Loudoun Castle

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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Loudoun, a parish in the SE corner of Cunninghame district, Ayrshire, containing the post-town and station of Newmilns (7½ miles E by S of Kilmarnock), the villages of Darvel and Alton, and part of the town of Galston. It is bounded N by Eaglesham in Renfrewshire, E by East Kilbride and Avondale in Lanarkshire, S by Galston, and NW by Kilmarnock and Fenwick. Its utmost length, from E to W, is 6 miles; its breadth increases eastward from 8½ furlongs to 5 ¼ miles; and its area is 15, 543¾ acres, of which 57¾ are water. The river Irvine, rising on the Lanarkshire border at an altitude of 810 feet above sea-level, flows 10¾ miles west-by-southward along or close to all the Avondale and Galston boundary; and Glen Water, coming in from Renfrewshire, runs 5¾ miles south-by-westward across the interior till, just above Darvel, it falls into the Irvine, another of whose affluents, Polbaith Burn, runs 5 ¼ miles south-westward along the Fen wick and Kilmarnock boundary. Along the Irvine the surface declines to 135 feet above sea-level, thence rising to 750 feet near High Bowhill, 577 near East Heads, 835 near Hapton, 1089 at Quarry Hill, and 839 at Loudoun Hill. The last, a conspicuous conical summit, formed of columnar trap, is situated in the SE corner of the parish, and figures as a remarkable feature in a very extensive landscape. It belongs to the class which the Scoto-Irish called ` dun, ' the Scoto-Saxons ` law;' and by a singular triplicate of honours, it wears as its designation not only both these Words, but also the modern ` hill '-Law-dun-hill, or Loudoun-hill, ` the hill, the hill, the hill. ' The rest of the parish, notwithstanding its lying so near the watershed- with Lanarkshire, has neither an elevated nor a rough appearance, but is champaign, and only gently sloping. much of it near the centre, and especially along the E, is moor and moss. The soil of the arable grounds is here and there light and gravelly, but is mostly a rich deep loam, greatly improved by lime. John, Earl of Loudoun, who succeeded to the earldom in 1731, was the first agricultural improver. He commenced his operations in 1733, by making roads through the parish; he next had an excellent bridge built over the Irvine; and he got made thence, and from his own house to Newmilns, a road, which was the first constructed by statute-work in the county. These measures, the prelude to his becoming the father of agriculture in the district, he adopted apparently from his recollecting a time when carts or waggons belonging to his father and his father s factor were the only ones in the parish; but he also plied vigorously the work of planting and enclosing. He is said to have planted more than a million trees, chiefly elm, ash, and oak; and, in general, he bequeathed to his estate a pervading character of rich cultivation and sylvan beauty. The rocks are mainly carboniferous, with disturbing protrusions of trap. Limestone of excellent quality is very abundant, and has been largely worked. Coal in some parts is too much broken up by trap to be mined, but -elsewhere forms rich, extensive, workable fields, with an aggregate thickness of 27 feet in the seams. Clay ironstone, also, is plentiful. Nearly four-sevenths of the entire area are in tillage; about 750 acres are under wood; and the rest is either pastoral or waste. At Loudoun Hill Skene places Vandogara, a town of the Damnonii, which, under the form Vanduara, by Chalmers was identified with Paisley. But ` the best editions give Vandogara as the form of the name, which obviously connects it with Vindogara or the Bay of Ayr; and Ptolemy's position corresponds very closely with Loudoun Hill on the river Irvine, where there is a Roman camp. What confirms this identity is, that the towns in the territory of the Damnonii appear afterwards to have all been connected with Roman roads; and there are the remains of a Roman road leading from this camp to Carstairs ' (Celtic Scotland, i. 73, 1876). At Loudoun Hill, on 10 May 1307, Robert Bruce, with only 600 followers, defeated 3000 English under the Earl of Pembroke. He intrenched himself strongly, and, following up the tactic of Wallace, defended his position by spearmen drawn up in square against the charge of heavy-armed cavalry. Loudoun Hill, too, sometimes gives name to the Battle of Drumclog. Cairns and tumuli once were numerous, and Roman vessels have been dug from a moss upon Braidlee Farm. In Alton and near Darvel are ruins still called castles, but more like Danish forts; and the lands of Darvel were held by the Knights Templars. In the village of Newmilns is a very small and very old castle belonging to the Campbells of Loudoun. On the summit of a rising-ground, by the side of a brook, ½ mile E of the present mansion, are the ruins of an ancient castle which belonged to the same family, and which is said to have been destroyed towards the close of the 15th century by the Clan Kennedy, under the Earl of Cassillis. The present sumptuous pile stands embowered by wood, in the SW part of the parish, 5 miles E of Kilmarnock, and 1½ mile NNE of Galston. It singularly combines the attractions of massive antiquity with the light gracefulness of modern architecture. A square battlemented tower, of unknown antiquity, was -destroyed in a siege by General Monk, when the castle was defended by Lady Loudoun, who obtained honourable terms of capitulation. The old part of the house consists now of one large square tower, battlemented and turreted, which, probably built in the 15th century, lifts its solemn and imposing form above a surrounding mass of modern building. The modern part, sufficient in itself to constitute it one of the largest and noblest edifices in the West of Scotland, was completed only in the year 1811. The library contains over 11,000 volumes. The noble proprietors of the castle, whose title of earl is taken from the parish, are a branch of the great family of Campbell, being descendants of Donald, who was second son of Sir Colin Campbell of Lochow (see Inveraray), and who married Susanna Crauford, the heiress of Loudoun, in the reign of Robert I. In 1601 Sir Hugh Campbell of Loudoun, Sheriff of Ayr, was raised to the peerage as Baron Loudoun; and in 1633 his granddaughter's husband, Sir John Campbell of Lawers, was created Earl of Loudoun. A zealous Covenanter, he became High Chancellor of Scotland in 1641, and played a conspicuous part in the stirring events of the times. His great-great-granddaughter, Flora Mure Campbell (1780-1840), married the first Marquess of Hastings, a title which became extinct at the death of their younger grandson in 1868, when that however of Countess of Loudoun devoted on their granddaughter, Edith-Maud (1833-74), who married the first Lord Donington. Her eldest son, Charles-Edward Mure Rawdon-Abney-Hastings, the present Earl (b. 1855), holds 18,638 acres in the shire, valued at £17,543 per annum. (See Fenwick and Kilmarnock.) ` Loudoun's bonny woods and braes ' are the theme of one of Tannahill's best-known songs. The Earl of Loudoun is much the largest proprietor, 1 other holding an annual value of more than £500, 10 each of between £100 and £500, 16 of from £50 to £100, and 57 of from £20 to £50. Loudoun is in the presbytery of Irvine and the synod of Glasgow and Ayr; the living is worth £358. The ancient church, at the SW corner of the parish, was dependent upon Kilwinning Abbey, and now is represented only by its choir, which serves as a mausoleum of the Loudoun family. Norman Macleod, D.D. (1812-72), was minister from 1838 till 1843, and the account of the parish in the New Statistical was written by him. Modern places of worship are noticed under Newmilns and Darvel; and 3 schools-Darvel public, Newmilns public, and Lady Flora's-with respective accommodation for 250, 300, and 280 children, had (1882) an average attendance of 151, 309, and 125, and grants of£138,7s.6d., £253, 19s., and £109, 17s. Valuation (1860) £15, 499, (1884) £25,052, 10s. Pop. (1801) 2503, (1831) 3959, (1861) 4840, (1871) 5525, (1881) 5239.—Ord. Sur., sh. 22, 1865.

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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