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Minister visits the cradle of Christanity

20 November 2009

Minister Michael Russell today (Friday Nov. 20) paid tribute to the work of the Whithorn Trust in promoting one of the country’s most significant historic sites.

Whithorn is widely considered to be the Cradle of Christianity in Scotland, traditionally founded by St Ninian in the 5th century. It is unique in its long and continuous history as a place of worship and pilgrimage.

The ancient church site was transformed into a monastery and cathedral church of Galloway in the 12th century. The extensive ruins of the priory were taken into State care in 1908. Today visitors may still follow the pilgrimage route taken by medieval pilgrims to visit the shrine of St Ninian. They can also enjoy Historic Scotland’s recently redisplayed museum of early Christian carved crosses, as well as the archaeological displays and pilgrim’s café in the Whithorn Trust’s visitor centre.  

The Minister said: “The Whithorn Trust does a wonderful job in welcoming visitors to the site, which is of incredible value, not just to those with an interest in its cultural significance, but also its links to other tourist destinations in the area.

“This is a great example of a partnership between the Trust and Historic Scotland  to ensure that this remarkable historic site is promoted and presented to people in a relevant and exciting way. Early in its history Whithorn stood as a shining beacon at the centre of a cultural crossroads and it deserves to have more prominence today. In meeting the Trust we shall be exploring new ways in which our partnership can allow heritage tourism in this part of Galloway to develop for the benefit of both local communities and visitors.

“I know that the Trust has plans to expand its marketing and promotion in the future and I wish them the best of luck in drawing more people to see this ancient site.”

The Whithorn Trust was established in 1986 to promote the history and archaeology of the Royal Burgh, and now manages their Whithorn Story visitor centre in a joint ticketing arrangement with Historic Scotland.

The Minister met with representatives of the Trust to discuss ways to achieve sustainable growth of heritage tourism in the area, following the debate raised by Alasdair Morgan MSP at The Scottish Parliament on 16th September 2009.

George Pattison, Chair of the Whithorn Trust, said; “The Trustees are delighted that the Culture Minister has visited Whithorn today.  We are looking forward to progressing the actions we have discussed in order to raise the profile of the area, Whithorn and St Ninian.  Heritage tourism can be a key driver for economic regeneration in rural areas and the Whithorn Trust has an important role to play for the Machars.”

Notes for editors

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament. For more information visit

  • For information on the Whithorn Trust, contact Janet Butterworth on 01988 500508, 07795 380403, or visit

  • Historic Scotland’s recently launched microsite allows people to learn more about the history and archaeology of the site.

  • Whithorn Priory is one of 345 heritage properties and sites in the care of Historic Scotland.  Ranging from prehistoric dwellings to medieval castles, and from cathedrals to industrial buildings, these include some of the leading tourism attractions in the country. Among the most popular are Edinburgh, Stirling and Urquhart Castles, Skara Brae, and the Border Abbeys.  (For further details visit:

  • Historic Scotland has just published an attractive new book recounting the important discoveries made in excavations at Whithorn Priory 50 years ago, when a number of the richly furnished graves the bishops of Whithorn were investigated. This dig produced the famous Whithorn crozier, now a treasure of the Museum of Scotland. Clothing For The Soul Divine – Excavations at Whithorn Priory - 196 pages, Priced £24.95.  Purchase online through Historic Scotland’s website .

  • Historic Scotland is delighted to be supporting the 2009 Year of Homecoming with a series of initiatives including family trails, spectacular events and the creation of a Homecoming Pass for heritage attractions in association with other heritage organisations.

For further information

Lesley Brown
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8603