Taken from Malcolm McLachlan Harper's "Rambles in Galloway", published in 1876, this is an excellent introduction to Anwoth Parish and Ravenshall.


The drive from Gatehouse by Ravenshall and Creetown to Newton-Stewart is considered one of the very finest in Galloway.

McDiarmid, in his Sketch-book writes that "it is perhaps the most beautiful shore-road in Britain," and it well deserves the high eulogy passed upon it by that keenly observant and enthusiastic admirer of nature.

The road, as far as Creetown, runs near the shore; and the extent and varied beauty of its marine and inland views; the solemn grandeur of its sea cliffs, glimpses of which are seen from the road; the charming woodlands, deep romantic glens, and mountains towering in the distance, cannot fail to command the admiration of the traveller.

About a mile from Gatehouse, and close to the old military road, are the ruins of Anwoth Church, built in 1626, where Samuel Rutherford the eminent Covenanting divine was once minister. The ivy-clad walls of this ancient and venerable building, which are still preserved, are situated in the churchyard, in a valley surrounded by hills, nearly all belted with woods, interspersed with patches of rich pasturage, giving to the prospect a varied and pleasing aspect. Bushy-Bield, the house in which Rutherford dwelt while ministering at Anwoth, must have stood in a very sheltered spot amongst the woods; and we were told that it continued standing till the year 1827, when it was pulled down. A few wild plum and cherry trees and holly bushes still remain to mark the spot. In the Statistical Account it is said "that this house was of a baronial character; and was not, it is probable, built for Rutherford, but had previously been the residence of a private gentleman.” A spot nearby is said to be the place where Rutherford was accustomed to walk and muse, and is still called "Rutherford's Walk."

Tradition relates that it was here Archbishop Usher was recognised by him while praying with great fervency for his flock. Dr. Murray relates this interesting story as follows: - "The Archbishop, on passing through Galloway, urged by the admiration he entertained for Rutherford's character, paid him a visit in disguise at Anwoth, and was most hospitably received. He arrived at Bushy-Bield on a Saturday, on the evening of which day the minister was in the habit of catechising his family on religious subjects. The stranger is reported to have been asked, ‘How many commandments are there?' - to which he answered eleven; and, on being reminded that there are only ten, he quoted in corroboration of the correctness of his reply, the words of our Saviour, ‘a new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.' The ability of the answer surprised Rutherford. On the following morning the stranger was accidentally recognized: Being overheard by his host (in a thicket adjoining his favourite walk) engaged in prayer, couched in language of uncommon felicity, and containing allusions to the people under his spiritual care, Rutherford immediately thereafter took an opportunity of stating his suspicion as to the rank and character of his guest. Usher frankly confessed the truth, and explained the circumstance on the ground that, being anxious to see a man of whom he had heard so much and thought so highly, and suspecting that he might be averse to receive the visit of a Bishop if he knew him to be such, he had been induced to assume a disguise to accomplish his object. Rutherford welcomed him with great cordiality, as a man venerable equally for learning and piety. He requested him to preach to his people, as it was Sabbath, which Usher readily consented to do, adopting the Presbyterian form of worship, and laying aside for a time the Episcopal ceremonies. His text was the 'new commandment ' mentioned above."

"There is another tradition," says Dr. Murray, "connected with this period which cannot be passed over in silence. Between the Church of Anwoth and Skyreburn there is a level piece of ground on the farm of Mossrobin, where the people, in Rutherford 's days, were wont to assemble after sermon on Sabbath, and play at football; a practice the minister is said not to have denounced and condemned from the pulpit only, but, following them to the scene of their amusement, solemnly to have reproved them there, calling on the objects around him, particularly three large stones, to witness between them and him, that, however they might continue to behave, he had done his duty. Two of these stones still remain, and are known under the name of ‘Rutherford's Witnesses.' The history of the removal of the third is curious, and savours much of the superstitious feelings of that time. A person employed in building a fence wished to avail himself of these stones, when a fellow-labourer remonstrated with him on the subject, and warned him of the danger of laying a sacrilegious hand on objects so sacred. This warning he scornfully disregarded, and he removed one of them, uttering expressions little respectful to the earnest piety which had given them distinction. The result is said to have been such as had been feared. The man soon after came to a violent end, which was viewed as a judgment from heaven, in consequence of the alleged unhallowed and profane act of which he had been guilty. One report says that the person having declared, in answer to the warning he had received, that he would remove the stone ere he broke his fast, was choked with the first mouthful he attempted to swallow." These stones still stand in the situation described, and the inhabitants continue to hold them in veneration.

