The Source to New Cumnock & Kirkconnel

New Cumnock

A town at the beginning, the end and between.

New Cumnock in South Ayrshire is the obvious place to start our journey, being the nearest town to the source of the Nith. However, it is also very fitting for another reason: it sits close to the invisible border between Ayrshire and Dumfries & Galloway (It is no surprise that it is affectionately known as the Gateway to Ayrshire). This makes New Cumnock the place where one journey ends and another begins depending on which way you are travelling.

Anyone travelling up along the Nith will pass this town as they head towards the west coast and the same was true for people in the past. The corridor between these hills has been traversed and tramped along for millennia by the first peoples in Scotland, the Romans, the Scots, the Vikings, the Normans, the English and more. They have left behind not only their stories but their words and place names, their camps and castles, their successes and disasters. All of this has been woven together to create a region with a rich tapestry of humanity that has also played its part in the history of Scotland and further afield. New Cumnock and its hinterland have played host to armies, fuelled the fires of industry and have shown great resilience in the face of the challenges that all places and people face. We cannot think of a better way to start a journey down the Nith.

A good place to start if you want to learn more about the story of New Cumnock is here:

New Cumnock Outdoor Swimming Pool

Driving through New Cumnock you may have to take a double take at something very surprising tucked away in the hills of South Ayrshire. The Tamar Manoukian New Cumnock Outdoor Pool wouldn’t look out of place along the Mediterranean coast and even has the feel of an Icelandic Laugur. Originally built in 1966, but refurbished in 2017 by the community-run Afton Water Leisure and Dumfries House, it is a fabulous asset for the town and Cosmopolitan magazine included it as number 2 in their list of best UK outdoor pools. It has also become an Instagram favourite thanks to its pastel-coloured changing rooms.

New Cumnock Wildlife Garden and Orchard

Located next to the New Cumnock open-air pool, the New Cumnock Wildlife Garden offers a place to relax and connect with nature and is a showcase for ideas to attract wildlife to gardens. It also provides a safe place for education and conservation volunteering activities, involving schools, nurseries and community groups.

The orchard produces apples and cherries that get used at the local Gala to and serves as a way to encourage people to use local produce. The wildlife project teaches the public the best way to maintain your own garden to benefit nature and wildlife, from berries for birds in winter to plants that bees particularly thrive on. See the website so you can get involved.

Sanquhar to Drumlanrig Castle


Wanlockhead is Scotland’s highest village, situated at an elevation of about 410m in the Lowther hills. It’s no surprise then that this is also where Scotland’s highest pub is located! The Wanlockhead Inn is a great place to stop when exploring Dumfries and Galloway and they even have their own micro-brewery.

Wanlockhead Village 05-08-29 28.jpeg

Lowther Hills Ski Club

Skiing in Dumfries & Galloway? Yep! The Lowther Hills Ski Club runs South of Scotland’s only Snow sports centre. It was founded in 1986 and is a volunteer-based and family-friendly club. The club is only 11 miles from Sanquhar, so when conditions are right you can head up into the hills and enjoy the best and only skiing in the south of the country.


The Birdman Rally 1983

Morton Castle near Thornhill once played host to an interesting piece of community history and folklore. Bob Clements tells the story:

‘In 1983, a large runway was constructed using the sloping banks between the castle and the loch. Why? For a manpowered flight competition! There were many participants in all sorts of home- made “flying” machines of differing designs and varying levels of success. In fact, not many actually made it into the air, most just tumbled off the end of the ramp into the water. The aim was to either fly the furthest or stay in the air the longest. The contest was eventually won by a local called Tom Forster who simply jumped off the ramp holding an umbrella.

Even though there were no budding Bleriots or Wright Brothers, the event was exceptionally well attended, the summer weather helping tremendously, the crowds brought picnics, beer and good humour and there was no trouble throughout the day.’

Thornhill to Moniaive

Thornhill Old School

When a group of like-minded creatives came together to talk about the potential for an old disused school building in Thornhill, they began a journey which took them from a tentative chat in November of 2016 all the way up until the present day where they have raised over £250,000 and counting. As a collective of seven members, the group has developed a strategic plan to transform the disused space into a hub for transformational entrepreneurship and community support. They hope to build an innovative and design led community asset which will contribute to local projects and support community initiatives.

This B-listed building was built in 1904 and has an open central assembly hall and 5 classrooms off it. The school sits opposite the new Wallace Hall Academy and Primary; an ideal position to function as a community resource, especially for young families who congregate around the school.

Further Reading:

Old School Thornhill | Old school in Thornhill set for new lease of life | Border Life Feature

Thornhill Classic Scramble

Thornhill is host to a lot of cultural activity, but one annual event that you may not know about is the Classic Scrambling Race that takes part just outside Thornhill every year. As part of the annual program of Scottish motorbike scrambling races, the Thornhill weekend is the classed as the highlight of the year! The National event brings riders from all over the UK to compete on the Thornhill track that has been running for 20 years. All motorbikes in the scramble are between 30 & 40 years old.

Further Reading:

Motorcycle Sport Scotland

Thornhill Community Trust

The TCT is a charitable organisation established in 2004 and funded by local membership. It provides the framework for volunteers to start up and run projects that benefit the community and environment. The TCT website gives detailed information on the history, local services and up and coming local events as well as the many social groups active in the village

Further Reading:
Thornhill Community Website

Contact Us

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