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Friday, 30 September 2011

Cairn Table and Muirkirk

Thursday the 29th of September 2011
I'm away to Muirkirk with a fellow rambler today.
We'll climb Cairn Table Hill first

Slew was here a bit back.

As were Bob and Alex.

The walkers car park is next to the imposing Kames Institute, a magnificent building once the recreational centre for the village's miners,but not looking so good these days.

As we begin the climb there are scattered remnants of the industry that was once the lifeblood of Muirkirk.
This is a passage from a 1900's guide to Ayrshire.
"With environs bleaker perhaps than those of any other town in southern Scotland, Muirkirk is the seat of an extensive iron manufacture and was brought into existence through the discovery and smelting of iron ore in 1787. The place has undergone great fluctuations of prosperity, but since about 1830 and especially since the formation of the railway, it has been flourishing as to rank among the great seats of the iron manufacture in Scotland. The works of the Eglinton Iron Company have several blast furnaces and rolling mills; coal mining and lime-burning are actively carried on. New works for collecting ammonia as a by-product at the furnaces were erected at a large outlay in 1883. In 1894 a drainage scheme estimated to cost Ē1,100 was begun. Muirkirk has a post office, a branch of the Clydesdale Bank, 2 hotels, a gas company and fairs on the Tuesday after 18th February for hiring shepherds and the Thursday nearest 21st December, when shepherds meet to restore sheep which have strayed from their owners. Muirkirk black faced sheep have carried off the first prize at several of the Highland Society's shows and at the Paris exhibition of 1867."

It's quite a sleepy looking place these days,and with no industry left it's mainly a place that people pass through.Sadly this is only one of many small villages and towns throughout Scotland that once hummed with the sound of industry but now sit forgotten and forlorn.
"The village developed around its church, which was built in 1631, and was a fertile recruiting ground for the Covenanter movement. In recent times, the village has fallen into decline due to its geographic isolation and the collapse of its coal and iron industries, but attempts are being made at regeneration through the Muirkirk Enterprise Group which was set up in 1999".

It's almost sunny below,but reaching a thousand feet we're into the mist.This ridge with the small cairn is known as 'The Steel'

Steadily climbing we get to a point where something large is looming out of the mist.It's the summit of Cairn Table at 593 Metres (1945 feet)

This reads

The cairn was built by hand in 1920.See here for details.

Trig point with flush bracket.
There's lot's of distant landmarks to view,but not today I'm afraid.
We have our lunch out of the wind in one of the stone shelters.

After lunch we begin to make our way down on the circular route.
Muirkirk is still in sunshine.

The old drover's road from Muirkirk to Sanquhar.

We reach the bridge over Garpel Water.This is the old drovers road.

The O.S map shows lots of disused mine shafts.
This one's full of rubbish.

A cairn to the man responsible for the invention that keeps our cars on a smooth surface.

There are lots of interesting information boards provided by the Muirkirk Enterprise group.

The stretch of road above was one of the first ever to have tarmac laid on it.
The iron railings look Victorian.

Back at the car we decide to go and take a look in the churchyard.
On the way we pass this miner.

The Poets' Trail will have to wait for another day.

The parish church will be 200 years old in two years.

With the exception of Greyfriars in Edinburgh, this counts as one of the most interesting graveyards I've ever visited.
Muirkirk's heritage also includes being an important village in the 'Killing Times'.
Not far out of the village towards Cumnock is Airds Moss scene of a bloody battle back in 1680

There's some really old graves here.All shpes and sizes too.

A covenanter's grave.

Muirland Jock of Rabbie Burns fame

Below is the saddest story........
.......and isn't the back of the grave the most gruesome.

A couple more of Rabbie's poet friends here.

Close by is the newer Roman Catholic Church built in 1906.

Muirkirk is quite a fascinating village with it's history and heritage.
I'll have to come back again.


  1. what an interesting post. those graves are really macabre. it feels like there's so much history in muirkirk and yet it's such a quiet looking place. what a brilliant post that really gives us a sense of the atmosphere of the place. excellent work.

  2. Excellent blog of a hill climb I have done many times in the past. The difference is you always manage to capture so much more on your walks. The church graveyard is not the place all walking groups visit but I will try and persuade them on our next sojurn to Muirkirk.

  3. All that information on the history of the area is really interesting!

  4. Thank you for your comments folks.
    Muirkirk is one of those places with so much history for such a small place.Passing through it in a car it's forgettable,but I'll be back in the area for more exploration.

  5. I'm originally from muirkirk. I think your blog is brilliant. There are lots of great walks and you can still see the remnants of the railway station and the lines in the ground.. it is a very interesting place and I would recommend people to visit for the walks and history. The creepy grave of the two children is one I have seen many times and has a very sad story to it... Once again I think this blog is great and thank you for showing it in such a great manner.

  6. Hi Leigh-Ann, lovely to hear from you, and thanks for the compliment.
    I totally agree about Muirkirk, I need to get back for more exploration.
    What is a shame though is all the opencast mining, because I'm sure that no matter how much they promise they'll restore the ground back to how it was, there'll be history lost.


Thanks for all your comments. I may not get to reply to them all, but you may be sure they'll be appreciated.

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