and Tracks of Ayrshire
Note: Some older photographs are from
the Detroit Publishing Company's Views of Landscape and
Architecture in Scotland - see thumbnails on Library of
Congress site here.
Dalry, Dalrymple, Dalmellington, Dreghorn, Dundonald,
Island of Cumbrae
Kilmarnock, Kilmaurs, Kilwinning, Kirkmichael
Maybole, Monkton and Prestwick, Muirkirk
Stair, Stevenston, Stewarton, Straiton, Symington,
this chapter we will look at roads in each parish. This
will include some reference to any turnpikes that passed
through a parish and to roads within a parish. The Old
and New Statistical Accounts of Scotland (OSA, NSA)
are particularly useful for this. The OSA was written
by local Ministers around 1795 giving an overview of
each parish in a County and contain numerous references
to the roads. The NSA of about 1840, also written by
Ministers, shows how the situation had improved enormously.
Entry after entry refers to the excellent turnpikes
in the parishes and the generally good state of parish
roads. Details are often given of turnpike routes and
of the mail coaches, stage coaches and carriers serving
each town and it clear that a good transport network
was in place. A sign of the great changes brought about
by railways can be seen in the entry for Kilwinning
where several stagecoaches had been withdrawn once the
Glasgow-Ayr railway was opened. In this chapter we will
only pick out references of particular interest.
Maps of the period such as those of Thomson and Ainslie,
published in the 1820's are also very useful. These
show the enormous growth in the local network from that
shown on Roy and Armstrong. One factor in this growth
was the turnpikes themselves as it made sense to link
to them and there are certainly plenty of examples of
side roads and farm tracks joining them. Other factors
were the growth in the economy and the greater efficiency
of the administrative system.
Another useful source is the List of Roads, Highways
and Bridges for the County of Ayr which was published
in 1878. This was when the turnpikes ended and all roads
were taken under the new County Council by 1883. Parish
histories can also be useful as a source of reference
The links will take you to the EDINA site's Statistical
Accounts search page - click on browse scanned pages
to access the parish account.
You can also access the Ayr
volume for the NSA at the Googlebooks site - this has
a search facility.
the time of the OSA
there were only five miles of turnpike. The other roads
to church and market and to lime and coal outcrops were
almost impassable in winter and even a wet summer.
the time of the NSA
there were, apart from the Irvine-Greenock turnpike
that followed the shore, fairly good roads from Ardrossan
and Saltcoats to Dalry.
Love details roads in Auchinleck parish about 1750.
was a ford over the Lugar at Stepends (perhaps a significant
name) which ran by way of the kirk and a clachan to
the Dippol Burn ford at Fordmouth. From the Kirk a road
ran past Waterside House to near Penny Fadzeoch Mill
where there may have been a ford. There was a branch
Cumnock to Muirkirk road was reached by a ford at Holmhead
Farm then by Bello Pass to beyond Boghead. There was
another short stretch of road from the castle to Auchinleck
the late 1700's, Lord Auchinleck in common with other
landowners built new roads when improving his estates.
There was a drive by Langlands through the policies
of Auchinleck New House, and a road from Mains to Gibston
towards the North Drive which led to the Dippol Bridge.
The well known Barony Road was made by him. A nice conceit
was lining it with beech and oak trees (BOswell, after
the family name). He called it the Via Sacra.
His neighbour the Marquis of Bute built roads on his
estates near Cumnock. In 1837 he had a one mile length
of the Ochiltree road rerouted because it passed too
close to Dumfries House.
(2) An Act of 1823 stated that
"a public road shall not be brought within 100 yards
of a gentleman's house nor through his pleasure grounds
without his own consent."
Bridgend, sometime before 1860 there was a sharp left
hand bend on the south side of Auchinleck Burn. The
road was straightened to run between the mill and the
About 1770 the roads were almost impassable in winter
but the parish had 3 turnpike roads by the time of the
OSA, i.e. circa 1795. The OSA
mentions an annual fair for the sale of lambs, and a
quarry of black fire-proof stone near Wallacetown that
was used throughout the area for the building of ovens.
In the NSA,
it is noted that the turnpike to Dumfries (present A70)
was in good condition but remarkably hilly, and that
the Galston road left the turnpike at the present Sorn
Road where there was a toll-bar.
the present day there is a network of roads, east of
Auchinleck, which used to serve quite large mining communities.
With the closing of the mines these places have all
but disappeared and even the roads closed up. They were
Darnconner, Birnieknowe and Common Row. Cronberry used
to be much more populous but it is still on the road
network. The villages and roads can be seen on the earlier
|Burns Cottage, Alloway
there is no mention of roads in the OSA, Ayr as the
county town was at the centre of an extensive network
the writer restates Chalmers (Caledonia) about the "great
Road, leading from Galloway into Ayrshire." The
parish had a Roads Superintendent who kept the roads
in excellent order. Full details of coaches and carriers
David McClure gives the history of two bridges built
by John and James Rutherford of Ayr.
