The Village of Dunlop


Arial view of Dunlop 1999_H.Hamilton

Note the Dunlop hill at top of photo, then the Kirk at top center...follow main street towards you. Struther Farm House is in the Center in the trees, and the rectangular enclosure to the left is the Bowling Club. The Dunlop House is off the Photo's bottom about a mile.

updated 3.16.2015

The Village of Dunlop has posted a new website which has linked our site to theirs!

see it at



mike Dunlap at entrance to Dunlop, April 2000-MJDDunlop is situated in the extreme north of Ayrshire bordering Renfrewshire and stands 400 to 500 feet above sea level, seven and a half miles from Kilmarnock and sixteen and a half miles from Glasgow.

Dunlop Maps


By now you know how the Village got it's name: The Celts who occupied the area named it Dun (fort) Lop (at the bend or winding) because of the strategic placement of the stronghold at the winding of the burn (stream) Glazert around Dunlop Hill.

Glazert Burn winding 'round Dunlop Hill-MJD

In the latter half of the Sixth century four races disputed possession of this land area. They were the Picts, Britons (Brythonic Celts), Scots or Gaels (Goidolic Celts), and the Angles. The race which occupied Cunninghame, the part of Ayrshire which includes Dunlop, were the Brythonic Celts. These Celts held Dunlop Hill. This area did exchange hands between the Brythonic (Britons of Strathclyde) Celts and the Goidolic (Scots of DalRiada)Celts in the 5th and 6th Centuries. There is considerable speculation that the Romans used Dunlop Hill in the first Century (82AD) as a communications outpost in preparation for Agricola's planned invasion of Ireland, which never occurred. The Picts were there before Fergus Mac Erc of DalRiada, the Angles came through occasionally, and the Vikings were known to have sent foraging parties inland. In other words, it was a dangerous place to live.

Celtic Hill Village

The early Celts in this area lived on and around Dunlop Hill and worshipped with the Druids. Scholars report that Celts belonging to the Damnoni and the Selgovae tribes lived in this area of Scotland.  See the Damnoni sites: Damnoni   Picture from "Rome's Enemies Gallic and British Celts" by Peter Wilcox and Angus MacBride. Picture is based on archeological findings and is accurate for 100BCE.

"In the north of Britain, there were three major tribes in the Lowlands: the Votadini in the Edinburgh and Lothian area, the Novantae in Dumfries in Galloway in the Southwest, and in between them the Selgovae. In addition to these there were northern Scottish tribes, all called Caledonii by the Romans: the Vacomagi in Angus, the Taezali of Buchan, the Decantae of Ross, and the Lugi of Caithness. Dwelling in the Northwest were the savage and fearsome Cereni, Smertae and Carnonacae, who were said to smear their faces with the blood of the slain. The Damnonii were situated near the Firth of Clyde. Certainly other northerly tribes, without Roman names, existed as well, but the Romans collectively called all of these Caledonians.

There is little doubt that these Caledonii were various Pictish tribes, probably before they were unified as one identifiable people." from Robert M Gunn

"In the area we now call southern Scotland were a number of tribes which included the Votadini, the Novantae, the Selgovae and the Damnonii. The Votadini lived in the eastern coastal regions and between the Tyne and the Clyde, the Novantae in the area of Galloway and Dumfriesshire, the south- west, while the Selgovae occupied the area between them. Further north were the lands of the Damnonii. These people were to come into contact with the Romans during the period when the Antonine Wall was the northern Roman frontier and at other times when they traded and seemed to have some sort of political agreement with the Romano-British government."  from Ron Wilcox From Caesar to Cladius

Within a half mile of the Hill is a twenty-five ton stone measuring twelve foot by eight which is called the "Ogirtstane". It was believed to be used as a Druid Altar and as possibly a place of cremation. In the area of Lugton in Dunlop Parish there is Law Hill. Around it is set a series of Standing Stones at regular intervals and at equal distances from the summit. the Stones encircled the Area where "refuge was secure and justice impartially given". This area served as the Court of Justice for the DunLop tribe.


