Portpatrick Again. July 2017
Helen Rose Diary July 2017
Portpatrick village is on the south-westerly coast of the Scottish mainland, cut into a cleft in steep cliffs. Anciently known as Portrie (Port Rhin, meaning headland), its quay was protected by the baron of Dunskey Castle (from dun meaning castle; key meaning quay) and his local men. When being invaded, the fishermen and their families probably scrambled up the cliffs to Dunskey for protection. Dating back some 700 years and built adjacent to the ruins of nearby Dunskey Castle, Portpatrick’s position on the Rhins of Galloway affords visitors views of the Northern Irish coast 21 miles (34 km) to the west, with cliff-top walks and beaches both north and south. The Gulf Stream, flowing in from the north, gives the coastline a pleasant climate, in which subtropical plant life can flourish. These can be seen at Logan Gardens I wrote about on my last trip to Portpatrick. Local legend has it that Peter the Great of Russia stayed in the village. I suppose Russia and Scotland were both maritime nations as a connection! The HF walking club organised the weekend www.meetup.com/Glasgow-HF-Outdoor-Club/
HMV Princess Victoria.
Frank from the Walking Club lives in Portpatrick and offered to give us a tour of the village followed by a guided walk to the south of the village. The village is very pretty with a lovely harbour and a view over to Northern Ireland, Donaghadee and the Mountains of Mourne. In St. Patrick Street we saw the old parish church built in 1628-29 and continued in use until 1842. At the harbour, we saw the plaque to the Princess Victoria ship which sank nearby in high seas with huge waves entering the car deck. The crew struggled to close the doors again but they proved to be too badly damaged and water continued to flood in from the waves. The scuppers did not seem to be allowing the water to drain away. The Portpatrick Lifeboat, the Jeannie Spiers, was dispatched, as was the destroyer HMS Contest. The ship could not be located as it was drifting and it sunk off the Copeland Islands with the loss of 133 lives in 1953. We continued the walk south on a good coastal path.
The path led us to Dunskey Castle which is a twelfth century castle overlooking the sea. Portpatrick was known as the port of Castle Dunskey. Dunskey is undoubtedly romantic. It was a location for the 1951 film Kidnapped of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, as well as for the 1952 film Hunted. After exploring the ruined castle we walked around it and continued on the path south with splendid views over to the castle on the promontory. Frank was a mine of information as we walked to Knockinhaam Lodge where we had our lunch on the beach in front of this expensive secluded hotel.
World War 2 Connection
The Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, spent a few days in top-secret meetings with the American President, Franklin D Roosevelt in 1941 during the Second World War. Details of the meetings only emerged after the announcement of a joint declaration by Britain and America on the basic principles for a post-war world, sealing the alliance between the two countries for the downfall of Hitler. These talks took place around Portpatrick, probably at Knockinhaam Lodge although the location is referred to as somewhere in the Atlantic. Nearby, there are the remains of a Second World War radar station known as the Hush Hush. We continued the walk back to Portpatrick partly on an old railway solum with high walls on either side we had looked down on from the coastal path. Sadly, there is no longer a railway in Portpatrick as it closed in the 1950s.
Southern Upland Way
To the north of the village is the starting point of the Southern Upland Way, a long-distance walking route to Cockburnspath on the east coast. On my last visit I walked from Portpatrick to Stranraer but this time we took the bus to Stranraer and walked back to Portpatrick. Frank told us about the Waymerk Kists. Weymerks are small metal tokens that have been placed in concealed kists (containers) at thirteen locations along the route. Each token celebrates the heritage of the place in which is it hidden. All the tokens have been minted by hand from lead and copper. We passed one kist which was indicated on a waymark but was unseen. The wily Frank knew where to look and showed us the blue box!
It was a fantastic weekend organised by Stephen and made all the more interesting with our local guide Frank who had a trip down memory lane in Portpatrick. We even had good weather! Thanks to Stephen and Frank.
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This section: Helen Rose Hillwalking Diary
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