Northern Ireland - Round The World Tour 2 2003 Day 187

Near Ayr

Monday 15th September

The start of the Scottish leg of this tour looked promising this morning when we awoke to clear skies and mild weather. With so much of our enjoyment tied so closely to the weather conditions, I’m hoping the mild weather will hold out for at least another two weeks to see us through to the tail end of this trip. We were parked literally a few metres from the shore and whilst I was polishing off my morning cornflakes, Sandy was already out on the pebble beach going through some morning exercise stretching.

By the time the brick was ready for the off again, Sandy had already investigated the possibilities of what to explore on the maps and now had a rough idea of where to go – for today at least. The peninsular of land just to the East of Stranrear in the far South West of Scotland shows a number of interesting monuments, ancient sites and villages on the map and so we decided that it was worth a half a day’s exploration.

First up was St. Ninian’s Chapel in a place called the Isle of Withorn. I’m not too sure why it’s called ‘Isle’ of Withorn since it is clearly not an island. Perhaps it was in times past. St. Ninian was apparently the first Christian saint in Scotland and this little town right on the end of the peninsular marks one end of a pilgrimage trail that is apparently still celebrated even today. Pilgrims are invited to write their names on a stone and lay it on a pile of stones to mark their pilgrimage.

The Lonely Planet guidebook didn’t dedicate much verbiage to the Isle of Withorn but did a little more so for the village of Wigton just a few minutes farther North. Although quite a small place, the Withorn priory ruins were interesting. Together with a nice little audio-visual theatre and a large collection of ancient Christian stone crosses in the attached museum, it was well worth the visit we paid it. We also had a spot of lunch in the front shop that doubled up as information office for the site. After picking up a few more provisions for the fridge and food cupboard, off we set again to complete our tour of the peninsular with a visit to Wigton.

Wigton is famed as the book town of Scotland. With a couple of dozen or more bookshops to choose from, the bookwork would love it there. Sandy was in her element and wasted no time in exploring several of the bookshops close to where we parked the brick. I, on the other hand, hunted down the only Internet café in town and caught up on some e-mail. The woman stubbornly refused to allow me to hook up my laptop so I was unable to get any more photos online or to send another World Travel update. Hopefully, I can take care of both of these problems when we get to Glasgow in a day or so.

Not too far from Wigton along one of the minor roads, lies an ancient stone circle. There are a number of these stone circles dotted around Western Europe and this one was apparently a pretty good example. We took the brief detour to see it for ourselves.

Wanting to make good headway towards Glasgow, we left the stone circle near Wigton but didn’t make it too far before one of those brown tourist road signs caught our eye. This one mentioned something about butterflies and carnivorous plants. It sounded too interesting to pass up and so we took the brief detour from the main road to check it out. We spent the next hour inside an exceedingly humid greenhouse enclosure walking around with our cameras trying to capture as many photos as we could of the dozens of interesting butterfly species that they had there. The Owl butterfly must have had a wingspan of a good thirty centimetres. The fairly recent new owner of the complex answered many of our questions and we learned a few new things about the lives of butterflies.

Since time was pushing on, we resumed our course towards Glasgow and managed to get to just south of Ayr before starting to look for a place to park. We passed several really good parking opportunities that Sandy kept rejecting. I was starting to get a little annoyed about all these rejections. To make matters worse, I decided in my mind that we would simply take the next best alternative but we then drove through an area where there were none at all. We did have the option of parking at a camp-site near a castle that we plan on visiting tomorrow but with plenty of water in the tank and juice in the batteries, I couldn’t see the point in paying for the privilege of parking overnight if we could get away with it. In the end, we backtracked a little and parked just off the main road next to what looks like a building debris rubbish dump. The mound of rubble provides ample cover from the passing traffic and the ground is flat and level so we should be comfortable.