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The History of Dalry
The word Dalry means "King's Valley". The lands of the Barony of Dalry or Pitcon were given to Robert Boyd for his services to Robert the Bruce. The area later became part of the lands of the Earls of Glasgow based at Kelburn. In the 1400's the parish had five main baronies: Kelburne, Blair, Kersland, Lynn and Pitcon. These names are still reflected in some of the farms and houses in the area.
Dalry is steeped in a wealth of History, demonstrated by prehistoric cairns, duns and burial mounds in the vicinity of Dalry, which provide evidence of early inhabitants in the area. Also the remains of an ancient fort can also be found at Carwinning Hill to the North of Dalry, west of the B784 to Largs.
Other historical events include the fact that Alexander III and his army camped at Camphill near the Reservoir prior to the Battle of Largs. The Knights Templar also had lands in the area and this is the derivation of local farm names such as Templand.
In the 1700's Dalry consisted of around 6 dwelling houses and a population of around 100. By the 1830's the population had grown to some 1000 with many involved in the manufacture of cotton and carpet yarn, silk and harness weaving and sewing and embroidery for the Glasgow and Paisley manufacturers. Other industries in the Dalry area included the dressing and spinning of flax.
The industries of limestone, coal and ironstone assisted Dalry to develop into a thriving mining community. The iron was smelted in the furnaces of the four great iron companies - the Ayrshire, the Glengarnock, the Eglinton and the Blair. In 1845 a visitor was 'astonished at the change and at the numerous tasks of the busy labourers. The blaze of furnaces, the smoke of coal-pits, the whiter volume emitted by limekilns, and the building of houses, are at intervals seen all over the district.'
Blair House or Castle was at one time the seat of the Blairs of that ilk. In 1249 Sir Bryce de Blare was knighted by Alexander III but supported William Wallace. He was executed in Ayr in 1296. Sir Roger de Blare was knighted by Robert the Bruce after the Battle of Bannockburn.
Blair Castle dates from around 1200 and there is a panel above the doorway dated 1203. Most of the building dates to the 17th Century. The surrounding park was laid out by William Blair in 1760 and walkers are welcome to enjoy a number of the paths through the estate. In 1883 excavations of caves on the estate at Cleeves Cove found evidence of prehistoric man.
Further information on Blair House and the Estate can be found at www.blairestate.com.
Dalgarven Mill is a few miles southwest of Dalry on the road to Kilwinning and is certainly worth a visit. Its history dates back to the time of the monks of Kilwinning Abbey. Around 1280 a number of mills were constructed including a waulk mill on the River Garnock at the site of the present Dalgarven mill.
The Blairs needed a corn mill for their estate and so bought the waulk mill. The mill was used for the grinding of oats and barley into meal. The tenants on the Blair estate were obliged to use the mill and the owners took a percentage of the meal as a commission.
The mill seen today is a 19th century successor to the original which was destroyed by fire in 1869. The mill has been lovingly restored and is open to visitors. Further information on Dalgarven Mill can be found at www.dalgarvenmill.org.uk.
The book Ayrshire and Arran An Illustrated Architectural Guide by Rob Close is worth having if you are investigating the castles and houses in Ayrshire.