Ballantrae "was not, however, created a Burgh of Barony till 1617. The inhabitants are chiefly fishermen, and in early times the smuggling of tea, tobacco, and brandy formed one of the staple industries of the place. Large pirate vessels called Buckers, carrying 20 or 30 guns, were accustomed to lie in the bay and discharge their cargoes at Ballantrae. The arrival of one of these vessels was the signal for the smugglers, who were called Lintowers, to proceed in a large body to the shore, with their horses, ready to receive the contraband goods, and convey them through the country. The lintowers numbered about one hundred men, all of them stalwart fellows, armed with cutlass and pistol ready to fight if resistance was offered them in the discharge of their illegal calling. The old Kirk was a favourite place for hiding the contraband goods."
"The village of Ballantrae is increasing in popularity as a watering-place, having an excellent hotel, good boating facilities, a lawn-tennis green, and ground that might be formed into excellent golf links."
"Ayrshire Nights Entertainment: A Descriptive Guide to the History, Traditions, Antiquities of the County of Ayr" by John MacIntosh of Galston, Ayrshire, published in 1894, by John Menzies & Co. of Kilmarnock, Dunlop and Drennan.
Robert McWhirter was the Ballantrae schoolmaster from 1893 to 1926, and he continued to live in Ballantrae till he died in 1944. He was very active in local public affairs. He spent much of his time in his retirement to writing about Ballantrae - its history, the flora of the parish etc. The papers were collected by his grandson, Peter McWhirter, who handed them over to the keeping of Glasgow University Library in June 1981. The papers were placed in the David Murray Collection MSS Gen 1522-41.
The main burial ground around the site of the first church was extended about 1890 and is still in use. However a new Ballantrae Cemetery was opened in 1951.
"Pre-1855 Gravestone Inscriptions; an index for Carrick, Ayrshire" edited by Alison Mitchell, and published in Edinburgh in 1988 by the Scottish Genealogy Society covers the parish of Ballantrae.
The original church of Ballantrae stood on the lands of Kirkholm, at the junction of the Tig with the Stinchar. The church was dedicated to St. Cuthbert, and gave the parish its former name of Kirkcudbright Invertig. In 1604, the laird of Bargany erected a new church in the middle of the present cemetery, and when that church became unfit for a place of public worship, the present parish church was built on a different site.
The current Parish Church was built in 1819 in the Gothic style. In the kirkyard lies the Kennedy Aisle, a remnant of the earlier church which contains the Kennedy Monument dating from 1601.
Glenapp Church, also known as Butter's Chapel, was built as a chapel of ease for those living in the parish hinterland. It was made a quoad sacra parish in 1874. The small kirkyard includes a monument to Lord Inchcape, the later owner of Glenapp Castle.
Ballantrae parish lies at the southern tip of the Ayrshire coast, bordering Wigtown. It is a very rural parish with large areas of moorland split by a narrow valley through which runs the Water of App. The A77 Glasgow to Stranraer trunk road runs through the parish and parallel with Glen App. Along this road passes much of the traffic for the ferries to and from Northern Ireland. In an 18th century form of that trade, Ballantrae was a centre for smuggling contraband from Ireland and the Isle of Man. The smuggled goods were not just the traditional brandy and tobacco, but salt to evade the punitive Salt Tax then enforced in Scotland.
Ballantrae takes its name from the Gaelic 'baile-na-traigh' meaning 'town on the shore'.
Ballantrae village lies at the mouth of the River Stinchar, having a small harbour with stone flagged quay. The harbour used to be a calling point for the Stranraer/Glasgow steamer. Nowadays it is used only by small fishing and leisure craft. The village is in two parts - the fishing community around the Harbour - and a farming community in a group of houses close by the church. The mouth of the River Stinchar, just south of the village, has been made a nature reserve, where various varieties of tern breed.
Elsewhere in the parish are to be found the ruins of Ardstinchar castle, built for Hugh Kennedy of Bargany in the 15th century. Glenapp Castle is a huge Victorian mansion in the baronial style which was created in 1870.
An 1837 description of the parish, including a listing of the key personalities of the town, is given in this extract from Pigot's Directory for Ayrshire. The transcript was provided by Keith Muirhead from Queensland.
View photographs of Ballantrae and the surrounding area.
- The transcription of the section for Ballantrae from the National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868) provided by Colin Hinson.
Information about boundaries and administrative areas is available from A Vision of Britain through time.
View maps of Ballantrae.