The Mull of Galloway, Winter 2018

It’s winter, the forecasts are spelling freezing temperatures with ice in Cumbria, and you have a long weekend in front of you. Where do you go?

To the Scottish coast. Obviously.

The Mull of Galloway is the southernmost point of the peninsula known as the Rhins of Galloway in Southwest Scotland. Consequently, it is also the southernmost point of Scotland itself. “Rhins” comes from rionn/rinn, meaning a point or promontory.

We stayed in Portpatrick, a pretty little coastal village that sits halfway up the Rhins of Galloway. North of our residence at Portpatrick we hiked the Southern Upland Way towards Killantringan Lighthouse; a bonny 19th-century building set in spectacular cliffs and inlets, battered by the North Channel of the Irish Sea. The name comes from the Gaelic Cill shaint Ringain, meaning “St. Ringan’s chapel”.

Half a mile south of Portpatrick we took an enjoyable clifftop hike to the ruins of Dunskey Castle, a 12th-century tower house perched perilously close to the edge of the sheer cliffs of Castle Point. Unfortunately the ruins are closed off to the public as they sit on private land.

But undoubtedly the highlight of the trip was the Mull of Galloway, a wild and unspoilt headland featuring sheer cliffs, jagged sea stacks, leagues of views, abundant wildlife, and a famous now-automated lighthouse. Here the cliffs are sheer and drop a staggering 239ft. But more impressive than their height is their colour, a dazzling display of mustard yellow, burnt umber, emerald green, and ruby red. This is the combination of the cliffs’ composition from quartz, calcite, and baryte covered in lichen and moss.

“Mull” is the anglicised version of the Gaelic word Maol meaning a rounded hill, summit, or mountain, bare of trees. “Galloway” comes from the Gaelic i nGall Gaidhealaib meaning “amongst the Gall Gaidheil.” The Gall Gaidheil, literally meaning “Stranger-Gaidheil” or “Foreign-Gaul/Gael”, refers to a population of mixed Norse and Gaelic ethnicity that inhabited Galloway in the Middle Ages.