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North West Castle Hotel Stranraer
Stranraer is an old settlement, with a castle dating from the 16th Century, and in the 18th and 19th Centuries it was a busy shipbuilding and shipping centre.
It was not the main ferry port for Ireland in the days when sailing ships had to change course and negotiate the length of Loch Ryan, but with the coming of steam, the advantages of the sheltered Loch outweighed the shorter crossing from the more exposed Portpatrick. The Stranraer-Larne route opened in 1872, and now carries an increasing volume of traffic with a large complex of modern port facilities. Cairnryan also caters for ferry traffic.
The A75 passes through only a small section of Stranraer. Away from the port are hotels and guesthouses, camping and caravan sites. There are gardens where visitors can sit and watch the ships going in and out of the harbour, parks where children can play, and a splendid golf course designed by the late James Braid and used for championship matches.
Stranraer is also the location for the Galloway Games, with trials of strength, music and dancing traditionally associated with the Highlands, as well as Agricultural and Horticultural Shows. Stranraer also houses the North west Castle Hotel which boasts its own Curling rink.
Visitors who enjoy an active holiday will find opportunities for sailing, boating and water-skiing at Loch Ryan as well as riding and golf as well as landscaped gardens a short drive away at Castle Kennedy.
A short drive from Stranraer are:
East of Stranraer, Dunragit sits on high ground overlooking Luce Bay. Unusual plants, trees and shrubs can be found at Glenwhan Gardens nearby.
Further east is Glenluce, long an important crossing point on the Water of Luce. The magnificent ruins of Glenluce Abbey are here as is the commanding Castle of Park tower.
North of Stranraer is Leswalt where an 18 metre (59ft) high monument to Sir Andrew Agnew of Lochnaw who laid out Aldouran Glen with exotic trees, rare plants and paths can be found. Nearby is the 15th Century Lochnaw Castle.
Further north is Kirkcolm with its terraces of single and two-storey cottages, painted white and originally homes of fishermen. To the north-west is Corsewall Point with a lighthouse designed by Robert Stephenson in 1815.
South of Stranraer is Sandhead with miles of golden sandy beaches by Luce Bay; ideal for families with young children. Within a short distance is Kirkmadrine Church, which has some of the earliest Christian carved stones in Scotland.
A small Scottish village overlooking Loch Ryan, Cairnryan is mostly known today for its large modern ferry port which opened in 1973, which links Scotland with Larne in Northern Ireland.
This attractive village of white-painted houses, once the homes of oyster fishermen, and a fine Queen Anne house is set against a green hillside.
During World War II, Cairnryan became a Military Port, and three harbour piers and a military railway linking the village with nearby Stranraer were built by the army.
One of the piers still remains and anglers still use it as its offers rich pickings for a variety of seafish.
At the end of the war, the Atlantic U-Boat fleet surrendered in Loch Ryan and was anchored in the port before being towed to the North Channel and scuttled. This activity was codenamed Operation Deadlight.
After the war, ship breaking became the main industry; the great British aircraft carriers Centaur, HMS Blake, HMS Eagle, HMS Mohawk and most famously the Ark Royal were all sent here for decommissioning. As recently as 1990, Russian submarines have been dismantled here for scrap.