After spending 3 glorious days in Belfast with Deirdre and Desi, we all went back to Deirdre’s house in Ahoghill. Deirdre and I drove Desi to the airport at o’dark thirty Saturday morning so she could catch her flight back to Milan, Italy. It was extremely hard to say “Arrivederci” to her and see her go; the three of us had a really great time together. But off she went just the same and we drove back alone feeling so thankful that she had been able to join us and for the memories we will always share.
Later that day Deirdre and I went to the nearby village of Connor (where I suspect my 3rd great grandfather, John Frew, was born in order to visit the Connor Presbyterian Church. It is very possible that this was the church he could have attended or some of his family. We were given access to the church records of Births & Marriages. We spent a couple of hours photographing every page of the books in order to pour through them at a later date to see if we can discover any additional genealogical clues about our ancestors.
Deirdre had recently done her DNA testing to see if possibly we are related and we also looked at the results she had received right before I arrived. Unfortunately, it does not appear that we are related after all. Darn.
Just the same, she feels like family and she certainly treated me like I am and that’s all that matters. I had such a great time with Deirdre and her partner Roy at their home. I feel so grateful for the wonderful opportunity to spend time with them.
He’s really into tracing his family roots as well and provided me with a pretty solid clue from his own tree that could very well be related to my oldest known Frew grandfather.
Roy is also a very talented musician and enjoys playing bass in a bluegrass band. He even gave me an autographed CD that they have recorded!
It was difficult to leave the warmth and comfort of their home and hospitality.
But soon I had to head back to Larne and board the ferry back to Scotland on Sunday.
On board I met another wonderful couple, Glenda and Gavin. We enjoyed each other’s company, swapping stories about our travels, etc., and when I told them about my blog and my travels last year to Cornwall, Gavin mentioned that he grew up in Cornwall and asked how I liked it. He grew up around the town of Perranporth, the very village where I met that wonderful gardener/master bell ringer. Mr. Ashley Jose, last year. (See my earlier post entitled “Unexpected Magical Moments”) Gavin was just astounded that I had visited his hometown and knew all about the church and it’s early beginnings. It really is a small world, isn’t it?
After landing in Cairnryan, I parted with my new friends and started driving toward the town of Newton Stewart.
As I was driving, I noticed a sign for Castle Kennedy. I took a small detour to check it out for possible exploration another time and to take a little break from driving in the rain. When I turned off the highway and started driving toward the castle this is what lay out before me! Absolutely enchanting!
I would definitely like to explore these extensive gardens sometime in the future. It was raining pretty hard when I arrived at the entrance to the gardens. They had a Tea Room however, with lots of yummy treats so I pulled out a chair to sit down. It was the perfect table to sit at, enjoy a Latte and some absolutely delicious carrot cake with the loveliest view!
After that nice refreshing rest, I continued driving and eventually arrived at the B & B I would be staying at for the next couple of days, “Stables Guest House” in Newton Stewart. What a lovely place. This is where I settled in for the evening and wrote the previous 3 Belfast blogs. Very comfy indeed!
My host, Jacqui, was such a delightful woman and I simply loved her accommodations and breakfasts! I enjoyed scrambled eggs and smoked salmon each morning with black currant jam or marmalade on toast and fresh fruit. I highly recommend staying here. It’s very conveniently located for exploring the fascinating area!
I slept very soundly and the next morning I began exploring Galloway and the coastal peninsulas. The first day I headed down to Garlieston, Isle of Whithorn, Whithorn and Wigtown.
Here’s what I found….
Lord Garlies, Alexander Earl of Galloway Stewart (1643 – 1692) (and my 8th great grandfather on my mom’s side of the family) designed the town of Garlieston in 1760 as a seaside village with a regimented street pattern. It is now a Conservation Area. Ship building developed during the 19th century and rope and sail cloth were manufactured in the village mill.
The pier was built around 1816 when local produce was exported all over the world and goods such as tea and lace were brought into the Machars through Garlieston harbour.
The imposing building standing on the estate is best-known for its lush gardens open to the public and its attractive seaside position. It was built beginning in the early 1740s by John Baxter for Alexander Stewart, Lord Garlies, but has been extended and revised by successive earls.
Below is what I imagine must have been the original main drive up to the house between the trees, but is now part of the gardens where one can walk around. There is no access to the house itself because it is privately owned.
Another interesting point is that a high wall around the garden was constructed during the Napoleonic Wars by French prisoners of war.
I drove up to the car park, put my sneakers on and headed off.
I strolled all around the vast gardens… and along the shoreline of Rigg Bay. Rigg Bay was used in 1944 to assemble the Mulberry Harbour in preparation for the Normandy Landings.
Below is a view of the side of the house from the gardens.
The stables for the mansion. After I left the house I drove south to the Isle of Whithorn, and along the way, I found the old Cruggleton church, so naturally, I had to check it out.
Cruggleton church was rebuilt in 1892, the church’s simple nave and chapel pre-date the 13th century.
I drove a little further on, enjoying the beautiful farmland and countryside….arriving at Isle of Whithorn where Saint Ninian landed way back when and brought Christianity to Scotland after the Dark Ages.
“This chapel was probably built about 1300 and replaced an earlier, narrower one on the site. It stands within a perimeter wall, as did so many early Christian churches. The wall probably enclosed a house for a priest as well as a burial ground. The chapel was probably provided for the community at the port of at the port of Whithorn and for pilgrims travelling to the shrine of St. Ninian.
The pilgrims landed in the safe harbour below here and walked the few miles to Whithorn (inland), stopping first to give thanks for their safe arrival. It is difficult for us today to appreciate the impact the early Church had on every aspect of human life. The great hardships suffered by those pilgrims, who gave up home and safety to travel over land and sea to follow their chosen saint, are an example of an intensely God-fearing people.”
Next stop, Whithorn Priory…. (well, first a bite to eat at the Story of Whihorn)
Now the Priory…. a scale model of what it might have looked like in it’s time…
A quick stop in the museum where original ancient crosses are on display.
There is currently an archaeological dig underway in the area in front of the Priory where the Manse was located. Wouldn’t it be fun to come here and volunteer? If you’re interested you can contact them and schedule it in your itinerary for next summer! Check it out at Whithorn Priory Museum and Whithorn archaeology
Well, that was extremely interesting! Afterwards, I started driving back toward Newton Stewart but I had one more stop to make – a visit in Wigtown – Scotland’s National Book Town!
After looking around this amazing book store, I glanced across the square and noticed another interesting looking shop with a name I couldn’t resist – “Hippiedippies!”
A very nice friendly young man by the name of Mike Abel was working there and we struck up a conversation. He’s an illustrator for children’s books and showed me some of his work hanging in the Gallery in the back of the shop. I absolutely loved his work! Check out his work on his Facebook page by clicking on this link: Illustrator MikeAbel
The whole town was preparing for their Annual Wigtown Book Festival which was being held this weekend: September 23 & 24. I could have browsed for hours in all the bookstores they had, but I was getting rather tired and hungry at the end of the day so I headed back to Newton Stewart and had a nice meal at the Cree Bridge House Hotel. I thoroughly enjoyed their signature dish – Beef Medallions with Shallots! Yum!
After such a long day of exploring ancestors and beloved Saints and then enjoying such a scrumptious meal, I was ready for a good night’s sleep before heading out the next day to explore yet another part of Galloway – the delightful artists’ town of Kirkcudbright & a visit to Threave Castle – but that’s another story on another day!