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Roads and Tracks of Ayrshire

Back (Turnpike and Statute Labour Roads in 1859)




Roads and Bridges (Scotland) Act 1878

Local Government (Scotland) Act 1889

County Road Board


Ayr District

Beith and Largs District

Girvan District

Irvine District

Kilmarnock District

Mauchline District

Maybole District

Roads Legislation

Life on the Roads

Text only file



New administrative arrangements were made for roads when the turnpike system ended. As we saw, changes were needed for although the turnpike system had led to enormous progress in less than 100 years, there was a marked decline in the state of the roads in the mid-1800's with the growth of the railway system. There had also been widespread dissatisfaction with both the turnpike and statute labour systems, a situation so thoroughly investigated by the 1859 Commission. Although it took until 1878, many of the recommendations of this Commission were incorporated in the new Act of that year.


Roads and Bridges (Scotland) Act 1878

The two major pieces of legislation that affected roads were the 1878 Roads & Bridges Act and the Local Government (Scotland) Act of 1889 that re-organised local government. The 1878 Act abolished the turnpikes and statute labour and Section 11 placed the management and maintenance of highways in counties in a County Road Trust, and in burghs in burgh councils. This continued until 1889, when the 1889 Act was introduced.

The main duties imposed by the Act were making up a list of roads, highways and bridges; abandoning and adopting roads; closing off abandoned highways; selling off tollhouses; managing and repairing the roads and constructing new roads and bridges. To help in this it allowed for the lifting of materials and the dumping of waste. It is interesting that it incorporated some provisions from the General Turnpike Act of 1831. These included the removal of timber, stone, dung, rubbish etc from the road; the watering of a road (dust was a major problem before roads were sealed); the fencing of any hole dug near a road; the prohibition of gates opening into a road; the requirement of wagon owners to paint their name and address on the vehicle; and the pruning of hedges.

As mentioned, the 1878 Act required a list of roads to be prepared. It was 100 pages in length and gave the above details by parishes within Districts. The districts were Ayr, Maybole, Irvine, Girvan, Kilmarnock and Mauchline. It gave the individual roads in each parish along with their lengths, the location of tollhouses, and of metal magazines where the road metal was stored.

The following example from Dreghorn parish shows the style of entry:

Holmsford Road - From the boundary between the Parishes of Dreghorn and Irvine, at Bridge over Annick Water, near Dreghorn Railway Station, to the Boundary between the Parishes of Dreghron and Dundonald, at Holmsford, 0 Miles 4 Furlongs 0 Yards. Bridges - Over Annick Water, at Dreghorn Railway Station. Jointly with Irvine Parish. Over Irvine Water, near Holmsford. Jointly with Dundonald Parish.

Details of roads and bridges for Beith parish as they appeared in the 1878 list. Click for larger images.


One rather attractive feature of the old system was that each road had a name, rather than the uninspiring C101's and unclassifieds of today. Examples are Hallowchapel Road, Colmonell; Cranberrymoss Road, Kilwinning; Darkpath Road, Craigie and the Burning Hills Road, Kirkoswald.  Bridges, however, retain their old names including the interestingly named Sinking Bridge on the A713 between Ayr and Dalmellington.

The mileage for each District was as follows:


Parish Roads
  Miles Furlongs Yards Miles Furlongs Yards Miles Furlongs Yards
Beith & Largs  



Local Government (Scotland) Act 1889

The overall structure of local government that was set up under the 1889 Act was as follows: (1)

1. Town Councils

2. Royal Burghs

Parliamentary Burghs

Police Burghs (including Burghs of barony and regality)

They were responsible for public streets, roads and bridges within the burgh, although under the 1878 Act (Section 47) burghs with a population under 10,000 could pass this over to the County. An Act in 1903 required a register of streets to be prepared and it is interesting to note that it allowed the placing of fencing for safety purposes, and the placing of posts in the carriageway for crossings. As an aside, a pedestrian crossing was installed in London in 1878. This had light signals operated by gas but it blew up on its first day of operation.

3. County Councils

These took on the functions of the Commissioners of Supply so far as they affected roads and bridges, and took over the powers of the County Road Trusts formed under the 1878 Act.  A County Road Board of thirty members was to be set up.

