18th-century weavers' cottages in Dalmellington
18th-century weavers' cottages in Dalmellington

Dalmellington is a pretty town in East Ayrshire on the banks of Much Water, about 16 miles east of Ayr. The town is set in beautiful and remote countryside, which makes it a perfect location for the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory.

The Observatory is about 4 miles outside the town, on the edge of the Galloway Forest Park. The Observatory features a 20" telescope in a 5m dome. There is also a smaller 14" telescope, a presentation room, and an observation deck to enjoy viewing the night sky with the naked eye. The location is perfect for enjoying views of the sky without artificial light pollution.

There is much more to see in the town itself. In the town centre is a row of 18th-century weavers' cottages built in 1744. The cottages formerly housed the Doon Valley Museum. The museum was forced to close due to budget cuts in 2017 and the property is now in the hands of a local charity which hopes to reopen it as a heritage centre.

McAdam family mausoleum in the Old Kirkyard
McAdam family mausoleum in the Old Kirkyard

The town centre of Dalmellington has been named a Conservation Area in recognition of the large number of historical buildings that give the town its unique character.


The area around Dalmellington was occupied as early as the Neolithic period (4,000-2,500 BC). It seems likely that the Romans had a marching route through the valley and may have built a military fort here.

In the early medieval period, it was part of Kyle Stewart, a region covering much of East and South Ayrshire and ruled by a series of Norman lords. These lords collected taxes and administered justice on behalf of the king.

Dalmellington Mote
Dalmellington Mote

It was during this period of Norman rule that Dalmellington Mote was erected on a high mound commanding views of the valley floor. The town of Dalmellington grew up around the castle and a ford across Muck Burn. The mote, or Motte, was built around 1200 and is a good example of a Norman motte and bailey fortification; a high, conical mound topped by a fortified residence and a timber palisade enclosing a large area where service buildings stood.

In the 14th century, Dalmellington was granted the status of a Borough of Barony; that is, it was occupied by a baron who held the estate directly from the Crown. The first Barony charter we know of granted the estate to Sir Duncan Wallace.

Attractive character building on High Street
An attractive character building on High Street

Dalmellington was at the centre of the religious turmoil of the late 17th century when government soldiers tried to eradicate the religious dissenters known as Covenanters. Some 900 troops were stationed in and around Dalmellington in efforts to quash Covenanter activity. You can see numerous Covenanter graves from this period in the Old Kirkyard.

Also in the Old Kirkyard is a large mausoleum for the McAdam family of Craigengillan. The most famous member of the family was James Loudon McAdam, who pioneered a new method of road surfacing based on mixing tar and gravel to produce 'tarmac'. John McAdam is not buried here at Dalmellington but lies in the Old Churchyard in Moffat, Dumfriesshire.

The Covenanting past of Damellington is remembered in the parish church, built in 1846 and originally known as The Kirk o' The Covenant. The church has bright red doors said to symbolise the blood of Presbyterian martyrs who died for their beliefs.

If you follow the minor road south from Damellington, along the west bank of Loch Doon, you come to the ruins of Loch Doon Castle. The caste originally stood on an island in the middle of the loch but was moved here in the 1930s when a hydro-electric scheme threatened to flood it. The castle dates to the 13th century with the addition of a 16th-century keep. The castle was probably built by the Earls of Carrick. It withstood an English siege in 1335.

Loch Doon Castle
Loch Doon Castle

About Dalmellington
Address: A713, Dalmellington, Ayrshire, Scotland
Attraction Type: Town
Location: On the A713 about 16 miles east of Ayr
Location map
OS: NS483065
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest

Dalmellington Mote - 0.4 miles (Castle) Heritage Rating

Loch Doon Castle - 7.2 miles (Castle) Heritage Rating

Dumfries House - 9.3 miles (Historic House) Heritage Rating

Barony A-Frame - 9.9 miles (Museum) Heritage Rating

Maybole Collegiate Church - 11.5 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Ayr Woodland Gorge - 11.5 miles (Countryside) Heritage Rating

Robert Burns Birthplace Museum - 11.8 miles (Museum) Heritage Rating

Highland Mary's Monument - 12.3 miles (Historic Building) Heritage Rating

Nearest Holiday Cottages to Dalmellington:

Nearby accommodation is calculated 'as the crow flies' from Dalmellington. 'Nearest' may involve a long drive up and down glens or, if you are near the coast, may include a ferry ride! Please check the property map to make sure the location is right for you.

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