- STRAITON, a parish, in the district of Carrick, county of Ayr, 7 miles (S. E. by E.) from Maybole; containing, with the village of Patna, 1363 inhabitants. This place derives its name, signifying in the Celtic language "the town of the strath," from its situation at the head of an extensive and fertile vale: little is known of its ancient state, and very few, if any, incidents of historical importance connected with it are on record. The parish, which is one of the largest in the county, is about twenty miles in length, and of very irregular breadth, scarcely averaging more than four miles, though in some parts extending to eight miles. It is bounded on the north by the parishes of Kirkmichael and Dalrymple; on the east by the parish of Dalmellington; on the south by the parishes of Carsphairn, Kells, Minigaff, and Barr; and on the west by the parishes of Dailly and Kirkmichael. The surface, with the exception of the valleys of the Girvan and the Doon, is generally uneven, abounding with hills, of which some few are of considerable height. Of these, the Graigengower, behind the manse, has an elevation of 1300 feet; and Binnan Hill, about half a mile from the village, rises to the height of 1150 feet above the level of the sea; both commanding fine views over the county of Ayr, the Frith of Clyde, the Isle of Arran, and the coast of Ireland. The other hills, though numerous, are not of any great altitude. There are also many lakes on the borders, and within the limits, of the parish. The principal is Loch Doon, which is properly within the parish: this lake is about six miles in length and one mile broad, and is much frequented by fishing parties, for whose accommodation boats are kept in constant readiness during the season. The scenery of the lake is bleak, and destitute of beauty, from the want of trees; and the most romantic feature, the outlet of its waters into the river Doon, in one wide volume over a rocky barrier, has been divested of its interest by the erection of sluices to regulate the supply. Of the other lakes the chief are, Loch Braden, Loch Dercleugh, and Loch Finlas, on all of which boats are likewise kept for angling; the remaining lakes, nearly twenty in number, are inconsiderable, and undistinguished by any peculiarity of features. The river Doon, issuing from the lake of that name, forces its way for almost a mile through the deep and rocky glen of Berbeth, in which it is apparently lost. The interior of this dark and narrow dell abounds with the most sublime and romantic features. Along the margin of the river, a narrow footpath has been formed at an elevation above the highest point to which its waters ever rise in forcing their way; and the narrow channel of the stream is inclosed on both sides by lofty precipitous cliffs, rising almost perpendicularly to the height of nearly 300 feet, in some parts clothed with the rich foliage of trees whose boughs impend over the water, and in others forming vast and rugged masses of barren rock. From this pass, the river winds through the pleasure-grounds of Berbeth House, and it afterwards expands into a wide lake, whence it pursues a gentle and noiseless course through meadow lands: after forming for about ten miles the boundary of this parish, it flows through the parishes of Dalrymple and Maybole into the sea, near Ayr. The river Girvan, which rises about twelve miles from Straiton, passes along a rich and fertile vale to the village, and, after a course of nearly three miles through the well-wooded demesne of Blairquhan, enters Kirkmichael: the river Stinchar, which has its source in the parish of Barr, constitutes the southern boundary of this parish for two miles. A beautiful waterfall occurs near Berbeth, where a lake called Dalkairney Linn, which is created by a small burn, projects itself from a height of forty feet in a perpendicular descent; Tarelaw Linn is formed by the Girvan, and, after a succession of falls, together more than sixty feet in height, expands into a fine sheet of water in a deeply-wooded dell. The streams abound with trout, and salmon also are found in the Doon and Girvan; the lakes contain pike, trout, and other fish; and the moors afford plenty of grouse.The soil on the banks of the Girvan is light and gravelly, and on those of the Doon a retentive clay. The whole number of acres in the parish is estimated at 51,800; about 4200 of these are arable, 600 in woods and plantations; and the remainder, of which not more than 500 or 600 could be reclaimed and rendered capable of cultivation, are pasture and moorland in a state of nature. The crops are, oats, wheat, barley, beans, potatoes, and turnips. The system of agriculture is improved; the lands have been drained to a considerable extent, and the greater number of the farm-houses, having been rebuilt in a better style, are now substantial and commodious, and roofed with slate. On most of the farms threshing-mills have been erected; the introduction of bone-manure has been attended with success, and all the more recent improvements in implements of husbandry have been adopted. Great attention is paid to the rearing of live-stock, and to the improvement of the breeds. Galloway cows, formerly prevalent here, have given place to cows of the Ayrshire breed; about 800 milch-cows of this description are pastured, and 1400 head of cattle of the Galloway kind are annually bred. Of sheep, about 20,000 of the black-faced kind are annually fed on the several pastures, and a few of the Cheviot breed have been recently introduced; 250 horses are also annually reared, chiefly for agricultural purposes. The woods are well managed, and display some good specimens of full-grown timber; near the village are some