Ayrshire Towns and Parishes

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Dalgain was the 'old' name for Sorn up until about 1800



 Sorn Castle

Atomz - Search whole website for Sorn     Whatuseek - Search whole Website for Sorn

Google Map of Sorn


Sorn is one of Ayrshire's show villages.

Notes on the way through Ayrshire - 100 years ago


Joseph Train, poet and antiquary, was born here, 1779. In his boyhood he received little schooling, but persevered in self-education as he grew to manhood. In 1806 he published " Poetical Reveries; " in 1814, " Strains of the Mountain Muse; " in 1845, " Historical and Statistical Account of the Isle of Man; " in 1846, "The Buchanites from First to Last." He became a friend and correspondent of Sir Walter Scott; and the great novelist says that most of the authentic knowledge he possessed of Robert Paterson, known as " Old Mortality," was obtained from "an account transmitted by my friend, Mr. Joseph Train, supervisor of Excise at Dumfries, to whom I owe many obligations of a similar nature." Died December 14, 1852, aged 73.

Sorn Castle  [ 14th Century, major additions c.1864 ] is half-a-mile north-west of the village, and stands on a cliff overhanging the north edge of Ayr River; is a modernized edifice of unknown antiquity, set in the richest of garden, wood, and river scenery. It was visited by James V., as also the renowned Dr. Johnson. The Cleuch Burn, which here gurgles into the river from the distant Blacksidend Hill, 1342 feet high, is adorned with bright cascades and rugged sylvan cliffs.


THE TOWN OF CATRINE David Dale, in company with the first Claud Alexander of Ballochmyle, whose sister Wilhelmina was immortalized by Burns as "The Bonnie Lass o’ Ballochmyle." Prior to that date the site of Catrine was occupied by a solitary house and smithy, belonging to one Thomas Henry, whose forefathers had lived at the same place from time immemorial. There is a disposition to call it the birthplace of Henry the Minstrel, but we have been unable to discover any definite oral tradition in support of it. Smith of Deanston, inventor of tile drains in agriculture, was employed in some capacity at Catrine mills before going to

Catrine House, west of the town, stands on the south bank of the Ayr, where " The Dugald Stewart, one of the early friends of Burns. It was on the occasion of the young Poet’s introduction to the society of the professor at Catrine House that he first got so far up in the world as to dine with a lord (Basil, Lord Daer) who chanced to be here as a visitor. " This wot ye all whom it concerns, I, Rhymer Robin, alias Bunls, October twenty-third, A ne’er-to-be-forgotten day, Sae far I sprachled up the brae, I dinner’d wi’ a lord." This was in 1789, the year before the building of Catrine town and mills was commenced. With the woods of Catrine Bank on the east, Ballochmyle on the north, and plantation belts on the south, Catrine enjoys exceedingly fine sheltering environs.