About half a mile from the church is the Rutherford Monument, placed in a very prominent situation on the farm of Boreland. This is a gray granite obelisk, 55 feet in height, and is conspicuous from a great distance. The ivy-clad ruins of the old church in which Rutherford preached, and the churchyard surrounding it, are very interesting. Among the tombstones is one to the memory of John Bell, in Arkland, dated 1631. The tomb of the Maxwells of Cardoness bears some quaint and very interesting inscriptions. The stone, however, most worthy of remark, is erected to the memory of the martyr John Bell of Whiteside, in the parish of Anwoth, who, as Wodrow says, "was the only son of a gentlewoman, heiress of Whiteside, who, after his father's death, was married to the Viscount of Kenmure." The inscription on the tablet in Anwoth churchyard to the memory of Bell is as follows: -

"Here lyes John Bell of Whyteside, who was barbarously shot to death in the paroch of Tongland, at the command of Grier of Lag, Anno 1685.
“This monument shall tell posterity
That blessed Bell of Whyteside here doth lye,
Who at command of bloody Lag was shot -
A murder strange which should not be forgot:
Douglas of Morton did him quarters give,
Yet cruel Lag would not let him survive.
This martyr sought some time to recommend
His soul to God before his days should end.
The tyrant said - * What, devil, yo’ve pray'd enough
This long seven years in mountain and in clench;'
And instantly caus'd him, with other four,
Be shot to death upon Kirkconnel Moor:
So thus did end the lives of these dear saints
For their adherence to the Covenants."

On the top of Trusty's Hill, behind the Castle of Cardoness, is a vitrified fort, near which is a broad flat stone carved with what are supposed to be Runic characters, and now carefully preserved from destruction by a strong iron cage put over it* by Mr. Murray Stewart of Cally. A little further on are Anwoth Church and Manse, both in well-chosen sites.

* The rock here referred to is an example of a class of sculptured stones more generally found in the north-east of Scotland. The only other specimen found south of the Forth, mentioned by Dr. Stuart, is one at Edinburgh. The ornaments on the Galloway rock are what archaeologists term the "Sceptre and Spectacle." It is figured on plate 97 in Dr. Stuart's great work, and described by him thus:- “Near to the parish church of Anwoth is a low undulating range of hills, called the Boreland Hills. One of these goes by the name of Trusty's Hill, and round its top may be traced the remains of a vitrified wall. Outside this wall part of the rock crops out from the surface a natural slab, slightly inclined to the north-east, on which are cut the figures represented on the plate. The slab is divided by a natural fissure in the rock, as shown in the drawing. It may be doubted whether the figure at the bottom be not a more recent work than the others. In this parish is found the Moat of Kirkclaugh, on a steep and rocky peninsula overhanging the sea, and near it a sculptured cross, which is figured on plate 123" of the same work.

Continuing our ramble we observe to our left the hoary and stern looking ruins of Cardoness Castle, peeping out from among the trees. This tower is situated about a mile and a half from Gatehouse, on an eminence overlooking the mail road, and appears to have been a building of great strength and considerable dimensions, and built somewhat after the fashion of Threave Castle. It is roofless, and has been uninhabited for upwards of a century and a half. It was formerly the seat of the Maccullochs, one of the most ancient families in Galloway. About a mile from Anwoth Manse, we leave the "up hill and down brae" old military road, for the more pleasant level mail road from Gatehouse to Newton-Stewart. Near the junction of these roads is Ardwall, the residence of Mr. Walter McCulloch, finely situated in woods near the bay.

