Stranraer & The Rhins of Galloway Community & Tourist Information Site



Cairnryan, once known as Macherie, means simply 'the Cairn (Hill) by (Loch) Ryan' and is probably most famous for its P&O port to Larne, Northern Ireland. Just up along the coast from Cairnryan, at Old House Point, Stena Line recently relocated from Stranraer. Stena now have a state of the art brand new port since 2011, providing a ferry service to Belfast.

Cairnryan's history is mostly centred around the port, which was built in the mid 1800s, and was one of the most important harbours in the whole of Britain! Before the war, the village was home to oyster fishermen and quarrymen but all this changed in 1941 when Cairnryan was known as 'Military Port No.2' - why? Because if the ports of Southampton and Glasgow were lost to the Germans, plan 'B' was to use Cairnryan! Just north of the village was a factory building sections of Mulberry (floating) Harbour for use in Normandy in 1944 and you can still see a concrete section of it at the North end of the village. You can also vaguely make out the line of where the wartime railway laid, just above the shoreline. Just after the war the port was used to take in surplus and then dispose of it in the sea. If you are interested in finding out more about Cairnryan's wartime history, take a look at The Cairnryan Military Railway 1941-1959 by the Scottish Corpus of Text and Speech. Up until P&O's arrival the port's main role was to undertake ship breaking.

The lighthouse in Cainryan dates from 1847 and was built by Alan Stephenson.


Nearby Places to Visit...

  • The lost town of Innermessan - if you park in the car park at Balyett (opposite the B&B) you should be able to see a mound on the other side of the road - this is thought to be the site of a Norman timber-built castle. Later in Innermessan's history the town grew around a substantial estate with power over the imports and exports in Loch Ryan and eventually became Loch Ryan's largest settlement. However, by the 16th century, Stranraer was growing fast and reduced Innermessan to a mere hamlet by 1800. There is also a theory that the Romans may have had a settlement here after finds that suggest a Roman Road passed through Innermessan.
  • Finnarts Bay - A mostly pebbly beach with some sand and large rocks sculpted by the sea. Remains of WWII activity.
  • Penwhirn Reservoir - A large reservoir with views over open land and various footpaths surrounding it.
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