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Population750 (mid-2020 est.) [1]
OS grid reference NX445405
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54°44′06″N4°24′58″W / 54.735°N 4.416°W / 54.735; -4.416 Coordinates: 54°44′06″N4°24′58″W / 54.735°N 4.416°W / 54.735; -4.416

Whithorn ([ˈʍɪthorn]) 'HWIT-horn'; Taigh Mhàrtainn in Gaelic), is a royal burgh in the historic county of Wigtownshire in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, about 10 miles (16 km) south of Wigtown. [2] The town was the location of the first recorded Christian church in Scotland, Candida Casa  : the 'White [or 'Shining'] House', built by Saint Ninian about 397.



Mention of Whithorn in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle Anglo-Saxon Chronicle - Hwiterne.jpg
Mention of Whithorn in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

There is a tradition that St Ninian built a church of stone and lime nearby in the late 4th century; it was called Candida Casa, the White House. [3] "Whithorn" is a modern form of the Anglo-Saxon version of this name, Hwit Ærn, "white house". In Gallovidian Gaelic, it was called Rosnat, or Futarna, the latter a version of the Anglo-Saxon name (Gaelic has no sound corresponding to English wh). [4] Ninian dedicated the church to his master Martin of Tours, and when he died (probably in 432) Ninian was buried in the church. [3]

Early history

A monastery and diocese of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria was founded on the site in the 8th century, possibly originating with a 6th-century Magnum Monasterium, or monastery of Rosnat. [5] It was the centre of the revived See of Galloway (or Candida Casa) under the patronage of Fergus, Lord of Galloway and Bishop Gille Aldan from the 12th century. The late-medieval cathedral Whithorn Priory is ruinous, much of it having disappeared completely apart from the much-altered aisleless nave and vaults at the former eastern end which once held the shrine of St. Ninian, one of medieval Scotland's major pilgrimage destinations. A museum in the town contains finds from the site, which has been extensively excavated in recent years. A late-medieval gateway with the arms of the King of Scots leads into the site of the priory, which contains the 19th-century parish church and a museum of carved stones (Historic Environment Scotland). The collection of early medieval stones is one of the largest in Scotland, and includes the country's earliest surviving Christian memorial, the 5th-century inscribed 'Latinus Stone'. The museum layout and display was revised and greatly improved in 2005.

The crozier

One of the finest artefacts found at the site is the Whithorn crozier. The gilded and enamelled crozier is an outstanding example of champlevé enamels which were being made in England in the second half of the 12th century, and this one dates to around 1175. [6] It is now housed in the National Museums of Scotland, although it is loaned to the Whithorn Trust Visitor Centre every summer. It is thought that the crozier was buried with the body of Simon de Wedale, who was one of the Bishops of Whithorn.



Whithorn's link to the sea was the port known as the Isle of Whithorn (a separate community from Whithorn itself and actually a peninsula). It was much used in the Middle Ages by pilgrims arriving by boat. The thirteenth-century Saint Ninian's Chapel marked the point where pilgrims came ashore (the roofless remains are looked after by Historic Environment Scotland).

The 1st-century settlement of Rispain Camp, about 1 mile (1.6 km) west of Whithorn, is also in the care of Historic Scotland.


Whithorn was once served by a railway station until 1950 when the passenger service was withdrawn and the freight services falling victim to the Beeching axe in 1964. The track was lifted in April 1965. [7]

Listed buildings

List of listed buildings in Whithorn, Dumfries and Galloway


See also

Notes and references

  1. "Mid-2020 Population Estimates for Settlements and Localities in Scotland". National Records of Scotland. 31 March 2022. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  2. "Whithorn", Royal Burgh of Whithorn and District Business Association
  3. 1 2 Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Whithorn". Encyclopædia Britannica . Vol. 28 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 609.
  4. Thomas, Charles (1971). "Topographical Notes: III. Rosnat, Rostat, and the Early Irish Church". Ériu. xxii: 100–106. JSTOR   30007604.
  5. Chisholm 1911.
  6. Glenn 2003, pp. 29–33.
  7. "Frank Spaven Collection (Courtesy David Spaven)".
  8. Cowan, Edward J (2019). Dumfries and Galloway: People and Place, 1700-1914. Edinburgh: Birlinn. ISBN   9781910900123.
  9. "Alastair Reid - obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 7 October 2014. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  10. Dickie, John (2012). Geordie's Story: The Life of Jack Brent. Azian Publications. ISBN   9780957248021.

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