Gnaeus Julius Agricola was a Roman general and governor of the province of Britannia from 78-84AD. He is credited withJohn of Dunlop with a Roman Centurion overseeing the final conquest of Britain.

In a series of annual military campaigns Agricola put down revolts in north Wales, subdued the Brigantes tribe in the north, extended Roman control over the Scottish lowlands, where he established a string of forts between the Forth and the Clyde, sent troops into Galloway, and made inroads into the eastern Highlands. During the latter campaign his vessels were the first to circumnavigate the islands. In 83 or 84AD Agricola met the Caledonian war leader Calgacus in a major battle at Mons Graupius.

roman forts in Ayrshire

The Romans occupied Dunlop Hill for a short time (82 CE), in their normal fashion of using a local strong place, when Agricola advanced through Galway and Ayrshire, to guard the line of communication between Carlisle and Dumbarton. After the Romans left the area, the Dunlop Celts were alternatively ruled by the nearby Kingdom of British Strathclyde and the Irish Kingdom of Dalriada. Some is now known about Strathclyde.  Dalriada was expanded to the now Scottish soil by the banished Irish King Colla da Crioch in 327 AD. The 350 Irish clans who came with him were called "Scotti" , which translates as "plunderers", or "bandits". King Fergus Mac Erc moved the capital of Dalriada to Scotland at Dunadd in the fifth Century AD. The DalRiadians established themselves in the Ayrshire district circa 490's AD. They called themselves "Gaels" but were always referred to as "Scots", from the Milesian story of Scotia, mother of the Irish. 

Highland Archaeology Service - Dun Beag brochThe fortified citadels of Dalriada were clearly linked with outlying smaller farmsteads, most notably the Duns and crannogs. The Duns are regarded as the seats of men of varying social standing who were subject to the overlordship of the Rulers of the four great strongholds: Dun Ollaigh, Dunadd, Tairpirt Boittir, and Aberte. DunLop was one of these lesser seats of authority. Below these Duns were farmers of lesser status who came under the authority of the Dun occupiers.




The Power to the East were the Picti, or "Painted Ones", called so by the Romans, who left Britain in the year 407. The Romans had moved into Ayrshire,  in 82 CE, with a fort at Loudoun Hill, and the temporary post at Dunlop, in anticipation of an invasion of Ireland by Agricola that never occurred. One of the reasons the Irish moved into Argyll was that it was left undefended by the Romans, and after the Romans departed, western Scotland was open to the Irish for the taking. 


Post Roman Strathclyde and DalRiada

After the collapse of the Roman Empire it withdrew from Britannia in 409 c.e. At this point, the Picts of Caledonia became restless and fought and raided the lands south of Hadrian's wall. The Britons and the Saxons, a Germanic tribe, fought off the Pictish threat and eventually the Saxons invaded and emigrated to southern Britannia in great numbers, forcing the Britons northwards into southern Caledonia, where the Britannic Kingdom of Strathclyde was formed.

Meanwhile neighboring kingdoms were established. In the early 6th century, the Scotti tribe (Scots), the Celtic peoples of Northern Ireland, came to Britannia to establish the Kingdom of Dalriada. Later in the century the Angles, a Germanic people similar to the Saxons took all the lands south of the River Forth (Firth of Forth being the estuary) and with parts of northern England established the Kingdom of Northumbria. The Picts were again forced into a kingdom in the north.

In 730 Angus Mac Fergus, the Pictish King took Strathclyde and the Scot's Kingdom of Dalriada. Peace followed until the Scandinavian Vikings started troubling Pictish coasts. While the Pictish armies concentrated on external security, the Scots and the Britons managed
to eject the occupying forces.

Kenneth Mac Alpine, King of the Scots was crowned King of the Picts in 844. Together these lands formed the new Kingdom of Alba.

In 878 the Britons, in an act of revenge, forced the house of Mac Alpine from the Kingship of Pictland, however, in 889 they returned and invaded .

