Dumfries and Galloway has some superb little used byways. One of these takes off from the A711 two miles south-west of Dumfries and heads across country to Castle Douglas. This follows the route of the old military road built in the 1760s from Bridge of Sark on the English border via Dumfries to Portpatrick.
Today this minor road provides a slower but much quieter alternative to the main A75, which follows a course a mile or two to the north. En route the old road passes through Lochfoot, at the northern end of Lochrutton Loch. A little to the east an even more minor road heading south is signposted to Lochrutton Church.
If you follow this for half a mile you pass Kirkbrae before climbing what seems a little used track to arrive in the parking area for the attractive but rather sad church shown on this page.
The few published references to the church lead you to expect it to be still in use. The state of the flaking whitewash as seen from the gate into the churchyard is the first clear indication it might not be. Confirmation comes in the form of the glass missing from many of the windows, which are covered in mesh. Through the mesh it is still possible to glimpse pews and other internal fixtures. The overall effect, especially in what turns out to be a rather bleak upland setting, is slightly desolate.
Lochrutton Church was built in 1819 and the bellcote and vestry were added in 1889. The surrounding churchyard is circular, and this is usually an indication that the first church built on a site was fairly early. In Lochrutton Church's case it seems that the 1819 church was a replacement for a pre-Reformation structure. Usually where this is the case it is possible to uncover references to the first documentary mention of a church, and so date it, but apparently not with Lochrutton Church.
That there was an earlier structure on the site is clear from the gravestones in the churchyard. Almost all of are the same dull red local stone and amongst them are a number of very fine examples of early (i.e. 1700s) stones bearing symbols of mortality such as skulls, crossbones, coffins and angels. These were used instead of the Christian cross on early Scottish gravestones as the latter was viewed as unacceptable by the early Presbyterian Kirk.
An excellent example is the gravestone of William Carson, who died in 1772. Hellin Anderson, who died in 1755, has a gravestone carrying a fine carving of an urn from which flames appear to be emerging. It is possible that when the church was rebuilt the east gable of the church was, partly at least, reused from its predecessor, as built against it are two large monuments, dated 1765 and 1807, commemorating successive generations of Reverend George Duncans.