(3) Monkwood Bridge over the
Doon was in Ayr parish just beside the modern bridge
and Drumgirnan Bridge was over the Water of Girvan near
Kilkerran in Dailly parish. The first was part of a
new turnpike which was to replace the earlier route
through Culroy (B724) and was built in 1798 at a cost
of £884.10.0. There were long delays in payment which
well illustrate the considerable financial risk in doing
work of this kind at that time. Both bridges have capstones
carved in the shape of a head.
the winter says there were only a few usable roads in
the whole of Ayrshire prior to the turnpikes. As the
turnpike through the parish was really a through route
there was a need for "cross roads in different directions,
in order to enable them to lead lime in carts," of which
there was plenty in the parish.
the time of the NSA,
three turnpikes totalling eighteen miles in length passed
through the parish, with excellent parish roads branching
out from these. In 1835 a two-horse mail coach replaced
the previous gig. A dairy cattle show started in 1832
was held in Barr, Colmonell and Ballantrae in alternate
years. One can imagine the prize beasts making their
way to these villages when the show was on.
the old coach road "daringly breasting Pinbairn Hill"
between Girvan and Ballantrae which was reckoned to
have been one of the worst roads in Scotland. The new
road went through Kennedy's Pass. He also mentions the
old road ascending Aldons Hill near to the Nick of Daljarrock.
route taken by the Stranraer turnpike was by Ballochdon,
Glendrissock and Glen App. Another road was built to
New Luce, leaving the Stranraer road near the top of
Interestingly, Borland says in this book that
it was the greater use of the motor car which revived
the old turnpike thus implying that many roads were
neglected and in bad condition at this time.
OSA, the Minister argues that a road of about 4½
miles in length from the coal works on the Water of
Girvan to the limestone outcrops in the parish would
allow these to be exploited.
refers to there being only 25 miles of turnpike roads
in a very large parish and to there being no public
mentions the "Great road from Glasgow, by Paisley, to
Irvine, Ayr and Port Patrick" that passed through Beith.
There were 3 coaches a week to Ayr. Local roads were
poor although bridges were adequate.
details of coaches and carts are given and there is
a mention of a Cadgers' Race held each July. The term
is used synonymously with carter rather than the older
meaning of pedlar or pack-horse traveller. After a procession
a race was held, the winner receiving a string of bells
to place around the horse's neck. There were 24 miles
of turnpike and 40 miles of parish roads.
explains the shortcomings of the Statute Labour system
and notes that progress did not take place until this
was converted into money.
writer of the NSA
gives a poetic description of the coast road "having
on the one side the rocky shore and majestic ocean,
and on the other the verdant hills of Carleton and Bennan."
The road along the banks of the Stenchar (stet) with
"its windings amid the most picturesque scenery, and
the beautiful hill of Knockdolian," presented a variety
of enchanting pictures to the eye. Another road, used
by the mail from the south, came from Barrhill on the
Girvan to Newton Stewart road. Barrhill had only recently
sprung up and was the only resting point between these
details of the roads are given in the
NSA. There were 14 miles of turnpikes with gates
at Crosshill, Dykneuk, Broadhead, Potterhill and Dalmacow.
The rent for the first two combined was £239, and for
the others was £145, £30 and £37 respectively. It cost
£30 p.a. to maintain the Ayr - Dumfries road for each
mile, and £6 and £8 for the Dalrymple and Broadhead
were 11 miles 2 furlongs 177 yards of rather poor parish
roads and income from the Statute Labour conversion
was £52.14.2. The roads came under the surveyors for
the Ayr and Mauchline districts. There were also private
roads to farm-steads.
the stagecoach from Old and New Cumnock to Ayr passed
daily, carriers were weekly. Goods were also carried
on the coal carts that went each day to Ayr.
pre-Reformation church of Barnweill. It was once
a separate parish.
(Canmore entry) was once considered to be Roman
but is now thought to be a motte or the remains
of Barnweill castle
says that the condition of the roads was good "considering
the great number of coal and lime carts that are constantly
passing over them."
In 1894, there was a revival of a race at Barnweil which
had last been held 20 years before - there were two
hundred carriages on the hill and road to watch the
account noted that the parish had good roads, there
being 5 miles of turnpike on the north of the river
and 6½ on the south with other turnpikes branching from
these. The Girvan was crossed by three public bridges
and one private bridge; smaller streams also had bridges.
There is mention of only one coach, weekly, between
Girvan and Ayr.
mentioned under Ayr, Drumgirnan Bridge over the Water
of Girvan near Kilkerran was built by John and James
Rutherford of Ayr in 1799.
is made in the OSA
to the good condition of the main roads and the expectation
that the "by-roads" would soon be attended to. There
were 9 bridges close to the village.
says that there were 22 miles of turnpike, and 26½ miles
of parish roads. The parish had 5 tolls although the
Largs Toll was three times more expensive than the others,
charging 6d per cart and 3d per horse. Although the
roads were good, many were "steep" and "ill-directed."
When describing the coaches and carriers in the area
the writer says that bread carts went each day to the
surrounding towns and villages.
