The browser you are using is out of date and is no longer supported. To view and use this site correctly, please update your browser to the latest version.

We're changing

We have created a new public body, Historic Environment Scotland. While we work on shaping our future we can reassure you that all services and products will continue as normal. Please follow our progress and find out more about our new organisation.

St Ninian's Chapel

Restored ruins of a 13th-century chapel, probably used by pilgrims on their way to Whithorn

St Ninian's Chapel

Pilgrims’ progress

The chapel just beyond the pretty harbour at the Isle of Whithorn was built around 1300. It was designed for use by pilgrims coming ashore from their boats en route to the shrine of St Ninian at Whithorn.

The chapel was one of a number of such stopping-places; they included Chapel Finian and the Laggangairn Standing Stones.

There may have been a chapel here in early Christian times. There was certainly an earlier chapel dating from the 1100s, before the present building was erected, which the archaeologist C.A. Ralegh Radford discovered in 1949.

Unlike the chapel that now stands on the site, it had two parts – a small nave and an even smaller chancel. Radford also found traces of a stone bench at the west end of the chapel, presumably for use by weary pilgrims.

Around the chapel is an almost circular drystone enclosure wall around 30m across. It may well pre-date both chapels, and like the wall at Chapel Finian perhaps enclosed a priest’s house and burial ground.

The sanctity of the place lives on. A ‘Witness Cairn’ has been created at the entrance to the field where the chapel stands, to which modern pilgrims are invited to add stones. Beside it is a bench commemorating the young fishermen from the Isle of Whithorn who were killed when their boat, the Solway Harvester, sank in 2000.

  • The setting – wild and windswept, providing a somewhat eerie evocation of the countless souls who trudged up from the nearby shore and paused here to thank God for their safe delivery.


Car Parking Bus Parking Strong Footwear Recommended


Region – Dumfries and Galloway

At Isle of Whithorn on the A747.

Grid reference - NX 479 362.