4. District Committees

So far as roads are concerned, if a county contained more than six parishes, or if it was desired, there was a requirement to set up District Road Committees. In Ayrshire there were four District Committees dealing with highways, viz. Northern, Kilmarnock, Ayr, Carrick. Each committee had representatives from the County, from the parish councils, and from those burghs that had transferred their responsibilities for roads and bridges to the County Council.

5. Parish Councils

They could make representations to District Committees or the County Council on obstructions to rights of way, and the repair and maintenance of public ways that were not roads.

6. Standing Joint Committee This approved capital works, and works that involved the raising of loans.

Other parts of local government which had no input to roads were the Commissioners of Supply, the Education Authority, the District Board of Control and the Distress Committee.


County Road Board

The County Road Board was set up on 13 February 1890 and the first meeting held on 1st March 1890. (2) The first task was to decide on administrative districts and membership for each of the sub-committees. Voting took place on two proposals:

a) 6 districts Ayr Irvine Mauchline Beith and Largs Kilmarnock Carrick

b) 4 districts Northern Kilmarnock Ayr Carrick

along with an amendment proposing 5 districts viz. Ayr, Kilmarnock, Cumnock, Southern, Northern.

The second option was chosen, i.e., 4 districts. Each of the sub-committees had 7 members plus the Convenor and the Marquis of Ailsa as the Chairman of the late board.

He was chosen to be the Chairman of the new Board. The next meeting was taken up mostly with financial matters. There is, however, an interesting complaint that the Renfrew Roads Trustees had taken road metal from Carling, Auchenharvie and Crosshouse quarries and damaged the land nearby. They found no evidence to support this claim.

There is also a long report on a claim for damages from a Mr Rennie who had been in an accident. Mr Rennie, who travelled the county with groceries and hardware had crossed a culvert and stopped at a gate a bit farther on (57 feet) on a hill. When one of the boys who was with him opened the gate the horse started to back away and could not be stopped. The horse, Mr Rennie and the cart fell over the bridge into the stream, which happened to be in flood.

Rennie claimed that as there were no parapets he was entitled to compensation for injuries to himself and the horse, and damages to the cart and the goods. Perhaps surprisingly, the Board paid 17.10.0 in compensation.

The Board continued in existence up to 1930 when it was replaced by the Highways Committee and carried out the usual duties connected with the construction and maintenance of roads as detailed above.


The following section details roads which were removed from or added to the list of public highways during the life of the Road Board, i.e., up to 1930. (3) Some very short lengths of country roads (generally less than 50 metres) have not been included nor have streets in towns because of the large numbers of these. It is therefore reasonably comprehensive and gives a good overview of what roads were built and what roads were upgraded from the 1880's onwards. As in the source document, distances are given in yards.


Largs - no entriesKilbirnieBeith - no entriesDunlopStewartonFenwickLoudounGalstonSornMuirkirkAuchinleckMauchlineKilmarnockKilmaurs - no entriesDreghorn - no entriesIrvine - no entriesKilwinningDalryStevenstonArdrossanWest Kilbride - no entriesCumbraes - no entriesDundonaldRiccartonCraigie - no entriesSymingtonMonkton and Prestwick - no entriesOld Cumnock - no entriesNew Cumnock - no entriesDalmellingtonStraiton - no entriesBarr - no entriesBallantrae - no entriesColmonell - no entriesGirvan - no entriesDailly - no entriesKirkoswaldKirkmichael - no entriesMayboleDalrymple - no entriesCoyltonOchiltree - no entriesStair - no entriesTarbolton - no entriesAyr - no entriesSt Quivox - no entriesNewton-on-Ayr - no entries
Note: Not all parishes have entries


Ayr District

A new road, some 520 yards in length was built in 1885 from Hillhead on the Cumnock Road, to Coylton Manse. A short stretch of 385 yards was built in 1886 from the Craigens of Kyle Road, past Kerse Tilework, to the Littlemill Road.

A new road of 1 mile 310 yards was built in 1922 from Patna Station, on the Ayr - Dalmellington Road. It ran to the east.


Beith and Largs District

One interesting feature of the returns for this district was that they gave the area of the land and houses for the tolls. Thus Burnhouse Toll on the Lochlibo Road was 20'2" x 16'6". Bunswynd Toll on the Kersebridge Road was 6.805 square poles and the house was 32'4" x 19'.

