Grand Tours of Scotland’s Rivers episode 6: Paul follows the River Ayr as it flows from Loch Glenbuck towards the sea and the Clyde coast. The old mining village of Glenbuck was demolished long ago, but its memory is kept alive by former resident Barbara Alexander whose uncle, the famous Liverpool football manager Bill Shankly, was a Glenbuck man. From Glenbuck, Paul follows the river through a landscape pockmarked by the scars of old mineral extraction and industry.
At Muirkirk he discovers how a local man illuminated the cities of the world with gas lighting, and how a certain Mr McAdam invented tarmac for the roads of the world. The course of the river Ayr flows through land rich in covenanting history when religious conflict cost many lives. In the Ayr gorge, Paul encounters the extraordinary tale of the radical preacher Alexander Peden, whose life on the run forced him to hide in caves while still preaching hellfire sermons to the people.
Finally reaching the coast, Paul visits the only working salt evaporation tower in the world. Here, with a pinch of salt, he learns how sea water is evaporated by wind and sun to make brine, from which sea salt is made.
Seasoned traveller Paul Murton sets off downstream to explore five rivers over six programmes from source to sea. Paul Murton is a Scottish television presenter and broadcaster, film-maker, and historian, working primarily on the BBC with an emphasis on travelogues in Scotland. Born in 1957 and raised in Ardentinny on the shores of Loch Long, Argyll, Scotland, where his parents ran a small hotel, Murton is best known for his series Scotland’s Clans, Grand Tours of Scotland, Grand Tours of the Scottish Islands and Grand Tours of Scotland’s Lochs.
Murton is a graduate of the University of Aberdeen and the National Film and Television School. Before writing and presenting his Grand Tours series, he directed several TV dramas, including Bramwell, The Bill, Casualty and River City. In 2021 he wrote the biographical novel The Highlands, published by Birlinn. He is married with five children and lives in Scotland.
Grand Tours of Scotland’s Rivers episode 6
The River Ayr is a river in Ayrshire, Scotland. At 65 km (40 mi) it is the longest river in the county. The river was held as sacred by pre-Christian cultures. The remains of several prehistoric sacrificial horse burials have been found along its banks, mainly concentrated around the town of Ayr.
The name Ayr may come from a pre-Celtic word meaning “watercourse”. Ayr could also be of Brittonic derivation, perhaps from the element *ar, an ancient river-name element implying horizontal movement. The town of Ayr was formerly known as Inver Ayr meaning “mouth of the Ayr” (see Inver), but this was later shortened to just Ayr.
The River Ayr has a catchment area of 574 km2 (222 sq mi). The river originates at Glenbuck Loch in East Ayrshire, close to the border with Lanarkshire. It winds its way through East and South Ayrshire to its mouth at the town of Ayr, where it empties into the Firth of Clyde. On its way, the river passes through the villages of Muirkirk, Sorn, Catrine, Failford, Stair and Annbank, as well as passing the location of (the now ruined) Ayr Castle. The largest settlements being Ayr, Cumnock, Catrine, Ochiltree, Muirkirk and Sorn. Major land uses within the catchment area are agriculture, forestry, mining, leisure and recreation and urban development.