The geological foundations which underlie the south-west of Scotland have, throughout history, provided the population with materials possessing a useful range of properties. In large part they consist of rock produced by the accumulation of sediments over many millions of years in a variety of climactic conditions. Volcanic activity has modified this landscape further. Molten rock pushed its way through cracks in the earth's crust. In some cases it cooled and solidified within the earth. Elsewhere, it has welled up and solidified above the surface.

Limestone is present throughout Ayrshire and in scattered locations in Dumfries and Galloway. From early times it has been burnt to provide building mortar. Since the 17th Century, farmers have spread it on the land to increase its fertility. At Beith, in Ayrshire, a hard limestone was discovered which could be polished to produce an ornamental building stone. 

Sedimentary rocks have been modified by contact with molten intrusions. In some instances this has had useful results. Water of Ayr stone, quarried and mined at Stair, is still sought after for sharpening fine edged instruments. It was produced by the effects of heat on deposits of shale. The great variety in rock textures throughout the south-west, has given rise to many small local quarries with a range of output, from paving stones to millstones. 

Among the most renowned of materials to be quarried in this part of Scotland, is the micro-granite of Ailsa Craig - an islet off the coast of Ayrshire. This is the surviving hard core of an ancient volcano. Since the 19th Century it has been shipped from the Craig to supply curling stone manufacturers in the small town of Mauchline. Different parts of the volcanic core cooled at different rates, producing crystals of different sizes. The result, is a variation in impact and water resistance which is exploited in the construction of the curling stone.


Granite, a hard volcanic rock, has been quarried at a number of places in Galloway. The main quarries were at Creetown and Dalbeattie. 

Large-scale quarrying began in 1826 when The Liverpool Dock Trustees opened the Craignair Quarry at Dalbeattie. By 1830 the Trustees were also working the Kirkmabreck Quarry at Creetown and thousands of tons of Galloway granite were being transported in schooners to Liverpool for the city's new docks. 

With the opening of the Dumfries and Castle Douglas Railway in 1859 there was a revival of quarrying at Dalbeattie. The town's quarries specialised in dressed and polished granite and the firm of D.H. and J. Newall developed some of the first granite polishing machines. There was a strong demand for granite memorials and many of the Victorian tombs in Glasgow's Necropolis or City of the Dead were fashioned from Dalbeattie granite. 


High quality Permian sandstone has been quarried at Dumfries, Annan and Mauchline. The stone was used mainly for housing and the main period of quarrying was during the building boom of the late Victorian period. In 1900 the local quarries employed over 1,000 workers and produced 190,000 tons of stone each year. 

South-west Scotland's distinctive red-brown sandstone was used for the tenement flats and public buildings of Glasgow, Paisley, Kilmarnock and Ayr. Local sandstone was also in demand in Europe and America and New York's State Capitol Building, constructed in the 1890s, used stone from the Corsehill Quarry, Annan. 

Quarrying was a skilled job and the use of explosives was kept to a minimum to avoid damaging the stone. Chisels were used to split blocks to size on the quarry floor. Blocks were then raised to the surface using steam or electric powered cranes. 

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