and Tracks of Ayrshire
AND OTHER TRANSPORT
this chapter we will take a look at what sort of traffic
there was on the roads and what the roads would have
looked like. The Turnpike Age was of course the great
age of coaching and these coaches would have been a
prominent sight on the roads at that time, not least
the Royal Mail. Just as prominent would have been the
toll points where people would have grudgingly paid
what seemed to them to be exorbitant charges. Apart
from the toll keepers and the road builders, it would
also have been common to see associated trades such
as wagon making and innkeeping.
better roads and the improved economy led to numerous
carriers setting up in business and most towns and villages
had carts and wagons travelling frequently to the larger
towns, particularly on market days. Farmers also were
more prosperous and could afford carts to carry their
produce to market. It was also the period of the industrial
revolution that resulted in considerable traffic as
raw materials like limestone and coal were exploited
and new industries developed. Other sights on the roads
at this time would have been large groups of cattle
being driven to market and of course ordinary people.
weekly post had been established between Scotland and
Ireland in 1662 and used the main route south to Portpatrick.
In 1787 the Post Office had instituted a daily coach
service between Glasgow and Ayr, replacing horseback
deliveries. After 1820 this was extended to Portpatrick.
The route was Kingswell, Fenwick, Kilmarnock, Ayr, Maybole,
Girvan and Ballantrae. The Reverend Lawson remembered
as a child the excitement of the mail coach with its
guard in a flaming red coat and the stirring bugle calls.
(1) (see here
for examples of coach horn calls) The Royal Mail was
exceptionally fast: Kilmarnock 7.15 pm (with a break);
Ayr 9.15 pm; Maybole 10.30 pm, Kirkoswald 1045 pm, Girvan
11.30 pm. It was superseded in 1850 by a steamship service
and then by the railway.
the Mail Coach, the Post Office used other coaches and
indeed local carriers and sometimes delivered on horseback.
In this way even small villages were included. Taking
daily links between the larger towns for granted, it
is interesting to see the less important links for they
imply regular journeys by riders. Barr was linked to
Girvan three times a week and Colmonell had a daily
delivery from Ballantrae. Dailly, Kirkmichael, Kirkoswald,
Straiton and Crosshill were served from Maybole. Beith
had deliveries from Dalry and Kilbirnie, and Kilbirnie
had them from Beith but not Dalry.
letters were taken to and from Ayr by the local carrier
each week. Muirkirk received mail from Kilmarnock and
from England and the south by way of Douglas. New Cumnock
was served both by Old Cumnock and Sanquhar, and Ochiltree
by Cumnock. Tarbolton received mails from Kilmarnock
but Failford, Stair and Joppa near Coylton had no service.
There were no post offices in Dundonald or Symington.
was a rapid development of coach travel at this time.
Apart from the references in the NSA, Pigot's Directory
of 1837 (2)
gives us a complete picture of the routes and
timings and indeed the names of the coaches. It also
lists the numerous carriers who went to the small towns.
the Royal Mail, two other coaches ran each day from
Ayr to Glasgow and one to Edinburgh through Kilmarnock,
Galston, Newmilns and Darvel. Market coaches ran to
Ayr on Tuesdays and Fridays from Girvan, Maybole, Dalmellington,
Ochiltree, Cumnock, Irvine and Troon. Dailly was served
on Fridays. Damellington also had the Dumfries coach
that ran three times a week. There was a daily omnibus
was on the daily Glasgow - Carlisle run that took in
Mauchline, Catrine and Old and New Cumnock. There were
cars on Fridays (market day) to Newmilns and Symington
and a daily coach from Glasgow to Ardrossan through
Irvine, Kilwinning and Saltcoats. There were also daily
runs to Troon and Symington.
had two coaches running to Glasgow each day through
Kilwinning, Dalry, Beith and Paisley and two to Irvine
and Kilmarnock. An omnibus also ran to Kilmarnock each
day. Irvine had a daily coach to Glasgow through Stewarton,
Dunlop and Barrhead and a car to Ayr on Tuesdays, Thursdays
is noteworthy that there were no coaches to Largs or
Greenock, nor to Muirkirk or Kilbirnie or villages in
Carrick like Straiton and Barr. The Newton Stewart routes
from Girvan and by way of the Nick O' the Balloch were
not in use by coaches at that time.
