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After a week further north with our daughter & her boyfriend, my husband and I have about 3 days to spend in the Dumfries/Galloway area (& Ayrshire en route from Glascow/Edinburgh?). We will go to see and feel the land of my gggrandmother's family (Kirkcowan/Wigtown). I'd also like to see the port where ships sail for Ireland. On the fourth day, we'll drive back to Heathrow area for our flight to Seattle on day 5.

Unfortunately, since the first week and a half is shared with others, we won't be in Wigtown during their book festival. Perhaps we'll enjoy the quieter streets more!

I will probably want to visit the records office in Dumfries for about 3 hours of genealogical research.

We want to see:

  • churches & graveyards
  • standing stones/circles
  • bookstores in Wigtown
  • burgh of Whithorn
  • visit any locations identified as family history (info from records office)

Any recommendations for these locations regarding sites, driving, and accommodations are greatly appreciated.

Posted by
4089 posts

Re- the port where the ships sail for Ireland- the modern port is at Cairnryan- but both those terminals (a mile apart) are modern- P and O for Larne, and Stena for Belfast.
Historically the ships sailed from Stranraer- the railway station is where the port was, but there is little or nothing to see there now.

However, before Stranraer port was established, there were two other ports for Ireland- Portpatrick and Isle of Whithorn (about 4 miles south of Whithorn), so it depends what you are looking for and what time era you are looking for.

My guess is that if the family lived in the Wigtown area they would have sailed either from the Isle of Whithorn, or possibly even the port of Garlieston (better known for it's connections to the Mulberry Harbours in WW2).

Have you done any genealogical research on Scotland's people, or contacted Dumfries Archives (in the Ewart Library)?.

All extant BMD records for your family will be on Scotland's People.

The reason I am asking is that, on searching CALM, I don't see anything at Dumfries regarding Kirk Session records, or burial records.

If the original Kirk records are not held locally, I wonder if they are in fact in Edinburgh- not that you need to view the original registers.

You should be able to search Scotand's People for free at the Ewart but their website doesn't explicitly state that.

There are quite a number of graveyards between Wigtown and Whithorn- several of which are at the former sites of the Churches they serve.

Do you know that they were never in the larger town of Newton Stewart, a few miles east of Kirkcowan, and where you would normally turn off the A75 for Whithorn/Wigtown?

In Dumfries itself I recommend the Dumfries Villa Guesthouse- Colin will look after you very well there, and he has a deal with a local restaurant to get 20% off what are already good prices- and will make bookings there for you.

From Dumfries it's a straight drive down the A75- a very good highway- to Kirkcowan. You should do it in under 90 minutes although you will have passed a number of places you really should visit on the way.

From Kirkcowan to Wigtown it's only another 15 minutes or so, another 5 minutes to the distillery, and Whithorn is another 15 minutes or so further on. Kirkcowan to Stranraer is about 30 minutes.

At Whithorn I would suggest the Steam Packet Inn at the Isle of Whithorn as somewhere to stay, and also, for lunch, suggest the Community Cafe at the Isle.

At Wigtown, apart from bookstores and the Kirkyard, you really should visit the Martyr's Stake/Memorial- a vivid reminder of the time of the Covenanters in the area.

Posted by
1594 posts

My 'go to' website is always Undiscovered Scotland. Have a look at the map page and follow the links to find out more about some of the things and places .

You’ve already identified Whithorn, presumably for its early Christian heritage? Unfortunately the Priory itself is currently closed "due to access restrictions in place as a precautionary measure while we undertake high level masonry inspections". There are still quite a lot of Historic Environment Properties have yet to reopen since the Covid lockdown and lack of maintenance during it. Keep an eye on the website as properties are slowly reopening...

There is also the tiny ruined St Ninian’s Chapel at the Isle of Whithorn. You can also park at Kisdale and walk to St Ninian’s Cave on the beach, traditionally the place of his personal retreat.

