Gretna to Stranraer. 215 miles approx.

The start of this section is the small town of Gretna, just over the Scottish border. From here the north bank of the Solway Firth is followed to it's far western point at the Mull of Galloway.

Until 1915 Gretna did not exist except as a railway halt.

So, without blathering on too much about history:


Unattributed SSPL library pic


The tale of Sir Arthur Conan doyle, the devils porridge and female suffrage.


In the Autumn of 1915 the First World War had entered it's second year of bloody carnage along the stalemate lines of the Western Front.  Great Britain, unprepared for a sustained war of attrition, was running out of munitions. 

In the hour of crisis so cometh the man and that man was David Lloyd George, appointed minister of munitions. With incredible energy, ingenuity and political guile Lloyd George set about reforming Britains war production. Plans were drawn up to build a mega factory, dwarfing any munitions plant anywhere in Britain. The Solway Firth, as far from German planes and Zeppelins as it gets, isolated, empty but with good communications by sea and rail was chosen as the site 

The result was a plant measuring 9 miles long by two miles wide. 30,000 workers had to be brought in and housed, resulting in two whole new townships being built, Gretna and Eastriggs. 

Plan of the original site:

Library photo from the official exhibition website.

Unattributed library pic found on google

Conal Doyle, the author of the Sherlock Holmes books,  was invited to visit the plant at the height of its production, both to raise morale and to bolster the country with stirring tales. What he saw there altered his views forever. Women, mixing cotton and nitro glycerine by hand to make cordite, a dangerous, toxic, gruelling task.  Despite long hours, illnesses from the toxins they worked with, ever present danger, the women workers of the Gretna munitions plant worked without complaint or murmur until they dropped exhausted.

Once a fierce critic of the suffragettes Sir Arthur Conal Doyle became a powerful voice for the womens suffrage movement. He also coined a term for the glutinous mass of cotton and nitro-glycerine the women worked with. He called it the devils porridge.

If you follow in my footsteps along the Solway Firth please visit this exhibition. It is too important to miss and is splendidly done.

The official website is here:


Enough of Blathering on about History:

Albert! Onwards!

West of Eastriggs is the small and picturesque town of Annan and a little way further the small hamlet of Ruthwell wherein lies another small piece of history. It was here that in 1799 a church of Scotland minister, rev. Henry Duncan, began the Savings bank movement that ultimately spread to 94 countries! 

It seems that everything takes off with a bang around here.

A little further on, following the banks of the River Nith just abouve the estuary where it pours its waters into the Solway Firth and the highly attractive town of Dumfries is reached, the River Nith crossed, and the west bank followed to the Solway coast. 

Unlike it's counterpart on the Southern bank this is not bleak, windswept tidal flats, marshes and moorland. This is verdant, rolling countryside, lovely soft countryside.

Looking west from Auchenburn towards the Isle of Whithorn

This is a country of estuaries and inlets and after the Nith estuary so another inlet is reached, that of the estuary of the River Dee and it is necessary to travel inland for a few miles to cross the river at the small former county town of Kircudbright. 

Albert liked Kircudbright. Apparently his illustrous namesake, Prince Albert, visited on a shooting trip once. 

The Dee inlet before Kircudbright

From Kicudbright it is South again, another inlet, this time the estuary of the river Cree, then north to the small town of Newton stewart before again heading back South along the peninsular that at it's southernmost tip lies the isle of whithorn.

This is wondrful coastal scenery and Whithorn itself is a highly picturesque harbour. However this also is one of the most historic sites for Scotland for this is where the 4th century missionary Ninian landed, bringing Christianity to Scotland. Nearby lies the cave where he sheltered and the earliest known chapel in Scotland. 

The small harbour of Whithorn

From Whithorn it is North agsin, following the East shore of Luce bay and finally to Glenluce at the head, Apart from views over to the mull of Galloway this is quite a plain road. 

Approaching Glenluce there are some highly attractive wooded sections that also have the bonus of obscuring the rather boring coastline.

From Glenluce it all changes. Woodland changes to open heath as the hammerhead of the Stranraer peninsular is reached and the road turns south along the west shore of Luce bay towards the Mull of Galloway. 

First views of the Mull of Galloway. Beautiful open heathland, green fields and sweeping coastline.

Heading towards the Mull of Galloway it is simply glorious. Quiet, peaceful, open, fresh. Then the Mull itself is reached. The headland marked by the tall imposing lighthouse. The mull itself is a protected area, controlled by that wonderful organisation the RSPB. The cliffs are breeding grounds for Guillemots, razor bills and the gorgeous kittiwake amongst others.

The mull of galloway lighthouse. Isle of man in the distance.

The rocks of Gallie craig, mull of Galloway. Officially these mark the southernmost tip of Scotland.

There is a serene peace about this area. The RSPB run a small exhibition by the lighthouse and strategically placed cameras offer live screenings and close-ups of the nesting birds. There is a circular walk, easy on the foot and fabulous to the eye that takes in different vantage points.

I could have stayed here all day just watching the birds, taking in the sea views, feeling that great sense of peace and isolation. A truly magic place to be, here, at the very Southernmost tip of Scotland.

However further adventures await. Time to say our goodbyes, to the staff of the RSPB centre, the people who were so friendly showing me the lighthouse, and less than friendly inviting me to climb the 149 steep steps to the top!

Especially though it was time to say goodbye to the birds, those nesting, those hatching, those still looking for a home, such as the newly arriving Kittiwakes, and those who, like me, are just visiting this very special place.

Kittiwakes, new arrivals looking to nest. Surely the prettiest of all gulls.

Ahead another twenty miles along the western shore of the Stranraer hammerhead, then north to the port of stranraer, the various ferry terminals and the start of the firth of clyde. A lovely end to a fascinating section.


Forward McAlbert! The Clyde and Kintyre await our presence!


Click here to go to Section 8:  Clyde to Kintyre