St John's Town of Dalry may hold the record for the Scottish place name containing the largest number of words. It is sometimes referred to as just Dalry for short, but this invites confusion with the town of Dalry in North Ayrshire.
St John's Town of Dalry is a very old settlement. It grew primarily to service the needs of pilgrims travelling from Edinburgh to the church established by St Ninian at Whithorn. Particular support was offered to pilgrims by the Knights Hospitaller of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, who until the Reformation owned much of the land on which the village was built.
Given the story behind the name it is perhaps fitting that today's St John's Town of Dalry sees another stream of footweary travellers making use of the village facilities. Most of these modern travellers are moving from south west to north east along the route of the Southern Upland Way long distance footpath.
This enters the village via a pedestrian suspension bridge across the River Ken called the Boat Weil, the name originally given to the ferry used by pilgrims who included James IV. From the bridge walkers of the Way enter the village past the churchyard.
What they find is an exceptionally pretty village. Dalry Parish Church sits on top of a steep hill above its churchyard and dates back to 1832. Next to it is the Gordon Aisle, originally part of an earlier church from 1546. From the church the onward route is through a lovely avenue of lime trees.
This emerges on Main Street. Nearby is the strikingly attractive ivy clad Lochinvar Hotel. This was built in the 1700s as a coaching inn on the road from Castle Douglas to Ayr, but has been extended and renovated over the years.
The name comes from the poem Young Lochinvar, by Sir Walter Scott. The local association comes from the ruins of Lochinvar Castle, which lay on an island in a loch (Lochinvar) three miles north east of the village. They were inundated when a dam was built and the water level rose.
The heart of St John's Town of Dalry lies uphill from the church, around the junction overlooked by the Clachan Inn and the Town Hall. Most of what you see today dates back to the development of a planned village here by the Earl of Galloway in the 1700s. When the new development was laid over the existing settlement the result was wide attractive streets of largely white harled cottages.
For those heading north east along the Southern Upland Way this is the last collection of more than a couple of buildings they will see for many miles. How nice that St John's Town of Dalry is so pleasing to the eye as well as providing accommodation and other services to today's pilgrims.