In what was formerly the garden at Ardwall there is a splendid specimen of the beech, which the genius of Campbell has immortalised. In the year 1800 its branches were so widespreading that the gardener, considering it to be cumbersome and injurious, endeavoured to persuade his master, Mr. McCulloch, to cut it down. This was agreed to, but (quoting from the late Mr. M*Diarmid's Sketches) "a few days subsequent to this, the ladies of Sir William Eichardson’s family, who resided at that time at Ardwall, were visited by their neighbours the Misses Maxwell of Cardoness, and while the whole party were walking in the garden and commenting on the beauties of the beechen tree, Mr. McCulloch informed them that it had become cumbersome, and was just about to be cut down. The ladies were astonished to hear him say so, and exerted all their eloquence to dissuade him from a deed which in their eyes seemed a species of petty, if not high, treason against the majesty of nature. In deference to their wishes a respite was granted, and shortly afterwards the highest poetic genius in the land was willingly exerted to avert the fate of the doomed tree. Among the party in the garden there was a young lady, governess to the Misses Maxwell, and sister to the author of the Pleasures of Hope; and as she too was an admirer of the works of nature, she immediately wrote to her brother, related what was intended, and implored him to pen a petition in favour of the beechen tree. The poet complied, and almost immediately transmitted to Mr. McCulloch the original copy of the now famous verses."

The tree was saved, and from its connection with the poem became an object of greater interest than ever. To strengthen the association, the verses were engraved on a brass plate ; copies, too, were printed for private circulation, and a note appended by Mr. McCulloch detailing the circumstance here narrated, and concluding with the sentence - "Although the tree cannot be so lasting as the fame of him who composed its poetic, pathetic, and beautiful prayer, nevertheless, the present owner hereby fervently solicits his successors to let their tenderness and taste be marked, by giving a life-rent lease to this magnificent plant; or, to 'spare this little spot' until the ruthless hand of time, which spareth not either man or things, may terminate the existence of the ‘Beechen Tree.’"


Oh! leave this barren spot to me!
Spare, woodman, spare the Beechen Tree!
Though bush or flow'ret never grow
My dark, unwarming, shade below.
Nor summer bud perfume the dew
Of rosy blush, or yellow hue -
Nor fruits of Autumn, blossom-born,
My green and glassy leaves adorn -
Nor murm'ring tribes from me derive
Th' ambrosial amber of the hive -
Yet leave this barren spot to me;
Spare, woodman, spare the Beechen Tree.

Thrice twenty summers I have seen
The sky grow bright, the forest green;
And many a wintry wind have stood
In bloomless, fruitless, solitude,
Since childhood, in my rustling bower,
First spent its sweets and sportive hour;
Since youthful lovers, in my shade,
Their vows of truth and rapture made,
And on my trunk's surviving frame
Carv'd many a long forgotten name.
Oh! by the sighs of gentle sound
First breathed upon this sacred ground -
By all that love hath whisper'd here,
Or Beauty heard with ravish'd ear
As Love's own altar honour me -
Spare, woodman, spare the Beechen Tree."

A short way beyond Ardwall we pass Skyreburn, a small stream winding through a lovely wooded glen. The source of this stream being high up in the mountains, it rises with such rapidity, and flows along its course with such vehemence, that when any sudden or unexpected occurrence takes place in the district, the proverb of a "Skyreburn warning" is applied to it. In Chambers's Book of Days we find the following interpretation of a "Scarborough warning," which obviously, as will appear from the following quotation, is the same with this "Skyreburn warning," the proverb being derived solely from this source:- "Toby Matthew, the Bishop of Durham, in the postscript of a letter to the Archbishop of York, dated January 19, 1603, says - ‘When I was in the midst of this discourse, I received a message from my Lord Chamberlain, that it was his Majesty's pleasure that I should preach before him on Sunday next; which Scarborough warning did not only perplex me,' etc. Scarborough warning is alluded to in a ballad by Heywood, as referring to a summary mode of dealing with suspected thieves at that place; by Fuller, as taking its rise in a sudden surprise of Scarborough Castle by Thomas Stafford in 1557 ; and it is quoted in Harington's old translation of Ariosto:-

‘They took them to a fort, with such small treasure,
As in a Scarborough warning they had leasure.'"

