Stranraer is a town in Dumfries and Galloway near the tip of Southwest Scotland. It's a ferry port, connecting Scotland with Northern Ireland, though nowadays all ferries run from Cairnryan a few miles north. The town itself (population 10,320 in 2016) has little of interest, but it's a good base for exploring the scenic Rhins of Galloway, the peninsula stretching north and south of Stranraer.
An alternative base 17 miles south is the village of Drummore: see that page for details of the Logan gardens and fishpond, and the Mull of Galloway.
Ferries to Northern Ireland nowadays sail from Cairnryan, on the east bank of Loch Ryan a few miles north of Stranraer.
- Stena Line ferries sail to Belfast from 1 Loch Ryan Port, north of Cairnryan village and about 8 miles from Stranraer. There are 4-6 ferries per day taking 2 hr 15 min. Buses from Edinburgh run via Glasgow and Ayr to the Stena terminal at Loch Ryan, then onward to Belfast, Dublin and Londonderry. Passengers by rail change to the bus at Ayr. There's a car hire desk at the Loch Ryan terminal.
- P&O Ferries sail to Larne from 2 Cairnryan harbour, four miles north of Stranraer. There are six ferries a day taking 2 hours. There is no linked bus service for the P&O sailings, so either catch a local bus (below) or take a taxi.
There are four direct Scotrail trains M-Sat to Stranraer from Glasgow Central via Kilmarnock, Ayr and Girvan, taking 2 hrs 40 min. It's usually quicker to take the frequent train to Ayr and change.
Scottish Citylink / Ulsterbus 923 runs four times daily from Edinburgh via Glasgow Buchanan Street and Ayr to the Stena terminal at Loch Ryan thence to Stranraer town.
National Express / Ulsterbus 920 runs overnight from London Victoria via Luton airport, Coventry, Birmingham, Manchester airport and city, Preston, Carlisle, Dumfries, Castle Douglas, Newton Stewart, Stranraer, Cairnryan then by Stena ferry to Belfast. This service remains suspended as of Oct 2020.
Stagecoach West Scotland Bus 500 runs to Stranraer from Dumfries via Castle Douglas, Newton Stewart and Glenluce, M-Sat every couple of hours and Sun every four hours. It doesn't serve Cairnryan.
Stagecoach West Scotland Bus 358 / 360 runs to Stranraer from Girvan M-Sat every couple of hours via the two ferry terminals. Four buses a day continue to Ayr.
From England leave M6 at Gretna and follow A75 west past Dumfries. From the Glasgow area follow M77 / A77 southwest via Kilmarnock and Ayr.
WCT local bus 350 runs 8 times a day M-Sat from Stranraer Charlotte St to either the Stena or P&O ferry terminal, depending on sailing times.
Bus 367 runs 8 times a day M-Sat from Stranraer via Lochans to Portpatrick on the west coast.
Bus 407 runs south down the peninsula from Stranraer via Lochans and Port Logan to Drummore, four times a day M-Sat, 45 mins.
- Stranraer Museum, 55 George Street, Stranraer DG9 7JP, ☏ . M-Sa 10:00-17:00. Stranraer Museum is in the Old Town Hall, built 1776. Discover Wigtownshire's history and that of Stranraer's own Polar explorers. Archaeology, dairy and agriculture feature heavily, with changing temporary exhibitions. Free.
- 1 Castle of St John, Charlotte Street, DG9 7EJ. June-Sept Tu-Sa 10:00-16:30. A medieval tower house, built around 1500, used as a military garrison in the 1670s and converted to a jail in the 1820s. Videos and reconstructions tell the sometimes grizzly story of the house. Magnificent views from the top of the tower Free admission.
- Castle Kennedy ruins and gardens are off A75 three miles east of town. They're open Apr-Oct daily 10:00-17:00, adult £5.50.
- 2 Glenwhan Gardens, Dunragit DG9 8PH, ☏ . Daily 08:00-17:00. Beautiful gardens, open year round, created on the moor. Dogs welcome on lead. Adult £6.50, conc £5.
