Alexander Peden’s Cave in the Cleuch Glen and Sorn Castle, Ayrshire

Peden’s Cave

The history of this cave and its connection to the Covenanter, Alexander Peden, is obscure, but for well over a century it has been known as Peden’s Cave. It is located in the Cleuch Glen in Sorn.

Map of Cleuch Glen, Sorn

For a fascinating account of the exploration of the cave and great photographs, see this article from

Inside Peden’s Cave at Sorn. Photo copyright and reproduced by kind permission of Ken Baird.

The location of the cave close to Sorn Castle and its garrison of dragoons may make it an unlikely location for Peden to have hidden in, but that may have been the point.

The castle was garrisoned in 1685 when Peden was in the area. The governor of Sorn castle was Lewis Lauder, a lieutenant in Captain John Inglis’ company of dragoons. The notorious Cornet Peter Inglis was also in the same company.

Lieutenant Lauder served in His Majesty’s Regiment of Dragoons from late 1684. He was listed as an ensign in Inglis’s dragoons on 25 November, 1681. In April, 1684, the privy council issued a £20 reward to Lauder for his part in apprehending Col. John Paton of Meadowhead.

He was promoted to lieutenant in a company in His Majesty’s Regiment of Dragoons on 5 December, 1684, and was listed again as a lieutenant of that company on 30 March, 1685. On 7 December, 1688, he was commissioned to be Lieutenant in Capt Patrick Blair’s Troop of Dragoons in the same regiment.

Lauder’s commission was one the last by King James VII and II before he lost power in London. He remained in the dragoons after the Revolution and was a Captain-Lt in the Scots Dragoons in 1694 and served in Flanders for William of Orange. He eventually became a captain in Lord Lindsay’s Regiment of Scots Foot on 2 March, 1696. (Dalton, Scots Army, 122, 123, 124n, 144, 145, 146n.)

Sorn Castle © Gordon Brown and licensed for reuse.

We know that Lewis Lauder was based at Sorn Castle in early 1685, when he issued a testficate that ‘—— Kirkwood’, a servitor at Auchmannoch, had sworn the Abjuration oath that renounced the Societies’ war:

‘God save the King.
I, Lewis Lauder, Governor of Sorn Castle, dow heirby certifie and declare, viz.—— Kirkwood, servitor to Arthur Campbell of Auchmannoch, in the parish of Sorne, did compeir before me, on solemn oath before Almightie God, did abjure and renounce the late traitorous apologeticall declaration [of November, 1684], in so far as it declares war against his majestie, and asserts that it is lawful to kill all such as serve his majestie in church, state, armie, or countrie, conform to his majestie’s late proclamation of the 30th Daye of December last [i.e. 1684].
Given at Sorn, the aught day of February, 1688 [which is surely a transcription error for 1685] zeirs.
Lewis Lauder.’
(Paterson, History of the County of Ayr, II, 421.)

Kirkwood, like all the other inhabitants of Sorn parish, would have required the testificate to be able to travel outside of the parish and prove that he was a loyal subject. For a discussion on the process of swearing of the Abjuration oath, see the entry on John Barrie.

Map of Auchmannoch

Auchmannoch © wfmillar and licensed for reuse.

Kirkwood would have needed such a testificate as he worked next to the Peden’s family home at Auchencloigh, where Peden may have been in hiding in a dugout cave in late 1685.

Traditions linking the cave in Sorn to Peden were entrenched in the late nineteenth century when the following poem by Robert Mackenzie Fisher was published:

‘Lines on a Visit to Peden’s Cave.


Is this the so-called sacred spot, the rude yet hallow’d cave,
That sheltered ‘neath its gloomy shade the grand old prophet brave?
Through many strange vicissitudes, through care and deadly strife,
He nestled in thy bosom oft to save his useful life.
From tyrants’ hands he pass’d unscath’d through all their spleen and spite,
And shone supreme, a stainless star, through Scotland’s darkest night.
Methinks I hear the troopers’ tread, the clank of iron hoofs-
The disappointed, cursing crew, the ruthless, reckless coofs-
That travers’d every moor and dale, that haunted every glen,
To butcher, torture, and harass old Scotia’s noblest men.
The grandest intellects on earth were from their pulpits hurl’d;
They fann’d the flames on Scotland’s hills that lit up half the world;
They stood the test of tyranny, and stemm’d oppression’s tide
That dashed its waves of wickedness ‘gainst puir auld Scotland’s side;
They fought like noble patriots for freedom, truth and right,
And chased the moral mists and gloom behind the hills of light.

Deceived by all the Stewart race that wore a cursed crown,
Till Heaven raised up a Cromwell and tore the Stewarts down,
Oh! luckless Covenanters that join with such a crew!
No blessing ever followed them, they stain’d thy garments too;
But onward roll’d the chariot wheels of liberty and light,
And crushed beneath their ponderous weight the Stewart’s regal might;
And all their boasted pomp and power, their avaricious gain,
Were buried in oblivion’s grave, no more to rise and reign.
The land then breathed a purer air, and safety sat supreme,
And freedom reigned enthron’d in state before the brightening beam.
The sun of righteousness arose, with brighter beams arrayed,
And chased away the despot’s power that made the land afraid.
We reap the fruits our fathers sowed through waves of blood and tears,
They usher’d in a golden age that brought us peaceful years;
Let’s carry down their honoured names to nations yet unborn.
Until the world’s Redeemer brings the bright millenial morn.’

For other caves connected to Alexander Peden, see Peden’s Cave at Auchinbay and Peden’s Cave near Craigie.

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.

~ by drmarkjardine on January 30, 2012.

7 Responses to “Alexander Peden’s Cave in the Cleuch Glen and Sorn Castle, Ayrshire”

  1. […] Lauder served first as an ensign and then as a lieutenant under Captain John Inglis in His Majesty’s Regiment of Dragoons. (For his career see here.) […]

  2. […] other riverside Peden caves can be found at Sorn and […]

  3. […] The Caitloch Cave shares a similar location to other caves which, either are, in the case of the Covenanters Cave in Kelton parish a lead mine, or may be an unsuccessful mine, such as Peden’s Cave at Sorn. […]

  4. […] Peden’s Cave at Sorn […]

  5. […] Blindburn lies above a cave in the Cleuch Glen where tradition claims that Peden hid. […]

  6. […] The fugitive field preacher, Alexander Peden, was in hiding nearby at ‘the Dikes’ in early 1686. He is also associated with a cave nearby below Sorn Castle and Blindburn. […]

  7. I have found the real “Pedens Cave”.Within 20 meters of “Pedens Cove”.
    Hoping Dr Jardine gets in touch so i may share the amazing story i have.

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