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Help and advice for Kirkoswald

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"Kirkoswald is a neat village notable as the burial place of Burns's Tam o' Shanter. (The gravestone is at the west end of the Church, Tam's real name being Grahame.) A mile or so west of the village is Shanter Farm, on the site of the house to which Tam was returning when he fell upon the 'unco sight' at Alloway's auld haunted kirk."

"The farm is between Kirkoswald and the coast, along which a road has come from Ayr by way of Dunure, where there is a ruined cliff castle. It was in the black vault of this grim keep that the fourth Earl of Cassillis, anxious to enrich himself at the expense of the Church in 1570, 'roasted in sope' a commendator ( = lay abbot) of the neighbouring Abbey of Crossraguel in an attempt to secure a share of the ecclesiastical revenue. The dignitary, however, remained obdurate, and, escaping, appealed to the Privy Council, with but little satisfaction. The Kennedys of Dunure are now represented by the Marquis of Ailsa, whose principal seat is CuIzean Castle."

From an early 20th century guide to Ayrshire



"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 Kirkoswald and Crossraguel cemetery.

Presbyterian / Unitarian
Kirkoswald, Church of Scotland


Presbyterian / Unitarian
Kirkoswald, Church of Scotland

You can also perform a more selective search for churches in the Kirkoswald area or see them printed on a map.


Church History

"The church of Kirkoswald was dedicated to St. Oswald, one of the kings of the Heptarchy. The festival day of this saint was the fifth of August, and from time immemorial a fair has been held at Kirkoswald on that day. The church is situated within the barony of Turnberry, and was anciently called 'Ecclesia Sancti Oswaldi de Turnberry'. It was granted to the monks of Paisley by Duncan, Earl of Carrick. At a later period the church of Kirkoswald was transferred to the monastery of Crossraguel. The old church stood in a low situation, and was surrounded by the burying ground. It was here, in 1562, that Abbot Kennedy preached those sermons against the Reformation, which led to the famous debate between John Knox and him."

"This church was superseded by a new one, in 1777, built a little to the south of the old structure. The Ailsa family have a burial vault at the church, but it has never been used. In the graveyard a tombstone has been erected in memory of Douglas Graham, who, in the days of Burns, was a tenant farmer in the farm of Shanter, and was the hero of the poet's masterly effusion, 'Tam 0' Shanter'. There is also a tombstone belonging to the family of Brown, from whom the poet's mother was descended, and one to the memory of Hugh Rodger, who was Burns's teacher of Mathematics when he attended Kirkoswald School."

"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.


Description and Travel

The parish is a moderately large coastal rural parish containing the village of Kirkoswald, the communities around Culzean and Turnberry Castles and the former Crossraguel Abbey. It also includes a new village of Maidens built on the former Douglaston around Maidenhead Bay and the small village of Dowhill in the south.

Kirkoswald village is a neat roadside village, some 4 miles from Maybole. The village is split by the busy A77 main road.

Culzean Castle was built in 1777 by Robert Adam for the 10th Earl of Cassilis. It is one of the great glories of Scottish architecture, built on the cliff edge overlooking the Isle of Arran and Ailsa Craig. The castle is now in the hands of the National Trust for Scotland and is open to the public. The estates have been transformed into the Culzean Country Park, another tourist attraction.

Turnberry to-day consists of very little more than the commodious hotel (of 340 rooms) built in 1904 for the Glasgow and South-Western Railway. The hotel is now in private hands and was modernised in the 1980s. The famous Turnberry golf links, closed during World War I where it served as an air base for the Royal Flying Corps, has become one of Scotland's premier courses. There is little to be seen of the ruins of Turnberry Castle, of some importance and said to have been the birthplace of Robert Bruce in 1274. On the neighbouring 'Bogle's Brae' was kindled the mysterious beacon fire which summoned Bruce and his followers from Arran: an incident familiar to readers of Sir Walter Scott's 'Lord of the Isles'.

The ruins of Crossraguel Abbey comprise nave and chancel of the Abbey Church, the chapter house, south of the chancel, remains of the cloisters, dovecot, and the gatehouse at the south-west, are still imposing.

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