Newton Stewart To Whithorn By Wigtown
ROUTE LENGTH: 18 MILES
Take the A714 to Wigtown, stopping there to see the Martyrs’ graves in the churchyard, and the Martyrs’ monument down on the shore of the River Cree.
Continue to Bladnoch and the A746 to Whithorn.
Follow the path beside the River Cree southwards. This leads to a cycle path beside the A714. Turn left on to the minor road which goes past the site of St Ninian’s well, towards Carty Port. Follow this road all the way to Wigtown. A short walk just before you arrive in Wigtown takes you to The Martyrs’ Monument.
Leave Wigtown on the A746. After crossing the river in Bladnoch you can take a detour past Baldoon Mains or stay on the main road. South of Kirkinner bear right on to the B7004 to Garlieston. Continue on the B7063, passing Cruggleton church on your left, until turning right to Whithorn.
Once in Wigtown, walk down to the Martyrs’ monument. Then follow the path along the shore towards the harbour. When you reach the road turn left for the harbour or right to return to the town.
Crossing the River Cree into the Machars you begin to feel pilgrim routes coverging. Old pilgrim bridges with historic churches mark the closer stages. Wigtown is the former county town with its inheritance of persecution and martyrdom in Covenanting times, and its modern booktown status.
From here you sense the sea, and the contours lowering towards coast and dune. Whithorn itself misleads with its sleepy market town air, till approaching the priory with its associated heritage centres you begin to experience the extent and depth of its history. Even here though there is more underground than is visible as successive religious communities, British, Irish and Scots constructed a cluster of shrines and pilgrim sanctuaries. From the humble beginnings of a whitewashed Candida Casa dedicated to St Martin of Gaul, Ninian’s missionary community grew in sacred stature far beyond its original humble situation. The prestige of Scotland’s Christian birthplace was cultivated by later Kings and Bishops.
But Whithorn is also a gateway, the focal point of a sacred radius that includes the dramatic Cave or Refuge of Ninian on the shore, and the moving arrival point and chapel at Isle of Whithorn. The whole quiet peninsula is redolent of the original humility, remoteness and spiritual intimations which brought Ninian here in the beginning. Underlying all is the distinctive wheel cross, carved and illustrated throughout the site. Combining sun and sacrifice, creation and salvation, the wheel cross is an enduring symbol of the missionary Christianity which fashioned a new faith in ancient patterns.
Views from the Machars include the Isle of Man and Ireland with all their linking seaways. On the west side are the open waters of Luce Bay, looking across to the Mull of Galloway. Here by Glasserton and Port William you connect with the other major route into Whithorn. Our description will also return you here via the great western pilgrim route.
White shining house,
Candida Casa of Martin,
Ninian’s home of wonder,
You are our witness.
Be destination and departure
Our homecoming harbour
And our slipway.
Take us to the seashore,
Be a rock fast refuge
And grant safe passage
On our ocean voyage,
Now and for evermore.