Battle of Loudoun Hill
A few miles from Kilmarnock, near the village of Darvel, stands
Loudoun Hill. This imposing volcanic plug offers the best
vantage point across the Irvine Valley and as such has always
provided a strong strategic advantage. Near the bottom of the
south-east slope is the remains of an Iron Age fort or homestead and nearby
at Allanton Beg is evidence of another fort built by the Romans during the Flavian
Loudoun Hill marks the eastern end of the Irvine Valley. From its
summit there is an extensive view over Ayrshire to the Firth of Clyde
and Arran. The hill has witnessed the passage of history from the
Sir William Wallace defeated an English force at
Loudoun Hill in 1296 and King Robert the Bruce inflicted greater
punishment on the English in 1307.
A number of places in Loudoun
and Galston parishes are associated with William Wallace, but Blind
Harry in his epic poem “The Wallace” tells the story of Wallace’s ambush
of the English at Loudoun Hill. The poem also tells how somewhere within
the parish a hospitable innkeeper supplied the party of Scots as they
prepared to intercept a convoy on route westward to Ayr.
actual battlesite was probably at the eastern entrance to the narrow
pass known as the Winny Wizzen, it's strategic position at the head of
the valley meant it was often passed by armies making their way inland
or out to the coast.
Wallace concealed his men behind the banks
and ditches of the long abandoned Roman fort. The poem tells how the
Scots made the way even narrower with the construction of stone dykes,
making more effective the attack on the tightly packed riders.
Wallace had only 50 men against 200 enemy soldiers but still managed to
win the day, killing over 100 English troops including Fenwick (the
English general who had killed Wallace’s father), the rest scattered and
the baggage train, with all the supplies including a large amount of
useful armour, weapons and horses intended to relieve the garrison at
Ayr, now fell into Scottish hands.
A point marked on maps as
Wallace’s Grave is traditionally believed to be the place where the
English dead were buried. Wallace was declared an outlaw after the
Battle of Loudoun Hill but pressed on to his great victory at Stirling
Bridge the following year.
September 2004 saw the unveiling of
the "Spirit of Scotland" statue - to recognise the historical
significance of the area during the Scottish Wars of Independence.
A large Conventicle (outdoor religious service) held in the vicinity
in 1679 led on to the humiliation of Claverhouse by the covenanters at
the battle of Drumclog.
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