Wednesday, 19 May 2010

The Mull of Galloway

My last post talked about the Machars. Now it's time to go further west, as far as you can go in southwest Scotland. The tip of Galloway is the Rhinns, the hammerhead of land connected to the rest of the mainland by a flat plain at Stranraer. Stranraer is the end of a very long branch line, its nearest city Belfast, its main industry the ferry terminal to Ireland. A few years ago I ran the Stranraer half marathon, and will always remember a local wifie coming out her house to watch the spectacle. She turned to the policeman standing by the route and said:

"Have you ever seen anything like it in Stranraer!"

It's as much like Ireland as the rest of Scotland, and was Gaelic speaking as far back as Roman times, thanks to the Scots of Ulster who had a toehold in Argyll and the Rhinns.

Ailsa Craig and Stranraer from the Rhinns:

The whole peninsula of the Rhinns has an insular feel, increasing the closer you get to the Mull of Galloway. The houses are neat and whitewashed, with some rugged seacliffs and pretty beaches. Most notably for those familiar with similar scenery in the likes of overcrowded Cornwall, there are few tourists.

Deserted beach at Port Logan:

Houses in the Rhinns:

Down here the land is rolling and pastoral, with dairy cattle grazing the lush grass.

Galloway cows in the Rhinns:

The tippermost tip of the Rhinns is the Mull of Galloway, which holds the distinction of being the southernmost point of Scotland. Here the holiday coast of the Solway turns along the North Channel into the palm-fringed riviera of the Firth of Clyde. The Isle of Man, Ireland and, on a very clear day, the Lake District, can be seen. Purportedly Snowdonia is also visible on an exceptionally clear day, 133 miles away!

Approaching the Mull of Galloway:

Seacliffs at the Mull:

The southernmost point is, like the northern and westernmost, a satisfying spot, a definite and scenic edge to the land, with tidal swirls in the water below and wheeling seabirds catching aircurrents on the cliffs.

Danger sign at Scotland's southernmost tip:

In summer the lighthouse is open to visitors. Now completely automated, this light was last manned in 1988. Thus a little bit of romance borne from the hard and singular lifestyle of the lighthouse keeper has gone from our land, and today the light is operate by remote control from the office of the Royal Northern Lighthouse Board in Edinburgh.

Foghorn at the Mull:

The clifftop is awash with wildflowers and, on our visit, a raptor was terrorising the local bird population. There is a discreet, turf-roofed cafe next to the lighthouse, but we were content to have a picnic outside in the glorious sunshine, sitting on the grass and soaking in the Vitamin D. A long winter has given way to a beautiful, warm spring.

View from the Mull, Man in the background:

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