At the foot of Loch Ryan is the sheltered port of Stranraer, one of the principal departure points for Northern Ireland. Sheltering the loch from the Irish Sea is The Rhinns of Galloway, a 25 mile long hammer-shaped peninsula at whose southern end is the Mull of Galloway, the southernmost point of Scotland. The coastal landscape of the peninsula varies with the western coast generally having steep rugged cliffs and occasional inlets, which contrasts with the calmer eastern coast, with its sandy beaches and softer landscape. On the western coast is the tourist village of Portpatrick. Dating back historically some 500 years, and built adjacent to the ruins of nearby Dunskey Castle, its position affords visitors views of the Northern Irish coast to the west, with clifftop walks and beaches both north and south. The Gulf Stream, flowing in from the north, gives the coastline a pleasant climate, in which subtropical plant life can flourish.
Whithorn is a former royal burgh about ten miles south of Wigtown. The town was the location of the first recorded Christian church in Scotland the 'White House', built by Saint Ninian in about 397. There are still remains of the late medieval cathedral priory. Whithorn's link to the sea was the port known as the Isle of Whithorn (a separate community from Whithorn itself and actually a peninsula). Much used in the Middle Ages by pilgrims arriving by boat. The thirteenth century St Ninian's Chapel marked the point where pilgrims came ashore.
Wigtown is well known today as 'Scotland's National Book Town' with a concentration of second-hand book shops. The main street, with its central bowling green and gardens, is lined with small shops, and overlooked by the former County Buildings of Wigtownshire, now used as the office for the bi-annual Wigtown Book Festival.
Kirkcudbright was established as a Royal Burgh in 1455, and has always had a busy fishing trade. Behind the harbour the streets have housed generations of creative artists, a tradition maintained today by a flourishing colony of painters and artisans. This has led to it being called "The Artists' Town". Other well-known features of Kirkcudbright are its pastel coloured houses and wide streets, the selection of mainly family-owned shops where almost everything can be bought, and the free parking.
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