South Ayrshire

©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland


Situated on Ballantrae Bay on the South Ayrshire coast at the mouth of the River Stinchar, the resort town of Ballantrae lies 13 miles (21 km) south of Girvan. Created a burgh of barony in 1541, it developed in mediaeval times in association with a hospice for pilgrims and Ardstinchar Castle built by the Kennedy family in the 15th century. Smuggling was once a popular activity along the deserted coastline nearby.

Ballantrae was for many years a fishing port, and has a small harbour excavated from solid rock with a pier constructed on a natural ledge. A steamer from Glasgow once called en route to Stranraer. This harbour is now owned and managed by the Community Council and is used by pleasure craft.

Today, the village benefits from a small supermarket and post office, a community hall, garage, library, medical centre, primary school, parish church, recreation ground, and two hotels.

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94), author of The Master of Ballantrae, is said to have been stoned here in 1876 by locals who, he alleged, were upset by his clothing.

The Ballantrae Ophiolite Complex comprises a highly unusual assemblage of rocks exposed along the coast between Ballantrae and Kennedy's Pass, 7½ miles (12 km) to the northeast. These rocks represent a section of oceanic crust and underlying mantle pinched between colliding continents in Ordovician times. They comprise dense dark-coloured igneous rocks (principally serpentinite and gabbro), together with breccias, pillow lavas and sedimentary rocks containing graptolite fossils. The complex extends inland as far as Bargain Hill, Fell Hill and Byne Hill.

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