Signposts for Wigtown, Scotland's National Book Town and the cycle route on a country lane.

Birth of a Book Town

In the mid-1990s, it was suggested that a ‘book town’ on the model of Hay-on-Wye would be a good way to help regenerate a community in Scotland. Six small towns with varying economic needs submitted bids. Half were from Dumfries & Galloway – Gatehouse of Fleet, Wigtown and Moffat. The others were Dalmellington, Dunblane and Strathaven.  An international panel chose Wigtown.


Old map image showing where Wigtown is situated in Dumfries and Galloway.
Old photo of the side entryway to No. 11 North Main St. currently home of the Wigtown Festival Company.
Old front view photo of no. 11 North Main St. Wigtown, current home of the Wigtown Festival Company.

Before the Book Town

The former county town of Wigtownshire had been at its lowest ebb. There were many empty and run-down properties, and the almost derelict County Buildings on the town square were threatened with demolition.

Wigtown then had one of the highest levels of unemployment in Scotland, but the town boasted a beautiful setting and a rich history. 

Old photo of Lower Vennel Street, currently The Smiddy self-catering accommodation.
Wigtown County Buildings covered in scaffolding during a renovation. Work was carried out and completed in 2003.
The shift in spirit was palpable from the day the Book Town Committee announced, from the upstairs window of Machars Action, that Wigtown had been selected as Scotland's National Book Town.

 - Operational Director, Anne Barclay

Regeneration through books

In 1998 the new Scottish Parliament acknowledged Wigtown as Scotland’s National Book Town, and in the same year the first book festival took place. Find out more about Wigtown Book Town and its booksellers:

When Wigtown Book Town began, there were 83 properties for sale in Wigtown. Today there are four. Wigtown is now a haven for book lovers, with seventeen bookshops and related businesses and year-round literary events.

Old side view photo of no.11 North Main St, Wigtown. The building is run down and derelict.
Current side view photo of no.11 North Main St, Wigtown, current home of the Wigtown Festival Company.
People gathered on a sunny day in Wigtown town gardens during Wigtown Book Festival. A pop up cocktail bar is serving drinks, people are eating at the picnic benches.
A man is standing outside a bookshop in Wigtown browsing through various books for sale.
No.11 North Main St, Wigtown, home of the Wigtown Festival Company. People standing outside and talking in the sunshine during the Wigtown Book Festival. Young child entering the doorway with a piece of paper in her hand.
A gathering of Wigtown Festival Company staff, trustees, volunteers and Wigtown booksellers standing in front of the Mercat Cross in Wigtown, holding books and silver balloons to celebrate twenty five years as Scotland's National Book Town.

Wigtown Book Town at 25

On 16th May 1993, Wigtown Book Town celebrated its silver anniversary.

From booksellers to original Book Town Committee members, 25 people who have been influential to Wigtown's success gathered to celebrate and look back.

Read More

From the original Book Town bid to the present day. Watch Wigtown transform from a struggling town to a thriving tourist destination.

A view over house roof tops of the County Buildings, Wigtown, Scotland's National Book Town. Wigtown bay and the hills in the distance.
Wigtown is held up to the rest of Scotland as an example of how to reinvigorate a regional economy.

John Walsh, The Independent