Moniaive is a pretty village full of surprises. The first is that it should have developed here in the first place, in a beautiful but remote location in the Cairn Valley on the Dalwhat Water, 7 miles west of Thornhill and 15 miles north west of Dumfries.
The village was established by the Earl of Dumfries in 1636 on the east side of the Dalwhat Water, and it extended west to its current centre in the 1700s. It served mainly as a focus for the sparsely populated rural area surrounding it until the mid 1800s, when Moniaive's attractive setting led to its development as an upland resort.
By 1905 Moniaive was popular enough to support the building of the Cairn Valley Light Railway bringing visitors from Dumfries. With supreme bad timing this coincided with the start of the dominance of the internal combustion engine, and competition from coaches and cars led to the ending of passenger services on the railway in the 1940s, and the total closure of the line in 1953.
The centre of the village is home to roads lined with attractive white cottages and houses, plus hotels such as the George and the Craigdarroch Arms. At its heart is the Market Place complete with a mercat cross on a circular base in the roadway. Here, too, you find a bus stop that looks as if it might date back to the days of the coaches competing with the light railway.
At the end of the Market Place is a building with a tall clock tower, which you immediately assume is the tolbooth or town hall. This is worth a second look, for the tower turns out to be part of a villa, the Tower House, built in the late 1800s: possibly the most spectacular example of one-upmanship in stone you'll find anywhere.
It would be difficult to imagine it getting planning permission today, but the effect is intriguing and charming: a folly that adds interest to the village.
Three miles east of Moniaive is Maxwelton House. This started life as Glencairn Castle in the late 1300s. It was sold to the Laurie family in 1611, who enlarged it and changed the name. The most famous daughter of the house was Anna Laurie, born here in about 1680.
As Annie Laurie she became the subject of a love poem written by William Douglas. More well known is the classic folk song based on the poem by Alicia Spottiswoode, daughter-in-law of the 4th Duke of Buccleuch in the 1800s. She considerably altered Douglas's words and added a third verse of her own.
The story of Anna Laurie and William Douglas didn't have a happy ending. Douglas was an army officer who in 1694 returned from service in Spain and Germany. Anna's parents did not approve of the romance between the two, on account either of her young age, or of Douglas's Jacobite sympathies.
In the end Douglas eloped with a Lanarkshire heiress and Anna married Alexander Fergusson, the then Laird of Craigdarroch. So perhaps the story didn't exactly have an unhappy ending, either.
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