He also says that "about 80 years ago, there was nothing
deserving the name of a road in the parish, the intercourse
being chiefly carried on horseback, on cars destitute
of wheels. The roads were consequently mere horse paths,
and from the boggy nature of the low ground, the more
hilly paths were preferred." There were two bridges
over the Garnock and two bridges over the Rye and the
Caaf. He complains about the narrowness of the Garnock
bridges although they were not as steep as they used
to be since the Beith road was built, and deplores the
fact that the ledges (parapets) of some had been "thrown
is just a brief mention in the OSA of the benefits brought
to the parish by good roads.
the time of the NSA,
a carrier went to Ayr twice a week. The mail coaches
to Ireland passed each evening a mile and a half west
of the village but it is not clear if one could stop
them on passing. A reference is also made to the putative
|Centre of Dalmellington. This
whole area has been bridged over - see
roads are not mentioned in the OSA, the writer says
that coal was carried south into Galloway for up to
says that there were 6 bridges over the Doon and about
a dozen over other streams. One bridge, over the Doon,
was 116 years old and another, over the Muck, about
60 years old. He suggests the first roads in the parish
were also about 60 years old. Details of coaches and
carriers are given.
should be made of the villages built by the Dalmellington
Iron Company and others for their workers. These were
sited at various locations in the hills around Dalmellington
but over the years they were closed down and the residents
transferred to Dalmellington, Bellsbank, Polnessan and
The villages were surprisingly large. Waterside had
a population of 1500 and Benquhat 700.
villages and the roads and tracks serving them can be
seen on earlier OS maps. Lethanhill and Burnfoot were
a mile east of Patna - there was no road until 1924,
only a rough track to Burnfoot prior to this. Waterside
was sited on the main road and higher up the hill and
so was not as isolated as the other villages. Craigmark,
one mile north of Dalmellington, was on the old track
to Rankinston - a new village was created for the inhabitants
at Burnton in 1925. Further along the Rankinston track
there was a branch road to Benquhat.
were two small communities on the Dalmellington to Ayr
road north of Patna - Kerse and Tongue Row. East of
Dalmellington there were pockets of housing near Pennyvenie
on the New Cumnock road, and a village at Beoch with
an access road a mile long.
OSA has a brief mention of strolling beggars.
refers to the ford on the road between Dreghorn and
Dundonald. There was a mediaeval stronghold nearby,
probably sited there to monitor movement at the ford.
from a reference to the dangers of quicksand on the
coastal route (cf. Armstrong's map) between Ayr and
Irvine, roads are not mentioned in the OSA.
However there are sufficient references to markets,
fish, coal etc to assume considerable local movement.
says that the three turnpikes that ran through the parish
were in good condition although tolls were expensive.
These turnpikes were Ayr to Irvine, Irvine to Dalmellington
and Kilmarnock to Troon. The parish roads were in fairly
good repair. The writer remarks on the need for a bridge
over the Irvine at the ford near Dreghorn.
the time of the OSA
the parish was well served by roads which made travel
notes that in addition to 9 miles of turnpike to Paisley
and to Neilston there were 14 miles of good parish roads.
As Dunlop is still noted today for cheese making, there
is an interesting reference to cheese cadgers who would
buy from the farmers and take it to outlets in the towns.
Although this trade had shrunk in past years there were
still 14 people in the parish employed in this.
mentions the "great road" from Glasgow to Ayr, by Kilmarnock
as well as good roads to Loudoun, Gulstin (stet), and
Irvine by Kilmaurs. The parish had completed their part
of the road to Stewarton. He relates the story of King
James VI who journeyed this way in the late 1500's losing
his horse in a bog and being appalled by the state of
the road (p.59).
story is repeated in the NSA.
the Annals of Fenwick, Taylor recounts an accident in
April 1842 when a horse ran away with a phaeton through
the village at full speed. Three of the party managed
to jump out but one had to endure the ride as far as
Waterslap where he had to leap from the carriage.
|Lane in Galston
says that the Edinburgh - Ayr Road and the Glasgow -
Dumfries road passed through the village. It also refers
to peat being brought on horseback from Caprington 50
years before, through almost impassable clay roads (p.78).
After speaking about the Roman fort at Loudounhill,
the writer of the
NSA refers to the fact that "the Roman Military
way, which may still be traced on the opposite bank
of the Irvine (i.e. north side), furnishes incontestable
evidence that the parish of Galston has received at
least one visit from the masters of the world."
There were 10 miles of turnpike roads and more than
20 miles of parish roads as well as roads within Lanfine
Estate. Coaches went to Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dumfries,
and carriers went to Kilmarnock each day.
|Girvan c.1900. The bridge may
be the one referred to.
only mention in the OSA is of the Portpatrick road and
there being a want of roads in the parish.
writer of the NSA
says that nine miles of the Portpatrick turnpike ran
through the parish, with good inland roads branching
off in all directions.
had a low wooden bridge still existing in 1894. The
(10) writes of this bridge
that "the very holes in the footway which made it dangerous
to the unwary, were a constant parable to us of the
bridge of life, through which, ever and anon, as in
Mirza's Vision, travellers were dropping to be seen
by us no more." A new iron bridge was built about 1890.
is reference in the OSA
to roads to Kilmarnock, Ayr, Greenock via Kilwinning,
and Glasgow via Stewarton. Statute Labour money was
used for their upkeep but the writer noted that the
3 shillings per household was a burden for poorer people.
