Whithorn Way, Day Six
The pilgrimage to Whithorn doesn’t end at the ruins of Whithorn Priory. It continues with a trip to St. Ninian’s Cave, where the saint repaired for private devotions, and a walk to Isle of Whithorn, where a now-roofless stone chapel dedicated to St. Ninian’s stands. We’re going the opposite way of medieval pilgrims, who would have come by sea, stopping at St. Ninian’s cave along the sea shore before disembarking at St. Ninian’s chapel and then proceeding overland for the short walk to Whithorn and a visit to the saint’s (now missing) remains.
We shunned the medieval pilgrims’ method of transportation at first this morning–we took a taxi to the parking lot above the cave, where we met Matthew’s friends Chris and Clare, who had driven over from Newcastle to see him. Together we walked along the shore to the cave. It’s smaller now than it would’ve been when Ninian was there–erosion caused parts of the entry to fall in–and the crosses that medieval pilgrims carved into the stone walls are lost among other graffiti, but there are signs of people visiting out of faith: crosses and coins and, strangely, the name “Manson.”
Then we climbed up onto the cliffs above the sea and walked to Isle of Whithorn. It was windy and a little rainy–nothing like the forecast had promised, though–and the path was often just inches from a vertiginous drop to the rocks below. I relaxed whenever we went through a gate into a pasture, because then there would be a fence between us and the edge. Usually, however, there was no fence. It was the setting of a Scots murder mystery: two business partners go for a walk along the shore, hoping the fresh air and exercise will help them settle their differences, and only one returns. “He fell, officer, honest!” But Detective Milngavie finds out the truth, somehow, within the 200 pages the publisher asked for, and the social contract is reaffirmed.
I had left my heavy pack behind and was carrying Christine’s day pack, and I felt like skipping over the hills. And my boots finally dried last night, mostly, so my feet were comfortable. Despite the cliff edge, it was a great walk.
In Isle of Whithorn, we saw the chapel ruins and had coffee–and some of Clare’s delicious fruit cake–and then Chris and Clare drove us back to Whithorn before turning for home. Our plan is to go back to Isle of Whithorn for supper at the pub. Yes, we could’ve stayed there–a band was playing folk music in the pub–but an entire afternoon in the pub might have meant overstaying our welcome, especially in our smelly walking clothes. “Get the stinking drunk Canadians out of here!” the barman would shout, and we would end up walking, or staggering, back to Whithorn.
That’s the end of this walk. Tomorrow we head for Glasgow, where Matthew will had back to Nottingham and then, two days later, we’ll return home. What have I learned from walking in Scotland? Bring rain pants! And if your path reaches a dead end, don’t be afraid to turn back. And take time to enjoy a lovely country. At least we’re done the last one, very well.