Dumfries and Galloway

Whithorn Post Office
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Whithorn Post Office

The royal burgh of Whithorn, located in the Machars district of Galloway, 15 miles (24 km) south of Wigtown, is known as the site of Scotland's first Christian settlement though it was probably already in existence when St. Ninian arrived from Rome in the 5th century to establish a monastery and church known as Candida Casa. It was later occupied by British, Anglian, Irish and Scottish groups before having a cathedral and priory built in the 12th century; it became a burgh in 1325 and a royal burgh in 1511 although most of its buildings date from the 19th century.

The cathedral and priory church were popular with mediaeval pilgrims since they held the relics of St. Ninian, and these buildings may be on the site of his 'Candida Casa'. Famous pilgrims include Robert the Bruce, and James III, IV and V. Pilgrimages were banned by Act of Parliament in 1581 and the religious buildings were soon used only as a parish church, with much of the structure falling into disrepair and Whithorn lost its religious significance.

Evidence of ancient settlement can be seen at nearby Rispain, the site of a fortified Celtic farmstead (c.100 BC - 200 AD). St. Ninian's Cave, his retreat for meditation, is most likely found at Physgill on Luce Bay 1¼ miles (2 km) southwest of Whithorn. The history of the town is on display at the Discovery Centre, which also provides guided tours, and at 'Whithorn: the Cradle of Christianity in Scotland' which explores the development of the community over the centuries. This museum, which opened in 1957, houses several early Christian stones including the Latinus Stone (450 AD), said to be the oldest Christian monument in Scotland, and the St. Peter Stone (7th century). Whithorn was the terminus of a railway from Newton Stewart which operated from 1877 to 1950.

Nearby at Ravenstone is the Swallow Theatre, said to be Scotland's smallest.

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