There was a "fly" to Glasgow, via Kilwinning, Dalry,
Beith and Paisley 3 times a week, and a stage coach
to Greenock twice a week.
|Road to Cleughearn
Earl of Eglinton built roads on his estate near Irvine
and in fact intended to build a road that would run
through his lands from Eglinton to Cleughearn Lodge
south of East Kilbride. He started this but ran out
of money after the failure of his tournament in 1839
and today only a short stretch near Eaglesham has its
origins in the scheme. (11)
In 1827 the bridge in Irvine was widened to 25'3" and
to 38'4" in 1888. The Ayrshire Roads Act of 1847 had
passed responsibility for maintenance to trustees and
in 1887 this passed in turn to the corporation.
says that little was done to the roads except between
Millport and the ferry to Largs.
By the time of the NSA,
Cumbrae had been transferred to Argyleshire. The only
regularly constructed road was that between Millport
and the ferry but the use of this was being overtaken
by direct sailings from Millport.
the time of the NSA
there were 5½ miles of turnpikes and two good parish
roads, 6½ miles in length. There were 12 bridges. Although
there were regular carriers to Glasgow, Paisley, Beith
and Largs, people had to travel to Beith to pick up
a coach and no conveyances could be hired in the village.
we see a problem with broken parapets for on a "dark
stormy night in the winter of 1811, a native fell over
it, and was carried off by the swollen river and drowned."
The turnpike on the south side of the loch had no bridge
so was impassable after heavy rain, although there was
a wooden bridge for pedestrians.
refers to roads leading to Glasgow and other towns and
to roads made on the Barrowfield estate. There was a
post office which served the neighbouring parishes.
writer of the NSA
says that there were 5 bridges over the Water of Kilmarnock
within the town, and two over the Irvine. The turnpikes
were in good condition and the town was well served
by coaches and carriers. The parish roads were numerous
and were the equal of any in Great Britain and although
"old streets in the town were narrow and inconvenient,
the modern thoroughfares were spacious and handsome."
With regard to narrow streets McKay's reference to a
passenger on a coach lifting a bowl of porridge from
a house is pertinent. (14)
|The Cross, Kilmarnock - now
of floods are quite common in the local literature and
at times have been very severe causing considerable
damage to bridges. Thus McKay tells us that in 1852
a great flood destroyed several bridges in the Kilmarnock
area: 2 stone bridges over the Croilburn were swept
away; as were Dalraith Bridge on Craufurdland Water;
the wooden Duke's bridge near Dean Castle; and two wooden
bridges south of the town centre. There was alarm in
the town centre as the parapets of Townhead bridge were
destroyed and prisoners had to be moved from Flesh Market
Bridge (built in 1779) where they were housed in a prison.
This bridge held the council chambers and some houses.
A lot of the damage was done by a huge boiler which
had been swept away from a factory upstream and crashed
into the bridges.
new bridge in Kilmarnock was built in 1804.
mentions roads from Kilmaurs to Kilmarnock, Irvine via
Cunninghamehead and Perceton, Fenwick, and Ayr via Bushby
and Fairlie Bridge and generally easy travel within
the parish. The writer explains the system of funding
gives an interesting insight into rights of way near
(15) We tend to assume that
rights of way are indicative of old roads which went
from village to village or longer distances. There are
such of course but it is quite common to see a pattern
of short routes of a mile or so radiating from a town.
These, as McNaught shows, were in fact linked to common
says that Kilmaurs had an old ford which had probably
been in use since mediaeval times. There was a steep
incline on each bank down to the ford and this remained
when a bridge was built at the location. In 1848 during
a time of economic hardship the unemployed were used
to raise the level of the road by several feet to lessen
the gradient and remove what had always been seen as
woman was killed in 1826 when during a drought she had
driven onto the river bed in search of water. Unfortunately
the horse bolted and she hit her head on the bridge
and was killed. In 1843, two girls trying to find the
bridge on a stormy December night strayed too near the
river and were swept away.
was also another ford with stepping stones, and a footbridge
was built there in 1824. The Townend bridge was widened
in 1880. He refers to a parish road through Corral Glen
built about 1835.
|An old milestone in the Montgreenan
estate. Sir James Bell bought the estate in 1895
and had a hobby of collecting such milestones -
there are 19 in total - see Ayrshire
History, also Wikipedia
were 4 turnpike roads by the time the OSA
was written. These were funded under the statute labour
system and as the sum raised was sufficient to keep
them in repair, no tolls were levied in the parish.
However these roads were on the margins of the parish
and all other roads were totally neglected. One stretch
of 6 miles to the east was estimated by the writer to
be the worst in Ayrshire.
says that there were 11 miles of turnpikes, along with
parish roads. Since the opening of the railway, the
stagecoach services had gone out of business.
Reverend W Ker gives a useful list of the parish roads
in Kilwinning as they were in 1806.
