Every year, as September turns into October, Wigtown, which since 1997 has been "Scotland's Book Town", hosts the ten day Wigtown Book Festival. For this short period of time Wigtown becomes the centre of literary interest across Scotland and well beyond it.
Wigtown is a fairly special place for book-lovers at any time of year. With some 30 book-related businesses here including around 20 bookshops, it's been said that this town of some 800 people is also home to a quarter of a million books. During the book festival a further dimension is added by the arrival of up to 10,000 visitors, attracted by the Festival programme and, of course, by the chance to browse through at least some of these books.
So what is on offer at the Wigtown Book Festival? The core of the festival is a programme of events in a variety of venues in an around the town. Most take place in the Festival Marquee erected in the centre of the village, the magnificent County Buildings, or the Bladnoch Distillery, though in 2007 a variety of other venues were used for individual events including Baldoon Castle and a Stena HSS fast ferry from Belfast to Stranraer!
The 2007 festival had a theme that emphasised the links between Scotland and Ireland as a celebration of peace in Northern Ireland, and the opening address was given by Northern Ireland's First Minister. Another theme, "On the Edge", recognised Wigtown's location on the edge of mainland Scotland, and included Lesley Riddoch talking about the Outer Hebrides and Brian Keenan talking about Alaska.
But the themes certainly don't dominate a very varied programme that in 2007 included Jeremy Bowen on his career as a war reporter; Alasdair Grey on his new novel; Sally Magnusson on her book about Eric Liddell; and James May on his TV series and book about the 20th Century.
Among the appearances of authors, the 2007 programme also included a number of films such as "Red Road", and items as diverse as a Bird Watching Workshop, and a guided tour of Galloway's amazingly dark night skies, held at Wigtown Harbour.
The trick is simply to make sure you get hold of a copy of the festival programme (contact information and website link on right) and spot what appeals to you: there really is something here for everyone.
All the more so because the main Festival programme is just one part of what is happening in Wigtown during the Book Festival. A Children's Marquee near the County Buildings plays host to a Children's Festival programme, which includes the appearance of a number of children's authors as well as family and "Bookstart" events and the Royal Mail Awards for Scottish Children's Books.
And, like any self-respecting Scottish festival these days, the Wigtown Book Festival comes complete with a Fringe, which is particularly active over the weekends of the festival. In 2007 a van near the County Buildings was home to the book doctor, who was happy to advise on what to read next, or let you have an evaluation of your own writing.
Elsewhere, the Whithorn Events Group gave performances of The Play of St Ninian in the style of a traditional Scottish mummers' play. As the blurb said: "Violence, death and resurrection... in just 15 minutes."
The County Buildings house the support functions for the Festival. Here you find the Festival Box Office, while the first floor is home to the Festival Cafe.
In addition to Wigtown's many year-round bookshops, there is also a bookshop open during the period of the Festival selling the books of authors appearing on the programme. This can be found in the bowling club which looks across the bowling green to the County Buildings.