remarkably fine old sycamoretrees, and near Blairquhan are some lime-trees of great beauty, forming a noble avenue to the mansion. The plantations are, larch, and spruce, silver, and Scotch firs, interspersed with oak, ash, elm, and beech; they are well attended to, and make a profitable return to the proprietors. The substrata are chiefly granite, of which the hills about Loch Doon are formed, greywacke, and greywacke-slate; on the banks of the Girvan is found trap interspersed with mountain limestone, and in the lower lands red sandstone. Limestone is quarried in several places, and coal has been found in different parts of the parish; the limestone in some spots abounds with marine shells. The coal is worked at Patna and Keir, but not to any great extent; it occurs in seams varying from three to eight feet in thickness, and of various quality. The rateable annual value of the parish is £9107. Blairquhan Castle, the seat of Sir David Hunter Blair, Bart., is a castellated mansion, completed in 1824, in the later style of English architecture, and beautifully situated on the banks of the Girvan, about a mile from the village of Straiton. The approach is by a handsome bridge, and through a lodge in strict keeping with the style of the castle; it conducts the visiter through a succession of interesting scenery, and leads to a fine view of the house, with the hills of Craigengower and Binnan in the back ground. The castle contains many stately apartments, to which access is afforded by a spacious and splendid saloon sixty feet in height; the grounds are laid out with great beauty, and adorned with full-grown timber and thriving plantations. Berbeth, the residence of the Honourable Colonel Cathcart, is situated on the banks of the Doon, at one extremity of the parish; it is a substantial mansion, in a highly embellished demesne comprising much interesting scenery. On the river Stinchar, at about eight miles' distance from the village of Straiton, is a shooting lodge belonging to the Marquess of Ailsa.The village is pleasantly situated on the Girvan, and consists of neat and well-built houses. The inhabitants are partly engaged in weaving for the Glasgow and Paisley manufacturers, the principal articles being tartans and plaids; a great part of the female population, also, are employed in working muslins in flowers and various patterns for the markets of Paisley and Glasgow. A penny-post office, a branch of the post-office of Maybole, has been established here, and also a parochial library, in which is a collection of about 500 volumes. The nearest market-town is Ayr, with which communication is afforded by good roads, that from Ayr to Newton-Stewart passing through the village; and over the rivers are bridges kept in excellent repair. The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Ayr and synod of Glasgow and Ayr, and the patronage is in the Crown. The stipend of the incumbent is £235; the manse is a small but comfortable residence, beautifully situated, and the glebe comprises about eight acres of profitable land, valued at £16 per annum. The church is a plain edifice, having undergone repeated alterations and repairs; the most ancient portion of it, which formed part probably of the original structure, is an aisle, having a fine Gothic window, and now belonging to Sir Hunter Blair. It is nearly in the centre of the parish, and is adapted for a congregation of 444 persons. A chapel of ease has been erected by subscription in the village of Patna, on a site given for that purpose, in 1836, by Mr. Leslie Cumming; it is adapted for a congregation of about 600 persons, and is well arranged. In this village also, is a place of worship for members of the United Secession. There are two parochial schools; one in the village of Straiton, of which the master has a salary of £31. 10., with a house and garden, and fees averaging £32 per annum; and the other in the village of Patna, of which the master has a salary of £11, with a house and garden given by the proprietor, and the fees, amounting to £25. The former is attended by about eighty, and the latter by about sixty scholars. There is also a school partly supported by the fees; and at both villages are parochial libraries, besides small collections of religious works. Coal is distributed annually among the poor by Lady Hunter Blair; and two friendly societies, long established, have contributed greatly to diminish the applications for parochial relief. On an island near the head of Loch Doon are the remains of the ancient castle of Doon, of irregular form, consisting of eleven different facia, and of a lofty square tower in the Norman and early English styles of architecture. This was once a royal castle, of which the Earl of Cassilis was governor; it was one of the five strongholds held by the royalists during the minority of the son of Bruce, and was defended against the English by John Thompson, who led back the Scottish army from Ireland after the death of Edward Bruce. In the loch, near the ruins, were found, in 1823, and also in 1831, some canoes formed of one trunk of oak: one is preserved in the museum of the university of Glasgow, and others in some water near Berbeth. There are also slight remains of the ancient castle of Blairquhan, incorporated in the modern mansion of that name. This castle early belonged to the family of Mc Whirter, from whom it passed to the Kennedys, a branch of the Cassilis family; in the reign of Charles II. it came into the possession of the family of Whiteford, and eventually it was purchased by the Blairs, the present owners of the estate of Blairquhan.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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