Ballantrae comes alive with smugglers tales

Ayrshire’s southernmost coastal village came alive for four days last year as a band of vagabonds and scalliwags in 18th Century costume took to the streets.

Such was the success of Ballantrae’s first “Smugglers Festival” that the organisers are planning a longer and bigger extravaganza from 18 – 24 August this year.

With its unique mix of artistry, storytelling, historical fact and with drama, fun and entertainment for all ages thrown in, the Smugglers Festival can truly be said to be unique, drawing as it does on Ballantrae’s tradition as a venue where highly taxed commodities such as fine wines, spices, silks and salt were landed illicitly over many years.

This year’s Festival promises many completely new events. Although the villagers are already busy preparing costumes and making elaborate scarecrow smugglers, which proved a huge hit last year with over 30 on display on a “Smugglers’ Trail” throughout the village. Kicking off the shenanigans is the approach of a boat, laden with illicit cargo, which will land its goods at Ballantrae Harbour at 8.00pm on Monday 18 August. It will be met by carters, with their horses, ready to spirit the goods away to safe houses throughout the village. But the lawmen have had a tip off – will the smugglers manage to foil their attempts at arrest?

On Tuesday Adventure Centre for Education will host taster sessions from the harbour and along the Ballantrae coast, inviting all comers to try their hand at kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding as the hunt for contraband continues. Meanwhile at 7.30pm for the princely sum of £5.00 adults only will get to taste some of the smuggled fine wines courtesy of Majestic Wines of Ayr who will be holding their clandestine session in the “Smugglers’ Arms” (AKA the village hall).

Wednesday sees the hunt continue, with ACE running family “coasteering” sessions. Meanwhile the children of Ballantrae and Colmonell Primary Schools (and their teachers) have prepared for this year’s festival with great enthusiasm and imagination.

As a thank you they will have their own “Smugglers’ Day” and during school hours, the children will go round the “Smugglers’ Trail” to see the Smugglers Scarecrows, hear smuggling stories in the “Storytelling Shed”, and produce their own Smuggling Storybook. And in the evening, at 7pm, a Secret Film Screening suitable for all ages will take place in “The Smugglers Arms”.

On Thursday at 7.30pm the Smugglers’ Arms is the venue for historian and author Frances Wilkins, who will reveal the results of her research into local families whose ancestors were involved in the smuggling.

Songs and music, stories, poetry and laughter are the order of the day on Friday, at the Smugglers Arms as local talent, including school children from Colmonell and Ballantrae with their songs and winning entries from the Smugglers Creative Writing Competition. It’s rumoured some of the local miscreants may also be hiding in the audience – will the excisemen track them down?

Finally on Saturday, the village will come together for the Village Fayre, starting at 11.00am and including fun and games, competitions, arts and crafts and produce stalls and tours of the smugglers trail, featuring street performers throughout the village.

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