We travel south from Girvan past Lendalfoot and up the Bennane Head looking for further tales of the countryside and you could not find a more gruesome story than the one about Sawney Bean and his evil family who frequented a cave under the Bennane Head at Balcreuchan point. They killed, robbed and even worse lived off travellers on the track above. The story is well documented, all this happening in the time of King James VI and I several centuries ago, the evil tribe were eventually routed out and killed. As the story is so well known I will not bore you with repeating it, but the entrance to Sawney Bean’s cave was covered at high tide and whilst it made it a very suitable hiding place for Sawney Bean’s tribe, it also made it a very suitable hiding place for the smugglers in the 18th century.
A path led from the cave up to the road at the top of the Bannane Head where sat an inn which naturally sold the finest French brandy, wines and claret an attraction for most travellers. The road up over the Bennane Head was recently widened and before this was done all that remained of the smuggler’s inn was a wall which I can remember well when the story was told and the wall pointed out to me.
Sadly the wall disappeared when the road was widened and changed direction to go straight down the inland route towards Ballantrae. The whole of the Ayrshire coastline with its remote bays was very popular with smugglers and provided a lucrative income for the locals including the excise men or guagers as they were known, who were paid to stop the smuggling. It also gave rise to lots of tales of an enchanting area.
If you ever had the pleasure of travelling down the old road which hugged the coastline you would have passed the cave of Snib Scott who died in the 1980s. Snib fell out with the concept of modern day living and decided to turn his back on it. He used to frequent the farms and cottages in the area offering to do odd jobs in exchange for some of the necessities of life such as food etc. He was never any trouble, very popular in the district and when he died the locals who knew him raised a small memorial in his memory. The new road bypasses all this but the memorial and the cave are still there.
We now come to the long straight stretch of road in to Ballantrae which before the second world war was home to a unique golf course, but more of that next time as there are plenty of tales to tell about it. All these tales are worth recording, if not they will pass from memory and we will all be the poorer for it.