THE WHITHORN WAY
The newly established Whithorn Way (whithorn.com) works its way down the west coast of the Machars before cutting across to Whithorn. The route is 149 miles long and runs from Glasgow Cathedral down the Ayrshire coast before heading roughly southeast across the moors to reach the Machars. It traces much of the westerly pilgrimage route to Whithorn travelled by pilgrims for well over 1,000 years.
If you don't fancy walking the whole thing, it's divided into more manageable sections, including, on the Machars, New Luce to Mochrum (21.5 miles) and Mochrum to Whithorn (9 miles). A final 9.5-mile section section, from Whithorn to the Isle of Whithorn via St Ninian's Cave (see page 000) is under development. Stamps for walkers to collect are available at the staging points throughout the route and collectable on your smartphone through QR codes and printed maps are available at visitor centres and other public buildings throughout the route.
NEWTON STEWART MUSEUM
Exhibits are arranged into themed bays and include everything from old dolls and games to a penny farthing bicycle, a martyrs stone commemorating Covenanters, and a medical and dental section complete with ear trumpet and false teeth. There are royal items and china, 1920s dresses and old hand-held fans along with an explanation of the ‘Language of the Fan’ (see below). A costume room at the back is full of old mannequins and as you open the door you can’t help but feel that creepy sensation that they have all been alive and moving until the moment you turned the handle. Perhaps the most bizarre exhibits, though, are the elephant molar and a necklace of horse teeth.
The 'Language of the Fan'
A lady carrying a fan could send all manner of messages simply depending on the angle or position in which the fan was held. In the museum at Newton Stewart there is a full explanation of the ‘language of the fan’, which includes such subtleties as:
Carrying in right hand in front of the face = Follow me
Carrying in left hand in front of the face = desirous of acquaintance
Twirling in the left hand = We are watched
Carrying in the right hand = You are too willing
Texting has nothing on this semaphore for polite society!
RSPB WOOD OF CREE RESERVE
From Barclye, the newest area of the Wood of Cree where planting is still going on, there are several trails. Here they are creating a mix of farmland, wet grassland and woodland pasture to appeal to a wide range of wildlife. Three short trails run from here, from one to three miles long. A little further on, from the car park just past Cordorcan Bridge, a circular route takes in an otter pool, the tumbling Cordorcan Burn, mixed woodland and a waterfall before finishing with views down the Cree valley. Depending on what time of year you’re here, keep your eyes peeled for various different wildlife, from courting black grouse, butterflies and barn owls in the summer to migrant thrushes such as redwings and fieldfares in autumn and winter.
At Baldoon Castle in the 17th century played out the tragedy of Janet Dalrymple, forced to marry a man she didn’t love and who died insane after stabbing her new husband to death on their wedding night, since when she has haunted the castle. The story was picked up first by Sir Walter Scott in The Bride of Lammermoor and then by Donizetti in his 1835 opera Lucia di Lammermoor.
Connoisseurs of Scottish history may recall that it was James Hannay (or Hannah, as the name was known), Dean of Edinburgh, who was involved in the notorious incident in Edinburgh’s St Giles Cathedral in 1637 when he came under attack from Jenny Geddes, who threw her stool at him while he attempted to give the first reading of the new liturgy.
Continue a little further down the A746 to reach the hamlet of Glasserton, once an estate village with its prettily set 18th-century church down a lane off the main road (if approaching from Whithorn go straight over at the war memorial crossroads). Here lie Woodfall Gardens (woodfall-gardens.co.uk), usually open one day a year as part of Scotland's Garden Scheme (scotlandsgardens.org). Known as 'Galloway's Secret Garden' thanks to its location tucked away behind the church and accessed through only one door in the surrounding wall, Woodfall consists of 3 areas all approximately one acre in size. the whole being surrounded and divided by high brick walls containing an estimated 1.5 million handmade bricks. The gardens were originally part of the Glasserton estate (long since gone; the main house was razed to the ground after World War II due to the burden of taxes) and over the past few decades have been gradually brought back to life by a succession of committed and enthusiastic owners.
Today Woodfall contains a range of gardening features, including a rose garden, mixed borders, a working kitchen garden and a grasses garden. Even if you don't have green fingers, though, this is an alluring place simply for its peace and tranquillity, a glimpse of the past, and a real sense of living history.
THE WICKER MAN FILMING LOCATIONS
Here’s a quick round-up of locations used in the film.
Creetown – the bar of the Ellangowan Hotel (now closed) in Creetown was used for the interior shots of the Green Man pub.
St Ninian’s Cave – the cave and beach scenes were filmed near St Ninian's Cave. The cave isn’t very deep and the cave interior scenes were shot near Stranraer.
Port Logan - several scenes showing Lord Summerisle's gardens were filmed in Logan Botanical Gardens near Port Logan.
Castle Kennedy gardens – the landscaped terraces situated between the Black Loch and the White Loch were used for the scenes involving the stone circle and the May Day procession. Most of the interior shots of Lord Summerisle's castle were filmed in Lochinch Castle (private).
Kirkcudbright - shops, streets and alleyways in Kirkcudbright were used in many scenes. The Harbour Cottage Gallery appeared a couple of times, while other scenes were filmed near the Toll Cross. Diagonally opposite the police station is the shop used as May Morrison's shop. Some of the alleyways between this shop and the Toll Cross appear in the chase sequence near the end of the movie.
Anwoth - the maypole, schoolhouse and graveyard scenes were filmed around Anwoth Old Kirk.
Gatehouse - the Calley Estate offices in Gatehouse of Fleet were used for the exterior shots of the Green Man pub.
In its time it was possibly a monastic site, then either a burial ground of a religious community or of the family of a Celto-Norse landowner, and then a church which ultimately was probably closed due to the Wars of Independence in the first half of the 14th century.
THE MAXWELLS AND MONREITH
For over 500 years there have been Maxwells in the area of Monreith, though they have only been at Monreith House since it was built for them in the late 18th century. Prior to that the family seat was at Myrton Castle just to the northeast (and now enclosed by the grounds of Monreith House), and before that at the Old Place of Monreith to the east (also known – and shown on OS maps – as Dowies, now a Landmark Trust property). The house, a category A listed Georgian mansion, is not open to the public although the upper floors have been converted in to holiday flats. However, the grounds are described as a ‘best kept local secret’ by those in the know and offer two walks: the ‘Woodside Walk’ around the loch and the ‘Keeper Walk’ through the woods.
Monreith Estate originally covered approximately 17,000 acres but is now much diminished, parts having been sold off over the years (‘Unfortunately the Maxwells have always been better at marrying money than making it’ comments Gavin Maxwell’s nephew, Sir Michael Maxwell of Monreith Bt.)
Perhaps the two most famous Maxwell family members are Sir Herbert Maxwell (1845–1937) and Gavin Maxwell (1914–69), both famous naturalists in their own right. Gavin, in particular, rose to fame with his book Ring of Bright Water.
CUP AND RING MARKINGS, DRUMTRODDEN
While up here in this hilltop pasture, enjoy the great views of the Galloway Hills to the north and the coast to the south. Where these marks have been found in tombs, they range in date from 10000BC TO 3500BC.
Big, heavy wooden doors with metal hinges are set into an exquisitely carved red sandstone arch, the whole clad in ivy. The churchyard is peaceful and atmospheric, but the last time we visited someone had broken into the mausoleum, ripping down the outer gate and leaving the door open to the elements. The graveyard has some late 17th-century tombstones, including a curious one with a handprint on it.