The same work goes on to say that "there is considerable likelihood that the whole of these writers are mistaken on the subject. In the parish of Anwoth, in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, there is a rivulet called Skyreburn, which usually appears as gentle and innocent as a child, being just sufficient to drive a mill, but from having its origin in a spacious bosom of the neighbouring hills, it is liable, on any ordinary fall of rain, to come down suddenly in prodigious volume and vehemence, carrying away hayricks, washings of clothes, or anything else that may be exposed near its banks. The abruptness of the danger has given rise to a proverbial expression, generally used throughout the South-West province of Scotland, Skyreburn warning. It is easy to conceive that this local phrase, when heard south of the Tweed, would be mistaken for Scarborough warning; in which case, it would be only too easy to imagine an origin for it connected with that Yorkshire watering-place." This view is corroborated by Dr. Thomas Murray in the Statistical Account previously quoted. In reference to this stream he says - "Skyreburn, being a mountain stream, its waters rise with unusual rapidity, and swell to an extent that would do honour to a river of greater pretensions." "Skyreburn," says Symson, "having its rise from Cairnsmore and the adjacent northern mountains, will, even in summer time, and in a moment almost, by reason of the mists and vapours on the hills, be so great, that it will be hardly fordable, which occasioned the proverb of Skyreburn's warning, applicable to any trouble that comes suddenly or unexpectedly. The sudden inundation is said to proceed from the mists and vapours on Cairnsmore; hence the common saying that "when Cairnsmore hath a hat, Palnure (a small river on the opposite side of the mountain), and Skyreburn may laugh at that."

A little further on is Cardoness House, seen to the left, the residence of Sir William Maxwell, picturesquely situated on the Bay of Fleet. Beyond Cardoness the road for a mile or two is distant from the shore, and there is nothing very worthy of remark, although we still have extended views, with a great expanse of sea in the distance. The land here is pastoral, and apparently hard and dry, and well fitted to produce oats, etc. To the right is the lofty Cairnharrow, and here and there are extensive woodlands. Kirkclaugh, the residence of Mr, Alexander McCulloch, is next passed. It stands in a fine situation on the hillside, and commands beautiful views. Near this mansion, and about a hundred yards from the public road, stands a thin slab or stone, with characters engraved on both sides, of which Chalmers in his Caledonia thus writes - "The only obelisk in the Stewartry, which exhibits any kind of sculpture, is a thin flat stone, which stands 5 feet 3 inches above the ground, in Anwoth parish: the rude figure of a cross, with some ornamental strokes being engraved on both its sides."The stone is situated in a wood near the steep and rugged shore, and may have been placed there either as a sepulchral monument, or a landmark, as was the custom in ancient times. Nearby is a moat, where we could trace distinctly a fosse or the remains of a fort. We believe that this stone, a sketch of which is engraved in the Sculptured Stones of Scotland, as already noted, page 105, has been often visited and examined by antiquarians, and that its signification is still the subject of enquiry and speculation.

We have now reached Ravenshall, and after a brief interval of rest, crave the company of our readers in a ramble in the neighbourhood.


The wayside Inn at Ravenshall affords better accommodation to travellers, tourists, and others, than its external appearance would suggest. During the summer and autumn it is usually crowded with pleasure-seekers, and parties from inland parts of the country, for the benefit of sea-bathing.

Although the coast near Ravenshall is rugged, and apparently unsuited for bathers, still some charming little nooks may be found, as if formed naturally for that purpose. The interesting caves in the vicinity are also a great attraction to this locality, and are made the favourite rendezvous of pleasure excursionists and "pic-nic" parties. The coast here presents a bold and rugged appearance, and merits the attention of the painter and the investigations of the geologist. Some of the caves and fissures are of a very curious formation, and well worthy of inspection.

The steep, precipitous cliffs rise to a great height, some being perpendicular to the sea. They are overgrown with ivy and wild flowers, which gives them a fine romantic aspect. The fissure that goes by the name of Dirk Hatteraick's cave, from its resemblance to the one described by Scott in his novel of Guy Mannering, as the hiding-place of that daring smuggler, is thus mentioned in the Statistical Account: - "The mouth of this cave is like a pit of two fathoms deep, at the bottom of which the cave diverges almost at right angles, and penetrates the rocks towards the north, to a considerable distance." The entrance to it is about 20 feet from the base of the rocks. A ladder is usually kept for the accommodation of parties wishing to descend and explore the cave. Its interior is neatly and compactly built with stones, having small presses or shelves, where the smugglers are supposed to have stored their contraband goods.

