Whithorn Way, Day Five: Arrival
It was pouring rain when I got up this morning, but by the time we’d finished our massive full Scottish breakfast, the sun was shining and it stayed shining all day. Our landlord drove us to Mochrum, where we began our short(ish) walk to Whithorn. On the way, he explained how a man in his forties managed to retire and move from southern England to what he calls “the least populated corner of Scotland” to run a pub and hotel with his wife and daughter. It’s not an easy life–they closed last night after midnight and we’re up to serve us breakfast at nine o’clock, but although he says he wouldn’t do it again, he seems to be enjoying himself.
We walked along a busy B road most of the day. But our path took us past a trio of menhirs (two had fallen), called the Drumtrodden stones. Neolithic people dragged those huge stones to that spot and then pulled them erect, so that thousands of years later they are still vertical (some of them). And there are menhirs all over Europe. Nobody knows exactly what they were for, but they were clearly important–otherwise those people wouldn’t have gone to so much trouble putting them up.
My boots are still wet, despite being stuffed with newspaper last night. And that means damp socks and, eventually, more blisters. But because our walk was short today, and because the sun was shining, I’m no worse off than I was at the end of yesterday’s walk.
The traffic got busier as we drew nearer to Whithorn, with relays of tractors hauling wagons of loose hay (for silage, perhaps) and then returning empty. That meant a lot of hopping out of the way every few minutes. Soon we could see Whithorn in the distance–the clock tower on the town hall is quite distinctive–and in a few miles we were there.
Our B&B hosts weren’t around, so I stashed my pack in their garden and walked on to Whithorn Priory. There’s a Church of Scotland church next to the roofless priory chapel, which was abandoned after the Reformation (many of the priory’s other buildings seem to have been pulled down and the stone reused–perhaps for the new church). The crypt where St. Ninian’s remains used to be is below–it can be accessed through the museum, which holds a small but impressive collection of stone crosses dating back more than a thousand years.
It was a little underwhelming, perhaps because of the small size of the chapel, or perhaps because my feet hurt and I was tired. I enjoyed hearing about the stone crosses, though, and we met the author of the guidebook to the Whithorn Way, Julia Muir Watt, at the town’s visitor centre. (We bought copies for future reference.) She said we were the first Canadians to walk the Way–or in our case, parts of it.
A taxi will arrive shortly to take us to a pub in Garlieston for supper. And after that, I’m excited about doing a little laundry–since we’re going to be here for two days, it might even dry!