New Cumnock was a convenient stopping-off place for Robert Burns on his regular journeys between Mauchline and Ellisland. Here his horse could be fed and stabled overnight whilst he doubtless enjoyed the hospitality in one of the local inns, either the Old Mill Inn or the Castle Inn. The inn was also conveniently situated near the Auld Kirk to catch the passing trade.
Chris Rollie in his ‘Robert Burns & New Cumnock‘ provides what little information there is available on Mrs Moore the inn-keeper at the Castle Inn during the time of Burns. She had been the house-keeper at Laight, one of several New Cumnock properties held by Captain Gilbert McAdam. However, the Captain fell on hard times in 1781 and his son-in-law John Logan acquired his properties, moving his wife Martha McAdam and his young family into Laight in the same year. By this time Mrs Moore was inn-keeper at the Castle Inn, and the Captain moved there following his misfortune. It was care of Mrs Moore (More) that Robert Burns sent his letter to John Logan on 7th August 1789 to inform him that he had completed ‘The Kirk’s Alarm.’
Five years later William McKnight and his wife Agnes Crichton began their tenure as inn-keepers at the Castle Inn. William was the son of George McKnight and Betty Mitchell, lso kept an inn at the Old Mill farm. Following William’s death in 1831, his widow had the wisdom to have the Crown Inn built adjacent to the new parish church a few years later and their daughter Catherine remained there until the 1890’s, before retiring to Cumnock.
James Young, son of John Young of Lowes farm, took over the Castle Inn in the late 19th century and the photo above show his four daughters posing outside the inn.