Isle of Whithorn Tower

Whithorn Tower

The Isle of Whithorn Tower is located on the most southerly point of the headland at Whithorn.  From the headland, the mountains of the Lake District and the Isle of Man can be seen.

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The square white tower is the most prominent landmark in the area and has been used as a navigation aid for hundreds of years.  There do not appear to be any records indicating when it was built. Navigation into the harbour can be tricky.  A rock reef runs out from the western side of the mouth and was marked with an iron pole for many years.

The Isle of Whithorn is one of the most southerly villages in Scotland, around 13 miles from Wigtown, Scotland’s Book Town.

Whithorn Harbour
Whithorn Harbour

The area was a haunt for smugglers and the harbour was a prominent port, with a regular steam packet operating from the Isle of Whithorn to Liverpool.

A pier was built in the harbour in the 16th century and later replaced with a more substantial one in 1790.  The pier was badly damaged in 1969 and later rebuilt. 

During the Second World War, an anti-aircraft tracking station was set up for firing practice.  At the base of the Isle of Whithorn Tower a stone was laid for one of the huts.  Now a memorial stone dedicated to the Solway Harvester is in its place, with an anchor set into a granite block. In January 2000 seven crew from the fishing boat Solway Harvester were lost in a storm off the Isle of Man.

Solway Harvester Memorial

Nearby is the site of the former Lifeboat Station.  Established in 1869 it closed in 1919 when a lifeboat was stationed at Kirkcudbright.

Saint Ninian’s Chapel, a ruined 13th-century chapel was a stopping point for pilgrims heading to Whithorn.  The chapel was partly rebuilt in 1898 by the Marquess of Bute. A causeway links the village to the peninsula of what was once a genuine island. Before the causeway was built, there was a low tidal channel between the island and the mainland.  A smuggler is said to have raced his vessel into the channel at high water, chased by a revenue cutter, and apparently escaped through a dead end.  Later his keel marks could be seen in the sand.

The Pilgrim’s Way follows a route south from the Southern Upland Way to St Ninian’s Cave.

The Isle of Whithorn is also famous for featuring in some scenes of the 1973 film The Wicker Man, starring Edward Woodward. 

Tower Height: 4 metres
Light Character: Fl W R 3 s
Light Range: W 6 miles, R 4 miles
Elevation: 20 metres