The Stinchar Valley

 Discover the beautiful countryside of the River Stinchar in South Ayrshire, Scotland



The River Stinchar flows through the villages of Barr, Pinwherry, and Colmonell before reaching the sea at Ballantrae.

The villages of Barrhill and Pinmore are situated on tributaries of the river. 




Ballantrae   Ballantrae lies about 12 miles south of Girvan, on one of the most scenic stretches of coast road in southern Scotland. Developing as a fishing village near the mouth of the River Stinchar, it was once a notorious centre for the smuggling trade.

The village is dominated by the ruins of Ardstinchar Castle, whose stones, it is said, helped to build the bridge below. It was a home to the Kennedys of Bargany. The 17th century Bargany Aisle stands in the churchyard holding the remains of Gilbert Kennedy who was slain in a bitter feud with the Earl of Cassillis in 1601.

In the main street are the church, dating from 1819, the Kings Arms Hotel, various shops and cafes, a bank, a garage, the village hall, the doctor’s surgery, BRICC House and the Craigiemains Garden Centre. There are also tennis courts and a bowling green, with a putting green down by the shore.

The harbour was built of red sandstone blocks in 1847, the basin excavated from solid rock. As well as a base for fishermen, at one time it was also a port of call for the Stranraer to Glasgow steamers. It is now mainly used by small fishing craft and pleasure boats, though the initials BA (for Ballantrae) are still used as registration letters on many larger fishing vessels in the Clyde.

The very fine old Ballantrae Bridge was built in 1770 with two main arches and a smaller third arch. Often, when the river is low, many salmon can be seen in the pools below the bridge, waiting for sufficient water to get up river to their spawning grounds. The new road bridge to the west was built in 1964.

A long shingle spit has grown up between the river and the sea, part of which is a wildlife reserve for Arctic, common and little tern. There is a wealth of other birdlife, including oystercatcher, ringed plover, sandpiper, sand martin, eider duck and greylag goose, with gannet and manx shearwater offshore.

There are fine woods to the south of Ballantrae surrounding Glenapp Castle, now a Michelin starred hotel.
Colmonell   Situated in the glen of the River Stinchar, Colmonell has a long reputation as one of the most attractive villages in south Ayrshire and in the past its praises were sung by local bards – "A beauty, in a beauteous dell, / Serenely fair sits Colmonell".

The name of the village is derived from the church, which in the 12th century was called Kirk-Colmonell in memory of the patron saint Colmon of Ella, who first brought Christianity to these parts around 600 AD. The present church was built in 1849, known to be the third on this site. The graveyard holds many early gravestones, including those of several covenanters, the best known being that of Matthew McIlwraith. The interior of the church is remarkable for its very fine stained glass windows, particularly the 3 light window by Louis Davis above the pulpit.

See the Stained Glass Windows page.

The imposing ruins of Craigneil Castle can be seen across the valley perched on a knoll of limestone rock. Formerly belonging to the Cassillis family, it was built in the 13th century by Neil, Earl of Carrick. Three stories high, with walls over 6 feet thick, it was a massive tower commanding an excellent view of the whole valley. According to tradition, the castle was reputedly one of the places used by Robert the Bruce and his army. There are the ruins of two other ancient castles nearby - Kirkhill in the village and Knockdolian 1 mile to the west.

In the main street are to be found The Boar’s Head Hotel, known for its good food and popular with fishermen, the Village Hall, built in 1890, the village shop and the Primary School. Craigneil Road runs past the bowling green and the war memorial to the fine stone bridge over the Stinchar.

The surrounding countryside is excellent for both hill walking and gentle strolls. There are many riverside walks. See Walks page.

Pinwherry   The small village of Pinwherry is situated about 8 miles south of Girvan on the A714, surrounded by farmland in this beautiful part of the Stinchar Valley.

Pinwherry grew up around the confluence of the River Duisk and the River Stinchar and looks west along the valley to the "False Craig" – Knockdolian Hill. At one time there was a railway station here on the line between Girvan and Stranraer, and also a thriving dairy. There is a Primary School, a village hall, and the Daljarrock Hotel lies less than a mile away.

The ruins of Pinwherry Castle stand within the grounds of Pinwherry House, and can be seen from the road when entering the village from Newton Stewart. It dates from around the end of the sixteenth century.

Pinwherry Bridge was built over the Duisk in the early 19th century.

Just to the southwest of the village, at Almont, is the monument to John Snell, one of Scotland’s greatest educational benefactors. Born at Almont in 1629, he was a scholar, soldier and lawyer who, after studying at Glasgow College, rose to high office under Charles II. He made a large fortune and endowed bursaries at the colleges of Oxford and Glasgow.

In a commanding position on the hill above Docherneil Farm stands the Glake Stane – a spear shaped standing stone which possibly dates from 2000 BC.

The area is a perfect spot for the outdoor enthusiast, with many walks nearby and good fishing on the Stinchar, the Duisk and the Cree, and on several trout lochs. There is a great variety of wildlife in the valley, including red squirrel, roe deer, red deer, otters and badgers, and birds from blue tits to buzzards, plover to peregrine.

Barr   The conservation village of Barr lies in hills about 8 miles inland from Girvan where the Water of Gregg joins the Stinchar. Much of the village consists of attractive traditional cottages. There is a village shop and post office, and a flourishing primary school. the parish church, built in 1878, is located at the north side of the bridge over the Water of Gregg. The King's Arms hotel dates from the early 1800s.

At the eastern end of the village Changue Road leads to a parking and picnic area where a number of forest walks begin, and also a cycle root to Loch Doon.

At the other end of the village the river is crossed by the fine Stinchar Bridge, built in 1787. On the far side is Alton Albany House, which dates from the 1830s.

From the Stinchar Bridge the B734 winds up the side of Auchensoul Hill towards Girvan, known with some justification as "the screws" road, twisting and turning as it rises above the valley. The road then passes Penwhapple Loch which provides water for Girvan and the surrounding area. The place is now the site of a large wind farm called Hadyard Hill.

The road leaving the north of the village follows the Stinchar upstream as far as the North Balloch Bridge. Turning right at this junction the road climbs steadily through the beautiful Nick o'the Balloch, reaching a high point of 1,276 feet. Just beyond the top of the pass is the spring known as Brandy Well.

    Notes taken from :
Ayrshire: Discovering a County by Dane Love
Old South Ayrshire Villages by Hugh Maxwell
Ayrshire Kyle and Carrick District by Ken Andrew
Colmonell Parish Church Millennium Calendar 1999 Fiona Hood
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