Travel times are quite interesting. When compared with
today of course they are slow but not that slow. One
can still take an hour between Ayr and Cumnock on a
bad day as compared to the three hours it took on the
Independent in 1837, although the usual journey time
is 30 minutes. Kilmarnock to New Cumnock was 3½ hours,
a journey done in 35 minutes today. The Cumnock bypass
certainly helped in this as today's traffic would take
a considerable time to get through Cumnock and Auchinleck.
to Kilmarnock took 1 hour 15 minutes; this is about
25 minutes in today's times. The Edinburgh coach, the
Independent took a further 45 minutes to Galston and
a further half hour to Newmilns. This can be done is
15-20 minutes today. Kilmarnock to Irvine was one hour
and a further hour to Saltcoats. Thanks to the dual
carriageways these journeys can now be done in about
10 and 15 minutes respectively, 25 minutes in total.
Saltcoats to Kilwinning was 30 minutes, then an hour
to Dalry and a further hour to Beith.
The names of the coaches are quite romantic: the Independent,
the Robert Burns, the Fair Trader, The Union and the
Ayrshire Lass being some of them. We have today an overly
romantic view of coach travel as shown by the Christmas
cards depicting coaching inns. Travel in the turnpike
days was definitely better than before but it was still
uncomfortable and tedious. There were complaints about
coaches being overloaded with passengers and luggage,
and being driven "furiously or incautiously, to the
danger and alarm of the lieges" as an Act of 1823 has
it. For those travelling outside it was miserably cold
as well as dangerous - not a few fell off the coach.
In winter there was always the possibility of being
stranded in a snowstorm. The Ayr Advertiser of 1827
relates how 6 coaches were stranded in a great snowstorm
where drifts were as deep as 20 feet.
were now numerous types of vehicles available to individuals
with the money available to pay for them. Their names
are romantic: examples are phaetons, cabriolets, landaus,
gigs, chariot, berlin, calash, chaise and chaine (see
Apart from the long distances now available to coach
travellers, the individual could now travel a considerable
distance in comfort.
detailed in Pigot's Directory, there was an extensive
network of routes used by carriers that reached to all
parts of the county. Kilmarnock had carriers to 27 towns
and villages, folowed by Ayr with 24. Irvine and Muirkirk
had 7 each.
Kilmarnock there were services more or less every day
to the Irvine Valley towns, to Troon, Irvine, Ayr, Stewarton,
Mauchline and Cumnock, and Glasgow and Paisley. Every
week there were three runs to Tarbolton and two to Catrine,
Newmilns, Saltcoats and Ochiltreee. There were weekly
runs to Beith, Dunlop, Crosshill, Girvan, Maybole and
New Cumnock as well as Edinburgh and Castle Douglas.
Newton Stewart had one every fortnight.
had links most days to Glasgow, Kilmarnock, Maybole
and Cumnock. The majority of the other links seem to
have been on market days (Tuesdays and Fridays) to Catrine,
Crosshill, Dailly, Dalmellington, Dalrymple, Irvine,
Mauchline, Maybole, Ochiltree, Saltcoats, Straiton,
Troon and Tarbolton. There were weekly carts on other
days to Crosshill, Girvan and Patna. The long distance
links were to Paisley, Edinburgh, Kirkcudbright, Moniave,
Sanquhar and Stranraer.
the north of Ayrshire, Largs had weekly carts to Glasgow
and Paisley and to Irvine and Saltcoats. There were
two weekly carts to Greenock. West Kilbride had daily
links to Saltcoats and a weekly journey to Glasgow.