For the Britons this may have been a disaster. The following year, Welsh sources note, the men of Strathclyde who didn't accept the new order, went into exile and settled in Gwynedd (or Wales). Following this exodus, Strathclyde seems to have become a sub-kingdom of the
new Pictish and Gaelic Kingdom of Alba, with its royal line related to the Kings of Alba.

The last king of Strathclyde, Owein the Bald, died fighting for Malcolm II, King of Alba, at the Battle of Carham.

The Picts were assimilated into the Scot culture, losing their language to the Gaels, and essentially their existence. McAlpin is considered the first King of Scotland. He moved the Capital to the ancient Pictish seat of power, named Scone, and with him brought the famous Stone from Dunadd. The Briton Kingdom of Strathclyde was annexed in 900, then Malcolm II secured the Kingdom of Lothian in 950. "Modern" Scotland was born when the treaty of Perth reclaimed from Norway the Northern territories (took by Vikings over a period of 400 years) which were annexed into "Scotland" in 1266.

St Finnian teaches the twelve apostles of IrelandIn the early 6th Century the Christian missionary St Finbar (Finnian to the Irish, to the Britons Winnan, died 579) established a  settlement in Cunninghame at Kilwinning (Kirk of Winnan). Dunlop was within the sphere of his work and  conjecture is that Finian converted the Chief of Dunlop. "He was an Irish abbot, a disciple of Sts. Colman and Mochae also called Winin. He was born in Strangford, Lough, Ulster, in Ireland, a member of a royal family. Studying under Sts. Colman and Mochae, he became a monk in Strathclyde and was ordained in Rome. Returning to Ulster, Finian founded several monasteries, becoming abbot of Moville, in County Down, Ireland. He became embroiled with St. Columba, a student, over a copy of St. Jerome’s Psalter, and St. Columba had to surrender that copy to Finian. He also founded Holywood and Dumfries in Scotland. Finian was known for miracles, including moving a river." from the Catholic Saints Online

The Celts easily made the transformation from Druidry to Christianity because of the many similarities and because the Celtic missionaries wisely used the local sacred places and holidays as their own. Close by are the Chapel Crags where the Druids lived, and near to that a sacred well whose water possessed miraculous properties. As the Christians did everywhere in the Isles, they overlaid existing sacred places with their own, and today this well is still known as St Mary's Well. The baptism water used at Dunlop Kirk is still drawn there today. The first Christian place of worship, Lady Chapel, was built on that site. 

The Kirk was built at the junction of three Burns  near Townfoot. 

See Dunlop Kirk

Up until the 11th century, the Celtic Chief on Dunlop Hill ruled his country as his fathers before him, and called himself "Dunlop of Dunlop". The Celtic families had tiny crofts which provided them with all their requirements, and there was noKing David I reason to leave. There were a few cows of a very rough type bred locally, for there was little or no communication between neighboring tribes, except in time of war. This changed drastically when the Alban (Scottish-Pict)King Malcolm II (1005-1034) annexed the Briton kingdom of Strathclyde (including Dunlop), essentially creating what is now known as Scotland. Now a succession of Normanized Kings began to rule over all other forces and to establish feudalism in the country. The apportioning of the country, started by Malcolm II, was continued by David. It was King David (1124-1153) who granted the district of Cunninghame (including Dunlop) to de Morville who was appointed Hereditary Constable. (A Hugo de Morville is buried under the aisle of the Mosque of el-Aksa in Jerusalem). In his time the Celtic Chiefs, including Dunlop of Dunlop became Earls or Thanes, and ownership of the land passed to the Crown.

Cunninghame was very much a rural area in Norman and Medieval times, and there was very little trade. Markets were held in neighboring parishes, but they were mainly livestock markets. Because Dunlop was so rural , it is hardly ever mentioned, except for the Kirk. The simple farm life stayed the same for centuries. The development of the area did not occur until the mid eighteenth century.