The Rev. Alexander Peden, the prophet, was born in the parish, 1626. He had been three years minister of the parish of New Lute, in Galloway, when he was ejected by the Government with many others of the Presbyterian clergy. After the battle of Pentland Hills, in 1666, a proclamation was issued by the privy council for his apprehension, together with other leading Presbyterians. Of those distinguished for their piety who were apprehended on that occasion, 10 were hanged on one gibbet at Edinburgh, and 35 before their own doors. But Mr. Peden, with sagacious foresight, found refuge in Ireland, where he obtained employment at threshing corn with the flail, until King Charles, apparently alarmed at the diminution of his subjects, had written a letter to the privy council commanding them to desist from their horrible work. The hanging being over for the time, Mr. Peden returned to his sacred calling in Ayrshire, preaching in the fields, and visiting the sick and the bereaved. But he was apprehended in Carrick, conveyed to Edinburgh, tried, condemned, and sent to prison in the stronghold on the top of the Bass Rock, then used as a State prison for influential Covenanters. The Bass Rock is a precipitous island standing in the sea at the entrance to the Firth of Forth, like Ailsa Craig at the entrance to the Firth of Clyde, but is of smaller dimensions. He was kept there till 1678, when he was taken out and put on board a ship, with 60 others, to be transported to Virginia. But the cruelty of the persecutors was not gratified in this instance, for the captain of the ship, on learning the true character of the gentlemen whom he had got on board, refused to proceed with such a cargo, and they were all set at liberty in London. Mr. Peden immediately returned to his ministerial duties in Ayrshire, where the persecution was raging at the height of its fury. Claverhouse had let loose over the district 6000 Highland soldiers-Roman Catholics, if they were anything-to enter every house and demand food and lodging, to prevent the Presbyterians from engaging in worship both in and out of doors, and to search out and apprehend their leading men. Most of the ministers saved their lives by yielding to break the Covenant in some important points ; but Mr. Peden yielded nothing: his prophetic spirit was incorruptible: he was provided with other means of safety, When again and again the enemy heard of him preaching and visiting the sick, and again and again scoured the country in search of him-and there was not a house nor pig-sty where he could have remained without the certainty of being discovered and shot, or led to the scaffold-he always foresaw their movements-often, no doubt, by the assistance of his surrounding adherents-and lodged him-self safely in a cave near the village of Sorn. The entrance to his cave was protected against the scent of bloodhounds and other dogs of the persecutors by a pool of water, and was covered with natural shrubs and a large willow tree, by the branches of which he swang himself across the water. According to the history of the time from his liberation in London till his death, he must have lived in and out of his cave for seven or eight years. In our Peden, nor in the time of the Hebrew prophets-for then, as now, "a prophet had no honour in his own country," and they even "killed the prophets." There is no doubt, however, that the the Rev. Alexander Peden had a most wonderfully clear perception of coming events, which made him more earnestly believed in as a prophet than any other whom Scotland has ever known; and, though we dare not com-pare him to the prophet Daniel, he was, nevertheless, an honest prophet. No false prophet would have borne for one week the sufferings which this poor faithful minister endured for 20 years. It is comforting to know that he was preserved from the hands of his enemies to the last, and died a natural death, in hiding, but not in his cave-for, at a quiet moment, when he felt his end fast approaching, he crept into his brother’s house, not far distant. His brother, being alarmed at the danger, suggested that he might be safer in the house of another brother, at Auchinleck. But he said, "In 24 hours I do not care if they make a whistle o’ my banes," and within that time he had breathed his last. Died in 1686, aged 60. (See Old Cumnock)

The surface of the parish is cultivated and wooded in the west, and some distance up the valley of the Ayr towards the east; rises to wild mossy moors and bleak hills in the north-east; and includes a large part of Aird’s MOSS in the south, which is level. The minerals include ironstone and coal, which for many years have been extensively worked about Glenlogan and Gilmilnscroft, on the south side of Ayr Water. The parish measures about six and a-half miles each way, comprising 19,195 acres. Population, 4255.

Sorn Church - 1658;        Sorn Bridge - c.1710;


1791-99 and 1845 Statistical Accounts


1837 Pigot's Directory of Sorn


Map of Sorn today

This Link takes you to the MULTIMAP website where you will find a map of the town and the surrounding area as it is today. You can zoom in and out and move around in all directions.


StreetMap of Sorn

This Link takes you to the STREET website where you will find a street map of the town as it is today. You can zoom in and out and move around in all directions.


Old Maps of Ayrshire Place Names

This link goes directly to the OLD MAPS website for an Ayrshire Index to detailed old maps of most Ayrshire Towns around 1860. You can explore out to all sides by using the arrows at the top of the page. These maps are ideal for finding the locations of areas such as farms.



A church was built at Dalgain in 1658, in the times of the Commonwealth - a characteristic it shares with the Auld Kirk in Ayr. However it was not until 1692 that the establishment of the new parish was completed. The parish was first called Dalgain, and the ground on which the church and manse was built, and also the glebe, were a gift from Hugh Mitchell of Dalgain. The church became known as the Kirk of Sorn, possibly because of the near vicinity of Sorn Castle, and gradually the name was adopted for the whole parish......>




Sorn Web Sites

Catrine & Sorn District Local History Group

The Catrine & Sorn District Local History Group. Based in the A.M. Brown Institute, Catrine.



Sorn Books


Old Catrine and Sorn
Rhona Wilson

To Order or More Information

Ayrshire Books

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