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.
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
From Crossraguel, we continued south through
Ayrshire. In less than an hour's time, we came upon the timeless ...
- This ancient volcanic rock
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
Hearken, thou craggy ocean-pyramid! ...
how long is't since the Mighty Power bid
thee heave to airy sleep from
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
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.
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
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.
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,
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
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
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.
Bay of Wigtown
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
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
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