Kirkcudbright to Newton Stewart

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.

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 Stone
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


Old Mortality stones