The pretty village of Kirkgunzeon stands on a loop of minor road to the north of the A711 from Dumfries to Dalbeattie. As a result it is only visited by those who actually want to come here, something which helps preserve the rural tranquility which adds so much to its attraction.
The name of the village is unusual, sounding more Cornish than Scottish. The "kirk" element is common enough, denoting that the village took its name from an early church that stood here. The rest of the name seems to come from Guinneain a Gaelic variant of the name "Finnian" or "Finian". This is likely to be St Finian of Moville in Ireland, a teacher of St Columba, who is believed to have died in 589, and who had a number of Scottish churches dedicated to him.
While the origins of the apparently unusual name of the village turn out to be straightforward enough, the name of the stream that flows through it is more obscure. Kirkgunzeon Lane begins in Lochaber Loch, on the edge of Mabie Forest some four miles north-east of the village. Having passed Kirkgunzeon it flows south-west past Dalbeattie before becoming a tributary of the Urr Water. There are actually a number of streams across Dumfries and Galloway that are called "lanes", with a possible origin in the Gaelic lean, meaning "marshy meadow" or, by extension, a stream draining one.
The charming stone bridge over Kirkgunzeon Lane was built in the early 1800s and stands at the heart of the village. On one side the main through road climbs up through the east end of Kirkgunzeon en route to the Maxwell Memorial Hall, built in 1906, and the war memorial. Other minor roads run in both directions along the east side of the stream.
To the west of the stream there is a green interlude before you come to the parish church, built in 1790, presumably on the site of the earlier church dedicated to St Finian. The churchyard is dominated by the tall red sandstone memorial to Robert McWhire. The inscription says he was a merchant in Halifax, Yorkshire who died in Dumfries on 4 November 1831. It is unclear what connection Robert McWhire had with Kirkgunzeon.
Timothy Pont's map of 1610 shows a village existed here at that time, and in 1754 it was recorded as standing on the road from Kirkcudbright to Dumfries. In the 1550s a castle, Drumcoltran Tower, was built by Edward Maxwell on a site a mile to the north. Today this is looked after by Historic Environment Scotland and is open to the public.
Another stronghold built by the Maxwell family in the 1500s was even closer to the village. The remains of Corra Castle stand close to the west bank of Kirkgunzeon Lane about a third of a mile south of Kirkgunzeon. Today all that remains is the stump of the tower standing in a farmyard. Corra Castle is primarily remembered as providing a temporary refuge for Mary Queen of Scots during the flight to England that concluded with her imprisonment and eventual execution.