Stranraer's fortunes as a port have followed a somewhat different trajectory from those of nearby Cairnryan (see previous post). Whereas Cairnryan started out from next to nothing and grew into an important military, then civilian port, Stranraer has gone in the opposite direction. The harbour was built in the mid-18th century, but it was not until the arrival of the railway in 1861 that the town became the area's main port. In 1872 the town became the main terminal for steam packets to Northern Ireland, and these services continued until recently with Stena and P & O both operating services from there. However, they have both since moved to new facilities in Cairnryan. This has left the town with the dilemma of what to do with its waterfront, which is why a regeneration of the waterfront area is now underway.
The origins of the town date back to 1511, with the building of the Castle of St John, a medieval tower house which was flanked by a medieval chapel, since demolished. In the late 17th century it was the headquarters of John Graham of Claverhouse, 1st Viscount Dundee (aka Bluidy Claverhouse), a much feared persecutor of Covenanters. The castle later came to be used as a prison, a courtroom and a police station, and this period of its use is remembered in some of the exhibits on show to visitors. There is a handsome building on the waterfront which was built in 1820 for the Arctic explorer and naval officer Sir John Ross, the son of a minister in the local Inch parish. The building is now the North West Castle hotel, which has its own indoor curling rink. The Old Town Hall was built in 1776 and now houses the Stranraer Museum, which includes displays on Sir John Ross and his nephew James Clark Ross, also a polar explorer. As well as the attractions of the town itself, Stranraer is the gateway to the Rhins of Galloway, the distinctive hammer-head shaped piece of land, which includes the Mull of Galloway, Scotland's most southerly point.
Map of the area.
"Millennium Centre", George Street, Stranraer. Photo by Oliver Dixon, via Wikimedia Commons