It may be slightly out of the way for those heading north, but this anchorage near the Solway Firth is worth visiting, says Dag Pike
The Isle of Whithorn is a bit off the beaten track for many cruisers unless you are exploring the Solway Firth.
Located on the southern coast of Scotland it may be too much of a deviation for those heading north or south through the North Channel and looking for an overnight anchorage but do not dismiss this quiet, peaceful anchorage that gives access to a decent pub.
Tucked inside the prominent Burrow Head, the Isle of Whithorn boasts two possible anchorages both of which offer good shelter from west and south-westerly winds.
It is called the Isle of Whithorn because it was originally an island separated from the mainland by a very narrow channel but this has now been filled in by a short causeway and it is on the west side of this that the harbour has been created.
A stone pier sticks out into the harbour to offer further shelter for the local fishing fleet and a variety of small yachts that have to dry out over low water. It may be possible to get a mooring for the night by contacting the harbour master but these are drying moorings so if you want to stay afloat then you need to use one of the two anchoring possibilities.
The obvious one is in the entrance channel where there is adequate water to stay afloat. There are rocks on either side of this channel but by using the echo sounder you should be able to work your way in. The best place is on the west side of the channel which is a bit more sheltered but don’t go in further than when the tip of the ‘island’ on the east side comes abeam because by then you are entering the low water shallows.
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The alternative anchorage is on the east side of the ‘island’ and here you can find adequate water further in but beware a patch of rocks where you start to close the shore. There is a beach a little way inside the headland and this could be a good spot to anchor with landing by tender on the beach. Otherwise you can land by tender at most states of tide on a slipway just outside the point where the breakwater joins the land.
Both anchorages are fully exposed to the east and you could get a swell coming in when the wind is from the southwest. There are lights that can help guide you in at night and the chart shows leading lights to take you into the harbour in the deeper part of the channel but I could not see these as marks during the daytime so your sounder is your best guide. St. Ninian’s Chapel tower on the ‘island’s’ headland dominates the harbour skyline and is a good guide to identify the place.
Isle of Whithorn has a long history as a port, firstly as a fishing port before the pier was built and later as port for steam packets and trading ships that came in from ports in England bringing in coal and fertiliser and taking out agricultural produce.
The original pier was build back in the 1700s but it finally gave up the ghost in 1969 and collapsed but now it has been rebuilt and serves as the base for the inshore fishing fleet.
The Steam Packet Inn on the quay provides both food and drink so it is likely to be the focus of any visit but there is also the active Wigtown Bay Sailing Club and a small chandlers and village store on the quay.