The principal produce of the Parish of Dunlop was cheese. This was a whole milk cheese, and when it was introduced to Scotland it was completely new as before all cheese had been made with skimmed milk. It is still currently known as "Dunlop Cheese". During the turbulent years after 1660, a farmers wife named Barbara Gilmour  fled from Dunlop to Ireland and there learned the art of making whole milk cheese.  Eventually, after the  Revolution of 1688, she returned to Dunlop, to the farm now known as the "Hill", bringing the recipe for the cheese. It proved tremendously popular and soon she was teaching her neighbors. "Knowing" that cheese could not be made from whole milk, the locals almost accused her of witchcraft at the Cross of Irvine. Some others accused her of copying their recipes. "What remains beyond doubt, is the pioneering work of Barbara Gilmour did by developing the making of sweet cream cheese, later called Dunlop. Assuming her return after the Revolution of 1688, she married Mr. John Dunlop of The Hill Farm at Dunlop. Something of an evangelist in the matter of making sweet milk (unskimmed milk) cheese, she must have been a forthright and energetic character who traveled widely to teach the making of Dunlop cheese, and so developed a nation-wide demand. This demand stimulated merchants to visit Cunningham, buy Dunlop cheese and sell it throughout the central lowlands of Scotland. Her system for making Dunlop was widely copied and extended rapidly to many all parts of Scotland by the end of the 18th century, even where traditionally sheep's milk cheese had been made." "...from "Cheesemaking in Scotland" John Smith".  Not long after a new and prosperous body came into being, namely the cheese merchants who took cheese to Paisley and Glasgow. Barbara's cheese press can still be seen today at the "Hill" (left).   Buy Dunlop Cheese here.

Smith, John. Cheesemaking in Scotland - A History. Scottish Dairy Association

The year 1723 saw the beginning of the "Ayrshire Improvers". The land was in very poor state and there was hardly a practicable road in the county. Despite the agricultural revolution improvements did not reach Cunninghame until 1780. Alexander, Earl of Eglinton was the first to reclaim his lands. He introduced crop rotation, his cattle were improved, trees planted, lands drained, and the ground fed, leveled and straightened. His improvements affected the value of his land by 1,500% by the time he was finished.

The farming pattern then improved rapidly and Dunlop was again about to make its mark upon Scotland. From Ayrshire Council

"It has been claimed that the Ayrshire cow was first bred at one of the home farms of Mr. J. Dunlop, Titwood, about 1793 when the Kilmarnock Club for Ayrshire Cattle was formed. This farmer was recognized as one of the most notable of the early breeders in the region. The first Ayrshires were bred by crossing the local type of Highland cow which came from Carrick and an unknown imported Dutch bull. This breed had the names Dunlop cow, afterwards the Cunningham cow and later Ayrshire cow.

Robert Burns also played his part in the introduction of the Ayrshire to Galloway. Writing in 1788 to Mrs. J. Dunlop of Dunlop he expressed gratitude on receiving as a present from her husband "the finest quey in Ayrshire".

Mr. Aiton asserted that for many years past the breed had been introduced into every county in Scotland, and into many of these in England (McQueen, 1961). However, the peripatetic Mr. W. Cobbett on a visit to Scotland in 1832 went so far as to purchase an Ayrshire bull and ten cows for his farm near London where he felt "they will be worth a Kentish or a Sussex farmers' going fifty miles to see".

The 19th century was a period of much breeding and selection by farmers leading to the development of the characteristic elongated udder in Ayrshire cows which distinguishes it from other breeds. It was, however, often considered useful as a dual purpose animal when its propensities as an excellent forager and high milk yielder became apparent. Thus, it was often crossed with other breeds such as the Galloway which eased its introduction into the Solway counties and with it cheese making on a large scale for the first time."...from "Cheesemaking in Scotland" John Smith"

 The breed was then exported all over the world. The first importations of Ayrshires to theAyrshire Cow in Howard County, MD United States was believed to have been made around 1822. Farmers in New England needed a dairy cow that would graze the pastures of their rough, rocky farms and tolerate the cold, often inhospitable winters. In many ways, the environment in New England was very similar to the Ayrshire's native Scotland, and she thrived in her new home. Even today, the Ayrshire is very popular in New England, but her popularity has spread and the Ayrshire herds are now located in every part of the United States.

