you can see. Don’t see them very often. This one, I think I’m remembering right, had something wrong with its wing and it seemed couldn’t fly so,probably wasn’t long for the world.


  3. 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.


  4. 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!


  5. 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. 🙂 🙂


  6. 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.


  7. 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.


  8. 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


    • 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.