There were 10 in total, with length
of over 20 miles. The style in which the list was written
can be seen from the entry for road 7, viz. "from the
corner of the Millings Park, where the road turns off
to Blair, past Redstone, Mossculloch, Gatemoorland,
Croseloans and Auchenmade, to the water of the Duisk,
the march of the Beith parish, upwards of five miles."
Kilwinning in 1816 and 1817, unemployment hit many areas.
A voluntary subscription was taken up and the money
used to build footpaths on the Irvine and Dalry roads.
The men were paid 1/- a day and the cost of the two
the time of the OSA
there were no turnpikes in the parish but nearly 20
miles of fine gravel roads made up by the local heritors.
In 1769, a loan had allowed them to build roads straight
away; this was repaid from the Statute Labour conversion
the time of the NSA
there were 26 miles of turnpike and 10 miles of parish
roads, with 5 toll bars. Mr. Reid was the surveyor and
kept the roads in excellent condition. Communications
were quite good with carriers going to places like Ayr
twice a week. A covered cart took passengers to market
days in Ayr.
|Near Turnberry - view to the
south towards Girvan
|Kirkoswald - Souter Johnnie's
says that 40 years previously there was no communication
with Ayr except for a riding post and a foot post once
a week. There were no carriers. At the present time
there was a daily post to Ayr with three carts weekly
between Girvan and Ayr, one of which continued to Glasgow.
In addition there was a carrier each fortnight from
Maybole to Edinburgh. Post horses and chaises could
be obtained at Girvan, Maybole and Kirkoswald and a
diligence ran thrice weekly between Ayr and Portpatrick.
writer mentions the great post road from Ayr to Girvan
which passed through the parish. He refers to the great
number of Irish vagrants and beggars passing along this
road who oppressed the farmers with their "importunate
and violent cravings."
says that the Glasgow to Port Patrick road ran through
the parish. To the north of Largs it had run over the
hills but five years previously a shore road from "Skelmorly"
was opened. This new road as well as three new bridges,
had been funded by a toll at Kelly bridge. The rest
of the parish however had suffered from a want of roads,
the only one kept in repair was that to Brisbane in
the direction of Kilmacolm, at the proprietor's expense.
It is clear that the surplus was being used to reduce
the debts incurred in building the toll roads. Whilst
this was legal it could only be done until the tolls
were self-financing and the writer hoped that this would
happen soon so that the parish could be repaired. The
local people - each family had to pay 3 shillings conversion
money - were very unhappy about the situation.
gives a picturesque description of an annual fair where
dozens of boats from the Highlands would sail over to
trade. The fair attracted people from 40 or 50 miles
had improved by the time of the NSA.
The parish had 13 miles of turnpikes and 11 miles of
parish roads. The writer appreciated the excellent turnpike
to Kilbirnie and Dalry. A parish road had been made
through the Vale of Brisbane up to near Loch Thom. Two
new roads to "Kilburny" and Dalry, and Kilmacolm were
proposed, although they had been talked about for years
and nothing done. Where there were no roads access was
on foot or horse. Mention is made of the water of Nodesdale
and Gogo, the former being a "very impetuous stream"
which often flooded.
|Main Street, Largs
- note the gutter defining the pavement
|Largs from the Red
"Red Road" from Netherhall to Meigle was completed in
1824 and served as the main road to Greenock. The Brisbane
Glen road was started at this time. By 1840 the Kilbirnie
road had been completed and a twice weekly coach service
to Paisley was started.
the south the main road ran past Law Castle (NS211485)
on its way to West Kilbride and from there the road
to Dalry can still be seen with its holloways and parallel
stone dykes. There were tolls at Haylie, Noddsdale Bridge
and Kelly. (17)
| Feature incorporating the old
toll-gate, once in the main street of Darvel
to the OSA,
John Earl of Loudoun had started making roads in the
parish in 1733 and was the first to do so by the statute
labour system. In addition, a bridge was built over
the Irvine . About this time there were only 2 carts
in the parish, belonging to his father and the factor.
Ordinary people used sledges or cars for their grain,
and small horses for coal. At the time of writing there
were over 250 cars, along with a number of wagons.
and Armstrong show the road through Newmilns and Darvel
much as it is today but there have been changes here
and there over the years. The 4th Earl of Loudoun straightened
and widened the road through Darvel in the 1760's and
1770's, and in the early 1800's a local set aside a
piece of land to the south of the road for a footpath.
Road widening left the Dagon stone, a prehistoric monolith,
stuck out in the middle of the road. In 1873, there
was talk of removing this menace to traffic and breaking
it into road metal. There was a changehouse at Goursbraehead
where coach horses could be changed.
reference is made to the Ayr - Edinburgh and the Kilmarnock
- Dumfries turnpikes crossing at Mauchline, as well
as to several bridges in the area including the new
bridge at Barskimming.
also refers to the two turnpikes. There were 11 miles
of turnpike roads in the parish and several bridges,
including the new bridge at Barskimming, built by the
late Sir Thomas Miller, which " excels all the bridges
in the country in beauty and elegance."
|The Burns Memorial, c.1900
had an annual horse race on public roads until the 1850's.
This went along the road from the Burns Memorial to
the foot of the Skeoch Brae.
