Sunday, 6 September 2009

Dumfries and Galloway

A few weeks ago, when Matthew was on leave from the forces, he and I escaped down to Dumfries and Galloway for a couple of days. For a long time back when we get the chance, we like to go somewhere interesting for a day or two. We have no timetable to go by and we like to 'play it by ear'. That's a nice way of saying that we do what we want!

We drove down on a Thursday afternoon via Girvan and then the satnav led us through the Galloway forest. It's a lovely road if you like hiking. Just keep your eyes on it or you'll very quickly end up in a ditch! Single track for much of it with virtually no other traffic, no mobile signal and lots of trees. It's a most bizarre experience: miles of driving through an empty forested landscape and then, suddenly to come upon a house with cars in the middle of nowhere! How do these people live? Where's the nearest Tesco? Do they have a phone that works and where do they get their water? I could think of a couple of people who wouldn't mind living this way, but, it looks pretty hard to me.
Anyway, we arrived in Newton Stewart and stopped for a bite to eat and then made our way to Wigtown where we stayed in one of the nicest guesthouses I think I've ever been in. It's called Brora Lodge and is owned by a very nice couple who never seem to wear shoes, at least that was my impression. I've stayed in a lot of places - some clean and some quite dirty. But, this place was immaculate. When I commented to them (I've forgotten their names), they said that they furnished it as if they were going to be the guests - it's how they would have liked it. I thoroughly recommend it if you're in the area.
On the Friday, we worked our way south from Wigtown towards Whithorn, stopping of at Garlieston, at least I did. Matthew slept in the car - still catching up on his sleep from his training. I like these old villages. Whereas, the main cities in Scotland, such as Glasgow and Edinburgh and urban towns and villages have 'developed' for modern usage, these old villages have remained as they are, with little change, for hundreds of years. When you look at them, you can just imagine them bustling with activity in the days when there were hundreds of fishing boats in Scotland. Catches coming ashore to be sorted, baskets of fish and horses and carts to take them to the fish fish markets. Other trades and businesses would thrive in support of the fishing industry and the little towns would not be lying almost silent, sadly, as today. I stopped and looked out across the bay towards the pier listening to the Curlew with it's so evocative cry.

From there, we continued along the country roads to the Isle of Whithorn and then Whithorn its self. If my memory serves me correctly, Garlieston was the only stop we made when it wasn't belting down with rain. By the time we covered the extra few miles south, the rain was on again - this time with no respite.

Whithorn is a town of incredible significance to the Christian in Scotland. This was the place that St Ninian came to and built a small chapel called 'Candida Casa' which means 'White House'. It became a centre of pilgrimage for centuries, but gave the man a centre to work from in the preaching of the gospel in Scotland a century before St Columba came to Iona. St Ninian must have been a man of real fire! Stained glass windows portray him as the meek saint with mitre and staff - but, this man was responsible for the conversion of the lowland Picts of Scotland - he must have been filled with the pentecostal fire told of in the New Testament. In those days (397A.D.), when travel was so difficult he even reached the eastern coast of Scotland, and his own disciples reached as far as Shetland! Read a brief account of his life here. He was responsible for building the first abbey in the British Isles and two of his pupils at Whithorn were responsible for the teaching of Columba and the baptising of St Patrick! A spiritual giant indeed - and sadly, virtually unknown. I must say that Whithorn is one of my favourite places in Scotland. The Abbey is gone now, except the crypt and a small part of the original Church, but the buildings in the main street of Whithorn are built from the same grey stones of the abbey, apparently some with original carvings evident! It was too wet for me to get the camera out in Whithorn, but you can read a little more about it here - and also, discover a little of the amazing collection of Christian carved stones of antiquity, of which there is an amazing collection in Whithorn, just behind the main street.
After Whithorn, we had planned to travel up the west road back to Wigtown, but gave up because of the heavy rain, driving back to the guest house to drink tea and lie on our beds and read books. Oh, the joy of being a couple of blokes on holiday!


  1. Paul, this is a great blog. Kate just alerted me to it tonight and its great to keep in touch with how you are doing. All without asking the same, no doubt tedious (for you!) questions :-)

    Keep up the interesting posts!


  2. Sound's nice!!

    Good to see you when I was at camp - even if it was briefly

  3. Thats an amazing story about St Ninian. The Roman soldiers posted in Scotland unwittingly brought the story of Christ to us. {I never realised that before.} St Ninian must have been some man! Glad to hear that you were away for a wee break.

  4. Tracy and I went on a tour round the Wigtown and Whithorn area a few years ago. Also saw the site by the Solway where the Two Margarets (I wasn't one) were drowned for being Christians/Covenanters. It's a very interesting area.