227km (141 miles) SW of Edinburgh; 13km (8 miles) SW of Stranraer; 156km (97 miles) SW of Glasgow; 129km (80 miles) W of Dumfries
Until 1849, steamers sailed the 34km (21 miles) from Donaghdee, in Northern Ireland, to Portpatrick, which became a "Gretna Green" for the Irish who wanted to marry quickly. Couples would land on Saturday, have the banns called on Sunday, and marry on Monday.
Today, you go to Portpatrick not because of its wealth of sights, although the Logan Botanic Gardens is worth the detour from Stranraer; you go, instead, because it's a major refueling stop for those driving along the Mull of Galloway. Portpatrick captures the flavor of an old Scottish fishing port as few other towns do. It's a land of cliffs and rugged seascapes, with a lighthouse here and there and even a bird reserve.
Hikers come because Portpatrick is the beginning of one of the greatest long-distance footpaths in Scotland, the Southern Upland Way. Starting here, the 341km (212-mile) jaunt goes all the way to the Cockburnspath on the eastern coast of Scotland. Along the way, this path traverses the Galloway Forest Park and other scenic attractions of southern Scotland. Of course, very few have the time or the stamina for the entire hike. But you can enjoy one of the least-challenging stretches, going all the way from Portpatrick to Castle Kennedy, some 12km (7.5 miles).