Smuggler’s Festival – a village under siege….

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See the full story ….so far 

Author Frances explained: “The richness of Ballantrae’s smuggling history is very impressive, considering the small size of the area.

“Tea, tobacco, brandy, rum, wine and geneva [gin] were smuggled on shore, first from the Isle of Man and then after 1765 directly from Europe.

“It has been possible to identify the names of local smugglers – nearly 70 individuals – more than anywhere else in Scotland.

“Of course these are only the people who were caught by the revenue – how many others were involved?”

Frances says the smugglers’ festival inspired her to separate Ballantrae’s story from another book.

She admitted: “I had no idea that I would be writing this story so soon.”

Ballantrae Smugglers


There’s conspiracy afoot in Ballantrae as villagers plot all sorts of shenanigans for a week in August. Dubious characters have been spotted gathering old clothes and a curious pair in 18th Century garb have been seen patrolling the streets. And there’s talk that local worthies are on the verge of being detained by the authorities and put on public trial… No one is above suspicion – it’s all set to culminate in 4 days of frenzied activity between 21 and 24 August.

The story is there are smugglers in town. And the Exciseman and the Judge have enlisted the help of local children to draw up posters and apprehend the scandalous culprits. These posters are being displayed in Girvan’s McKechnie Institute from 10–17 August.

This new “Smugglers Festival” is being staged by Ballantrae Development Group supported by Ballantrae Community Council and Carrick Futures. The aim is to encourage tourism and offer fundraising opportunities to local community groups. With an action packed programme, this unique series of events, which draws on the area’s murky past as a haven for smugglers, looks certain to put the village on the map.

Over the weekend 17/18 August smuggler scarecrows will start appearing on the streets, in gardens, businesses and homes. By the afternoon and early evening of Wednesday 21st the local Judge and Exciseman will gather local and visiting children, swear them in as members of “The Excise” and seek their help as they scour the village following a “Smugglers Trail”. There will be prizes for the most smugglers spotted.

By 7.30 pm on Wednesday 21st the Community Hall will have been transformed into the “Smugglers’ Arms” for the rest of the week. Star attraction that night will be Frances Wilkins, a social historian and author who will be telling “Ballantrae’s Smuggling Story” to adults and children and launching her new book all about the village’s smuggling history.

At 7.30pm on Thursday 22nd there will be a “Secret Smugglers Film Night” with a screening to adults and children of a well known classic film based on the true story of a Scottish coastal village whisky smuggling. And for 20 pre-booked adults from 8.00pm there’s a chance to sample some of Scotland’s finest whiskies in a special tasting night run by the Kirkoswald Whisky Experience.

But while everyone relaxes on the Thursday, the Exciseman and Judge will have been busy, tracking down the rogues trading contraband in the community – they’ll be arrested and brought to trial at an interactive “Court of Justice” for all the family at the Smugglers Arms on Friday 23rd at 7.30pm in a public trial which is expected to throw up a few scandalous surprises…

Finally on Saturday from 1.00pm – 4.00pm the smugglers who have been captured will be punished at the Village Fayre – it’s rumoured that some of the stallholders will be trying to offload their contraband – but watch out – we hear the Exciseman is planning a raid! The events will wind up with an evening of Folk music from 8.00pm till midnight for adults in the Smugglers Arms, organised Girvan Folk Club.

For further information go to www.ballantrae.org.uk/smugglers, Facebook Ballantrae Smugglers Festival or email smugglers@ballantrae.org.uk. Tickets for the various events are available from Craigiemains Home and Garden Centre, Main Street, Ballantrae (in person), by email from smugglers@ballantrae.org.uk or by phoning 07920517700.

If you live within travelling distance of Ballantrae we hope you’ll join in the fun.

But I’m not supposed to tell anyone about “The Smugglers”…………….



Ballantrae Smugglers







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