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Monday, 18 March 2013

Wigtownshire Ramblers - Dunaskin - Ayrshire Lost Villages - March 2013

If the met office had got it right earlier in the week i'd have postponed today's walk and replaced it with a more local one. As it was, it wasn't until late Friday they settled on really bad weather for the Dalmellington Area. But no worries, at least those who came learned just how fascinating this area is.
Here's the links to the recces of the area.

The walk report will follow the pictures. Thanks to Scoop for her contributions.
There are eight of us.

Scoop's Picture, I was told to point to the plaque to John B.Lloyd 'A gentle man with a gentle smile'
Certainly nothing like me !

On the incline. It's like a giant ski run today. An enterprising billionaire could do a lot around here.

The Drum Housing

Lethanhill War Memorial

I might have put this link up before. It gives a chronological history of the villages.

The 'Weaver' stitches 'Long live the ramblers' into the snow.

Inside the plantation are the ruins of the village.

The following set of pictures are scans from a Scots Magazine edition of 1966 

An amazing tale of a life that few of today's youngsters would struggle to get their heads around.

Another of Scoop's pictures. We look like drookit rats

No !, it's not one of the original inhabitants left behind.

It was driving snow from Lethanhill to Corbie Craigs and no pictures were taken along that stretch.
However below is what the view would have been had we been able to see it. 
The war memorial can just be seen above the left bing on Benquhat (Benwhat) Hill.

Looking down the chasm that is the Glenhead Burnhead burn on Corbie Craigs

Facilities at Burnhead Farm

Miners Row

It's fairly snowing now.

Corbie Craigs was probably the original hill village of only 10 houses built in the early 1850s to support the ironstone pits at Corbie Craigs. Although Corbie Craigs may have originally been intended to be the centre of a large hillside mining community, its growth was stopped by the shift of interest to Lethanhill and Benwhat. The need to develop mines higher up the plateau allowed the Iron Company to build Benwhat, built between the early 1860s and 1875, and totalling 130 houses.

This picture gives a false impression of the depth of Dunaskin Glen, we are quite high up on slippery slopes today. The depression on the right was the rail track.

I'm the king of Alpin's Castle

Scoop's hands have warmed up enough to get her camera out again.

There's a welcoming fire at the Dalmellington Inn.
A shame about the weather, maybe we'll do it again in the Indian Summer of October.

Wigtownshire Ramblers Walk Report
Saturday the 16th of March 2013

Adverse weather conditions meant only eight walkers made the long run up to tackle 'The lost villages of Ayrshire' walk.

The walk started at the gates of the now disused Dunaskin Iron Works north of Dalmellington at Waterside. Starting out in a north westerly direction, the first point of interest was the grade two listed building that is the Waterside Institute. A moment was taken to look at the war memorial in the grounds. Further on, the boarded up school showed the decline of what was once a thriving industrial community.

