Dumfries and Galloway

©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland


The royal burgh of Wigtown was the county town of Wigtownshire until 1975 and is situated on the west side of Wigtown Bay 7 miles (11 km) south of Newton Stewart. In 1998 it was launched as 'Wigtown Book Town' with numerous book stores and book-related businesses. It has subsequently elevated itself to 'Scotland's National Book Town'.

Wigtown was a royal burgh by the late 13th Century (and a burgh of barony in 1341) with a castle nearby on the River Bladnoch. Wigtown Castle, which may have begun as a Viking stronghold, was designated as one of twenty-three Guardians of Scotland and changed hands between the Scots and English several times. It was captured by King Edward I in 1291, retaken by William Wallace in 1297 and destroyed most-likely by Robert the Bruce c.1313. Wigtown Parish Church was also an ancient foundation. The modern church stands next to the remains of the pre 16th-century Old Parish Church. Near the church is the site of a Dominican monastery that was founded in 1267 by Devorguilla Balliol. The town is known for its martyrs from the 17th century, including Margaret McLachlan, aged 63, and Margaret Wilson, aged 18, who were tied to a stake in Wigtown Bay and left to drown in the incoming tide. They and other Covenanters who were killed are commemorated in the Martyrs' Monument and by the Martyrs' Stake.

There are two market crosses (1738 and 1816). The fine French Gothic-style County Buildings (1863) now contain a library (2003). There is also a museum, which features a scale model of the town in the 18th century. Nearby is the Bladnoch Distillery, the stone circle of Torhousekie, the Wigtown Bay Local Nature Reserve ('Britain's largest') and the Galloway Forest Park with goat and deer enclosures.

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