Machars (Scottish Gaelic: Machair (Ghallghaidhealaibh); lit. "the
Plains (of Galloway)") is a peninsula in
Galloway in the south-west of
Scotland. The word is derived from the Gaelic word Machair meaning
low-lying or level land, known as "links" on the east coast of
Scotland. Although there are no high peaks in the Machars, it is not
flat and would best be described as undulating or rolling. The North
Atlantic Drift or
Gulf Stream creates a mild climate, and dolphins and
basking sharks are frequently seen in the seas.
Machars peninsula is roughly defined by a northern boundary
Newton Stewart to Glenluce, the only other boundary
being the sea. The 40-mile (64 km) coastline has enormous
variety, starting with the mud-flats of
Wigtown on the east facing
Wigtown Bay, down to the sandy beach at Rigg Bay in
the Mulberry Harbours were developed). The coastline then rises to
form dramatic cliffs as it passes the ruins of Cruggleton Castle,
dropping a little at Portyerrock Bay and the Isle of Whithorn, and
rising again at
Burrow Head (where much of the cult classic The Wicker
Man was filmed).
Past the southern tip of the peninsula, the shoreline leaves Wigtown
Bay and becomes part of Luce Bay. The cliffs continue as far as the
beautiful sandy beach at
Monreith (home of the author Gavin Maxwell),
and on past Port William. A combination of rocky shoreline, sandy
beaches and cliffs continues as far as
Auchenmalg and Stairhaven
before the sandy dunes approaching Glenluce. Two rivers cut through
the peninsula, the
River Bladnoch which rises at Loch Maberry and
meets the sea just south of Wigtown, and one of its major tributaries
the Tarf Water which meets the Bladnoch near Kirkcowan. Another
tributary of the Bladnoch is the large stream the Water of Malzie
which rises in the large expanses of peat bog near the Old Place of
Mochrum before meeting the Bladnoch near Corzmalie.
Generally speaking the Eastern half of the
Machars can be described as
being a landscape of rolling green hills and scattered woodland which
forms a perfect setting for the large scale dairy industry which can
be found here. In fact up until recent decades a large scale creamery
was to be found at
Sorbie although this has now closed. This landscape
extends to the far southern extremities of the peninsula, however the
landscape to the North West is significantly different, where above
the raised beaches of
Luce Bay a rugged expanse of moorland and bog
can be found, more reminiscent of the rough country to the north. The
highest point of the
Machars can be found here,
Mochrum Fell, however
for the most part the terrain can be characterised as a series of low,
stony ridges interspersed by large expanses of peat bog and moorland
and many small lochs. This part of the
Machars is generally associated
with large scale forestry plantations, especially of Sitka Spruce, and
stock-rearing, either the hardy Belted
Galloway or more typically
Galloway cattle or sheep.
2 RAF Wigtown
3 Saint Ninian
The other principal settlements on the peninsula are: Kirkcowan,
Whithorn, Isle of Whithorn, Kirkinner, Sorbie, Mochrum, Elrig,
Bladnoch and Whauphill.
There are a number of large lochs in the area including
Castle Loch and the White Loch of Myrton.
The area is rich in prehistoric remains, mainly in the form of
standing stones and cup and ring marks. The most notable of these are
Torhousekie and Drumtroddan. In Castle Loch near The Old Place of
Mochrum are the remains of several crannogs.
The primary industry in the area was agriculture, though today the
tourist industry probably employs more people and generates more
Burrow Head (the southernmost tip of the peninsula) is about eighteen
Point of Ayre
Point of Ayre on the Isle of Man, and trade links have long
existed between the two places, much of which involved smuggling.
Machars is also home to the former RAF Wigtown. The airfield,
which was opened in 1941 and is often referred to as Baldoon, was used
in World War Two as a training school - hosting the No 1 Air Observers
School from September 13, 1941, to February 1, 1942, and operating in
conjunction with a tracked target range near the coast to the
Although the site originally consisted of grass runways, flooding of
the land soon caused these to become unusable, and two concrete
runways were installed during 1942.
Operations at the airfield ceased in 1945, to coincide with the end of
the war, and control of the site was given over Maintenance Command
who was placed in care and maintenance, transferring to No 14
Maintenance Unit from July 1, 1946, to March 1, 1948, when the
airfield was finally closed.
Despite considerable deterioration the airfield remains intact; with
the original control tower still standing and nearly all the perimeter
and access roads remaining. Furthermore, the concrete bases of many of
the hangars and other buildings can still be seen on the ground.
Today much of the land has reverted to agricultural use, with the site
becoming popular for locals to conduct leisure activities – such as
walking or cycling.
Saint Ninian first brought
Christianity to what-would-become Scotland
via the Machars, founding a small church at the
Isle of Whithorn
Isle of Whithorn from
which a mediæval cathedral later sprang at Whithorn. Ninian studied
Martin of Tours
Martin of Tours and can lay claim to bringing
Scotland long before St Columba, whose church at
Iona is often
mistakenly credited as the cradle of Scottish Christianity.
Machars Coastline looking south from Cruggleton Castle.
The remains of Cruggleton Castle.
Map of the Machars.
The Machars, as viewed from Torrs Warren with
Luce Bay standing
Coordinates: 54°49′05″N 4°31′23″W / 54.818°N
4.523°W / 54