An article from

'The Topographical, Statistical, and Historical Gazetteer of Scotland'

Published by A.Fullarton and Co. - 1848


DALMELLINGTON, or Damelingtoun (1), 'a parish at the southern angle of the district of Kyle, Ayrshire. It is bounded on the north by Ochiltree; on the east by New-Cumnock; on the south-east by Kirkcudbrightshire; on the south-west by Loch Doon and Doon water, which divide it from Straiton; and on the west by Dalrymple. It has nearly a triangular figure, the longest side being from northwest to south-east along the Doon; and it measures, in extreme length, 10 miles, in average breadth about 3. Along the Doon, over a distance of 3 miles, a plain or very gentle slope stretches inward, of nearly the figure of a crescent, narrowed to a point at both extremities, and measuring about a mile at its central or greatest width. Behind this plain the whole parish rises upward in continuous eminences or mountain ridges. The ridge nearest the Doon closes that river closely in at the north-western angle of the parish, extends away eastward, limiting the lowlands, and abruptly terminates to the north-east of the village, in a splendid colonnade of basalt, 300 feet in height, and 600 in length. Two other ridges run south-eastward and southward, and are connected at the north end by a ridge coming down upon them westward from the parish of New-Cumnock. Though the hills are in general easy of ascent, and in only three places are, for a short way, precipitous, yet they form gorges and mountain-passes of fascinating interest, and, in one or two instances, of peculiar grandeur. Along the road from the village of Dalmellington to Carsphairn in Kirkcudbrightshire, two ridges approach for upwards of a mile, so nearly to an embrace as to leave at their bases barely sufficient space for the public road and the bed of a mountain-rill. At the extremity of the range, also, where the river Doon issues from its picturesque mountain-cradled lake, [see DOON, LOCH,] rocky, perpendicular elevations, whose summits rise 300 feet above the level of the river, are, for about a mile, so brief a space asunder, as to seem cloven by some powerful agency from above, or torn apart by some convulsive heave beneath their base. The narrow, stupendously walled pass between is called the glen of Ness, and opens, at its north-western extremity, into the lowlands, or crescent-figured plain, of the parish. The river Doon escapes from the loch by two narrow channels in the naked rock, dashes impetuously along the glen of Ness, and afterwards moves slowly forward among meadowy banks, receiving, in its progress, the waters of several rills, or occasionally swollen and inundating torrents, from the inland heights. The springs of the parish are pure and limpid, and flow, for the most part, from beds of sand and gravel. Nearly a mile from the south-eastern boundary, and surrounded by heathy moorland, is a small lake of about 25 or 30 acres in area, the waters of which are dark, and very deep, and abound in black trout. The soil, on the plain along the Doon, is a strong, rich, clayey loam; around the village, is dry and gravelly; and behind the Doon, or lower range of hills, is moss or moorland. About of a mile below the village is a morass of about 150 acres, resting on a spongy bed, and imbosoming some oaks of considerable size. Coal the most southerly of the Ayrshire field, but prime in quality is worked from deep seams, and affords a supply to places in Galloway even 30 miles distant. Sandstone abounds; and lime and ironstone are not infrequent in occurrence. The parish is traversed by two great lines of road parallel to the Doon, one of them the coach-road from Ayr to Dumfries; and by a line of road north-eastward, leading from the village of Dalmellington to that of New-Cumnock; and it is abundantly accommodated with bridges for these and for by-roads, there being 6 across the Doon, and 9 or 10 across the smaller streams. A very old house in the village, bearing the inscription 1,003, is called Castle-house, owing, as is supposed, to its having been built of materials taken from an ancient castle in the vicinity, called Dame Helen's castle. Between the village and the site of that castle is a beautiful moat, surrounded with a deep, dry fosse. On a precipitous cliff in a deep glen, protected on three sides by the perpendicular rock, and on the fourth by a fosse, stood formerly a fastness, which, from some storied connection with Alpine, king of Scotland, gives to its site the name of Lacht Alpine. In the uplands were, at one time, three very large cairns, one of them upwards of 100 yards in circumference, and all covering vast masses of human bones. A Roman road, coming up from Dumfries-shire and Kirkcudbrightshire, and measuring 10 or 11 feet broad, formerly traversed the parish from south-east to north-west, and passed from it into Dalrymple. Dalmellington figured largely in the affecting scenes of the persecution under the Stuarts, and abounds in traditions respecting the sufferings of the Covenanters. Wodrow represents it as having been watched and oppressed with such large bodies of troops, that, at one period, they must have been more numerous than the inhabitants; and, while giving detailed accounts of the heavy and multiform local grievances which they inflicted, he says, "Had materials come to my hand as distinctly from the rest of the country as from this parish, what a black view we might have had!" The village of Dalmellington is snugly situated, on the road from Ayr to Dumfries, in a recess of the plain of the parish, sheltered by the hills, and about of a mile northeastward of the Doon, or of a stripe of waters of a mile broad, and called Bogton loch, into which the Doon, during about a mile of its progress, expands. It is a neat, thriving place, and has two woollen mills, a carpet manufactory, and a considerable number of private looms. Here are a subscription library, a reading-room, a savings bank, 7 inns, 3 schools, and the parish-church. Belonging to the village are 2 commons, which afford pasturage to from 50 to 60 cows. Annual fairs are held on Fastern's E'en, Halloween, and the first Friday after Whitsunday, all old style. The village is a burgh-of-barony. Population of the parish, in 1801, 787; in 1831, 1,056. Houses 189. Assessed property, in 1815, 2,566. - Dalmellington parish, formerly a vicarage of chapel-royal of Stirling, is in the presbytery of Ayr, and synod of Glasgow and Ayr. Patron, the Crown. Stipend 158 6s. 8d.; glebe 20. - The parish-church was built in 1766; sittings 400. Parish-schoolmaster's salary 34 4s. 4d., with 10 fees. There are two schools non-parochial.  

{1 The writer in the Old Statistical Account says: "The true orthography of Damelingtoun is said to be 'Dame Helen's Town,' after a lady of rank and fortune, of the name of Helen, who built a castle near this place." Chalmers, in his Caledonia, however, derives the name from two Gaelic words, dal, a valley; muilan, a mill, and the common Saxon termination, toun, or ton, and thus makes it mean 'the Town of the Valley of the mill.'}




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