(20) Burns himself
lived in Mossgiel, a mile or so north-west of Mauchline.
William Fisher, the object of his famous satire, "Holy
Willie," was on the surface an upright elder but in
fact was a sanctimonious hypocrite much given to drink
and even said to have stolen money set aside for the
poor. On his way home late one night he fell into a
ditch and drowned. A whisky bottle and a loaf were found
nearby. The spot was at South Auchenbrain, three miles
north-east of Mauchline towards the Sorn - Galston road.
NSA gives the length of the turnpikes to the nearest
yard - 28 miles; 6 furlongs; 0 poles and 8 yards. The
local roads and their associated bridges and embankments
were in excellent condition.
In 1773 we read that "the Cross of Mayboill (set up
around 1516 after the town received its charter) is
ane obstruction and hinderance to coaches and carridges
as they pass and repass along the street."
1787, MacAdam built a road using his methods from the
Maybole Road at Culroy up to his property, Sauchrie
House. He later became a Roads Trustee.
Monkton and Prestwick
only mention of roads in the OSA are of bridges on the
toll road between Monkton and Ayr and one on the road
to St Quivox and Tarbolton.
details the four turnpikes, totalling 12¾ miles in length,
that passed through the centre of Monkton, viz: Ayr
to Irvine and Kilmarnock, Mauchline and Tarbolton to
Irvine and Cumnock, Coylton and St Quivox to Irvine.
There were frequent coaches.
|The road to Sanquhar and Dumfries
says that the Edinburgh - Ayr road ran through the parish.
Although its condition was tolerable elsewhere, it was
not in good repair in Muirkirk itself. Work on a new
road ("another great road") to Dumfries and Carlisle
was being undertaken. At the time of writing, three
bridges were being built on the Edinburgh to Ayr Road,
over the waters of Ayr, Greenock and Garpel.
the time of the NSA,
there were turnpikes to Strathaven (in excellent condition),
Ayr to Douglas, and Mauchline via Sorn. Several bridges,
particularly on the Douglas road were in "tolerable"
repair. Work had recently been carried out to repair
some of the parish roads and more work was envisaged.
in the east of the parish, used to have several hundred
people living there but now has only a few inhabitants.
A road left the A70 and looped through the village to
re-emerge near the reservoir but the western section
of this road has been closed.
refers to one turnpike and several parish roads, all
in good condition. A stagecoach passed through daily
on its way to Dumfries. The local roads, particularly
on the east side of the Nith, had been poor but were
improving. A local landowner, Sir G Stuart Menteath
made a railroad for coal and lime three miles in length,
which went to the summit at the boundary with Dumfriesshire
where it was transferred into ordinary wagons for the
four miles descent.
Newton Upon Ayr
refers to two tolls on the main turnpike through Prestwick
and Kilmarnock to Glasgow. The rents were £100 and £285
- the name is Brythonic and dates from the Dark
Ages at least
|Just east of the
old bridge the road swung to the north. At a later
date it was rerouted eastward to what is now the
B7036 and headed up to the Barony Road. Later still
the old bridge was bypassed by a new bridge and
a new stretch of road. See map
and photo below.
|Image from Google
Earth. © 2009 Tele Atlas. Image © 2009
The Minister writing the OSA account gives substantial
details of the roads in this parish. The Cumnock to
Ayr turnpike passed through the village, where there
was a toll. Another turnpike from Barskimming Bridge
cut the north west corner of the parish; it joined another
turnpike from Stairbridge to Dalmellington and this
also ran through the parish for 2 miles and 57 falls.
This was an old Scots measure of which there were 285
in a mile.
felt that once the considerable surplus from the statute
labour funds had been used to repair the above roads,
the remaining money should be used on the "parish or
cross roads, which are most wickedly bad, and on which
no statute money hath hitherto been expended."
the time of the NSA
there were 7 miles of turnpikes, and 16 miles of other
|View of Cumnock in 1890's
is made in the OSA
of good turnpike roads from Ayr to Dumfries, and from
Ayr to Muirkirk, Galston and Kilmarnock. There were
also 10 or 12 miles of "cross roads" made by the Earl
of Dumfries for conveying coal and lime, and open to
refers to 14 miles of turnpike in the parish and very
good "cross-roads" in all directions. Improvements were
at long last being made to the Ayr Road, but the Sanquhar
road was in "great need of an improved line." Communications
to Ayr, Kilmarnock and so on were reasonable, both by
coach and carrier. Post horses, chaises and cars could
be hired in the town.
were 16 bridges, 3 of which were in the town, generally
too narrow, and the one over the Lugar "at by far too
great an elevation above the level of the road."
notes that the turnpike trustees originally favoured
a route by the back of Prestwick. Part of this route
was laid out, and a small bridge (another "Roman" bridge)
built over the Pow Burn. Sandfield Cottage was to be
a hostelry on this route. They changed their minds,
however, and took the route through the town centre.
