Arthur’s first battle was fought by the River Glein and there are two British rivers with this name. One is in Northumberland which is recorded in history as the place where Paulinus baptised the local Angles in 627. The second location is in the parish of Loudoun in Ayrshire. More specifically, staunch local legend remembers that Arthur’s battle was fought at the confluence of the Glen Water and the River Irvine in the town of Darvel (O.S. Map Ref. NS 565 375).
Arthurian legend recalls that although Urien eventually became one of Arthur’s greatest allies, in the beginning they fought against each other. The ancient Kingdom of Rheged is centred around Stranraer in Galloway stretching north into southern Ayrshire, although where the tribal boundaries would have been in the 6th century is a matter of guesswork. I therefore suggest that Arthur’s first battle at the River Glen may well have been fought against Urien’s forces.
Darvel and the Glen Water lie about 15 miles inland from the Ayrshire coast and the town of Irvine, where Timothy Pont’s 16th century survey records an island known as Arddyhir (now part of the mainland known as Ardeer). About 10 miles to the north west of Darvel, another older map by Hall records a place called Arthur’s Leg, however this site is difficult to locate today due to the inaccuracies of early mapping techniques.
Another 8 miles to the north east of Arthur’s Leg, an ancient Celtic cross shaft known as a Arthur’s Cross stands in Arthurlie, Barrhead. Here we find supporting evidence (again from local legend) that Arthur camped here on his return from a battle at the River Irvine. I think we can conclude that Arthur’s first battle was indeed fought at Darvel, but who he fought we shall never know for sure.