Kirkcudbright to Newton Stewart

From Kirkcudbright the road does not conveniently run along the shore line until after the Gatehouse of Fleet, although there are several small roads that lead off if you want to wander around the bye ways. The agricultural revolution in the eighteenth century, included the attacks on newly erected fences by the` Levellers` in 1724 for which many localGatehouse of Fleet labourers and small farmers were incarcerated in the Kirkcudbright Tolbooth . But it also gave rise to efforts by some industrialists to set up alternative employment in the burgeoning  textiles, tanning and brewing trades. James Murray of Broughton and  Cally was such a liberal minded man who from 1763 granted leases and supervised the construction of industry in the Gatehouse of Fleet, with a particular bent towards cotton trades and spinning. The first lease was to Messrs.  Birtwhistle and Sons, who were Yorkshire farmers but expanding into cotton, who built two mills and there followed two more mills of McWilliam and the Ulster firm of Thomas Scott and Co. The four mills were powered by  water fed from Loch Whinyeon  in an elaborate water course that was over 6 Km long and kept two lochs topped up outside the town. One of the giant water wheels can still be wheelgf.jpg (43787 bytes) seen today next to the Mill on the Fleet, Visitor Centre. The wheel was christened by Robert Burns the "Roaring Birtwhistle" when he visited there in 1795. In their hey day over 500 people were employed in the mills, and supplementary industries arose including a brass foundry to make spares for the mills, and a soap works to use bye products of the cattle trade.

Just outside the town is the ruin of Cardoness Castle built by Alexander McCulloch, a companion of King James IV, in the 15th century. Like most castles in the area it has a chequered past the mortgage having been taken over by the Gordon family in 1622 . However, the McCullochs would not give up ownership without a struggle and in 1668 ejected the sick widow of the laird to die outside. It has been uninhabited since  the end of the 17th century. The main road to Stranraer now takes its turn along what has been called one of the most picturesque routes in Scotland. Thomas Carlyle famously told Queen Victoria that the coast road from Creetown to Gatehouse of Fleet was the most beautiful in her realm. When asked if there was no other as good, he replied "Yes, the coast road from Gatehouse of Fleet to Creetown."

A sharp right turn will take you into the village of Anwoth and the historical church where the Rev Samuel Rutherford was minister 1627 to 1636. A major figure in the Scottish Reformation and a leadingRutherford memorial,Anwoth. Covenanter Rutherford is referred to as `heavenly minded`  and the Saint of the Covenant . A  devout and holy man Rutherford would rise at 3am daily to begin his day reading and praying, writing, catechising parishioners visiting and all the other duties of a minister. When evicted from his church he was banished to Aberdeen from where he wrote over 200 letters to his friends in Anwoth and district. He was professor of Divinity at St Andrews and a colleague of another divine, the Rev Robert Blair. In 1643 he was one of the Commissioners to the Anwoth Church Westminster Assembly and had considerable influence in the production of the Westminster Confession, the basic rules of the Presbyterian (and other) church. In 1644 he published his work Lex Rex which was a plea in defence of constitutional and democratic government that the Scottish Parliament had condemned as treasonable.  This was remembered by a spiteful Charles II at the Reformation in 1660 and he sought to prosecute Rutherford, but ill health won the day. When summoned to appear before Parliament he replied " I have a summons already before a superior judge and judicatory, and I behove to answer my first summons, and ere your day come I will be where few Kings and great folks come."  Samuel Rutherford died 29 March 1661.

Off to the right is the road to the Cairn Holy stones and the chambered cairns there. Like so many antiquities it suffered in theCairn Holy Stones eighteenth century from robbing of the smaller stones for building fences and the like. The original prehistoric mound is said to have been about 43 metres by 10 metres. But this is the scenic route so enjoy the sweep of Wigtown Bay while the road soon comes to Creetown  and the ancient crossing place of the River Cree. Close by is the equally ancient village of Minnigaff which had a parsonage early in the thirteenth century. The  location was an important market town for the moor men who came to trade and `bought great quantities of meal and malt`.        

The River Cree is the boundary between the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright and the shire of Wigtown, and the town of Newton Stewart developed at this shallow crossing place. The ford and a ferry boat were replaced Caldon Stoneby a bridge in 1745 which was itself replaced by a stone bridge in 1813. Built by William Stewart the third son of the second Earl of Galloway, it has a charter as a burgh of barony dated 1 July 1677. For a while it was known as Newton Douglas but the mills of William Douglas failed and the name reverted. A must here is to visit the Museum which is choc a bloc with antiquities, including old farming implements, and manufactures of bygone years. Within the museum is the original Caldon Stone which was a Covenanter memorial for six men surprised at prayer at Caldon farmhouse on 23 January 1685. James Dun, Robert Dun, Andrew McKale, ThomasOld Mortality - Robert Paterson Stevenson, John Macklude  and John Stevenson, were executed probably for refusing the Abjuration Oath. Another brother Dun escaped by hiding for hours up to his neck amongst the reeds in nearby Loch Trool. This stone is reputedly the first stone that Robert Paterson, Old Mortality, repaired. Two statues of Old Mortality are in the front of the museum as you enter the grounds.

 Next: Wigtown and St Ninian   

         Old Mortality stones  

Home Scottish Reformation The Covenanters Ulster Scots English Reformation European Reformation General Topics & Glossary My Books & Bibliography Contact