Ship Inn History

The Ship Inn has been a hostelry since 1794. Renamed The Anwoth Hotel in 1908, it remained so until 2005 when our predecessors Jim and Helen Stewart sympathetically renovated the hotel and returned it to its original name.

One of the most famous residents at the Inn was Dorothy Sayers, who wrote the novel ‘Five Red Herrings’ while staying here on holiday. Gatehouse of Fleet and the surrounding area provide the backdrop for her classic whodunit mystery, and guests can trace many of the novel’s settings within the local area. The town has also been used as a location for a number of films, including the cult classic The Wickerman.

Back in 1794, when the Ship Inn first opened its doors, Gatehouse of Fleet was a bustling harbour town with four cotton mills as well as a brewery, soap factory, tannery, brickworks and brass foundry. Up to 150 ships used the town’s harbour, Port Macadam, and the town was even known for a while as the Glasgow of the South. The town’s population at that time was double what it is now, and the Ship Inn was one of two hostelries in the village.

Over time the industries closed and the population shrank, and nowadays Gatehouse of Fleet is a very picturesque, quiet village. The Mill on the Fleet is the only remaining mill, and this historic building is now a visitor centre housing very informative displays about the local area and its history.

For more information about the history of the town, see

Local History

Gatehouse of Fleet itself only dates back to the mid-1700s. Initially just a staging post on the route to Ireland, the town developed after the entrepreneur James Murray of Broughton built his mansion, Cally House, in 1765. However, there is evidence that the area has been inhabited since prehistoric times, with the sites at Cairnholy and Trusty’s Hill Fort providing fascinating glimpses into the past. The Pictish stone carvings known as the De’il’s Specs (Devil’s Spectacles) at Trusty’s Hill Fort are particularly unusual in this part of Scotland and well worth a look.

For more information about this unusual prehistoric fort, see

Also in the local area are Cardoness Castle, the 15th century, six storey tower house of the McCullochs, and the roofless old kirk at Anwoth. Cardoness Castle is remarkably well preserved, and visitors are able to climb the narrow staircase within the tower.

The views out over the Fleet Bay from the battlements are well worth the climb. Anwoth Kirk is also worth visiting. Dating from the 12th century, the kirk sits in a peaceful spot and has some fascinating tomb stones.

Fans of The Wickerman will recognise the kirk from some of the most iconic scenes in the film, and the schoolhouse from the film also sits close by.

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