Places That We Know

dalry rabbit icon
  • Picturesque town with exceptional views over the Garnock Valley and stunning backdrop of the Clyde Muirshiel hills
  • Place of pre-historic relevance and evidence
  • Strong local pride and celebration of the town’s heritage
  • Surrounded by diverse landscapes and habitats to explore, from Lynn Glen to the Dalry Hills
  • The town owes its development to the success of textile industries and mining

Dalry’s story

This land has been home to people since prehistory, evidenced by the extensive archeological finds in the parish. These range from prehistoric bones and stone structures to cairns, duns and burial mounds. To the north of Dalry lies the remains of an ancient fort, and to the south west is Cleeves Cove (or Blairs Cove), an ancient 150m cave network through the heart of the natural geology.

The River Garnock at Dalry

The River Garnock at Dalry

The town itself grew up along the bank of the River Garnock, which has long fertilised and irrigated surrounding agricultural land, and played a pivotal role in local industries such as milling. The Rye and Caaf Waters join the Garnock in Dalry. Agriculture was the foundation of local economies across the Garnock Valley until the industrial revolution. Local soils are rich in peat and well suited for both arable and dairy farming. Dalry was particularly recognised for its dairy products. Dalry takes its name from 'Dail Righe' meaning 'the field of the king'.

The Dalry area was originally made up of five main baronies—Kelburne, Blair, Kersland, Lynn and Pitcon. Previously, the area had been gifted to Robert Boyd for his services to Robert the Bruce, and then passed on to the Earls of Glasgow. The Barony of Blair built Blair House, which is still occupied today. It’s tower is believed to predate 1200, and was extended in the 18th century. The barony of Lynn was governed by the Lords of Lynn, whose estate included Lynn Falls and Lynn Glen, which is a celebrated spot for Ayrshire folklore.

Artwork at Dalry railway station showcasing the nature of the town and district by artist Leo du Feu

Artwork at Dalry railway station showcasing the nature of the town and district by artist Leo du Feu

Dalry wasn’t established as a formal parish until the late 1200s, and it’s population remained below 100 inhabitants until the birth of the textile industry in the town in the 1800s. The local textile industry included the manufacture of cotton and carpet yarn, silk and harness weaving and sewing, dressing and spinning of flax and embroidery. The production of silk and cotton weaving was increased by the close proximity to Glasgow and Paisley, connected by a daily coaching route. In time, thousands of women and children would become employed across the entire valley.

The industries of limestone, coal and ironstone further helped to turn Dalry into a thriving industrial community. The local limestone is especially thick and the ironstone very rich. The population boomed and many migrants came here from Ireland to work at the time of the Irish potato famine. A large number of ‘raws’ were built for miners to live in, extending the town’s perimeter. Furnaces were set up in the 1840s in Dalry to smelt iron ore for local ironworks in Glengarnock, Eglinton and Blair. There were also limekilns, oilskin works, dyeworks, spinning mills, and a creamery. The production of bricks was also key to the industrial success of the town. Clay mines in Dalry included Monkcastle fireclay mine, and brickworks included the Douglas Brickworks. Clay was also extracted from coal mine waste dumped in ‘bings’ throughout the town.

The arrival of the railway was essential in supporting these industries with a growing labour force and means of distribution. The railway station at Dalry opened in March 1840 as part of the Glasgow to Ayr line. The station at Dalry Junction opened in April 1843 on a line to Kilmarnock via Crosshouse.

With the wealth of the industries came the building of new mansions and estates, several of which have significance today, such as Doggartland House and Linn House. In 1892 John Fulton built a hydroelectric dam on Putyan Burn for Broadlie House, one of the first of its kind in Ayrshire.

The Biggart fountain is one example of the civic benefits of the town’s new found wealth, it was was gifted to the residents of Dalry in 1876 by local mill owner Thomas Biggart

The Biggart fountain is one example of the civic benefits of the town’s new found wealth, it was was gifted to the residents of Dalry in 1876 by local mill owner Thomas Biggart

Through the centuries the town has been home to a number of locally celebrated people, such as Bessie Dunlop and Alexander Peden.

On 8 Nov 1576, Bessie Dunlop, a midwife in Dalry, was accused of sorcery and witchcraft. She is said to have healed many local people and animals through the use of homemade ointments, but was tragically burnt at the stake in 1576.

Alexander Peden, born in 1626, was a prolific and popular covenanting minister. He is said to have preached from Peden’s Point (a rocky outcrop) in a natural auditorium at the head of the Lynn Glen.


  • Dalry Burns Club has the longest, continuous record of ‘Burns suppers’ in the world
  • In the 1870s Blair Iron Works and others in the area were part of the group owned by William Baird & Co. who then was the largest ‘pig iron’ producer in the world.
  • In 1892 John Fulton installed one of the first hydroelectric plants in Ayrshire, generating electricity for Broadlie House
  • Blair House is one of the oldest inhabited country houses in Scotland

Back to The Stories of Each Place

We use cookies to make this site work properly and understand how it is used - never for commercial purposes. By using the site you agree to our use of cookies.
Learn more