The Man & Sign at Port William Harbour

Port William

Port William is a small fishing village in the area of Mochrum, Wigtownshire, Dumfries and Galloway, in south-west Scotland. It is surrounded by the hamlets of Elrig, Mochrum and Monreith.The village at present has a population of approximately 460 and lies 23 miles east of the town of Stranraer, on the coast of Luce Bay. It looks directly over to the Mull of Galloway, the most southerly point of the Scottish mainland and, on a clear day, both the Isle of Man and Ireland are visible from the rugged coastline. In the 17th and 18th centuries Port William was known as much for the illicit activities of its smugglers as for the legitimate trade of its port.The original settlement was known as Killantrae, meaning 'The Church on the Beach' in Gaelic, and was probably founded not long after St Ninian arrival in nearby Whithorn towards the end of the 4th century. Killantrae was swept away following the intervention of developer and landlord Sir William Maxwell, 5th Baronet, of Monreith House. In 1776 he'd finished building an entirely new village, complete with a good harbour and renamed it Port William. One of the earliest buildings still standing was the corn mill, located on the side of the Killantrae burn. Port William is an example of a planned village. The harbour, built for the convenience of his tenant farmers, was one of the first in western Galloway.

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St Ninians Cave

A holy man’s hideaway.Tradition holds that this seaside cave, just above the pebbly shore at Physgyll, was the hermitage, or hideaway, of St Ninian. Although the association is impossible to verify, it is quite possible that the cave functioned as a retreat from the monastery at Whithorn, a few miles to the north. The cave is smaller than it used to be because of successive rock falls. It now measures some 7m long by 3m high, and is almost 3m wide at the mouth. The walls slope inwards and upwards, meeting at an acute angle. In 1950, excavations by the noted archaeologist C.A. Ralegh Radford revealed internal stone walls and pavements, and some disturbed and undated burials. Most significantly, though, Radford found 18 early Christian carved stones. Some of these crosses were lying loose; others were built into a post-medieval wall. In addition to these carvings, 10 crosses were found carved directly into the cave walls. Eight are Latin crosses with expanded terminals, a central circle and waisted shaft, and two are simple incised crosses. The loose stones are now on display in the Whithorn Priory and Museum. The Roman Catholic Church organises an annual diocesan pilgrimage to the cave.

St Ninians Beach near Port William

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Monreith Bay

There are three attractive beaches that are close to the village of Monreith which is 3 miles to the east of Port William. The largest is Monreith Bay. It is best visited at low tide when the wide expanse of sand is exposed. To reach it, park beside the A747 and take the long flight of 152 steps down to the beach below where there are public toilets. Just to the south of Monreith are the two beaches of Front and Back Bay. They are reached off the road to the St Medan’s Golf Club, with a public car park beside Back Bay. Just off the road you’ll see a bronze sculpture of an otter, a memorial to Gavin Maxwell, author of Ring of Bright Water. He spent his childhood at Monreith.

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