River Doon

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Doon, a loch partly in Kirkcudbrightshire, but chiefly in Ayrshire, and a river dividing the Ayrshire districts of Carrick and Kyle. Lying 680 feet above sea-level, the loch extends 5 miles north-by-eastward and north-westward to within 3 miles of Dalmellington town, and varies in width between 2 and 6½ furlongs. It receives, at its head, Gala and Carrick Lanes, discharging the effluence of Lochs Enoch, Macaterick, and Riecawr; on its western side, is joined by Garpel Burn, flowing out of Loch Finlas; and, at its foot, sends off the river Doon. Its surface is studded with five little islands or groups of islands, viz., from S to N, Pickinaw Isles, Castle Island, Saugh Island, Garpel Islands, and Gordon's Island, on the second of which is a ruined octangular tower-'Balliol's Castle.' By Chalmers this was identified with Laight Alpin, the scene of the death of King Alpin of Dalriada in 741, which Skene, however, places on the eastern shore of Loch Ryan; by Tytler it is said to have been basely yielded to the English in 1306, when Seaton, its lord, who had married a sister of Bruce, was carried to Dumfries and executed. In 1826, nine ancient canoes, hollowed each from a single oak tree, and from 16½ to 221/3 feet long, were found sunk in the loch near this islet. Boats are kept, and trout and char are fairly plentiful. 'Viewed from a distant eminence,' says Mr Harper, 'Loch Doon has more the appearance of a river than a lake. It is surrounded by lofty hills (1000 to 2000 feet in height) on both the Carsphairn or Galloway and the Straiton or Carrick side, the Gallowegian being green and grassy, excellent for sheep pasture, to which they are almost entirely devoted. Those on the Carrick side are wild and solitary, with nought but rocks and heather. By tunnels, which have been formed to prevent the lake, when swollen by heavy rains, from overflowing the extensive tracts of meadow-land along the banks of the river, its waters have been lowered considerably from their original level, and the exposure of tracts of barren sand, gravel, and stone on its banks, detracts considerably from its beauty ' (Rambles in Galloway, 1876). The river Doon, emerging by these two tunnels, cut out of the solid rock, rushes impetuously into Ness Glen, a romantic wooded gorge some 30 feet wide, 300 deep, and 1 mile long; expands next into Bogton Loch (6 x 2¼ furl.), in the vicinity of Dalmellington; and thence winds north-westward, past Waterside, Patna, Dalrymple, Cassills House, Auchendrane House, and Alloway, till, after a total course of 26½ miles, it falls into the Firth of Clyde, 1¾ mile S by W of Ayr. Its tributaries are numerous, but small. The parishes, on its left bank, are Straiton, Kirkmichael, and Maybole; on its right, Dalmellington, Dalrymple, and Ayr or Alloway. For the first 3 miles below Bogton Loch the Doon's right bank is fringed by the crescent-shaped vale of Dalmellington; for the next 5, on either side rise treeless, heathy knolls, or tame, uninteresting hills; but thence, right onward to the sea, the stream has channelled out a mighty furrow, 10 to 200 feet deep, and 30 to 150 yards wide at the top, its bosky sides- 'the bonnie winding banks Where Doon rins, wimplin, clear.' 'Naebody sings the Doon,' thus Burns complained in 1785; but Burns himself atoned for the neglect, so that its 'Banks and Braes,' the Downans of Cassillis, and auld Kirk-Alloway 'shine wi' the best' now, even with Tweed and Yarrow. Its waters contain good store of trout, sea-trout, and salmon; and large pike lurk in its more sluggish pools.—Ord. Sur., shs. 8,14,1863.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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