In 1899 a one mile road (Windyedge Road) was added. It ran from near Burntounges to Baidland.

In 1896 a new road, 7 furlongs long (the Halket Road), was built between the Duniflat and Bradlie Roads.

There is an interesting reference in 1921 to new roads in the Garden City, Kilbirnie reflecting the town planning ideas of the time.

For the 1878 list of roads and bridges for Beith parish, see here

Girvan District

No mention


Irvine District

Just over half a mile of the Holmbyre Road near Duminastle Castle was removed in 1891. In 1927 1 miles of the Sorbie Road was removed from Stanley Road northwards to a road leading to Craigpark Quarry.

A footbridge across Lugton Stream near the Kilwinning - Lochlibo Road was taken off the list in 1894. A new bridge was built 5 years later.

In 1928, the Stevenston By-Pass was built. It ran for just under one mile from Kellybridge Road east of the town and rejoined it west of Stevenston.


Kilmarnock District


In 1887, a one mile link from the south end of South Beach Road, Troon was made to the Mortonhill Road. The following year a half mile stretch of road towards Barassie was added from the Ayr - Irvine road (via Loans) as far as the railway line. In 1904 a three quarter mile length of road was built from Barassie Station towards Troon.

Also in 1904, just over a mile of a new road, Loch Green South Road, was built from Crosbie Church to the Troon Road, near Monktonhill Farm. Although no date is given, half a mile of road, the Gailes Cart Road, was built from the Ayr - Irvine Road near Newhouse Farm to the Military Camp. A further 560 yards were added in 1935.

Parkthorn New Road, one mile in length, was built from near Parkthorn Farm to the Irvine - Ayr Road near Gateside railway bridge in 1907.


In 1884, three-quarters of a mile of the Catcraig Road was removed from Helenton Mains to Benacres.


In 1908, a 350 yard stretch called Cadger's Road was added from the Mauchline road up to Howie's Brickworks. The name was changed in 1945 to Cessnock Road. Assloss Road ( mile) was added in 1929. It ran from the Glasgow - Kilmarnock Road at Wardneuk Farm via Assloss as far as the Crooksmill Road. This latter road ran from Bringan Mill Ford via Borland House to the main Glasgow road.


Click for larger image Click for rtf file

Details of roads and bridges for Stewarton parish as they appeared in the 1878 list. The first page shows roads as at 1878, the other page shows later entries (rtf file, txt file).

There is mention of a footbridge over the Lugton water near the Lochlibo Road.

In 1927, Clerkland Sidehead road was added. It ran for 1 miles from the Dunlop - Stewarton Road near West Clerkland generally north eastwards past High Goldenberry to Kingston Road.

In the same year, Cutstraw Road, one mile in length, was built from near Kirkland Bridge in Stewarton to near Bogside.




An iron footbridge was built over the Irvine near Struthers Ford in 1885. In 1892 a bridge or culvert over the Mill Lade on Milton Road and a wooden footbridge over the Crawfurdland Stream on Crooksmill Highway (this ran from the Braehead - Grassyards Road over to the Kilmarnock - Flockbridge Road) were added.

Two hundred yards of the Old Glasgow Road from High Fenwick to the cemetery were added in 1908. In 1915, a 1 mile stretch of road was built from the Glasgow road between High and Low Fenwick to join the Stewarton Road near Gainford Farm. Gainhill Road was added in 1927. It ran for over a mile from the Glasgow Road at Townhead via Little Fenwick to the Stewarton Road.

In the list of original roads, the Old Strathaven Road which had been superseded by the turnpike is mentioned. It left this at Ladybrow and went via Laigh Newton before rejoining the newer road. Lime Road was added in 1902. It started just east of the Windy Wizzen (on the A71 near Loudoun Hill) and ran east to the county boundary half a mile away. Two other roads were added in 1904, viz. Lanfine Road from near Cross Tree Farm to Ranaldcoup Bridge (2 miles) and Hollowhill Road from the present A71 southwards towards the county boundary (5 furlongs).

A bridge over the Haymouth Burn on Bullhill Road and one over Burn Anne, again on Bullhill Road were added in 1892.

