Ail-, Al-

Place-Name element: Ail-, Al-

Sir Herbert Maxwell [1] identifies the use and origins of the place-name element in Galloway as follows  –

‘I have not recognised fail (foil), a cliff, which gives names to places in the south of Ireland, in our topography. In the north of Ireland it passes into ail (oil), and, though not now a living word in Scottish Gaelic, has at least been in use at some former time in Galloway, as is shown by the names of some hills in that district : Alhang (2,200 feet), Alwhat (1937 feet) — ail chat (haat), cliff of the wild cat ; and Alwhillan — ail chuilean, cliff of the whelps, or chuilhain, of the holly.’

  • Scottish land-names; their origin and meaning
    • by Maxwell, Herbert Eustace, Sir, bart., 1845-1937

Alhang and  Alwhat, New Cumnok

The neighbouring hills lies in the south of the parish on the boundary of Ayrshire and Kirkcudbrightshire, with Alhang holding the honour of hosting the source of the Afton Water.


Alwhat hill (left) and Alhang hill (right) , New Cumnock

The first impression, neither of these similar green-clad rounded hills, are cliff-like in form. The drop over the boundary is much steeper and it is on the lower slopes of Alhang where Allwhillan is found, yet still little evidence of cliff-like of rocky features.


The ‘Dwelly Dictionary’ [2] includes the following entries for ail – and al-

  • al-  rock, stone, solid, rigid or immovable
  • ail- rock, stone
    • could stone be a reference to boundary stones?

Of interest too is the entry in the ‘Place-names on maps of Scotland and Wales’ [3]

  • Gaelic: ail- rock or stony place
  • Welsh: ael- brow, edge
    • could edge be used in the context of boundary?


  • Place-name: Alhang
  • Suggested meaning: cliff  of the ?
  • Gaelic: al ‘cliff’
  • Gaelic: -hang  ‘?-‘
  • Location: OS Six-inch Scotland 1892-1960;
  • National Library of Scotland




National Library of Scotland