- Glenluce Abbey is a ruin off A75 ten miles east of town. It's open Apr-Sept Su-Tu 09:30-17:30, adult £5.
- 3 Portpatrick is a fishing village set in the cliffs of the Rhins. Until the 19th century it was a port for sailings to Northern Ireland (and something of a "Gretna" for quickie-weddings for Irish couples), but it was too exposed and the port shifted to Stranraer. Visit the ruined 17th century St Patrick's church, Dunskey castle ruins and walled garden, and Cairnpot hill fort. There's a dozen B&Bs here, and the upmarket Mount Stewart Hotel.
- Sandhead has a good beach. A mile south of the village, turn inland up the lane to Kirkmadrine Stones, eight memorial stones from very early Christian times, the three oldest from 6th century. They're housed in the porch of the old church.
- Logan Botanic Garden is a subtropical garden 14 miles south of Stranraer off A716, and the Mull of Galloway is the scenic headland at the tip of the Rhins. See Drummore for details.
- Southern Upland Way is a long distance coast-to-coast hiking trail. It starts at Portpatrick, follows the coast north then turns east to Stranraer and Castle Kennedy (13.5 miles, 21.5 km, lowland with no great ascent; use OS Landranger maps 309 and 310.) From there it crosses the hills via Sanquhar, Wanlockhead and Beattock to head into the Scottish Borders, eventually reaching the east coast at Cockburnspath.
- Mull of Galloway Trail starts at the Mull and runs up the east shore of the Rhins via Drummore and Sandhead to Stranraer (26 miles). It continues up the coast via Cairnryan and Finnart Bay to Glenapp (11 miles), where it joins the Ayrshire Coastal Path to Skelmorlie (100 miles). The Mull-to-Stranraer stage is just right for a marathon, run annually in June, with a half-marathon from Ardwell to Stranraer.
- Ryan Centre. Has a swimming pool, theatre and cinema.
- Stranraer Golf Club is 3 miles northwest of town centre. White tees 6308 yards, par 70, summer weekend round £40.
- Watch football: Stranraer FC were relegated in 2020 and now play soccer in Scottish League Two, the fourth tier. Their home ground is Stair Park, capacity 4100, on London Rd A75 just east of town centre.
- Stranraer Agricultural Show is held in late July. The next is probably Wed 27 July 2022, tbc.
There's a Tesco and a Morrisons in town centre.
Kebabs, tandoori, Chinese, fish & chips, all cluster round town centre.
Places in Stranraer include Swan Inn, Custom House, Arkhouse Inn, The Pub and The Grapes.
- North West Castle Hotel, Royal Cres DG9 8EH, ☏ . This used to be the grand hotel for ferry passengers, but these nowadays bypass Stranraer, so its status, glitter and cleaning schedules are fading into history. How long can its chandeliers, spa and curling rink survive? B&B double from £90.
- 1 Glenapp Castle, Ballantrae, Girvan KA26 0NZ (11 miles north of Stranraer off A77), ☏ . Opulent Victorian pile, great comfort, service and dining. B&B double from £350.
- 2 Knockinaam Lodge, Portpatrick DG9 9AD, ☏ . Victorian lodge with 10 rooms, lovely out-of-the-way spot with fine restaurant. B&B double from £350.
- 3 North Rhinns Camping, Glengyre Cottage, Leswalt DG9 0RG, ☏ . Campsite open May-Oct. Also has a few spaces for campervans, but no caravan pitches. Dogs welcome. Tent £20.
As of July 2021, Stranraer town and Cairnryan ferry port have 4G from EE, O2 and Vodafone, and a mobile signal from Three.
There is no land-based mobile service on the ferries. Switch off in case your phone latches onto the ferry company Wifi - they will be delighted to connect you at international rates.
It's either east towards Dumfries and Carlisle, north via Ayr towards Glasgow, or hop on a ferry to Northern Ireland.