Kilwinning had two carts a week to Glasgow and Paisley
and a daily connection with Saltcoats. Saltcoats and
Stevenston had daily links to West Kilbride, Irvine
and Ardrossan; there were three connections a week with
Glasgow and two with Kilmarnock. Dalry only had two
weekly carts to Glasgow, and Kilbirnie had one. There
was a better service for Beith with links to Glasgow,
Paisley, Greenock, Stewarton, Kilmarnock, Largs and
Saltcoats. Stewarton had two runs to Glasgow and Paisley
each week and a daily service to Kilmarnock. Irvine
had the same links plus two carts each day to Saltcoats
and Ardrossan, a twice weekly service to Ayr and a weekly
journey to Greenock. Only the Royal Mail coaches ran
had carts to Mauchline, Cumnock, Ochiltree, Ayr, Kilmarnock
and Glasgow twice a week. There was a weekly connection
to Edinburgh. Cumnock had carts going to Kilmarnock
5 times a week, 4 to Ayr, and 3 to Dumfries, Sanquhar
and Glasgow. There was a weekly connection to Edinburgh.
New Cumnock had slightly fewer connections to the same
towns, along with Paisley but there was nothing to Edinburgh.
Ochiltree had carriers to Ayr, Glasgow and Muirkirk.
Catrine had carts to Glasgow and Kilmarnock each week,
market links to Ayr and two journeys to Muirkirk each
Newmilns and Darvel, carts ran 3 times a week to Glasgow
and Kilmarnock and once a week to Strathaven. Galston
had the same service to Glasgow and daily connections
Girvan had weekly carts to Ayr and Maybole and Ballantrae,
Glasgow and Stranraer. Dalrymple had market journeys
to Ayr as did Barr, Straiton, Crosshill and Dailly.
A cart went from Crosshill to Glasgow by way of Kilmarnock
every Monday. Likewise carts went from Dailly and Barr
but only every fortnight.
Kirkoswald had runs to Glasgow and Ayr each week as
did Maybole with an additional cart going to Girvan
twice a week. Besides its connections to Ayr, Dalmellington
had two carriers going to Glasgow and to Castle Douglas.
Likewise Straiton had carriers passing through twice
a week as they travelled between Glasgow and Newton
Stewart. Tarbolton had weekly links to Ayr, Glasgow
What is almost as interesting as the services are those
places that had no carriers. There was nothing for Ballantrae
or Colmonell or for Fenwick. Dalry and Kilbirnie had
no connection with any other town in Ayrshire, only
Glasgow; and Kilwinning was hardly any better with its
links to Saltcoats and Glasgow. Largs and West Kilbride
also had poor road links but in the case of Largs there
were daily steam packets to Ardrossan, Ayr, Greenock
and Glasgow. Troon and Ardrossan also had excellent
links by water.
coaches and carts, the packman or cadger had been an
essential part of trade since the middle ages. Cadgers
were itinerant salesmen who travelled either on foot
or with pack horses touring the villages and fairs with
an assortment of goods that the local housewife would
otherwise have difficulty in obtaining. There is still
the odd Cadger's Lane or Loan, here and there, for example
in Hurlford. There was a Cadgerhole on the Carsphairn
road over the border in Dumfrieshire that hints at their
hard life and that they probably had favourite stopping
places. A John Stirling was the last of the pack-horsemen
to stop at Stewarton on his trips from Glasgow to Ayrshire.
He led 6 white horses in train. The leading horse had
a bell the sound of which the others followed.
had a Cadger's Fair where tinkers, horse dealers and
the like were allowed into the town once a year to hold
a market. It also had races through the town but a local
minister campaigned against this and it was stopped
colourful sight would have been groups of soldiers on
the march. The Glasgow-Portpatrick road was intensively
used by the military on their way to Ireland. The Reverend
R. Lawson in his book about Girvan quotes references
from the Town Council Minute Book of 1785 - 1836 that
illustrates the amount of military traffic using the
These include mention of carts for sick soldiers and
for baggage, and "up-put" for soldiers on the march.
road was also used extensively by Irish immigrants travelling
to Glasgow on foot or in search of farm work. The influx
of Irish in the 1850s in the Famine years must have
been considerable. Although made at a later date, some
idea of how they were viewed can be gained from a quotation
from around 1900: the Portpatrick Road "might be called
the road from Dublin to Glasgow, which is sufficient
in itself, we suppose, to account for the great number
of vagrants who infest it." (6)
was of course impossible for the coaches to compete
with railways and as soon as a line was built the coaches
went out of business. An indication of when this happened
is given by the dates for the various railway services.
first alternative to travel on the turnpikes was the
canal planned to link Glasgow, Paisley and Ardrossan.
