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Places of Interest about Girvan
The Stinchar Valley


THE ancient castle of Ardstinchar, chief seat of the old Bargany Kennedys, still keeps guard over Ballantrae, and lifts up its solitary tower by way of protest against modern spoliation But, although man may spoil his own works, he cannot well spoil the works of Nature. And we may confidently believe that the sweet valley of the Stinchar looks as pretty to-day as ever it did. Starting, then, from the foot of the old Castle Crag, and glancing across at the "grey stones of Garleffin," keeping their watch of centuries by the graves of the dead, the road pursues its course up the river. The first object of interest is Laggan House, about two miles up the valley. Then we see the ruins of the former Church of Ballantrae at Kirkholtn, near the junction of the Tig with the Stinchar. Then, a little farther on, and lying more into the heart of the hill, we see the small one storey farm house of Knockdow where Peden was staying when he was seized and taken to the Bass. Next, the road turns sharply to the left, and we find ourselves facing the old Castle of Knockdolian with the modern mansion beside it, while Knockdolian Hill itself rises straight above both, with the little knoll of Dunniwick round which the fairies used to dance on moonlight nights. This is, indeed, a romantic part of the valley.

Leaving Knockdolian, we soon reach the tidy village of Colmonell, enjoying one of the prettiest situations of all the pretty villages of South Ayrshire. It stands on a rising ground above the Stinchar, looking down to the green hill of Knockdolian, and up to the woods of Pinmore, while in the horizon may be seen the lofty hills of Barr, and even of far away Galloway. Its praise has been often sung by local bards, one of whom apostrophises it thus:—

"A beauty, in a beauteous dell,
Serenely fair sits Colmonell."

At the entrance of the village stand the ruins of the old Castle of Kirkhill, with the modern mansion beside it, while across the valley we see the still older Castle of Craigneil, perched on its limestone rock; and it is curious to observe the modern quarry, which, with customary irreverence, was so near bringing the whole of this hoary fortress to the ground. One of the stories connected with Craigneil runs as follows:—Thomas Dalrymple, brother to the laird of Stair, was riding quietly one night near the bridge of Girvan, when he unfortunately was met by my Lord of Cassillis and his men. Dalrymple, being of the Bargany party, saw that he was in for it, and made off, but not being well horsed, was taken. " My Lord of Cassillis," says the old historian quite calmly, as if he were narrating a mere matter of course, "tuik him to Craigneil, and on the morne gaiff him ane Assyise, and hangit him on ane tree besyd the yett of Craigneil. He was ane pretty little manne, and werry kind, and had never offendit manne."

Pursuing our way, we pass the Dangart Glen, where Matthew MlIlwraith was killed in the days of the persecution; and Pinwherry Castle, standing gaunt and bare near the junction of the Duisk with the Stinchar. Looking back from this point, Knockdolian seems like a huge pyramid placed in the middle of the valley, to dam back the waters of the stream. It is, indeed, the king of the Stinchar valley from whatever point it is viewed, and it looks every inch a king. But now we approach the place where the valley puts on its fairest robes. Hitherto the hills have been bare and pastoral, but now they become clothed with wood, while the valley itself contracts till it becomes a veritable Pass, through which the river, the road, and the railway have some difficulty in forcing their way. The beauty reaches its climax at Pinmore, where the Assel joins the Stinchar, making a "meeting of the waters," quite as beautiful in its way as the Irish one so famous in song.

But the beauty does not continue. Soon the Stinchar finds its way up among the bare hills of Barr, while the road to Girvan, after quitting the Assel, climbs upwards past Letterpin, and the old British fort of Dinviny till it comes in sight of the blue sea, with Ailsa and Arran in the background. It is from this point that the most picturesque view of Girvan is to be obtained. Indeed, at one part of the road the town seems set in a frame of hills, as if Nature herself were anxious to call the attention of every traveller to its beauty.


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