Dumfries and Galloway

©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland


Formerly known as Macherie, the village of Cairnryan in Dumfries and Galloway lies on the east side of Loch Ryan, 5 miles (8 km) north of Stranraer. The Dutch-style Lochryan House was built in 1701 by the Agnew family in the same year that the settlement was created a burgh of barony. Taking advantage of naturally deep water, the modern port was developed during the Second World War as an emergency harbour, known as Military Port No.2, when the ports of the South of England came within the range of German bombers. Completed in 1943 and, although it never worked at full capacity, Cairnryan was point of arrival for many of the American GIs who came to Britain prior to D-Day. In 1943, parts of the famous Mulberry Harbour used during the Normandy landings were made here and remnants of these can still be found on the beach to the north. Immediately after the war vast quantities of unused munitions (including bombs, shells, mines, bullets and nerve gas) arrived here by rail and left the port for dumping at sea. The military left in 1959 but a ferry link was established linking with Larne in Northern Ireland in the early 1960s. The terminal was bought by Atlantic Steam Navigation Company in 1964, and this company and the terminal were acquired by European Ferries (Townsend Thoresen) in 1973 and then by P&O in 1986. The aircraft carriers HMS Eagle and Ark Royal were broken up in Cairnryan's ship-breaking yard in the 1970s. Stena Line moved their ferry operations from Stranraer to a new deep-water facility just to the north of Cairnryan in 2011.

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