St Ninian's Cave
St Ninian's Cave
St Ninian's Cave is a natural cave on the southwestern coast of the Machars of Galloway, traditionally associated with St Ninian. Early Christian crosses were found in the cave (these can be seen at Whithorn Museum), and several incised crosses can still be seen carved into the cave walls.

The earliest crosses found at St Ninian's cave date to the 6th and 7th centuries, and suggest that the cave was used by early Christian hermits, probably associated with St Ninian's monastery at Whithorn.

Other crosses range from the 8th to the 11th century, while the carvings on the walls range from the 8th and 9th centuries, with possible later additions. Other items found here include a polishing stone, a handle made of deer horn, and a stone whorl.

The cave is only about 7 meters deep and 3 meters high. It is possible that it was once larger, but became partially blocked due to rock falls. We do not know at what date the cave became associated with St Ninian, and there is no evidence that the saint ever visited here. But by the early medieval period, St Ninian's Cave was a popular destination for pilgrims.

Even today the cave remains a magnet for pilgrims. Many people leave behind flowers or small gifts of money, and some people bring beach stones marked with crosses. Each year a large pilgrimage is undertaken by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Galloway, which holds a ceremony at the cave entrance.

Do take the time to visit; it is a wonderful location, and it's also well worth seeing the crosses in the Whithorn Museum that came from the cave. It is perhaps a 15-20 minute walk from the car park, and going along the pebble beach is slow, but not difficult.

Once you reach the beach, look right along the shore and you can easily spot the cave mouth a few hundred yards away.