Sunday, 21 July 2013


The north shore of the Solway Firth is full of bays and peninsulas.  Auchencairn Bay is named after the steep village of Auchencairn with its whitewashed cottages and its pebble beaches.  The village was once the haunt of smugglers, who used caves in the nearby Hestan Island to hide their contraband.  In the 18th century the economy of the village was dominated by iron mining.  Further back around the coast to the west is Dundrennan Abbey, built in the latter half of the 12th century and now a ruin run by Historic Scotland.  Hestan Island was owned by the monks from the abbey, who maintained a fishpond there, traces of which can still be seen.  At the north end of the island is the ruined manor house built by Edward Balliol, a 14th century claimant to the throne.  At the south-west end of the bay is Balcary Point, where birdwatchers can observe oystercatchers, curlews, and in summer sandpipers.  Balcary House was built by smugglers and used as their headquarters and storage place, while Balcary Tower lies in the shelter of the point.  The tower was built in around 1860 by the Laird of Auchencairn House for his French governess and mistress.  The tower was up for sale two years ago for a cool £850,000.  The Torr Peninsula separates Auchencairn Bay from the neighbouring Orchardton Bay, and Auchencairn Bay and Orchardton Bay are separated from Rough Firth by Almorness Point.  Near Orchardton Bay is Orchardton Tower, maintained by Historic Scotland.  This 15th century tower house is the only surviving example of such a  house in the cylindrical style common in Ireland.

Map of the area. 

File:Hestan Island and Auchencairn Bay - - 1567051.jpg
Photo by Anthony O'Neil, via Wikimedia Commons

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