What’s in a name? Gatelochside

Gatelochside Burn and Gatelochside Bridge

Modern day maps of the parish of New Cumnock show Gatelochside Burn running off the north face of The Knipe and flow between the farms of Blackwood and Polshill into the River Nith while in the earlier OS Map (Six Inch 1892-1905) Gatelochside Bridge is named.


In the OS map (Six Inch 1843-1882) the cottage of Gatelochside sits on the west bank of the burn of the same name and beside Gatelochside Bridge flush with the New Cumnock to Kirkconnel Road . Just along the road towards New Cumnock is the milestone:  New Cumnock 2 Dumfries 36.  Today the road is the A76 major trunk road which very much follows the route of the original turnpike road built in accordance with the Turnpike Act 1766, a further act in 1774 would follow.

Tolls were levied to pay for these new roads and toll houses soon became a feature of the landscape. In the 1841 Census appears Agnes Vallance (aged 50) tollkeeper resident at Gatelochside along  with apprentice joiner John Vallance (15) and Catherine Vallance (15). Tolls were abolished in 1878 and this possibly sounded the death-knell for the cottage of Gatelochside.

Further back in time in the Old Parish Records of New Cumnock  are found Samuel Hair and his wife Margaret Baird in Gatelochside and the baptisms of their children Andrew (1734), Margaret (1741), John (1744), another Andrew (1746) and Mary (1749).

Gateloch Craigs

Continuing up Gatelochside Burn toward the summit of The Knipe the burn is found to cut its way through a craggy ravine which in both the aforementioned OS Maps is called Gateloch Craigs. From this was can take assume the burn may once have been called Gateloch Burn and when the cottage was built on the side of its lower banks was called Gatelochside. The burn was then renamed after the cottage – Gatelochside Burn.


To unearth the origins of the name Gateloch it is necessary to continue the journey back in back in time and view Johan Blaeu’s map of Coila Provincia,  Atlas Novus (1654). Here the burn at its source on the Chnip Hill is named as Gaitcleugh b. comprising the Scots elements gait ‘goat’ and cleugh ‘ravine’.  Wild mountain goats must once have been common visitors to the rocks of what we know now as the Gateloch Craigs – the ‘goat ravine’. The dark crevice of Gait Cleugh is clearly visible on the slopes of the Knipe.

The Knipe with Gateloch Craigs - Gait Cleugh
The Knipe with Gateloch Craigs – Gait Cleugh

Googlemaps: Aerial View of Gateloch Craigs


In the wonderful words of James Hogg ‘The Ettrick Shepherd’ we find him up to his neck in snow in a gait cleugh in his own neck of the woods in his writings in ‘The Shepherd’s Calendar’ –

However, it is either my strength failing, I canna won sae weel through the snaw, or I never saw it lie sae deep before. I canna steer the poor creatures frae ae knowe-head to the other without rowin them ower the body. And some time when they wad spraughle, then I stick firm an’ fast masel, and the mair I fight to get out, I gang aye the deeper. This same dae , nae farther gane at ae step up in the gait cleugh, I slumpit in tae the neck. Peace be wi’ us quo’ I to myself where am I now? If my auld  wife wad but look up the hill she wad see nae mair o’ her poor man but the bannet.”

Blackwood’s Magazine, Edinburgh (1823), Vol. 13, p.312

Perhaps Hogg’s gait cleugh was on the Cleugh Burn, some 5 miles east of Moffat  here


National Library of Scotland Maps

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