By 1813 the stretch to Johnstone was completed and carried
a fair amount of traffic and passengers. It was intended
to take it as far as Ardrossan but there was a delay
in raising money and by that time it was clear that
building a railway line would be a better option.
1840 the railway from Glasgow to Ayr was completed.
This is the present day line through Beith, Dalry, Kilwinning,
Irvine, Troon, etc. Because of difficult topography
Kilmarnock had to make do with 5 connecting coaches
a day from Irvine until 1843 when a branch from Dalry
was opened. There was a horse drawn waggonway from Kilmarnock
to Troon that was converted into a railway line in 1846.
route to the south was open by 1850 when an extension
from Kilmarnock to Horsecleugh near Cumnock was linked
to an extension northward from Dumfries. As this was
in competion with the Carlisle to Beattock route there
was a need for a faster line between Kilmarnock and
Glasgow and this was built via Kilmaurs, Stewarton and
Dunlop by 1873.
1856, Maybole was linked to Ayr and then to Girvan by
1860. The eventual extention to Portpatrick for the
Irish traffic took until 1870 to complete. A line to
Ballantrae was mooted but never built but it is interesting
to see that there was lively competition at this time
between the Caledonian and the Glasgow and South West
companies who used the roads to cart the fish caught
in the herring season to Girvan and Stranraer respectively
- 100 horses were used on the Girvan trip.
Numerous branch lines were opened over the years bringing
more and more towns and villages onto the network. Auchinleck
and Muirkirk were linked in 1848, Galston and Newmilns
to Kilmarnock by 1850, and Ayr and Mauchline in 1870.
Dalmellington had been linked to Ayr in 1856. A branch
from Annbank to Cronberry was opened in 1872 and then
linked to the Dalmellington line in the same year.
north, Kilmarnock was linked to Irvine and in 1878 a
branch from Ardrossan to West Kilbride was opened. This
was extended to Largs by 1885.
travel by rail being faster, cheaper and more comfortable
the turnpikes were reduced to taking local traffic and
were becoming more uneconomic. Even then enterprising
coach proprietors delayed the inevitable by arranging
coaches that would connect with trains and take passengers
to outlying places. Thus in 1850 a coach left the rail
terminus at New Cumnock for Dunfries and the Hero left
Ayr for Wigton once the Glasgow train arrived. It went
via Girvan and Barrhill and cost 15/-inside and 10/-
outside. There was a coach to Girvan via Kirkoswald
and another via Dailly; and three to Dalmellington and
Patna, Ochiltree and Joppa and Straiton and Crosshill
from the effect of the railways there was a growing
reform movement to abolish tolls and the statute labour
system and replace them with a fairer and more efficient
system. This led to the setting up of a Commission to
report on the situation which it did in 1859. In this
report, details are given of the roads in Ayrshire at
that time and the opinions of witnesses as to what should
shall look at this report in the next section, and then
in the following section at the great changes that took
place with the passing of an Act in 1878 that abolished
the turnpike and statute labour systems, after which
the roads were taken over by the new Ayr County Council
Douglas, R Lawson of Maybole, 1831-1907, AANHS,
1978 (see under Early Reminiscences)
Pigot's Directory of 1837, reprinted as No.7 in
Local History Series, GC Book Publishers, Wigton, 1998
3. J Mackay, Kilmarnock,
Alloway Publishing, Darvel, 1992
J House, Stewarton, Stewarton Bonnet Guild, Kilmarnock,
Rev. R Lawson, Places of Interest about Girvan, J &
R Parlane, Paisley, 1892
Rev. K Hewat, A Little Scottish World, Kilmarnock
John Thomas (Revised Alan J S Paterson), Regional History
of the Railways of Great Britain, Vol. 6, Scotland,
David & Charles, 1984, pps. 112- 142
Ian M Mackintosh, Old Troon and District, 1969, 1972