Interestingly, to make sure people paid their tolls,
the trustees proposed to build a dyke from Newton Loch
to the toll bar and then to the sea but this was too
expensive. In any case, people who wished to avoid tolls
used the shore although further up there were dangerous
quicksands where over the years a number of people had
lost their lives.
says that three major turnpikes ran through Riccarton
and, as a result, communications were excellent, including
a public omnibus to Ayr. There were two bridges in Riccarton,
one of which with its associated approach roads was
new and one in Hurlford, recently improved. The parish
roads were in "tolerably" good repair.
five years earlier, says the writer of the OSA,
"there was nothing, of any extent, in this parish that
could properly deserve the name of a road." At the time
of writing, however, there were half a dozen private
roads and three public roads, viz. Glasgow to Dumfries
via Galston, and the Ediburgh to Ayr routes via Cumnock
and via Mauchline. This latter route from just past
Muirkirk through Dalgin was meant to follow a easy path
by the river to Sorn but was built at a higher level
by mistake. This section included two steep hills which
caused difficulties to travellers.
were a number of small bridges as well as two larger
bridges, one on the Old Cumnock road and one near to
writer also mentions various mineral deposits which
of course would have had tracks to them. One in particular
is coal extraction from the Burrowlands which had been
going on since 1497.
By the time of the NSA,
there were 11 miles of turnpike on the Ayr to Douglas
and Edinburgh road, and the Dumfries road through Galston.
Transport connections were reasonably good. In fact,
the list of occupations notes that 15 people were carters
and carriers. The Catrine Company sent goods by wagon
to Glasgow every "lawful evening" and they would arrive
before noon the next day, a journey of approximately
The writer refers to a stone bridge built over the Ayr,
near the manse on the Galston to Auchenleck turnpike
(present B719), due primarily to the Reverend William
Steel who was Minister in the early 1700's. There was
also an excellent bridge in Catrine on the Mauchline
to Muirkirk road.
1782 James Boswell laid out a new road to Sorn. It left
the Barony Road at Merlinhill.
was a ford over the Ayr at the town, the present Ford
Street, with a track to Mauchline and another to Cumnock.
A timber bridge (the Tim'er Bridge) was built near the
ford and replaced in 1879 by a metal footbridge. There
was also Shepherd's Bridge on the Mauchline road but
this is now ruined.
|Bridge at Stair -
this is a very old crossing point, the name itself
is Celtic for a crossing and Pont shows a Zett (i.e."gait")
the time of the
OSA, the parish had two turnpike roads, and 3 bridges
over the "water of Air" including the well-known Barskimming
Bridge built by Sir Thomas Miller at his own expense.
Sir Thomas had introduced wagons and carts into the
parish; before then pack horses had been used.
same two turnpike roads, 6 miles in length, are mentioned
in the NSA.
Of the three bridges over the Water of Ayr, the upper
one was "very ancient" but in good repair. The lower
was built in 1745 and was very costly; the other bridge
was the famous bridge at Barskimming.
there is no specific mention of roads it is clear from
the OSA that there was regular communication with the
rest of the county and beyond for purposes of trade
- the road and salt industry, for example, was extensive.
There were 16 carters and carriers in the town.
says that there were daily coaches from Saltcoats to
Glasgow and Kilmarnock. During the summer, coaches ran
to Ardrossan where steamers left for Arran.
Mention is made in the OSA
of turnpike roads to Kilmarnock, Irvine and Glasgow
and that Stewarton was a post town with a good service.
He says that the inhabitants are "oppressed by the great
numbers of strolling poor from Glasgow and other towns".
NSA says that the roads were very good and caravans
went frequently to Glasgow, Paisley and Kilmarnock.
says that the name might indicate a Roman road in the
area. The nearest supply of coal was about 4 miles away
but as the road was impassable for carts for most of
the year it had to be brought from Dalmellington, 8
miles away. There was regular trade with Ayr.
writer of the NSA (1,
that there were 23 miles of turnpikes, 10 stone bridges,
two wooden bridges suitable for carriages and four for
foot-passengers. He mentions that it was seven miles
to Patna by public road and four and a-half miles over
the moor. This was almost impassable in winter.
coach ran for 14 years from Ayr to Newton Stewart through
Straiton but was uneconomical. A coach to Ayr ran for
a few months in 1832. Travellers to Dumfries could pick
up the coach at Keirs bridge or at Dalmellington, a
few miles away.
|The old church of Symington
refers to the good roads in the parish, in particular
the Glasgow-Portpatrick road. Fifty years before the
parish was almost in a state of nature and the roads
were deep and unformed (p.396). Again reference is made
to the main road bringing its infestation of "Irish
vagrants and sturdy beggars from the neighbouring towns".
says that the major turnpike to Portpatrick ran through
the parish for four miles. There were 5 daily coaches
plus mail coaches and a "great number of carriers, waggons
etc." This is an interesting reference which makes one
realise that traffic on the roads was not just composed
of the stagecoaches and carriers on their daily and
weekly runs but also of farmers, manufacturers who had
their own vehicles, carts carrying coal from the mines
and numerous others. There would also have been many
people on foot and on horseback.
says that communications benefitted from being so close
to Ayr. The roads to Mauchline and to Galston were in
writer of the OSA
says that the "cross roads" of the parish whilst good
have the disadvantage of being "conducted without any
distinction, indifferently up heights, and down into
says that the parish was crossed by the Kilmarnock - Dalmellington
and Ayr - Muirkirk roads. There was a daily post and weekly
carriers to Glasgow, Kilmarnock and Ayr.
