The Stewartry of Kirkcudbright or Kirkcudbrightshire was formerly a county of south-western Scotland. It was also known as East Galloway, forming the larger Galloway region with Wigtownshire.
Kirkcudbrightshire bounded on the north and north-west by Ayrshire, on the west and southwest by Wigtownshire, on the south and southeast by the Irish Sea and the Solway Firth, and on the east and northeast by Dumfriesshire. It included the small islands of Hestan and Little Ross. It had an area of 575,565 acres (2,323 km²). That area is now part of the unitary authority of Dumfries and Galloway, and is additionally administratively used for property registration.
In 1372 Archibald the Grim, a natural son of Sir James Douglas "the Good", became Lord of Galloway and received in perpetual fee the Crown lands between the Nith and the Cree. He appointed a steward to collect his revenues and administer justice, and there thus arose the designation of the "Stewartry of Kirkcudbright".
Its designation as 'Kirkcudbrightshire' is therefore historically incorrect. The county is still called The Stewartry by its inhabitants and forms the Stewartry area of Dumfries and Galloway Council, represented by eight Stewartry councillors. Local administration of the district today is overseen by a Stewartry Area Manager, based in the county town of Kirkcudbright.
The name Kirkcudbrightshire as alternative to Stewartry of Kirkcudbright appears to have been invented by the Royal Mail in the 19th century.
The north-western part of the former county is rugged, wild and desolate.
In this quarter the principal mountains are Merrick 843 m (2764 ft), the highest in the south of Scotland, and the group of the Rinns of Kells, the chief peaks of which are Corserine 814 m (2669 ft), Carlins Cairn 807 m (2650 ft), Meikle Millyea 746 m (2446 feet) and Millfire 716 m (2350 feet). Towards the south-west the chief eminences are Lamachan 717 (2350 ft), Larg 676 m (2216 ft), and the bold mass of Cairnsmore of Fleet 711 m (2331 ft). In the south-east the only imposing height is Criffel 569 m (1868 ft). In the north rises the majestic hill of Cairnsmore of Carsphairn 797 m (2614 ft), and close to the Ayrshire border is the Windy Standard 698 m (2290 feet). The southern section of the shire is mostly level or undulating, but characterised by picturesque scenery.
The shore is generally bold and rocky, indented by numerous estuaries forming natural harbours, which however are of little use for commerce owing to the shallowness of the sea. Large stretches of sand are exposed in the Solway at low water and the rapid flow of the tide has often occasioned loss of life.
The number of "burns" and "waters" is remarkable, but their length seldom exceeds 7 or 8 miles (13 km). Among the longer rivers are the Cree, which rises in Loch Moan and reaches the sea near Creetown after a course of about 30 miles, during which it forms the boundary, at first of Ayrshire and then of Wigtownshire; the Dee or Black Water of Dee (so named from the peat by which it is coloured), which rises in Loch Dee and after a course mainly S.E. and finally S., enters the sea at St Mary's Isle below Kirkcudbright, its length being nearly 36 miles (58 km); the Urr, rising in Loch Urr on the Dumfriesshire border, falls into the sea a few miles south of Dalbeattie 27 miles (43 km) from its source; the Ken, rising on the confines of Ayrshire, flows mainly in a southerly direction and joins the Dee at the southern end of Loch Ken after a course of 24 miles (39 km) through lovely scenery; and the Deugh which, rising on the northern flank of the Windy Standard, pursues an extraordinarily winding course of 20 miles (32 km) before reaching the Ken. The Nith, during the last few miles of its flow, forms the boundary with Dumfriesshire, to which county it almost wholly belongs.
The lochs and mountain tarns are many and well-distributed; but except for Loch Ken, which is about 6 miles (10 km) long by half a mile (1 km) wide, few of them attain noteworthy dimensions. There are several passes in the hill regions, but the only well-known glen is Glen Trool, not far from the district of Carrick in Ayrshire, the fame of which rests partly on the romantic character of its scenery, which is very wild around Loch Trool, and more especially on its associations with Robert the Bruce. It was here that when most closely beset by his enemies, who had tracked him to his fastness by sleuth hounds, Bruce with the aid of a few faithful followers won a surprise victory over the English in 1307 which proved the turning-point of his fortunes.
Silurian and Ordovician rocks are the most important in this county; they are thrown into oft-repeated folds with their axes lying in a northeast-southwest direction. The Ordovician rocks are graptolitic black shales and grits of Llandeilo and Caradoc age. They occupy all the northern part of the county north-west of a line which runs some 3 m. north of New Galloway and just south of the Rinns of Kells. South-east of this line graptolitic Silurian shales of Llandovery age prevail; they are found around Dalry, Creetown, New Galloway, Castle Douglas and Kirkcudbright.
Overlying the Llandovery beds on the south coast are strips of Wenlock rocks; they extend from Bridgehouse Bay to Auchinleck and are well exposed in Kirkcudbright Bay, and they can be traced farther round the coast between the granite and the younger rocks. Carboniferous rocks appear in small faulted tracts, unconformable on the Silurian, on the shores of the Solway Firth. They are best developed about Kirkbean, where they include a basal red breccia followed by conglomerates, grits and cement stones of Calciferous Sandstone age.
Brick-red sandstones of Permian age just come within the county on the W. side of the Nith at Dumfries. Volcanic necks occur in the Permian and basalt dikes penetrate the Silurian at Borgue, Kirkandrews, etc.
Most of the highest ground is formed by the masses of granite which have been intruded into the Ordovician and Silurian rocks; the Criffel mass lies about Dalbeattie and Bengairn, another mass extends east and west between the Cairnsmore of Fleet and Loch Ken, another lies northwest and southeast between Loch Doon and Loch Dee and a small mass forms the Cairnsmore of Carsphairn.
Glacial deposits occupy much of the low ground; the ice, having travelled in a southerly or south-easterly direction, has left abundant striae on the higher ground to indicate its course. Radiation of the ice streams took place from the heights of Merrick, Kells, etc; local moraines are found near Carsphairn and in the Deagh and Minnoch valleys. Glacial drumlins of boulder clay lie in the vales of the Dee, Cree and Urr.
Wording courtesy of http://www.wikipedia.org/
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