Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The Machars

This is the time of year to look out the tents and bikes and go for a camping trip! But where should you go? The obvious answer is to head for Speyside, the West Highlands, the Lake District, or somewhere like that. But what about Galloway? This part of the world remains a blind spot for many, but the cave-riddled coast was a smuggler's coast, the hills and farmland are rolling and pastoral, the ruined castles once the homes of vigorously naughty lords and the climate as good as any you will get in Scotland. It is the land of palm trees and The Wicker Man. Many people assume that Kirrin Island, the famous location for many of Enid Blyton's Famous Five adventures, is based on somewhere in southwest England. But it would not be surprising if it were based on Little Ross or Heston Island off Galloway. Galloway is a land of slightly strange stories.

Broom and Heston Island:

Away from the busy A75 and A77, the roads in Galloway are fairly quiet, perfect for cycling. One of the spots well worth exploring is the Machars, the peninsula extending south of the A75 between Luce Bay and Wigtown Bay.


You start in Wigtown, a must-visit location for book lovers. Following on from the success of Hay-on-Wye, Wigtown was designated Scotland's official book town, after a competition that included towns like Dalmellington. The idea behind the book town concept is to provide an economic and cultural boost to a deprived if pleasant area, and in the attractive town square the Old Firm replica shirts of the locals mingle with the tweedy outfits of the bookshop owners. The town is, of course, hoaching with bookshops: a book-browser's paradise.

Isle of Whithorn:

Beyond Wigtown lies the Isle of Whithorn, where St Ninian established a Roman mission in 397. It was the first dedicated Christian establishment in what is now Scotland. There is little ancient to see now except some small ruins, and a sense of peace.

Machars coastline:

Nearby is St Ninian's Cave, where the saint was said to retire to meditate, and which today is covered in carvings of crucifixes; and Burrow Head, where the climactic scene in The Wicker Man was filmed.

Galloway Bluebell grove:

The whole area of the Machars is low-lying, understatedly agricultural, with a pleasant coast and villages: you arrive back in Wigtown via Bladnoch, the southernmost whisky distillery in Scotland. Perhaps you'll pop in for a tour before heading back to your campsite south of Port William.


PurestGreen said...

I've not explored Galloway and this post really makes me want to go. Lovely photos.

Robert Craig said...

Galloway is definitely worth a visit, it is a highly underrated part of the country. Just preparing another post on it...