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 Stranraer
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 +44 (0)1776 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, called North West Castle, is now a hotel (see below). Info: Mon-Fri 1000-1700, Sat 1000-1300, 1400-1700. Free. Tel +44 (0)1776 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 +44 (0)1776 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 +44 (0)1776 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 +44 (0)1776 704413, North West Castle Hotel
There's a campsite at Aird Donald Caravan Park, Tel +44 (0)1776 702025, open all year, 1 mile from town; and Wig Bay Holiday Park, Tel +44 (0)1776 853233, 4 miles to the north, open Mar-Oct.