The village of Glenluce can be found some nine miles east of Stranraer and close to the head of Luce Bay. Its interesting Main Street twists and turns as it climbs up a hillside and is lined by stone, whitewashed and pastel coloured single and two storey cottages and houses, as well as the occasional larger building.
This was once a very busy place indeed, as the main road from Stranraer to Dumfries ran right through the village. That all changed with the opening of a bypass taking the A75 to the south of Glenluce in 1989. The result has been to reclaim the village for its residents as the convoys of lorries and other traffic heading to and from the Irish ferries no longer thunder past. On the other hand, it has, literally, sidelined Glenluce, with an adverse impact on some of the village's businesses. Anyone who visits cannot help notice a number of boarded up buildings in the Main Street, most noticeably the large Glenluce Hotel. Meanwhile, however, other parts of the Main Street appear to be thriving, and an optimist would suggest it is only a matter of time before the Glenluce Hotel is redeveloped.
The origins of Glenluce are closely associated with the story of Glenluce Abbey, which was founded in about 1192 by Roland, Lord of Galloway in the fertile valley of the Water of Luce a mile north of the site of the village you see today. He asked Cistercian monks from Dundrennan Abbey near Kirkcudbright to set up a daughter-house here. The abbey became extremely wealthy through agricultural development, and by 1400 it owned some 3,000 sheep. This brought wealth and business to the surrounding area, and a village grew up near the confluence of the Lady Burn and the Water of Luce.
The village was initially known as Ballinclach, or "stone village" and it was sufficiently successful to be made a burgh in 1496. The Reformation of 1560 brought an end to the active life of the abbey, and although the monks who accepted the new doctrines were allowed to live out their days in the abbey, local landowners rapidly began recycling the available stone into nearby building projects. One of the earliest of these was Castle of Park, built in 1590 on a bluff overlooking Luce Bay close to the west end of today's Glenluce by Thomas Hay, who had been appointed to administer the lands and affairs of the abbey.
Ballinclach was formally re-chartered as a burgh in the name of Glenluce in 1705, by which time it was home to an important cattle tryst or market. From the 1760s the village stood on the route of the military road built from Bridge of Sark on the English border via Dumfries to Portpatrick. This passed through Glenluce and formed a junction here with the road running south-east to Wigtown and north, eventually to Ayr.
The village also benefitted from the construction of a harbour at Stairhaven, on Luce Bay two miles to the south, and again when the railway arrived in 1861. The railway closed in 1965, and the main evidence of it today is the disused eight-arched viaduct over the Water of Luce just to the west of Glenluce.