St Ninian's Cave

Useful Information

From the shore.
Location: Glasserton, Wigtownshire, Scotland.
From Whithorn A747, B7004 and a dead end road to car park at Kidsdale. 2 km walk down wooded Physgill Glen to the beach.
(54.693837, -4.449804)
Open: Currently closed for conservation works.
Fee: free.
Classification: Speleologysea cave along a fault in Lower Silurian greywacke.
Light: not necessary
Dimension: L=12 m, W=3 m, H=4 m.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: David W. McFadden (1999): An Innocent in Scotland, More Curious Rambles and Singular Encounters. Includes the story "Miracle at St. Ninian's Cave"
H. E. Maxwell (1885): St Ninian's Cave, Glasserton Archaeological and Historical Collections relating to Ayrshire and Galloway, 1-8, 10 plates, survey.
Tony Oldham (1975): The Caves of Scotland except Assynt pp 130-1.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1871 stone crosses first discovered.
1884 excavations by Maxwell.
1973 location for the movie The Wicker Man.
1950 excavations.


one of the carved crosses from the 10th or 11th century.

St Ninian's Cave is a small sea cave, only 7 km from Whithorn Abbey, where St Ninian lived. Local tradition says, that St. Ninian used this quiet and secluded spot as a place of solitude and retreat. St. Ninian built the first Christian church in Scotland in 397 A.D. of whitewashed stone, so it could be easily seen. He called it Candida Casa or the White House, which lead to the name Whithorn.

The cave was used by pilgrims since the early middle ages. During an excavation in the last century, many christian symbols were found beneath the breakdown of the collapsed roof. Carved headstones and crosses from the 10th and 11th century are now displayed in the Priory Museum at Whithorn. Many more symbols, especially crosses can be found into the rock in and outside the cave, carved into the rock.

Today the cave is still the destination of an annual pilgrimage for members of the Roman Catholic church. The cave is a holy site for them, so please respect the offerings left by modern pilgrims like the carvings left by ancient pilgrims.

St Ninian's Gallery, images by Tony Oldham