Prehistoric Man in Ayrshire
by John Smith
IN the Fenwick district the old forts still go by the name of dinans in the Loudon district they are called 'castle hills,' as they are in many other parts. '
The Redding' Castle Hill ' Fort stands on a salient on the south-east side of Polbaith Burn. Its surface measures 35 paces by20 on the land side, and 8 paces on the burn side. On the land side there is a wide ditch, partly filled up, but still 9 feet 4 inches below the top of the rampart. On both sides there are deep ditches, and the middle and front parts dip steeply towards the burn. It has been much dug into at one time, but nobody in the district appears to know when.
Near Alton there is another castle hill, situated right above a little stream.It is 16 paces in diameter on top, and 13 feet above the road , which skirts its south-east base. On the top there is a slight indication of a rampart, and on its south-west side faint indications of a ditch. On the north-east side there is a small dyke, and outside of it a hollow, or ditch, partly filled with boulders.
On Glen Water there is a fort at Bankhead;It is situated on th e east side of the burn, and to the south of a little stream which has formed a deep gullet on its north side. On its south side a deep bucht [ Corrie or gill ] has been cut out of the land by the Glen Water before the fort was in existence. These causes combined, and with the fact that a very wide ditch - artificial, of course - had been made round the back of the fort, rendered it an exceedingly strong one, the steep slope toward s the Glen Water being some 85 feet in perpendicular height. The height of the fort above the ditch at its shallowest part is at present 6 feet 6 inches, and the edge of the ditch on the land side is 5 feet 10 inches above the inner edge of the fort. This fort measures (oval) 26 paces by 22 paces, the surface being irregular, and slightly sloping towards th e west.
There is a tradition in the neighbourhood that there once was a castle, built of stone and lime, on it (the fort), but no one I talked to about it ever saw any signs of this. The idea has probably sprung from its names of Castle Hill or Castle Lowrie, the latter having probably been the name of one of its possessors. At the farmhouse beside it there is a barley-mill.
Carnals Castle is a natural eminence in the glen of the Mucks Water, and situated on its north side200 yards up from its junction with the Glen Water. The rock is composed of volcanic tuff, purplish and yellowish in colour, with concretions, and is nearly all covered with grass, its rounded summit being 15 paces by 7 paces. On the land side there is a trench-like hollow, which at its shallowest part is 18 feet below the summit of the rock. On the burn side there-is a deep ravine, the opposite side of which is thickly covered with wood, which extends to the Glen Water.
Below the junction of the Mucks Water, on its right side, there is a high precipice; extending for some distance, and called the Carlingcraig. Carnals (Castle) probably meansNeil's Fort.
Longreen is half a mile further up the Glen Water; and near the west bank of the latter there is an artificial structure (probably the original Longreen, or boat-shaped [mound] of the sun). By the action of a small stream and the Glen Water, a point of land has been carved out. This has had a deep trench cut across it, the material from which has been heaped up on its south side, so that themound side is 'higher than the land side by 5 feet. Along the north-east side of the ditch a narrow pathway has been left up to the mound or fort; but it is 10 feet below the top of the fort, the ditch being 20 feet.
In Loudon Park there was a ' Druidical circle ' near the castle, [ Loudoun Castle ] and near it, under a cairn, about the year1830, five stone coffins were found, containing human remains, and a few cutting implements, made of stone, as per Statistical Account.
In the park, near the foot of the lime road, there are the remains of a large calm or mound.
A short distance to the east of Loudon Hill, and overlooking the Irvine Water, thereare the remains of a small fort, called Wallace's Fort. The farmer informed me th at about twenty years ago it was pretty perfect, but he at that time levelled down the rampart and nearly filled up the ditch. Its surface measures 34 paces by 24.
Loudon Hill, occupying such a prominent position, commanding such an extensive prospect, and being in itself a natural fortress, of the Dumbarton Rock order, would, in all likelihood, be fortified. The name of this hill, as pronounced by the country people, probably means ' the fortified beacon hill. '
The Ordnance surveyors have marked a fort on Burflat Burn, about2 furlongs up from Newmills. When I visited this, I found it to be a natural trap eminence, quite suitable for a fort without alteration, save palisading ; but I could see no artificial work about it, unless what looked like a recent road or footpath between it and the glen. Its surface, sloping slightly with the stream, measures 30 paces by 13 at widest part.
There were two cairns on East Law Hill ; and under a cairn on Mosside a perforated piece of cannel-coal, measuring4 1/2 inches, was got. It is figured in the Ayr and Wigton Collections.
A large bronze pot was dug out of Braidlee Moss about 1840; and in it (the pot) a small bronze pot and a tripod bronze ewer were found.
In Newmills [Newmilns ] there is a tower ' without a history ' ; and the old castle of Loudon, which belonged to the Loudons and the Campbells, was burned in the year 1490.
In Skellyhill Meadow there was a chapel, and a short distance further up the Glen Water from it there are the remains of a Roman bridge.
Loudon ' Queir ' of some antiquity, is situated in the old churchyard.
High up in the east end of the byre-gable of Bankhead Farmsteading, there is built into the wall a perforated stone, said to have been taken from an old castle, remains of the foundation of which are still to be traced in the garden.
Lindsay, in his ' Coinage of Scotland,' informs us that at Newmills, in 1783, a boy digging potatoes found a considerable quantity of billon and black coins of Mary and James VI.
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