Skip to main page content (AccessKey S)
Portpatrick is nearly as far west as you can go in Southern Scotland, and nearly as far south as you can go in Western Scotland. So reaching it can involve a lot of travelling. But don't let that put you off. Portpatrick is a stunningly attractive village wrapped around a fascinating harbour, and well worth the trip wherever you are coming from.
Portpatrick's origins stretch back some 500 years. Just south of the village is the clifftop location of the ruins of Dunskey Castle, dating back to the early 1500s, while in the village itself the roofless remains of the Old Parish Church are attached to a circular tower also dating back to the 1500s.
In the early 1600s the village was linked by military road to Dumfries. This was designed to improve access to what by then was the main port for the short crossing to Ireland. In the years that followed, Portpatrick played an important part in the plantation of Ulster by James VI/I. Harbour improvements followed through the 1700s and the village became the main landing place for livestock from Ireland en route to market in Dumfries.
By 1830 sailings to Ireland were frequent and other links were established with Glasgow, Liverpool and the Isle of Man. And in 1862 Portpatrick was linked by railway to Stranraer and Dumfries, complete with a connection from the village station to the harbour.
But by the 1860s it was becoming clear that Portpatrick's exposure to prevailing westerly winds limited its usefulness to the larger ships then in use. Stranraer increasingly took over the shipping routes Northern Ireland despite the longer distance involved in sailing out of Loch Ryan and around the north end of the Rhins of Galloway.
The railway link to Portpatrick Harbour was removed as early as 1875 and the line to Stranraer closed completely in 1950. But by the time the ferry traffic departed, Portpatrick had already established itself as a popular resort and that is very much how it continues today.
The south end of the village provides one of a number of car parks for visitors, and gives some of the best views. Here you find the Lighthouse Pottery, plus the small brick-built harbour lighthouse. Stand on the harbour wall nearby and you see the length of the village stretching away to your right, and ahead of you the inner harbour, sheltered by its rocky islet.
What makes Portpatrick so nice is the sense of an amphitheatre: the low level view is complemented by a line of attractive buildings stretching along the skyline.
The second "must see" view is gained from the north end of the inner harbour. Here you find the marker of the start of the 212 mile Southern Upland Way long distance footpath. Behind it steps lead up the cliff. From the cliffside near the garden gate you get excellent views south over the whole village, as shown in the header photo.