The Machars (Gd: "Machair" ("Ghallghaidhealaibh"); lit. "the Plains (of Galloway)") is a
peninsulain Gallowayin the south-west of Scotland. The word is derived from the Gaelic word "Machair" meaning low lying or level land, known as "links" on the east coast of Scotland. Although there are no high peaks in the Machars, it is not flat and would best be described as undulating or rolling. The North Atlantic Driftor Gulf Streamcreates a mild climate in which plants normally associated with the Southern Hemispherecan thrive, and dolphins and basking sharks are frequently seen in the seas.
The Machars peninsula is roughly defined by a northern boundary stretching from
Newton Stewartto Glenluce, the only other boundary being the sea. The forty-mile coastline has enormous variety, starting with the mud-flats of Wigtownon the east facing Wigtown Bay, down to the sandy beach at Rigg Bay in Garlieston(where the Mulberry Harbours were developed). The coastline then rises to form dramatic cliffs as it passes the ruins of Cruggleton Castle, dropping a little at Portyerrock Bay and the Isle of Whithorn, and rising again at Burrow Head(where much of the cult classic "The Wicker Man" was filmed).
Past the southern tip of the peninsula, the shoreline leaves Wigtown Bay and becomes part of
Luce Bay. The cliffs continue as far as the beautiful sandy beach at Monreith(home of the author Gavin Maxwell), and on past Port William. A combination of rocky shoreline, sandy beaches and cliffs continues as far as Auchenmalgand Stairhavenbefore the sandy dunes approaching Glenluce. Only one river cuts through the peninsula, the river Bladnochwhich rises at Loch Maberryand meets the sea just south of Wigtown.
The other principal towns on the peninsula are
Kirkcowan, Whithorn, Kirkinner, Sorbie, Mochrum, Elrig, Bladnochand Whauphill.
The area is rich in prehistoric remains, mainly in the form of
standing stonesand cup and ring marks. The most notable of these are Torhousekieand Drumtroddan. In Castle Loch near The Old Place of Mochrumare the remains of several crannogs.
The primary industry in the area was agriculture, though today the tourist industry probably employs more people and generates more income.
Burrow Head (the southernmost tip of the peninsula) is about fifteen miles from
Point of Ayreon the Isle of Man, and trade links have long existed between the two places, much of which involved smuggling. Saint Ninianfirst brought Christianityto Scotland via the Machars, founding a small church at the Isle of Whithornfrom which a mediæval cathedral later sprang at Whithorn. Ninian studied under St Martin of Toursand can lay claim to bringing Christianity to Scotland long before St Columba, whose church at Ionais often mistakenly credited as the cradle of Scottish Christianity.
The mild climate of the Machars and its position on the south-west tip of Scotland invite comparisons with the
West Countryin England, and it has (occasionally) been referred to as Scotland's Land's End.
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