Tarbolton history by H Stein refers to villagers travelling
by cart to the market in Kilmarnock with butter and
eggs to sell. (27)
Although only a few miles it was a very rough drive,
and the passengers were seated or sprawled amongst their
produce. It was an open cart but a canvas cover could
be pulled up in case of rain.
there is only a reference to the great road from Greenock
to Port Patrick (p.423). However, in dealing with Portencross
he suggests that this was where pilgrims embarked for
Iona and where early kings were carried over the seas
for burial on the island. Moreover he says that "the
track of a line of road, can be distinctly traced through
the country, leading from the capital (Edinburgh) to
this port". This was thought to be in the time between
Kenneth McAlpine and Malcolm Canmore.
and Lonie had referred to what they suggested might
be a Roman road running from near Kilwinning and that
near to West Kilbride it could have been the Haaf Weg
or "road to the sea". A reference below is to Halfway
Street in West Kilbride. Given the evidence in Largs
parish of frequent contact with Argyll, it is not impossible
that this is the case, particularly when local traditions
in Arran support it. If true, it would be a very important
find, given the paucity of knowledge of Dark Age and
even mediaeval routes.
says that there were 9 miles of turnpike, viz. the coast
road north and a road to Dalry. There were 13 miles
of parish roads in tolerably good condition - again
the use of the word "tolerable".
Reverend John Lamb
(28) says of West Kilbride
that the parish roads had been mere tracks filled with
field stones and very hilly as they avoided boggy low
ground. Prior to 1830, the turnpike was nearer to the
sea on the stretch between Chapelton and Seamill. It
passed between pillars just after Yonderfield and kept
to the north and west of a morass where stepping stones
were used. Beyond the morass it passed Thirdpart, Campbelton
and the Rest Tree at Hunterston.
other bits of miscellaneous information he lists eight
rights of way, notes that Halfway Street ("Sea road")
was the main route from the village to the sea and that
there was an old road past Alton to the sea. A bridge
in the Main Street has an inscription, "Jane, Countess
of Crawford 1623" and a bridge on the Ardrossan road
over the Gourock Burn was known as Tailor Loup where
a tailor had leapt off the bridge to his death when
chased by a bull. In 1826 some roads were built as relief
for the unemployed.
more information on roads and bridges in the Hunterston
area see Virtual
Dane Love, History of Auchinleck, village and parish,
CARN, Cumnock, 1991
Rev. John Warrick, History of Old Cumnock, Paisley,
McClure, Two Extant Bridges of John & James Rutherford,
AANHS, Ayrshire Notes No.15, Autumn 1998
Mackenna, Round about Girvan, Hugh Wallace, Girvan,
Borland, Ballantrae, 1931
D Mackie, Ayrshire Village Sketches, Kilmarnock, 1896
David McClure, op.cit.
8. R Farrell, Benwhat
and Corbie Craigs, Cumnock and Doon Valley District
Council, Manpower Services Commission, 1983
J Taylor, The Annals of Fenwick. Ed. T D Taylor, Ayrshire
Collections, AANHS, Vol.9, 1970, p 29
Rev. Lawson, Fifty Four Views of Carrick, J & R Parlane,
Thomas Eric Niven, East Kilbride, The History of Parish
and Village, Gavin Watson, Glasgow 1988, 2nd edition,
W Walker History of Irvine - Collection of articles
which appeared in the Kilmarnock Standard, see copy
in Carnegie Public Library, Ayr
A McJanet, Royal Burgh of Irvine, Civic Press, Glasgow,
Archibald McKay, History of Kilmarnock, 1880, p295
D McNaught, Kilmaurs Parish and Burgh, Alexander Gardner,
Paisley, 1912, p.251, 262
Rev. W Ker, Kilwinning, 1900, p.103
R Findley and T Sorbie Swan, Largs - A Short History,
J Woodburn, A History of Darvel, Walker and Connell,
A McLeod, The Book of Old Darvel, Walker and Connell,
D Mackie, Ayrshire Village Sketches and Poems, Kilmarnock,
Mauchline Memories of Robert Burns, Ayrshire Collections,
AANHS, Vol. 14, No.6., Walker & Connell, Darvel, 1985
Rev. R Lawson, Maybole Past and Present, J & R Parlane,
J Strawhorn, History of Prestwick, John Donald, Edinburgh,
thought to be near Gilminscroft - see entry for coal
in historical article by J Strawhorn in Among Thy Green
Braes, ed. J Moore, Cumnock & Doon Valley District Council,
D Love, History of Auchinleck, op.cit
200 Years of Catrine and Sorn Parish, ed. R Dalziel
and T Harrison, Catrine, Sorn and District Local History
Group, Countryside Publications, Brinscall, 1987
H Stein, Tarbolton Its History and Associations, 1896
Rev. John Lamb, Annals of an Ayrshire Parish, Rae, Glasgow,