The Ayrshire cow is universally recognized as one of the most beautiful of the dairy cattle breeds, but much more important is the fact that this breed is highly regarded for its milk producing abilities, and is recognized throughout today's world as THE dairy cow.


Other industries started to make their way into Dunlop. In 1791 there were six masons, twelve weavers, three smiths, three shoemakers, four tailors and three inn-keepers. in 1823 "Mackie's Mill" was set up on the banks of the Glazert and started to produce woolen blankets. In 1849 Mr. Wilson set up shop as a ham curer and became very prosperous. the original curing house , known as the "Burnhouse" has been landscaped and transformed by his grandsons into a local park. In 1857, Robert Howie and sons started a small meal-mill, added a sawmill, and was the first to use steam power locally.

courtesy of Martin Galloway

The end of the 19th century brought the railway into Dunlop, which increased trade and put us in touch with Glasgow. Because of this the farmers began sending their milk directly into Glasgow, which resulted in the decline of cheese making in Dunlop...Dunlop cheese was and is made now at Kilmaurs Creamery a few miles outside of Glasgow. The rail also precipitated the move of Robert Howie and sons closer to the rail, where they remain still today. the 1930's saw the expansion of Wilson's ham business, which had by now branched into Ireland. By 1939 Mackie's Mill was producing carpet yarn and branched into two more sites. By 1950 the village had quite a few new shops....a post , four grocers, one baker, a news outlet, one hotel, and a public House. The Wilson's started and sold a pet food business, making them one of the foremost families in Dunlop. The Dunlop hosiery Co started and is now a prosperous concern. Photo courtesy of Martin Galloway, resident of Dunlop from 1960-1988, now living in Toronto, Canada.


When you visit, stop and see Norman Neilson at the Cross Newsagents store. Read Martin Galloway's article about Norm here.

 c Mike Dunlap and Norman Neilson at the Cross-MJD


Stop and see the Wilson's at the Struther farm house B&B.

Say hi to Vicar Maureen Duncan at the renovated Dunlop Kirk.

Then have a pint at the Village Inn.

Tell them Mike Dunlap of Florida sent you.

Pic taken by Scott Clark 7/15/09



Dunlop village as seen from Dunlop Hill, April 2000 MJD

Farming is still a mainstay of the locals, but most of it is used to feed the cattle. As Dunlop is mainly a dairy farming area the most notable improvements are those connected with milking of the cows and milk production. The Parish of Dunlop is today a thriving community which has survived many calamities, wars, and poverty, much as any other small Scottish community.

As before, the Celtic families have their small farms or holdings, and live in peace unless threatened, whether by the Picts or the English, the Vikings or a Church, the Germans or the Communists, or Ourselves.

The Celts were here since the 4th century BCE, and here they remain.



See East Ayrshire Council 

Dunlop History

The Village of Dunlop has posted a new website which has linked our site to theirs!

see it at



Name: The Auld Hoose
Address: 68, Main St, Dunlop, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, KA3 4AG [01560 484951]

Name: The Village Inn
Address: 2-6 Stewarton Rd, Dunlop, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, KA3 4AA [01560 482920]



The Statistical Account of Scotland, (use non-academic access) 1791

The New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1845

The Third Statistical Account of Scotland: Ayrshire, 1951

Archibald Dunlop, Dunlop of that Ilk, Glasgow, 1898

Rev James Hanna, The House of Dunlap, 1956, Michigan

Freda White, The House of Dunlop, 1951, Oakland, Ca

 Jennifer Hutchison, History and Economic Development of the Village of Dunlop,1972, Edinburgh

Susan Milligan, Old Stewarton, Dunlop and Lugton, 2001, Ayrshire

Dugald Campbell, ed., Dunlop Ancient and Modern Exhibition, 1998, Dunlop

Mike Dunlap, personal photos and interviews with the fine people of Dunlop