This article is taken from a series of recommendations made by Thomas Telford on the rapidly improving condition of the Stewartry roads of around 1800. Newton Stewart bridge had not been rebuilt, the river crossing was by ferry, Tongland bridge was recommended and a section of the Newton Stewart road west of New Galloway had still to be completed. Although published in 1809, at the time of his survey the bridge at Tongland had not ben built. It was stated in 1804 so the survey must have been earlier.
Stewartry Roads about 1800
At Newtown Stewart, the river Cree divides the Shire from the Stewartry of Galloway. This river is of a considerable size, and had formerly a bridge of four arches, each 43 feet span; but this was destroyed by a flood. Since that time the river has been passed by means of a ferry boat; but this, upon so general a communication, is very inconvenient, and particularly so on account of the great numbers of Irish and Scotch cattle which pass this way to the North of England. The situation of the former bridge was a very improper one for the general thoroughfare; to accommodate this, it ought to be placed a considerable way further down the river, and it ought to be made of larger dimensions, both with regard to length and width. If placed in this new situation, and of enlarged dimensions, the expense will be greatly increased. These two counties having lately exerted themselves in a very uncommon manner, and incurred a very heavy expense in improving the roads which form the general line of communication, and which they engage to complete, this expensive work appears to be a proper object for public aid.
From Newtown Stewart to Dumfries lies an extensive track of country, denominated the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. The road now generally travelled is along the shore by Ferrytown, Gatehouse, and from thence up the country by Castle Douglas, being a distance of 52 miles. Along the whole of this track a new road has been laid out, and is now nearly completed at the expense of the county, and (excepting at the bridge of Dee near to Castle Douglas) it appears to be in as good a direction as the country will admit of.
Another road passes through this district by New Galloway, which is situated in the valley of the Kenn upwards of twenty miles distant from the shore, and this road, excepting for five or six miles, has lately been new made. The distance between Newtown Stewart and Dumfries by this road is about forty-three miles, being nine miles shorter than the former one. Nothing appears wanting to complete this communication, but to execute the before-mentioned five or six miles, which lie immediately to the West of New Galloway. This road passes through a mountainous track of country, which, excepting where it crosses the narrow valley of the Kenn, is very thinly peopled, and appears to be fit only for the pasturage of sheep or black cattle.
There is a third road, more to the South than either of the two former; it is now a tolerably good road, upon the old principles of road making; and surveys have been made out, and a part is already executed upon an improved plan, so as either to avoid the hills, or, where that is impracticable, to render the ascents and descents gradual and easy. This road will pass from Dumfries by Dalbeattie through Kirkcudbright to Gatehouse; its length will be nearly the same as the present road by Castle Douglas; it will pass through the best cultivated and most populous part of the Stewartry; it will likewise pass through Kirkcudbright, which is the county town and port, and Dalbeattie, which is also a port for a very considerable district of country. We understand this road will be completed without requiring public aid; but it will be very imperfect without a bridge erected over the river Dee at Kirkcudbright; this will be an expensive work, and to accomplish it, public aid will be necessary.
It is evident, that to ensure three roads through this extensive district, it is only necessary that public aid be granted to three bridges, viz. at Newtown Stewart, Old Dee, and Kirkcudbright; the competition will then be fair and complete, and the road which, under all circumstances, is best adapted for the public accommodation, will be proved by experience. One matter is certain, that the mere thoroughfare will not support proper inns with a sufficient establishment of horses and carriages, or enable a mail coach to run; market business, the intercourse of the adjacent country, and the travellers of manufacturers who transact business with shopkeepers, are all required; but they can only be found in the most populous parts of this country, and it is therefore on the road which passes through those parts, and the small towns along the coast, when the roads are made equally good, where it is probable that regular accommodation will be found.