village is situated 2 miles south-east of the harbour village of
Port William and lies on Monreith Bay, looking out over Luce bay
and on to the Rhinns of Galloway. Originally called "Milltown
of Monreith" , this was owing to grain mills driven by the
water power of Monreith Burn, and built on the land owned by the
then vast Monreith Estate; it therefore housed many of the estate
and mill workers. The village would also provide accommodation for
workers of the Monreith Tile Works producing bricks from a local
clay pit; the tile works closed in the early 1920's. A "smiddy"
or blacksmith's business was located at the southern end of the
village, known as Clarksburn.
Lying on Monreith Bay are the ruins of Kirkmaiden church, one of
the oldest churches in Scotland, and the resting place of many of
the McCulloch and Maxwell family members, who owned the Monreith
estate. Legend has it that when this parish was united with Glasserton,
the pulpit and bell were removed from Kirkmaiden church and were
to be transported by sea across Luce Bay to a church of the same
name near the Mull of Galloway. A strange storm blew up and the
boat foundered, sinking the pulpit and bell. The story goes that
on the approaching death of any descendant of the McCullochs of
Myrton, the wraith-bell rang from the depths of Luce Bay. Also buried
in Kirkmaiden Churchyard is Francois Thurot, naval officer of the
French Navy, who was one of many Frenchmen whose bodies were washed
ashore after a battle fought at sea off the Isle of Man in 1760
between Britain and France. Francois Thurot introduced the secret
society, the Order of Coldin, into Sweden, which is the only country
still to have this order, and members of the Swedish society erected
a plaque to Francois Thurot on the wall of Kirkmaiden Church in
1960. The church is found opposite the car park of St. Medans Golf
Club, named after St. Medana, whose legend can still be told by
the locals: the "chincough" well, located on the beach
below, is supposed , thanks to her saintly powers, to have a magical
healing influence on illnesses and especially whooping cough ( formerly
called "chincough" ) .
Above the church and overlooking the bay is the bronze otter, sculpted
by Penny Wheatley, standing as a memorial to Gavin Maxwell (see
Famous Sons) , the author of the famous book "Ring of Bright
Water", which was also made into a successful film. Gavin Maxwell
was often seen exercising his tame otter, about which he wrote his
book, on the beach below Kirkmaiden church, when he returned to
Estate originally covered approximately 16000 acres, but now is
greatly diminished in size. Monreith House, however, is still owned
by the Maxwell family and has been converted into holiday flats.
The house is surrounded by beautiful woodlands, and looks towards
the White Loch of Myrton. The original home of the Maxwells was
the tower house known as the "Dowies", situated behind
the Fell of Barhullion, which is the highest point overlooking Monreith
Village. When the Fell was owned by the Maxwell family, a member
of the family is said to have boasted to a friend that he owned
a fell from which five kingdoms could be seen on a clear day; when
the friend queried how this was possible, the reply was that the
kingdoms were Scotland, England, Ireland, Mann, and finally, the
Kingdom of Heaven. The "Dowies" is now owned by the Landmark
Trust , has been beautifully renovated and is available for holiday
In the vicinity of Monreith, Cup and Ring markings can be found
at various locations, and the area is renowned for several groups
of Standing Stones, thought to date back to 2000BC and to be connected
with religious ritual and ceremony. It is interesting to note that
if you stand on top of "The Wren's Egg" ( a standing stone
at Blairbuy Farm, Monreith ) on the shortest day of the year, if
the weather is clear, the sun will set directly behind Big Scaur
( "Scaur" meaning "isolated rock in the sea"
) which is situated out in Luce Bay. On every other day, it sets
Approximately one mile from Monreith is Barsalloch Point, with
evidence of human encampments as early as 6000 BC , making it the
oldest dated settlement in Galloway. Barsalloch Fort dates from
about 1000BC, though historians of the past thought it might have
been a Roman fort. In more recent history, two bombs fell, during
the Second World War, one at South Barsalloch Farm and one at Barmeal.
It is thought perhaps that the round stacks of oats were mistaken
for troop encampments, but more likely the bombs were jettisoned
after raids on Clydebank of Glasgow.
The present-day population of Monreith Village itself is approximately
60-70 people, which is regularly supplemented by visitors to holiday
homes, Knock School Caravan site and Monreith Sands caravan site.
The area attracts those looking for a tranquil holiday, with many
wonderful walks; a recent addition to the village is the signposted
walk from the south end of the village at Clarksburn through fields
, giving a magnificent view of Monreith Bay to Gavin Maxwell's otter.
From the otter site itself, the view is of St. Medan's Golf Course
, a 9-hole undulating course which is very popular with visitors
and locals alike. Refreshments are available throughout the summer
months at the clubhouse.
Monreith boasts sandy beaches, quite rare on this section of the
Galloway coastline, with safe swimming areas, rock pools and some
interesting caves, one of which is streaked red and known as the
"Butcher's Cave". The remains of a man-made flounder pool
can be found at the extreme end of the Black Rocks sands and was
built to catch flounders as the tide receded; at Ben Buoy, which
is a sheer rock face, an interesting cave allows an agile person
to cross through the cliff and emerge in a small bay between Knock
Farm and Cairndoon farm. Further along the Cairndoon shore where
the cliff ends to meet the raised beach, Johnny Logie, a local hermit,
lived, the only troglodyte recorded as living in Scotland in 1960.
Loch and sea fishing are available and the area is a haven for
birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts. Low Knock on the outskirts
of the village is an open farm very popular with visitors, who may
wish to see the otters, ornamental ducks, and belted Galloway cattle
( among other species ) at close quarters.
Monreith is known for excellent community spirit and during the
year provides various community activities in the hope that as many
visitors as possible will participate : for example, there have
been Children's Fun Days, talent contests, Coffee afternoons, beetle
drives, mostly held in the newly renovated Monreith Village Hall.