A holy man’s hideaway
Tradition holds that this seaside cave, just above the pebbly shore at Physgyll, was the hermitage, or hideaway, of St Ninian. Although the association is impossible to verify, it is quite possible that the cave functioned as a retreat from the monastery at Whithorn, a few miles to the north.
The cave is smaller than it used to be because of successive rock falls. It now measures some 7m long by 3m high, and is almost 3m wide at the mouth. The walls slope inwards and upwards, meeting at an acute angle.
In 1950, excavations by the noted archaeologist C.A. Ralegh Radford revealed internal stone walls and pavements, and some disturbed and undated burials.
Most significantly, though, Radford found 18 early Christian carved stones. Some of these crosses were lying loose; others were built into a post-medieval wall.
In addition to these carvings, 10 crosses were found carved directly into the cave walls. Eight are Latin crosses with expanded terminals, a central circle and waisted shaft, and two are simple incised crosses.
The loose stones are now on display in the Whithorn Priory and Museum
. The Roman Catholic Church organises an annual diocesan pilgrimage to the cave.
- The walk – down heavily-wooded Physgyll Glen and out onto the pebbly shore, the open sea and the sky. If you’re lucky there’s a good view south to the Isle of Man.
Region – Dumfries and Galloway
Physgill, on the coast 4m south west of Whithorn on the A747.
Grid reference - NX 421 359