Moniaive has existed as a village as far back as the 10th century. Although it has changed greatly since then it still retains its original mediaeval street layout. Fortunately the dwellings from that period were superseded. Like houses throughout Lowland Scotland of that period they were built from stone and turf with earth floors and thatched roofs.
On the 4th of July 1636 King Charles I granted a charter in favour of William, Earl of Dumfries, making Moniaive a ‘free Burgh of Barony’. With this charter came the rights to set up a market cross and tollbooth, to hold a weekly market on Tuesday and two annual fairs each of three days duration. Midsummer Fair was from June 16th and Michaelmas Fair on the last day of September.
Moniaive continued to prosper and by the 19th century new houses were being built and old ones improved. Slate replaced thatch, sash windows let in the light and the construction of a gas works in 1861 brought lighting to both streets and houses. The health of the villagers was considerably improved by cleaning the streets and installing a gravitation water supply in 1879. The people of Moniaive also raised the money to build two new schools, a police station, four churches, three manses and a martyr’s monument.
Although this was a century of improvement it did not happen overnight and the last thatched house almost made it into the 20th century. But not quite as it disappeared in 1899. Even then it was a curiosity attracting the attention of the Dumfries and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society. They found a house with low walls, small windows and cobble stone floors roofed by a frame of, roughly trimmed, oak branches covered in a straw thatch.
With the new buildings and municipal utilities came new, unimaginative but practical, street names. The cobbled Causey became the High Street; The Throughgate was renamed Chapel Street after the church building that subsequently became the War Memorial Institute. What is now Ayr Street was formerly called Mill Raw after the long demolished Craigdarroch Mill. The name changed when it became part of the new turnpike road to Ayr. North Street must once have been the poor quarter of Moniaive as it was known as Beggar Raw.
The long street leading into Moniaive from Dumfries is now called Dunreggan but in bygone times that was a separate village. The street was called the Cow Raw or Cowgate as this would have been the way the villagers’ cows, grazing on the long vanished common lands, would have been driven home in the evening.
For more on Moniaive’s past see our Local History page.
The High Street is home to two very different hostelries. The Craigdarroch Arms Hotel, incorporating Thistles Steak House and Bistro, and the George Hotel and restaurant, one of the oldest coaching inns in Scotland, whose ancient and cosy public bar oozes atmosphere. Traditional music sessions can be found in the public bars of both establishments and the Craigdarroch Arms is also home to The Marquee Club.
Watson’s Grocers is a village store offering a wide range of food and more general items. It also doubles as our post office and newsagents and has a cash dispenser and lottery machine. The Masonic Hall is used as a venue for art exhibitions, ceilidhs, parties and by the various music festivals. Dalwhat Garage is where you can buy petrol, get your car serviced or repaired. Dykes of Wallaceton, the largest employer in Glencairn have their offices in the High Street. Next door are both The Three Glens Restaurant, situated in a building that formerly housed an artisan bakery and before that the village butcher and Chapel Street Chocolatiers where you can watch the chocolates being made and purchase a wide selection of loose, bagged or boxed artisan chocolates.
The village cross is the centrepiece of the high street. The ‘Mercat Cross’ was erected in 1638. In the 19th century its square base was replaced by the present round one and its pillar topped by a stone ball instead of a sundial. It denotes Moniaive as a ‘free burgh’ with the right to hold a weekly market.The original cross can be seen in the Memorial Institute.
A small boy, son of a Covenanting preacher, fled to the Cross and slept on its base one night in 1666 when dragoons ransacked his home. Social deviants were chained to the Cross by ‘jougs’ an iron collar (preserved in the Memorial Institute) – the Scottish equivalent of the stocks.
Chapel Street is home to craftshop Hotchpotch, the playgroup and Moniaive Primary School. At the side of the school there is still part of the old railway station.
Being the northern terminus of the Cairn Valley Light Railway, this was once the busiest part of the village. All that remains now are the old goods shed and station building. The track was lifted in the 1950s.The new Safer Route to school footpath leaves the side of the school and is a pleasant circular village walk leading to Dunreggan andthe Bottom Park and Wildlife Garden with new Geodial.
The Green Tea House Cafe is also sited in Chapel Street and was recently voted one of the best top ten tearooms in Scotland.It’s evening Bistro is a popular haunt. Bring your own bottle.
The Memorial Institute was originally a chapel of the United Presbyterian Church, built in 1834. It was converted after World War 1 into a permanent memorial to the 72 local men who had marched away to their deaths.and now doubles as the village community centre.
The Waulkmill, The white cattle shed visible from the bridge, housed the ‘waulkmill’ or blanket factory. The Waulkmill Bridge dates from the first half of the 19th Century and indicates the growing prosperity of Moniaive and the importance of road links which did not rely on fords. It is now the finish line for the annual Gala Duck Race in February.
North Street is a picturesque street lined with flowers in summer. Here you will find St Ninian’s church built in 1887 as a mission church and chapel of rest for the main parish church (Glencairn Church at Kirkland). Behind St Ninians was a saw mill, one of Moniaive’s many links with forestry.
The Tower House was built in 1865 as the schoolmaster’s house. The clock dominates the village skyline providing a once needed public service as well as removing the excuse for being late for school! It is one of the few remaining clocks to be wound by hand. It is now a private home.
This much photographed street leads to cottage row, a beautifully preserved row of traditional cottages. Just beyond them is Kilneiss House which was built as a wedding present for artist James Paterson, one of the famous ‘Glasgow Boys’. Macara Park was gifted to the village by Graham Macara a former grocer. It has a childrens playground, is the site of the annual Gala Day, school sports and many other village events. Carradale (now a private residence) was built in 1865 as a police station, complete with cells. At the top of Ayr Street is a lane known as ‘The Course’. This was a racecourse in bygone days. Now it passes the former Craigdarroch millpond where James Paterson painted his most famous picture. ‘The Last Turning, Winter Moniaive, 1885’ is now part of the art collection in Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery, Glasgow. Away at the end of the street is a Monument to James Renwick a Moniaive born weavers son who graduated from university at 19 and by 21 was an ordained Covenanting minister. He was executed in Edinburgh in 1688, aged only 26, the last of the Covenanting Martyr’s. The monument was funded by public subscription and erected in 1838 .
Before the bridge over the Dalwhat was built Dunreggan was a separate village.The hump-backed bridge over Dalwhat Water built in 1661. Rebuilt by William Stewart in 1796. The avenue of trees leading into Moniaive planted to shade parishioners on their way to Glencairn Kirk, Kirkland. Glencairn Free Church built in 1843, when a third of the Church of Scotland’s ministers and congregations broke away to form the Free Church is now a picturesque ruin at the start of the village. Bottom Park houses the John Corrie Wildlife Garden and new bridge over the burn allowing a circular walk round the village.