Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has announced that Whithorn Priory is re-opening today (Monday 11 September), with visitors once again being able to visit the 900-year-old priory.
One of Scotland’s earliest Christian communities lived and worshipped in Whithorn, and the oldest Christian monument in Scotland was found here. The Latinus stone, which dates to the 400s, was discovered beneath the priory ruins during excavations in the 1880s. Translated, it reads: “We praise you, the Lord! Latinus, descendant of Barravados, aged 35, and his daughter, aged 4, made a sign here.”
The priory was established in the 1100s by Premonstretarian monks, and it later became the cathedral church of Galloway. After the Reformation of 1560, little of the priory survives today, but visitors can still follow the route taken by medieval pilgrims to visit St Ninian’s shrine at the east end of the church.
The Whithorn Museum, which stands on the old cathedral priory grounds, hosts the Latinus stone and offers a unique and immersive way to explore the tranquil remains of this once-bustling power centre.
Visitors will now be able to access the ruined nave of the cathedral church and the upper parts of the crypt. Temporary restrictions will remain in place to the internal crypt and Lady Chapel areas. Visitors can also access the graveyard, which has been accessible throughout the season.
Access restrictions were put in place at the start of last year, as a safety precaution while HES, who manages the site, introduced new measures to manage the impact of climate change on its heritage assets, an issue which is affecting heritage owners globally. Whithorn Priory is the latest of a series of sites to reopen following inspections and necessary repairs to the masonry.
The High-Level Masonry Programme, which is the result of ongoing risk assessment and sample surveys, assesses the impact of climate change on sites as well as the scale of deterioration caused by a number of other factors, including the materials used in the building’s construction, its age and physical location. Whilst this is not an issue unique to Scotland, HES is believed to be amongst the first heritage managers to approach it in this way, with the results shared with peer organisations.
Robin Johnston, Head of South Region at HES, said:
“As one of Scotland’s oldest known Christian settlements, Whithorn Priory is a gem in beautiful Dumfries and Galloway. Visitors can walk the same routes that pilgrims did almost a millennium earlier and see the Latinus Stone which is the oldest Christian monument in Scotland. We are excited to welcome visitors back to this historic site once again.”
Whithorn Priory and Museum is open from Sunday to Friday, 11am to 4pm (closed for lunch 12.30pm to 1.30pm), until 31 October. The priory nave is open year-round. Visitors are encouraged to book tickets before visiting.
About Historic Environment Scotland (HES)
- We are the lead body for Scotland’s historic environment, a charity dedicated to the advancement of heritage, culture, education and environmental protection. It is at the forefront of researching and understanding the historic environment and addressing the impacts of climate change on its future, investigating and recording architectural and archaeological sites and landscapes across Scotland and caring for more than 300 properties of national importance. We are also the lead on delivering Scotland's strategy for the historic environment, Our Past, Our Future.
- Historic Scotland, Scran, Canmore, The National Collection of Aerial Photography (NCAP), The Engine Shed, Stirling Castle, and Edinburgh Castle are sub-brands of HES.
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