From the doorstep of the Raven Inn there is an extensive prospect. Looking towards the east we have the undulating and rich pastures lying along the Borgue shore, with the steep and precipitous point of Borness, and the Murray Isles in the mouth of the channel, crouching like grim monsters keeping guard over the entrance to the town of Gatehouse-of-Fleet. Directly before us is the Isle of Man, faintly discerned through the silvery haze in which it is enveloped. To the west is Burrowhead, and the bold promontory of Cruggleton, crowned with the remains of an ancient castle, jutting far out into the sea, with the well-wooded grounds around Galloway House, the seat of Lord Galloway, and away in the far distance are the low-lying lands and hills of Wigtownshire.

About a mile from Ravenshall is Kirkdale House, the residence of Major Rainsford Hannay, a splendid building in the Italian style of architecture, by Adam. It is built of granite, and situated on an eminence, with beautifully sloping grounds in front, studded with some very fine old trees, and is well relieved by a dark background of rich foliage. The walks running through the dense woods and policy grounds of the mansion are extremely beautiful and extensive. The scenery around Kirkdale, especially the beautiful and romantic glen, is unequalled, we should think, by any in the Stewartry. The moon-light effects on the sea, as seen from this point, are exceedingly lovely. From Kirkdale, we take the road leading past the entrance-gate to Cairnholy. A short way up the Kirkdale Glen is a rustic and picturesque old bridge well worthy the attention of the artist, its situation and appearance being a model ready to hand. It is a pity to see these old structures, so pleasing to the eye of the artist and the lovers of the picturesque, fast disappearing from the face of the country, to make way for what are supposed to be more imposing and ornamental designs, - what Ruskin terms "the straight-backed things which we fancy are fine, and accept from the pontifical rigidities of the engineering mind." Doubtless, greater utility and serviceableness are intended in the construction of these, but they are in no way calculated to inspire the genius of the artist.

The Kirkdale Glen is thickly wooded with symmetrically shapen firs, rising uniformly one above another. A streamlet fights its way among the moss and lichen clad boulders, answering to the plaintive murmurs of the ocean. While gazing on this peaceful and secluded scene, the thought occurred to us that the bones of a Gray might here repose, -

“In this still place, where murmurs on,
But one meek streamlet, - only one. "

The old square Tower of Barholm is seen a little beyond, to the right, placed on a site commanding views of rich and varied scenery. This is believed to be the "Ellangowan " of Guy Mannering, and it is also said that John Knox had his hiding-place here for some time previous to his escape to the continent. The McCulloch's of Barholm were ardent admirers and staunch supporters of the principles of the Reformation; some of them being martyrs to the cause. This may account for Knox's taking refuge here. The castle is still in pretty good repair, but is uninhabited, and appears to be used as a lumber store by the farmer of Barholm, whose dwelling-house is contiguous.

Following the road by the margin of the glen, we observe several sepulchral monuments or stones standing upright in a field near the road, and marks of many graves are discernible. A large tomb, formed of whinstone slabs, has recently been discovered beside these stones, somewhat similar in construction to that of King Galdus, near Cairnholy, which strengthens the supposition that this also has been used as a place of sepulture. We now reach the memorable spot where king Galdus, who is supposed to have given the name to Galloway, is said to be buried. This tumulus is on a fine grassy knoll, overgrown with moss, near the farm-house of Cairnholy, in a very picturesque spot, on a level plateau at the base of the lofty Cairnharrow, and near the romantic glen before described. It is said that this tomb, when first opened in the seventeenth century, was found to contain a large kistvaen of flat stones. This kistvaen, which we measured, is about six feet in length and three feet in breadth, neatly built with whinstone slabs. A ponderous whinstone block is laid over the mouth of the tomb, but has been wedged up at the one end, so as to satisfy the curiosity of visitors prying into this ancient relic. We observed six large sepulchral stones standing erect on the same grassy mound, and some very ancient looking thorns, with their trunks and branches twisted into the most grotesque and fantastic shapes, grow close by. It is conjectured that in a plain near Cairnholy a battle was at one time fought. We learned from the tenant of the farm that one of his servants had recently turned up with the plough several ancient battleaxes, and other pieces of warlike instruments of a rude construction - along with the handle of an ancient Roman urn, formed of bronze, on which was very perfectly cut a head of Medusa.