The Lighthouses of the Rhins of Galloway

by Sara Barton, 12th April 2022
Mull of Galloway | Rhins
The Lighthouses of the Rhins of Galloway

Lighthouses have an iconic status as beacons of hope and safety to seafarers of days past and present. Standing proudly along the cliffs of the Rhins of Galloway on the western coast of the South of Scotland, six of these majestic giants have been lighting up the night sky – in one case for more than 200 years. Visitors will be fascinated by the stories associated with these wonderful buildings, which have recently been connected by a new tourism trail. The Lighthouses of the Rhins tour gives you the opportunity to learn their stories and experience some stunning coastal scenery at the same time.

Whether you enjoy exploring on foot or by car there’s an option for you, but how about something different. Read on and discover what a day out in the Rhins has on offer…

Get a feel for the Lighthouses of the Rhins of Galloway tour with this brief video showing off the stunning coastal scenery.

E-bike tours

How about a cycling experience with a difference? You can set off from the Gateway to Galloway Hub in Stranraer or the Harbour at Portpatrick on your e-bikes to explore the lighthouses of the Rhins on two wheels. E-bikes give you the flexibility to go to some really interesting off-road places. This particularly suits the lighthouses, especially the likes of Killantringan, which are easier to get close to by bike than by car. There are plenty of opportunities for refreshments and visits at some of the lighthouses. While some lighthouses have restricted access, there are viewpoints to enjoy them all. You can head out for a half or a whole day and panniers and children’s trailers can be included as part of your rental.

Arrive in Portpatrick under your own e-pedal power!

Before you decide your prefered method to visit, here is a wee taster of the lighthouses themselves. Their history, their place in the landscape and the people who built them and cared for them are all part of the heritage of this spectacular coastline. Some are no longer lit, but others continue to service this coastline and light the way to safety for those at sea.

Mull of Galloway Lighthouse

Standing looking up at this wonderful lighthouse you are at the most southernly point in Scotland. Put into operation in 1830, the lighthouse was built by Robert Stevenson, the engineer grandfather of Treasure Island author Robert Louis Stevenson. Indeed, the Stevenson family were responsible for several of the lighthouses on the tour. Today the peninsula is home to an RSPB Centre and there is wildlife galore to spot as you visit the lighthouse and the surrounding area. There is an excellent exhibition space depicting life as a lighthouse keeper. And a cafe to enjoy lunch while gazing out over the water to Ireland.

The Mull of Galloway lighthouse sits on the most southerly tip of Scotland.

Port Logan

This is not typical of the other lighthouses on the tour as it is a Bell Tower and would have had a bell to sound a warning initially. It was designed in 1818 by civil engineer Thomas Telford, better known for his work on the Caledonian Canal. If you think the scenery looks familiar, it has been the setting for the BBC Scotland drama Two Thousand Acres of Sky and also played host to Gerard Butler’s film The Vanishing in 2007. Indeed the lighthouses featured in that film are all on this trail – Corsewall, Killantringan and the Mull of Galloway.

Lighthouses of the Rhins of Galloway Port Logan
The Bell tower in Port Logan watches over a spectacular sandy beach, ideal for a day out in fine weather.

Portpatrick

The stunning seaside village of Portpatrick was once a bustling busy port with sailing ships and later paddle steamers from Ireland. Later, holidaymakers from Glasgow would emerge from one of two train stations in the town to marvel at the panoramic views of the coastline. The lighthouse you see today was built in the late 1800s, replacing an earlier version built by John Rennie in 1830. This lighthouse sat on the south pier of the harbour but both harbour wall and lighthouse were undermined by a great storm. The lighthouse was dissembled brick by brick and today it sits overlooking the harbour in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The pier itself was abandoned to the elements with just a few stones showing where it once sat.

Lighthouses of the Rhins of Galloway Portpatrick
The picturesque harbour of Portpatrick offers several restaurants and a relaxing atmosphere for any visitor.

Killantringan

Built in 1900 by David Alan Stevenson, Killantrigan lighthouse can be seen from the Southern Upland Way walking route. The keeper in 1982 was the first to sight cargo ship MV Craigantlet as it headed for the small bay to the side of the lighthouse. The ship’s crew had set it on autopilot and fallen asleep, but had made a miscalcuation in the bearings. The story made national headlines as the ship broke up and some of the containers had hazardous contents. The area was cordoned off and indeed the lighthouse keeper evacuated. Today you can gaze down on the scenic bay, which offers an ideal spot for drink or a picnic while you take in the view.

Lighthouses of the Rhins of Galloway Killantrigan
Whether you reach it on foot via the Southern Upland Way or on your e-bike, the views around Killantrigan Lighthouse are spectacular.

Corsewall

The oldest lighthouse in the trail, the foundation stone for the Corsewall Lighthouse was laid on the day the Duke of Wellington and Napolean squared off at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Robert Stevenson was the man in charge once more. This lighthouse still lights the way as it did more than 200 years ago. Unlike many modernised lighthouses which contain LED systems, Corsewall contains a ‘typical’ lighthouse lens, rotating 24 hours a day seven days a week. Adjacent to the lighthouse the keepers accommodation has become a hotel with restaurant and from here you can see the ferries heading to and from Cairnryan to Ireland along with other shipping traffic.

Lighthouses of the Rhins of Galloway Corsewall
Two hundred years after being put into service, Corsewall Lighthouse continues to flash throughout the year.

Lochryan

Another Stevenson lighthouse, Lochryan was established in 1847 at a time when there would have been considerable shipping traffic into Stranraer. During the second world war, Cairnryan became an important military port. The Liberty Ships came bringing supplies, ammunition and troops from the US, docking here for onward transfer to the ‘theatre of war’. Today the lighthouse serves as a vital navigational aid for the busy cross channel ferries between Northern Ireland and Scotland. The loch itself is home to wild native oysters, celebrated annually during the Stranraer Oyster Festival each September.

Lighthouses of the Rhins of Galloway Lochryan
Lochryan or Cairn Point Lighthouse serves as an important aid to the busy cross channel ferries to Northern Ireland.

There is a collection of videos on the history and workings of the lighthouses on YouTube. Watch them here.