Explore the History

Wigtown’s history is rich and varied, dating all the way back to the Neolithic Age. The local area is dotted with relics and antiquities that stand testament to times long gone by. The Torehousekie stone circle is one such site, a mysterious ring of stones that are thought to date back to 2nd millennium BC and is the best-preserved artefact of its kind in Britain.

Through time, Wigtown has served as a fortress, a market town and (most recently) as Scotland’s National Book Town. The town square was originally built with gates at either side so that cattle could be enclosed within and kept safe from thieves and smugglers. Evidence of these past iterations of the town are still apparent throughout the town today. All it takes to find them is a little exploring.

In the 13th century, Wigtown had a castle built on a flat by the river Bladnoch. Unlike most other settlements, Wigtown was noted for having the town and church on the hill and the castle on the flat ground beside it. Although no trace of the castle remains today, an excavation in the 19th century discovered the layout of the structure.

A turbulent chapter of Wigtown’s history took place in the 17th century, where authorities famously drowned the two Wigtown Martyrs when they were accused of attending secret religious meetings. Margaret Wilson and Margaret McLachlan were sentenced to death along with three other men who were Covenanter sympathisers. Evidence of the Martyr’s stories can be found throughout the town. You can visit the cell where they were held prisoner, the graves where they were laid to rest and monument in the bay where they were drowned.

Although it has always been the hub for markets within the Machars, Wigtown became an industrial powerhouse in the nineteenth century. A new textile mill at Fordbank provided the area with another export. That particular enterprise may have faded, but others from the time, such as the Bladnoch Distillery, are still around today. In the early nineteenth century, Wigtown also became famous for having two harbours. The first of the pair was built back in the middle ages when Sheriffdom of Wigtown was one of the most important trading points in Scotland.

Today, Wigtown is an amalgamation of all its forms from the past. It remains steeped in its history, which contributes to its unique character and charm. There is nowhere in the world quite like Wigtown.