Gateside Road, I mile in length, was added in 1926. It ran from Loudoun Kirk past Gateside and East Hungryhill Farm to Alton Bridge on the A719. Burnfoot Road was added in 1936 and ran for just over half a mile from Muck's Bridge on Foulpapple Road westwards to Burnfoot Farm and then towards Brocklees Farm.


Mauchline District

That part of the turnpike from Muirkirk to Sanquhar which ran through the parish was removed in 1884. It was impassable and no traffic used it.

Knagshill Road was removed in 1892. It ran for mile from the Auchinleck - Ochiltree road over to the present A76. Commonloch Road was added in 1926. It left the Coal Road a quarter of a mile south west of Common and ran past Stable Row and Ballochmyle Road for mile.

One mile of the Haugh and Syke Road from Haugh Farm to the railway bridge was taken off the list in 1924. There was a ford over the River Ayr at Damhead on this road.

Details of the Sanquhar road are given. Two and three quarter miles (in Muirkirk parish) were impassable. It had belonged to the Cambuslang to Sanquhar Trust. I was told years ago that French prisoners of war from the Napoleonic wars were employed in building this road and that the remains of the bothies where they lived could still be seen beside the road.


The Sanquhar road and a close up of its surface. As Macadam is said to have worked
this road it may be one of the first "modern" roads

A number of roads, all just over a mile in length, were removed in 1891. These were the Auchinlongford Road which ran from the Mauchline - Muirkirk Road, 3 miles east of Sorn to Auchinlongford and Barrshouse; part of Barsavenue Road between Nether Heilar and AuchinlongfordMerklandNether HeilarTemplandshawBrocklarBlacksidend/BlacksideKenstieBogendDippol Burn Bridge 
Map based on 1946 1" OS sheet for Ayr and Kilmarnock. With thanks to Ordnance Survey.
Templandshaw (the stretch between Nether and Mid Heilar was reinstated in 1929); and a mile and a half of the Blindburn and Blacksidend Road between Brocklar and Blacksidend and Blackside Farms. Currently Barsavenue Road is a dead end which leaves the Sorn to Auchinleck road just south of Sorn and runs due east for about three miles.

Another was the Bogend and Kenstie Road which left the A76 a few hundred yards past the Catrine turn-off and looped south of Catrine through Kenstie and Bogend to the Catrine - Lugar Road. There was a ford at Kenstie and part of the road was not made. Heateth Road, also partly unmade, ran from the Dippol Burn Bridge (on the straight stretch of the A76 just before the roundabout at the north end of Auchinleck) over to Sorn Road north of the Academy. A stretch of road, three furlongs in length, to Merkland Farm, on the Sorn -Muirkirk Road was removed. Finally, the Mid - Heilar Road was removed. This linked the Muirkirk Road to the Barsavenue Road via a ford. Part of this road was unmade.



Maybole District

A stretch of one mile was added in 1888. It leaves the A77 at the sewage works a few hundred yards south of Kirkoswald and runs over to the Maybole to Culzean Road (A719).

There is a list of fords in Maybole District. In Barr parish there was one at Dalgarva (1 km east of Barr, NX285941) on the Gregg Road, and fords on the Bannan Road through the Stinchar (5km sw of Barr on B734, NX234914). In Dailly there was one through the Water of Girvan between Old Dailly and Killochan Station, and one through the Killochan Burn on the same road. There was another at Hawkhill Farm Steading (all NS2200). In Kirkoswald there were fords on the Drummochreen Road through the Ghaist Glen Burn near Lochspouts at the boundary with Maybole parish, and two fords near Craigdow Entrance (all NS2805). There was a ford through Milton Burn on the Wellholm Road (just east of Kirkoswald at NS247076), and two on the Corriston Road through the Milton and Merkland Burns (just south of Kirkoswald at NS241072). Near Dinnymuck Farm Steading (halfway between Turnberry and Girvan at NS 204022) there was a ford through the Lady Burn. In Maybole there was a ford through the Capenoch Burn, near Spring garden (3km due south of Maybole at NS300070). A bridge was planned at the time of writing (1883).


Roads Legislation

With the development of the motor vehicle it became necessary to introduce legislation to address the various problems which gradually became apparent.

There was great hostility towards the early motorists even though these were few in number. There were complaints about damage to the roads, dust and speeding. The speed limit was set at 12 mph in 1896 and raised to 20 mph in 1903 although it could be set at 10 mph in towns, as for example in Largs in 1907. The Motor Car Act of 1903 also introduced driving licences and number plates. Road signs were standardised in 1904.

