Stranraer wins no prizes for beauty or tourist appeal, but as Scotland's main ferry port for Northern Ireland it's an important town which sees a lot of through traffic.
It sits on the shores of sheltered Loch Ryan on the Rhinns of Galloway, a windswept peninsula shaped like the head of a pick-axe at the end of the Solway coast. Phone code: +44 (0)1776
Local Sights & Activities for StranraerSightseeing
The main attraction is the medieval tower which is all that remains of the 16th-century Castle of St John, one of the main headquarters of Graham of Claverhouse, the fanatical persecutor of the Protestant Covenanters in the late 17th century. Many of them died in the castle dungeons. It was later used as a prison in the 19th century. Inside, an exhibition traces the castle's history. Info: Apr-mid Sep Mon-Sat 1000-1300 and 1400-1700. £1.20, concession £0.60. Tel 705544.
Also worth a peek is the Stranraer Museum on George Street, which features displays on local history and has a section devoted to the life of Arctic explorer Sir John Ross (1777-1856), whose expeditions to find the Northwest Passage to the Pacific led to the discovery, in 1831, of the North Magnetic Pole. His house, calledNorth West Castle, is now a hotel (see below). Info: Mon-Fri 1000-1700, Sat 1000-1300, 1400-1700. Free. Tel 705088.
Three miles east of Stranraer are Castle Kennedy Gardens, famous for their riotous rhododendrons and magnificent monkey puzzle trees. The 75 acres of landscaped gardens are set on a peninsula between two lochs and two castles (Castle Kennedy and Lochinch Castle). Info: Apr-Sep daily 1000-1700. £3, £2 concession. Tel 702024.
Loch Ryan, the huge inlet which protects Stranraer from the stormy Irish Sea, is a haven for a variety of birdlife. The mudflats of Wig Bay, on the western shore offer good opportunities for birdwatching.
Stranraer Hotels & Accommodation
As you'd expect in a major ferry port, there's no shortage of places to stay. The most unusual choice has to be the Corsewall Lighthouse Hotel, 11 miles northwest of town at Corsewall Point, Tel 853220, Email Corsewall Lighthouse 6 rooms. This cosy hotel is housed in a working lighthouse, set in 20 acres of its own grounds on the wild and windy clifftops, a surreal experience. The owners can arrange transport from Stranraer.
The most luxurious choice is the superb North West Castle Hotel, Tel 704413, North West Castle Hotel
There's a campsite at Aird Donald Caravan Park, Tel 702025, open all year, 1 mile from town; and Wig Bay Holiday Park, Tel 853233, 4 miles to the north, open Mar-Oct.
Eating in Stranraer
The most expensive place to eat is North West Castle Hotel (see above). A bit cheaper is L'Aperitif, on London Rd, Tel 702991. It serves good Italian food Mon-Sat 1200-1400 and 1730-2100. There's also Bar Pazzerello, 57 George St, Tel 706585 and Venezia Ristorante, on Hanover St, Tel 703987.
For good Scottish food try The Bay House, Ladies Walk. Otherwise, you can try the hotel bar meals or the numerous fast food outlets. link title
Travel Directions to Stranraer
Ins and outs
Transport links are all conveniently located close to each other. The train station is on the ferry pier, close to the Stena Line ferry terminal (Tel 08705-707070), from where car and passenger ferries leave for Belfast. A few minutes' walk south is the bus station. P&O ferries to Larne (Tel 08705-980666, www.poirishsea.com) leave from Cairnryan, 5 miles north of Stranraer on the A77. Bus No 358 and X58 runs to Cairnryan from Stranraer. For information on buses and trains, see 'Transport' below. The Tourist Information Centre is at 28 Harbour St, Tel 702595. Apr-Jun, Oct and Nov Mon-Sat 0930-1730, Sun 1000-1600; Jul-Sep daily 0930-1800; Dec-Mar Mon-Sat 1000-1600.
Bus National Express (Tel 08705-808080, Go By Coach No 920 runs between London and Belfast via Stranraer - it's an overnight service. Stagecoach Western has a service from Glasgow (3 hrs) to Ayr (X77), change at Ayr for Stranraer. There are regular buses to Newton Stewart, Kirkcudbright, Dumfries and other towns along the A75. There are also regular daily buses to Ayr (2 hrs), and daily buses to Portpatrick (25 mins), Port Logan (35 mins) and Drummore (45 mins). There are several trains daily to Belfast via Larne. There's also a daily service to and from Glasgow (2 hrs) and Ayr (1 hr 20 mins). For all rail enquiries call Tel 08457-484950.