St John’s Town of Dalry may hold the record for the Scottish place name containing the largest number of words.
It is sometimes referred to as just ‘Dalry’ for short. St. Johns Town of Dalry makes a good base for exploring the surrounding region, the Southern Upland Way, and the nearby Galloway Hills, including Cairnsmore of Carsphairn. It is sometimes referred to as ‘Bird Town’, to celebrate the work of renowned bird artist and writer Donald Watson who lived in Dalry for many years.
Wildlife and Natural Beauty
Dalry sits above the River Ken, against the backdrop of Waterside and Mulloch Hills and the more distant Rhinns of Kells and is a great place for seeing a wide range of wildlife. Red kites are a daily sight over the village, following their re-introduction in the wider area between 2001 and 2005. The effortless flight of these stunning birds is rivalled in the summer by the arrival of the swift, whose wonderful aerial displays over the Town Hall during their evening ‘screaming’ parties are a delight for the senses. But these are only two of the many birds that can be seen in the village and the surrounding countryside – following the Watson Birds Walking Trail along the river, up Mulloch Hill and back into the village is an excellent route by which to see a good range of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and wildflowers. Otters and slow worms can be seen with luck and patience.
The wildlife and landscapes change with the seasons and with the time of day. Summer is a good time to watch pipistrelle bats hunting moths and other insects around the street lights after dark; autumn and winter brings in redwings and fieldfares as they feast on berries and crab apples in our hedges and wooded pastures. Spring brings bluebells, primroses and other splashes of floral colour in the landscape and a symphony of song from resident and migrant birds.
Heritage and Culture
The heart of St John’s Town of Dalry lies uphill from the church, around the junction overlooked by the Clachan Inn and the Town Hall. Most of what you see today in St Johns Town of Dalry dates back to the development of a planned village here by the Earl of Galloway in the 1700s.
St John’s Town of Dalry is a very old settlement. It grew primarily to service the needs of pilgrims travelling from Edinburgh to the church established by St Ninian of Whothorn. The name Dalry comes from Gaelic meaning ‘meadow of the King’ and is said to have been given its full title by the the Knights Hospitaller. Particular support was offered to pilgrims by the Knights Hospitaller of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, who until the Reformation owned much of the land on which the village was built
Today, Dalry’s importance as a resting place continues for those walking the Southern Upland Way, which passes through the village. Buried in the churchyard lie three martyred Covenanters. Dalry being the origin of the Covenanters’ Pentland Uprising. The event is commemorated by the Covenanters’ Memorial situated near the school. The old church, still visible today, is associated with the Tam-o’-Shanter legend.
The monthly farmers’ market (held in the Town Hall) and Wright’s shop in the village offers locals and visitors the opportunity to buy produce from Dalry and further afield in Galloway. Seasonal vegetables, eggs, preserves, chutneys, baking, smoked produce and meat are all available, along with arts and crafts. The CAMRA award winning Clachan Inn also serves meals using local produce, as well as a range of real ales, some of which are from the south of Scotland.
There are also a number of artists, metalworkers, woodworkers and photographers living and working locally and producing a range of works.
Dalry is in the heart of the Galloway hydro scheme, so electricity generation is arguably another local ‘product’, alongside that produced by wind energy from turbines in the vicinity. Timber and livestock rearing are also still important products of primary industries around the village.
Those who visit St Johns Town of Dalry and surrounding Glenkens, cannot escape the natural beauty of the landscape and abundance of wildlife which is so readily available to see. The area has been the inspiration of many artists, writers and musicians over the years. Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Donald Watson were all inspired by the people, landscape and wildlife here and there continues to be a wealth of local artists, historians and musicians living locally who continue to tell the stories and reflect the natural beauty and local culture of Dalry.
The panoramic views of the surrounding rolling hills, distant mountains, Loch Ken and river are all within easy walking distance of the village. It is a welcoming town which offers opportunities to experience this beautiful place to people of all ages and abilities. The wild rivers and lochs, waterfalls, ancient woodlands and magical dark skies cannot fail to soothe the soul and inspire all those who visit the area.