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Ayr, 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.

This edition is copyright © The Editors of the Gazetteer for Scotland, 2002-2019.

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Ayr, a river which, traversing Ayrshire through its broadest part, cuts the county into two nearly equal portions. The Vindogara of Ptolemy, it is supposed to have got its modern name from the Gaelic a-reidh (` smooth water '); it bore the name originally in the form of Are, afterwards in the forms of Air and Ayr, and it obviously gives its name to the town and county of Ayr. It is formed in Muirkirk parish, close to the Lanarkshire border, by head-streams that rise at an altitude of from 1200 to 1500 feet above sea-level; and thence it runs about 38 miles, in the direction of W by S, but with many a bend, to the Firth of Clyde at the town of Ayr. Its course, for a few miles, lies through bleak moors and upland meadows; but afterwards traverses a fertile champaign country, chiefly along a deep, narrow, bosky dell or chasm. Its principal tributaries are the Garpol, the Greenock, the Lugar, and the Coyle. It traverses or bounds the parishes of Muirkirk, Sorn, Auchinleck, Mauchline, Tarbolton, Stair, Ayr, and St Quivox, and passes by Muirkirk, Wellwood, Limmerhaugh, Holhouse, Sorn, Catrine, Ballochmyle, Barskimming, Failford, Stair, Auchencruive, and Whitletts; while places near it are Airdsmoss, Anchinleck, Mauchline, Tarbolton, Coylton, and St Quivox. Many reaches of it are richly picturesque; many abound with striking close scenes; and not a few are touched graphically, or worked into strong associations, in the poems of Burns. Its waters contain yellow trout, and formerly were rich in salmon, but now have a very diminished repute among anglers. Its volume, in the winter months, is subject to heavy floods; and then, as Burns says, designating Ayr harbour by the old name of Ratton Key,-

'From Glenbuck down to the Ratton Key.
Auld Ayr is just one lengthened tumbling sea.'

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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