Leswalt is a quiet village in the north Rhins of Galloway. It is close to several campsites and holiday parks and holds an annual Gala which is well attended by locals and visitor alike. The adjacent Aldouran Glen has a wildlife/wetlands garden – Aldouran Wetland Warden which is well worth a visit and was created by a community effort. Birdwatchers may be interested to know that, early in 2014, a hoopoe was spotted in the gardens!
Aldouran Glen Wood is owned and managed by the Woodland Trust Scotland – billed as one of only a few ‘…ancient semi-natural woodlands’ remaining in Scotland today. There is a walk through the ancient woodland which passes the old kirk and cemetery and which takes about an hour. More details at the Leswalt Wetland Garden website.
Set on the western side of Loch Ryan, the village of Leswalt has an interesting history and should be a magnet for those with an interest in all things antiquarian. Far too many to list here, but a brief summary should give the visitor a hint of Leswalt’s past.
In 1390 Archibald ‘The Grim’ Douglas, 3rd Earl of Douglas, granted lands at Leswalt to his son William Douglas of Leswalt. In 1426 William was forced to transfer his lands at Lochnaw to the Constable of Lochnaw Castle, Andrew Agnew. However, William then gained Cruggleton Castle in exchange. By 1451 Andrew Agnew was confirmed as Hereditary Sheriff of Wigtownshire.
In 1463 when George Douglas of Leswalt (son of William Douglas of Leswalt and Katherine Maxwell) died, the lands of Leswalt and Cruggleton Castle reverted to the Crown, as a consequence of the forfeiture of William Douglas, 8th Earl of Douglas’ properties in 1456.
The lands were appropriated by Mary of Guelders, the Queen Mother, widow of James II of Scotland. They were subsequently claimed by Gilbert Kennedy (later Lord Kennedy) a half-brother to George Douglas (through his mother’s second marriage of Gilbert Kennedy of Dunure), for his son, John Kennedy.
These lands passed to his son, Alexander Kennedy, who made them over to his brother, David Kennedy, 3rd Lord Kennedy, from whom the Earls of Cassilis are descended.
Lochnaw Castle, ancestral home of Clan Agnew, is a 16th Century tower house five miles from the town of Stranraer, in Leswalt. The castle – more a fortified manor – incorporates a fortalice torhouse. The central square tower, some 5 stories high, formed part of the New Castle. Lochnaw Castle shows four periods of construction – a simple 16th century keep, 17th and 18th century domestic dwellings, and a mansion-house, which was later demolished. There is a plaque bearing the date 1486, on the SE wall of the keep. A chapel, built in 1704, was demolished c. 1953.
An earlier, ruined, castle stands on an island in the nearby Lochnaw Loch. Once a royal castle, this was given to the Agnews in 1363, but was sacked by Archibald ‘The Grim’, 3rd Earl of Douglas in 1390, and subsequently dismantled. The Agnews held the ‘new’ castle until the end of the 19th century. The castle, located by the loch, is occupied and a private residence.
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