Visiting Wigtown, Scotland: the National Book Town, with much history also
Come buy, go read
This remarkable town on the Solway Firth, Scotland, has a concentration of bookstores, the haunt of many a browser and collector. The presence of the book industry on such a scale has warranted the town being given the sobriquet 'Scotland's Book Town'. The proximity of the ferryport of Stranraer, through which much of the district's through-traffic passes, has undoubtedly contributed to the coming of a significant proportion of Wigtown's visitors.
Wigtown was formerly the seat of a country which took its name; the town is now part of Dumfries and Galloway region. The former County Buildings, dating from 1862, at the picturesque Square in the Downtown area give evidence of the administrative rôle that Wigtown once fulfilled. Indeed, the town was designated a royal burgh in 1469.
In any case, a Book Town it now is. At one point, the town could boast about 20 bookstores. The number of these establishments has, however, tapered off in recent years, with the result that the number was reduced to 12.
The town is now the hub of an annual Book Festival. A dozen bookstores can, certainly, still contribute a lot to such an event!
With its profusion of bookstores, Wigtown resembles Hay-on-Wye, Wales, and Redu, Belgium. However, Wigtown's inception as a book town happened differently from events in Wales that led to Hay-on-Wye's similar status. In the latter borderland town in Mid-Wales, an entrepreneur invested a lot of his money and time into bookstores in the town, and, together with a cultivated and endearingly eccentric character which aided his publicity efforts, he caused the town to become more well-known, and other book businesses became established, also, and gradually the town became a literary haven.
In Scotland, however, nationwide efforts were made, sponsored by the authorities, to see which among many options would make a good venue for a book town which might become a tourist attraction for an area in need of development.
April 25, 2012
Also worth seeing
In Wigtown itself, as well as the many bookstores there are various noted structures, including the Mercat Cross, the County Buildings (see also above) and the Parish Church cemetery contains the graves of Covenanter women deliberately drowned in 1685 by Royal troops (yes, really!).
Newton Stewart (distance: 11 kilometres) has some prominent structures, including an old bridge over the Cree River; the local Machermore Castle (not open to the public) is a senior home.
Lockerbie (distance: 107 kilometres) has a fine, 19th century Jacobean-style town hall, with a distinctive tower.
How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Glasgow Airport, where car rental is available. Please note that facilities mentioned may be withdrawn without notice. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
Other of my hubpages may also be of interest
- Visiting Lockerbie, Scotland, with its magnificent Town Hall: towered Scottish Baronial style archit
- Visiting The Mound, Edinburgh: splendid views of the Castle, and Neo-Classical buildings
- Visiting Crimond Parish Church, Scotland: remembering the famous Psalm 23 tune
- Visiting Hay-on-Wye, Wales: books galore and a ruined castle
- Visiting Redu: book town in the Belgian province of Luxembourg