When the 10 mph speed limit for motor cars was introduced, a Marcus Bain who was standing for re-election to the County Council claimed in his manifesto that "the providing of stop watches for the constabulary to check excessive motor-driving was sanctioned on my strong recommendation." (4)

Strawhorn tells of how the police in Cumnock noted the time a motorist left Cumnock and telephoned this to Sanquhar allowing the police there to charge the man with speeding. (5)

Perhaps surprisingly there were no agreed rules of the road in the sense of today's Highway Code - this was not introduced until 1930. Nor were there now obvious measures like road markings, traffic islands or traffic lights. The lack of these along with the rudimentary safety features on vehicles resulted in many road accidents, proportionately much more than today. The newspapers of the day have reports on some of these. Thus the Largs and Millport Weekly News mentions a cycle accident at Inverkip in 1900, a crash near Wemyss Bay in 1921 and a lorry running out of control on Haylie Brae in 1926. In 1909 there was an article on the dangers facing cyclists on the Largs to Dalry hill road. (6)


Life on the Roads

This photo taken north of Mauchline about 1900 gives a good idea of road surfaces before the widespread use of tar in the early 1900's. Photo from the Detroit Publishing Company's Views of Landscape and Architecture in Scotland - see thumbnails on Library of Congress site here.

In dealing with the actual roads it is quite easy to forget what they were like for ordinary people to travel on. Certainly in the late 1800s and the early 1900s many would still have been unsurfaced and dusty in dry hot summers though perfectly good for travelling on, albeit a little bumpy.

Transport was horse drawn with all sorts of carts and carriages, some quite small and capable of a good turn of speed. Some of these would have been tradesmen on a circuit of farms and it would have been common to meet cows and sheep being driven along the roads. In Tarbolton, visiting football teams travelled by wagons (brakes) to Woodside. (7) Before the Great War, injured miners were taken home in a box cart scattered with straw and Ayr County Hospital had a horse-drawn ambulance that served country areas. Carts were also used by locals to take away loads of coal dug from the beds of the River Ayr and the Water of Coyle.

Another common sight was of gypsies. I have been told by someone that he remembers going to Glengall (near Prestwick Circuits factory on the Ayr - Dalmellington Road) on a buggy in the 1920's and seeing a large group of gypsies camped near there. They used old routes for travelling, stopping at favourite locations. A couple of miles down the road at the Dalrymple turn-off the hawthorn hedge on the old road was planted here to stop them camping.

There would have been a lot more people on foot - it was, for example, quite common for school children to walk several miles to their school. The occasional motor car would have provided some diversion and perhaps irritation.

The roads were maintained by road menders, much along the lines of the sketch in John Buchan's 39 Steps. Heaps of stones, road metal, were kept in various locations called metal magazines and the 1878 List of Highways gives their locations. One was at the junction of Cumnock Road and Catrine Road; and was known locally as the site of the "breaking stanes." Mackie tells of a road mender, not too far from here, who because of his slight physique, always found it difficult to break the stones. (8) Some lads on a miner's strike stepped in when he started on a large pile of unbroken stone and reduced it to the required size by the end of the day. "There'll be four yards there," the grateful roadman said to a friend. "It would tak' me a lang while to dae that." Wallace's Cairn near Loudoun Hill was said "to have been much reduced in size by the depredations of the road menders. (9)


1. Whyte, Local Government in Scotland, William Hodge and Co, 1936

2. CO3/8/2/140, held in Ayrshire Archives

3. Taken from entries added to List of the Roads, Highways and Bridges in the County of Ayr prepared under Section 41 of the Roads and Bridges (Scotland) Act 1878

4. Mauchline in Times Past, ed. D I Lyell, Mauchline Burns Club, Countryside Publications, Brinscall, 1986

5. J Strawhorn, The New History of Cumnock, Cumnock Town Council, 1966

6. See Index 1877 - 1937 compiled by Largs and District Historical Society, ed. M B Hall

7. S Hay, Gathered Threads, Tarbolton

8. D Mackie, Ayrshire Village Sketches and Poems, Kilmarnock, 1896

9. John Smith, Prehistoric Man in Ayrshire, London, 1895


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