Now the disused rail line was accessed leading to open countryside. The drizzle in the air turned to wet snow. Sheep and cattle grazed in a landscape dotted with odd brick buildings once associated with the mines and ironworks. At the Drumgrange burn a line branched off to the north. Looking like a giant ski jump this was the line of an incline drum and steel rope haulage system for raising and lowering rail wagons. A long steady climb led to the ruins of the drum housing. Open cast coal quarries lay desolate and abandoned to the west.
At the top of the hill the walking became easier but the snow was gathering pace.
At Lethanhill another war memorial was viewed. It was noted that the majority of names on all the memorials of the district were mainly conscripts to the Royal Scots Fusiliers. At the top of what was once called Step Row a large white painted stone was inscribed with the slogan '1851<>1954 Long Live The Hill'.
The track now turned eastwards on the north side of the plantation that now covers Lethanhill. Reaching a very boggy patch of ground (since found to be named the 'Midden'), a fence was crossed to gain access to the trees. As well as getting relief from the driving snow this gave the group a chance to see the ruins of the Auld School Row and White Brick Row, a fascinating insight into a way of life long gone.
Back out onto the open moorland the track east was now gained. After a short distance into the driving wet snow, a prudent decision was taken to allow one of the more elderly walkers to be escorted back to the walk start. This left five walkers continuing on. It was also decided that the section of the walk to the memorial and ironworks of Benquhat would be omitted.
Passing one time bings, slag heaps and iron workings, progress was made to the gorge at Corbie Craigs. Here a Peregrine Falcon was seen leaving a rocky perch.
Through the snow and mist, the memorial on Benquhat (Benwhat) hill could just be made out. Only undulations and mounds remain of what was Benwhat village and Ironworks.
The ruins of Burnhead Farm were searched for suitable shelter for lunch. This was unsuccessful and the back of a drystone dyke was settled on. With the driving snow penetrating even the best waterproofs lunch was a fairly hurried affair.
It was a wet and cold group that retraced their steps to the Corbie Craigs gorge to view the tumbling waterfalls. Now the ruins of the miners row overlooking Dunaskin Glen were accessed. Corbie Craigs Village was built by the Dalmellington Iron Company in the 1850's to house workers at the nearby mines which served the ironworks at Waterside. The village was abandoned in the 1950's and left to ruin.
Now the group headed back into the wind over tussocks and burns to cross a small bridge over the Rough burn. Remnants of an old pipeline and possible mine adit were seen. With the wind in their back they now walked westward along the undulating track overlooking the beautiful Dunaskin Glen. Another disused rail line ran alongside.

At Corbie Craigs, the Rough burn and the Glenhead Burnhead burn joined to become the Dunaskin burn. At a high point where the burn turns sharply south sits the site of Laight Castle, where Alpin, King of the Scots, was defeated and killed in battle in the year 837. An interesting point is that our present queen's lineage see's Alpin as her 34th Great Grandfather. No remains of the castle are visible but the foundation is of a rectangular tower house with a semi-circular foundation of a staircase tower.

With the giant chimneys of the Dalmellington Ironworks now in view, the group were soon back in the complex of abandoned turbine houses, ovens and kilns, engine houses, shunting yards and engine sheds. The pride of the buildings being the magnificent 1847 Italianate blowing-engine house. There's still life here though, volunteers from the Ayrshire Railway Preservation Group are always around preparing for the Steam Open Days in the summer.

Back at the cars, the group divest themselves of wet walking gear before joining the early finishers in the Dalmellington Inn for hot tea and coffee in front of a blazing fire.
The next walk, on Saturday the 23rd of March will be a 6 mile circular around the Monreith Estate. Meet at the Riverside car park Newton Stewart at 9.00 am,the Breastworks, Stranraer at 9.30 am for car sharing, or at the walk start at the Monreith Clifftop Car Park (NX 357 409) at 10.00am.
New members are always welcome, for more information, directions or if going to the walk start, contact the walk leader on 01671 401222


  1. Shame about the weather Jim as it looks an interesting place. Its one I've fancied myself for an exploration around that area. Good history too. That seems to have been a regular practice years ago in isolated communities. The company provided a pub and a lone shop then had a captive debt-tied workforce for life. Wilsontown and Leadhills had the same set up.
    Watched a programme recently about poor areas of America. They do the same there but on a much bigger scale as the country is so vast. If folk cant find work they simply go elsewhere leaving entire cities and towns half empty. Its still a productive superpower but the population has an established background of abandoning places that cant provide a living for their families. It appears more ruthless there. We seem to have much deeper roots and links to our communities here due to our longer history and the comparative age of the cities and towns.

  2. Indeed very interesting history Jim, and for the hikers the weather was a shame, but for us armchair travellers it was fantastic. Added a whole different perspective to the countryside.
    I'm just such a sucker for snow!
    It did look as though it was very cold indeed. :)

  3. you all sure do deserve that tea!

    even though the weather was not the best it makes for a good adventure, memory and story, plus a good dose of winter weather.

    thank you for sharing.

  4. guys do it all!! rain, snow, sleet! dedication and passion!!

  5. I remembered having seen the Corbie Craigs ghost village earlier - and yes, it was in your report a year earlier. But what a difference in weather between these two years!

  6. Thanks for your welcome comments folks, we'll hopefully do the walk again in October, should be about summertime by then !


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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