Scotland from the Roadside


Southern Scotland
Firth of Clyde


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Made up of North, South and East Ayrshire, this area located in the west of Scotland on the Firth of Clyde is mainly farming country. The main towns are Ayr and Kilmarnock; many of the Clyde islands, including Arran, are part of Ayrshire. The area is associated with the life of Robert Burns as well as much of the early life of William Wallace.

From Kilmarnock in East Ayrshire, the main road to Ayr in South Ayrshire is the A77, which heads roughly southwest and then turns south where it joins the A78 near Monkton. Riccarton is supposedly the birthplace of Malcolm Wallace, the father of William; this is marked by a plaque outside the fire station.

An alternative route to follow from Kilmarnock is the A759, which runs to the north of the above route, passing through Dundonald on the way to Troon on the west coast. Dundonald Castle was built from 1142-53 by Walter Fitzallan, who had been made the Steward of Scotland by David I. The castle was later destroyed by Robert the Bruce.

At Auchincruive there is a cairn dedicated to William Wallace and Robert Burns in what is left of Leglen Woods. This is where Wallace supposedly hid following an incident near the River Irvine. After Burns read Blind Harry's epic he spent time in the wood exploring every den and del where I supposed my heroic countryman might wander.

From Ayr both the A77 and A719 head south, with the latter road following close to the west coast. Near Doonfoot, to the southwest of Ayr, are the remains of Greenan Castle, which perched on a rocky cliff that is gradually being eroded. To the east of Doonfoot is Alloway, the birthplace of Robert Burns.

Heading southwest from Doonfoot, the A719 leads to Dunure Castle. In the 1260s Alexander granted this to the Kennedy family, who were dubbed the Kings of Carrick. In 1429 the castle was used for talks between John Mor MacDonald and a representative of James I. The A719 then continues south, over  a section of the road that is known as Electric Brae.

The road then heads southwest again, as does the A77, as they either side of the remains of Crossraguel Abbey. The A77 then passes through Kirkoswald. St. Oswald fought a battle here in 634 AD and built a church which later became a shrine. A more permanent church was built in 1244.

Kirkoswald is also the home of a cobbler called John Davidson, who was used by Burns as the basis for Souter Johnnie, a character from his poem Tam O'Shanter. Davidson is buried in the churchyard at Kirkoswald and his house is now a museum.

Eventually the A719 and A77 meet up at Turnberry. From Turnberry the A77 follows closely to the west coast of Ayrshire. In Lendalfoot there is a memorial to sailors drowned in 1711. The caves nearby were used by smugglers. There were supposedly tunnels linking these to nearby Ardmillan Castle.

As the road approaches Bennane Head, a parking area and viewpoint marks the location of Sawny Bean's Cave. This was the hideout of Sawney Bean and his family who were cannibals that supposedly terrorised the area.

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