Through Ayrshire ...

Having said goodbye to the MacDonalds and the Davies, we left Argyll for Galloway.  On the way through Ayrshire, we happened upon a few things that caught the eye.

Crossraguel Abbey

Chapter House


The Cloister

Tower House
and Apartments

John and I in the "Eye"

An abbey is a monastery governed by an abbot of the Roman Catholic Church.  Crossraguel was built in 1244 and is the most complete medieval monastery to be found in all of Scotland.  As seen in the center photograph, it includes a kirk or church to the far left, an inner court surrounding a once-covered well, a kitchen and dining hall to the far right, a treasury up the stairway in the facing wall, a chapter house for the friars through the doorway, and a tower house for the abbot in the upper right corner.   In the fourth photo, the tower is seen from another angle, and beside it  are apartments, which housed retired abbots and patrons no longer able to live independently.  In the early 1300s, Crossraguel Abbey was badly damaged by the English because of its loyalty to Robert the Bruce.  It was rebuilt but eventually fell into ruin.  The origin and meaning of its name remain uncertain.

From Crossraguel, we continued south through Ayrshire.  In less than an hour's time, we came upon the timeless ...




Ailsa Craig - This ancient volcanic rock island rises abruptly from the sea in the Firth of Clyde, off the coast of Ayrshire.  It measures 3900 feet in length, 2600 feet in breadth, and 1114 feet in height.  It inspired the poet John Keats to write in 1818:


Hearken, thou craggy ocean-pyramid! ...
how long is't since the Mighty Power bid
thee heave to airy sleep from fathom dreams?
Sleep in the lap of thunder, or sunbeams,
or when grey clouds are thy cold coverlid?
Thou answer'st not, for thou art dead asleep!"

Pleasure trips to the Craig are available for sailing around the island, or actually going ashore to visit its lighthouse and ruined castle, and in either case to get a view of its many gannets and puffins.  We merely drove by, took a few photos, and continued on through the countryside.  We were on a quest, and in fifty minutes more, we came to ....



District Welcome Sign

The Bonnie Hills

  In Search of Linn's Tomb  


Sign for Derry Farm 


Derry Farm Ruin

Loch Derry


The slogan "First in Scotland" refers to the fact that, when coming from England, Dumfries and Galloway is the first Scottish district entered.  When coming from Ayrshire, one first reaches that portion of the district which is Galloway.  A land of both beauty and starkness, Galloway is also, like most of Scotland, a land of both tragedy and triumph.

Seeking a 300-year-old tomb, we drove a narrow, unpaved section of the Southern Upland Way and hiked up the rocky, sometimes boggy moor of Craigmoddie Fell.  We looked for the stone wall enclosure that Ranger Mearns had said surrounds the grave.  Arriving at the first structure that caught our eye, we discovered it was an ancient, stone sheep pen.  Had it belonged to the man whose grave we sought?  We headed back down a bit and looked up in a slightly different direction.  There was something else ... and we walked toward it, hoping it was the object of our quest.

A Sheep Pen

There ...


The Tomb


Original Stone   

In the spring of 1685, a simple shepherd from Derry Farm named Alexander Linn was tending his sheep on the moor.  He was reading a pocket Bible, and  it was the peak of the Killing Time. Lieutenant-General William Drummond, whose brutal, relentless pursuit of Covenanters had earned him the name  "Herod"  Drummond, was leading his men across southern Ayrshire.  As Drummond and his men advanced toward Wigtownshire in Galloway, a number of lapwings flying in the distance suggested  that  some  danger  threatened  their  nests.    Suspecting the cause of their distress was human, Drummond led

his men across the border.  Approaching the fell, they saw Linn and circled around to take him by surprise. When they found him reading a pocket Bible, Drummond decided there was cause enough to condemn him since, at that point in history, a shepherd in possession of a pocket Bible surely must have been a Presbyterian.  And so, Alexander Linn was ambushed, shot, and killed for his faith.  When his lifeless body was later found, he was buried on the spot where he had died. The place, described by Rev. William Mackenzie as "a bleak, romantic spot," was marked by a memorial stone.  Over the succeeding 300 years, at least five memorial services were held at Linn's tomb, the stone enclosure was built, and two additional, commemorative gravestones were added.

On that spring day in 1685, what words of God were last on the heart and mind of Alexander Linn? What promises of the Lord ushered him into his heavenly home as he left his earthly abode?  On the hills surrounding his tomb, sheep still graze.


From the martyr's tomb, we traveled east and drove along "the silv'ry winding Cree."                                    Sheep Still Graze

The Winding Cree and Stravaiger's Rest


The Cree flows south from Ayrshire into Galloway and on to Wigtown Bay.  It takes many turns and has many looks, all of them beautiful.  A stravaiger is a wanderer but can be either one who roams without purpose or direction, or one who travels purposefully but unhindered through a wide area.  This modern stone, set by the river in Galloway, is dedicated to travelers past and present, wishing well to all who pass, whether attending to mundane affairs or pursuing great adventures.  We took the greeting to heart and continued our own little adventure, stopping next in Creetown.

Kirkmabreck Parish Church




Creetown's 1834 church was the third building for the parish.  The first, erected in 1645, now stands in ruins high on a hill near Fell Quarry.  As we took our picture, the custodian arrived and kindly invited us in.  We admired the long wood panel, which once constituted the back of a family pew, and were told it had been taken from the old church building and brought to the new. Some of the panel's insets bear various coats of arms.  The admonition carved on one ~ Fear God and Honowr the King ~ had guided the early Presbyterians to honor those in authority while preserving the right of Christ, and not the king, to govern the Church.  The last Scottish National Covenant was signed in 1684.

Thanking our gracious host, we continued on our journey, traveling southeast along the bay into which the River Cree empties.  The one misfortune of our adventure was that we seemed to arrive at such places always when the tides were out.

The Bay of Wigtown - In May of 1685, 60-year-old Margaret McLachlan and teenaged Margaret Wilson refused to renounce their faith and were tied to stakes in Wigtown Bay.  They were taunted and left to drown in the incoming tide but held to their faith to the end, to the point that the girl refused one would-be rescuer.

Threave Castle - On the way to our next bed and breakfast, we saw a sign for a castle which was not on our list. We stopped to inquire and discovered that it sits on an island in the River Dee with a ferry crossing for a tour of the castle.  Alas! we had arrived just as the ferry was retiring for the day.  Nevertheless, we enjoyed a quiet walk from the car through pastoral fields and lovely woods to the banks of the River Dee.

The island on which Threave Castle sits was the site of an older stronghold dating as early as the eleventh century, when Fergus, Lord of Galloway, ruled here.  That fortress is believed to have been destroyed in 1308 by Edward, brother of Robert Bruce, after he defeated the Gallovidians on the banks of the Dee.  In the 1370s, Archibald, 3rd Earl of Douglas and Lord of Galloway, built Threave Castle to secure his hold on the region and to defend against incursions by the English, who ever persisted in their attempts to seize Scotland.  Threave Castle was once considerably larger than this remaining tower house suggests and was  then surrounded by a small village.

On our visit, the tower house was undergoing renovation.  Photographs now available on various websites prompt a desire to revisit Threave Castle, take the ferry, and tour the inside of the castle.  The simplicity of its exterior belies the intricacy of the architecture within.



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