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Nith, River

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Nith (Novius of Ptolemy), a river mainly of Dumfriesshire, but partly also of Ayrshire and Kirkcudbrightshire. It rises at an altitude of 1400 feet above sea-level between Enoch Hill (1365 feet) and Prickeny Hill (1676), 9 miles S of the town of Cumnock. Thence it flows 70 ¾ miles with a general south-south-easterly course, till, after for 10 ¼ miles expanding into an estuary with a channel 70 to 500 yards wide, -it falls into the Solway Firth, 14 ¼ miles s by E of Dumfries, and 6 WNW of Silloth in Cumberland. As the crow flies the distance from source to mouth is only 42 ¼ miles. The first 15 ¾ miles of its course belong to Ayrshire; the last 16 ½ divide Dumfriesshire from Kirkcudbrightshire. It bounds or traverses the parishes of New Cumnock, Kirkconnel, Sanquhar, Durisdeer, Penpont, Morton, Closeburn, Keir, Dunscore, Kirkmahoe, Holywood, Dumfries, Terregles, Troqueer, Caerlaverock, Newabbey, and Kirkbean; and in our articles on these seventeen parishes full details are given as to the towns, villages, mansions, ruins, and other features of its course. Its principal affluents are Afton Water, Kello Water, Crawick Water, Euchan Water, Minnick Water, Enterkin Burn, Carron Water, Cample Water, Scar Water, Duncow Burn, Cluden Water, Cargen Pow, and Newabbey Pow, all thirteen of which are noticed separately. The Nith contains salmon, sea-trout, trout, herling, and grayling, but is not so good a fishing stream as the Esk, the Liddel, or the Annan. Like these it has been affected by the salmon disease, 222 salmon having been found dead and 58 destroyed between 1 Jan. 1881 and 31 March 1882. The Nith, till after it gets away from Ayrshire, is one of the most cheerless of streams, sluggish and shallow, seldom more than 15 feet wide, deeply tinctured with moss, and rarely graced with plantation, greensward, or even a bold bank, to relieve the dreary monotony of its moorland landscape. Its banks, till below Sanquhar, though quite redeemed from the dreariness which characterises them in Ayrshire, are simply agreeable, consisting chiefly of a verdant vale overlooked by uplands of varied contour but little grandeur; lower down, they are exquisitely rich in many varieties of landscape, now exhibiting a narrow acclivitous pass, diversified with wood, escarpment, and rock, now bursting into an expanse of valley, blooming as a garden, and screened with warm-coloured and finely outlined mountain-heights, and now presenting such rapid alterations of slope, undulation, haugh, and hill, as charm and surprise the eye, by the mingled wealth and number of the transitions. For 3 ½ miles after receiving the Scar, the river runs between the beautiful grounds of Keir, slowly rising like a green and softly wooded gallery on the one hand, and the fine expanse of the luxuriant plain of Closeburn, darkly overhung by the Queensberry heights, on the other. It now becomes pent up for about 2 miles by the low and diversified terminations of spurs from the mountain-ranges on the background; and, while traversing this space, it is decked with mansion, park, wood, and lawn, amidst nooks and recesses, hilly abutments and diversified slopes, till picturesqueness becomes profuse and almost excessive. On its clearing this sort of gorgeous pass in the course of which the great Nithsdale road crosses it by the well-known `Auldgirth Brig,' which Carlyle's father helped to build - the hills recede from it in sweeps, describing the arc of a circle; and while they form soft and finely-featured screens which terminate on the one side in the low green heights of Mouswald, and on the other in the bold grand form of Criffel, they enclose an oval plain of from 6 to 8 miles in breadth. Along the middle of this, the joyous and pebbly Nith runs, amidst constant verdure, multitudinous gardens, and other elements of lovely landscape, to the sea. Nowhere is the magnificence, or at least the rare and romantic character, of the famous Solway `bore' displayed with finer effect than in the estuary of the Nith. Owing principally to the tide's impetuosity, the navigation of the river is difficult to seamen unacquainted with its peculiarities; but it has been greatly improved. (See Dumfries.) The valley, all down from New Cumnock to Dumfries, principally along its W side, and generally very close to the stream, is traversed by the Glasgow and South-Western Railway.—Ord. Sur., shs. 14, 15, 9, 10, 6, 1863-64.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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