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.

New book reveals 14th Century town planning in Whithorn

24 August 2010

Town planning took place at Whithorn as early as the 14th century, reveals the latest publication in the Scottish Burgh Survey Series.

“Historic Whithorn: Archaeology and Development”, published by Historic Scotland and the Council for British Archaeology, looks at the rich history and archaeology of the town and the nearby Isle of Whithorn.  

Lead author, Richard Oram, said: “It was fascinating to see emerge the layout of a unique 14th-century planned town. This is even more astonishing as this was undertaken in the middle of a world being turned upside down by war, famine and disease, and speaks of confidence for the future.”

St Ninian founded the original monastic community at Whithorn and became the focus of pilgrimage. His supposed burial place predates Columba’s at Iona.

The Reformation brought a lull, but pilgrimage resumed in the 20th century and an annual pilgrimage continues to this day to St Ninian’s cave along Physgill Glen.

The next pilgrimage takes place this Sunday on August 29th.

The pilgrim routes in the vicinity of the town were defined by carved crosses, some of which are displayed in the Historic Scotland Museum and others which may still be incorporated into houses in the town. A wide main street is lined with substantial houses on plots of medieval origin.

Co-author Paula Martin, said: "There is much more to Whithorn and the Isle of Whithorn than the Priory or the Chapel, and we hope that others will build on our work and carry out more detailed research."  

Charles McKean, co-author commented, “In essence, our approach was as much about making sense of Whithorn's potential as of its past.”

Janet Butterworth of the Whithorn Trust added: “The Trust has carried out extensive research on the area around the Priory ruins but there has been little research on the burgh itself.  This publication allows us to understand more about the relationship between the burgh, church precincts and also the Isle of Whithorn but also it gives us information on the use of the buildings by residents, merchants and pilgrims.”

For information

  • The authors are a team drawn from the Universities of Stirling, Dundee and University College, London, and the private archaeological firm CFA.

  • The CBA (Council for British Archaeology) is an educational charity working throughout the UK to involve people in archaeology and to promote the appreciation and care of the historic environment for the benefit of present and future generations.

RD Oram, PF Martin, CA McKean, T Neighbour, “Historic Whithorn: Archaeology and Development”
ISBN: 978-1-902771-82-3
168pp, 67 illus incl colour, 2010, Price £9.50 GBP

Notes to 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.


CBA books are distributed by Central Books Ltd, 99 Wallis Road, London, E9 5LN
Email: Tel: 0845 458 9910 / Fax: 0845 458 9912
Publisher: Council for British Archaeology, St Mary’s House, 66 Bootham, York, YO30 7BZ , tel: 01904 671417
Visit for further CBA publications.

For further information

Jennifer Johnston Watt
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8070 or 07827 956 866