There are other less well know ruined churches. Anwoth village is near Gatehouse of Fleet is by passed by the busy A75. The present church was built in the mid C19th but the ruins of the Old Church along with its graveyard can be found at the northern end of the village.

Kirkmabreck Old Church, is less easy to find and although there are pictures on the web, there is little information about it. This link should take you to the OS map showing Creetown (If the link doesn’t work, you can also access the map from here. A footpath (black dotted line ) leading to some old quarries and the church just beyond them. Alternatively it can be reached up the very steep road leading to the old quarries. This website suggests there may be parking by the quarries...

The medieval church served a large isolated area of a few farms. In the micd C19 a new and much more convenient church was built in Creetown. leaving the old church to fall into ruins. It is an isolated and very atmospheric place and completely forgotten now.

Near Creetown are the two Cairn Holy chambered cairns.

Also in Creetown, the Gem Rock Museum is a well worth while visit and very good if it is raining!!
Creetown Gem Rock Museum

The Dumtrodden Stones near Port William are all that is left of a stone age alignment. Near by are the Cup and Ring marked stones. We did go searching for these some years ago, but from memory they were underwhelming and not as impressive as the images on google....

Posted by
1594 posts


Check to see if the lovely ruined Glenluce Abbey, has reopened when you visit. It is a lovely isolated setting but quite a drive.

The Mull of Galloway has the Kirkmadrine Stones displayed in the porch of Kirkmadrine church. The oldest date from around 500AD and are some of the oldest Christian memorials in Scotland.

Near by are Logan Botanical Gardens , which are part of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh. Warmed by the Gulf Stream, they enjoy what is described as an almost sub tropical climate with plants thriving here that struggle elsewhere in Britain. They are some of the niccest gardens I 've visited and a super spot to drop out on a warm, sunny day.

If you've got this far, do drive down to the lighhouse at the tip of the Mull and climb the 115 steps to teh top. The views are fantastic!

I've probably given more than enough to fill at least a week and have still hardly scratched the surface of things to do, see and go. Enjoy!

Posted by
4089 posts

St Ninian's Chapel at the Isle of Whithorn is also closed for building work (personal visit a few weeks ago)-although there are interpretation boards and a bit of judicious inspection allows you to see most of what there is to see. But while at the Isle don't miss the very good exhibition in the Village Kirk about the history of the village of the Isle of Whithorn. The Kirk is open all day every day. The boards will also tell you about the *ruins of Chapel Finian (another pilgrim's Chapel, on the coastal drive through Port William to Stranraer), and 5 miles inland of Glenluce are the Laggangairn Standing Stones- on another pilgrim's route to Whithorn. There were many routes to Whithorn.
Also at Glenluce is Glenluce Abbey and about 8 miles closer to Stranraer are Castle Kennedy Gardens (the Castle itself burnt down in 1716).

Also, while in Dumfries, down a little alley near the Mid Steeple there is the Globe Inn (said to be Burns' favourite pub). Possibly the only pub which does guided tours three times a day. They have a very cheffy restaurant- which is held in high regard locally.

The 2nd Anwoth Church closed around 10 years ago and is now a private residence, although the Kirkyard is still there.

[The sections in Italics are extracted from my far longer trip report]

Posted by
1595 posts

There are a lot of really interesting places in both Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway to see. Caerlaverock for me sticks out, plus the Burns centre just south of Ayr. Culzean castle south of Ayr has spectacular grounds and a location that I think you can see Ailsa Craig, a bird sanctuary and where most competition curling stones come from.

What you will see in the south west is a part of Scotland fewer people see than the Borders, mainly just driving between the border at Gretna and the ferries at Stranraer.

Posted by
172 posts

Thank you, MC-Glasgow, it will be nice to see a part of the country that is more off the beaten path. Especially interesting to hear about the curling stones. (I'm Canadian-born. A couple of cousins have been lifelong competitive curlers.)