Alwhat, Alwhat Burn

Place-name:Alwhat Hill, Alwhat Burn
Suggested Meaning:steep place of the wild cat
 1st element:1. Gaelic al, ail ‘rock, stone’
2. Gaelic aill ‘rough, steep’
 2nd element:Gaelic cat, chat ‘wild cat’
Blaeu Coila (1654):No entry
OS Name (1855-57):Alwhat Hill
Location:OS Map Six-inch Scotland 1892-1960
Other Early Forms:
Alquhat, Alwhat, Allwhat (OS Name Books)
Photo 1 | Alwhat (left) and Alhang (right)    photo Robert Guthrie


The Ordnance Survey Name Book Ayrshire (1855-57) entry for Alwhat reads –

A high ridge of sheep pasture land, on which is a portion of the boundary between Ayrshire and Galloway

Various modes of spelling: Alwhat, Allwhat, Alquhat Hill

Alwhat (without hill) is also given as various mode of spelling and indeed it is this form the name appears on OS maps.

Map 1: Alwhat and Alwhat Burn
1st element|Gaelic aill ‘rough, steep’; Gaelic ail, al ‘rock, stone

See also New Cumnock Place-Name ‘ail-,al-,aill-‘ [1]

Sir Herbert Maxwell in “Scottish Land-Names” [2] identified Alwhat and Alhang as examples of hill names perhaps containing Scottish Gaelic ail ‘cliff’. However, neither of these hills have cliff like features. In his later work “The Place-Names of Galloway” Maxwell drops the reference to cliff and simply refers to them both as hills [3].

Of course much of Alwhat rests in Galloway, over the county boundary into Kirkcudbrightshire. The Ordnance Survey Name Book Kirkcudbrightshire (1848-51) Vol. 5 entry for Alwhat reads –

Situation] 1 3/8 Miles W.N.W. [West North West] of Lorg. A considerable hill on the farms of Upper Holm and Montray. its surface is rough pasture, and on its summit is a Trigl.[Trigonometrical] Station called by Trigl.[Trigonometrical] Party “Allwhat”. This hill forms part of a range or group of hills.-

[Note] Allwhat, from the Gaelic Al, a rock & fada, long. Aill, in the Irish signifies a high mountain, a great steep, &c.

The footnote suggests Alwhat is Gaelic al fada ‘long rock’ but also makes reference to Irish aill ‘a great steep’.

The reference to Aill fits well with Dwelly entries for Gaelic aill ‘rough, steep’ and Gaelic ail, al ‘rock, stone’ [4]; all of which could be applied to describe similar aspects of both Alwhat and Alhang.

2nd element|Gaelic chat ‘cat’

Sir Herbert Maxwell in ‘The Place-Names of Galloway’ considers Alwhat as aill chat ‘the wild cat’s hill’ [3].

Alwhat Burn

The OS Name Book Ayrshire (1855-57) entry for Alwhat Burn reads –

A small stream which rises between Alquhat and Lagower Hills, flowing in a northerly direction falls into Afton Water

Various Spelling Modes: Alquhat Burn

Scots burn ‘stream’ [5] is a common place-name element in the parish. Alwhat Burn takes its name from the hill and is a trubitary of the Afton Water.

[1] New Cumnock Place-Names | ail-,al-, aill-
[2] Sir Herbert Maxwell | Scottish land-names; their origin and meaning (1894)
[3] Sir Herbert Maxwell | The Place-Names of Galloway (1930/ (Reprint 2001))
[4] Edward Dwelly Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary (1902-1912)
[5] Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd| burn

Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
Map1: OS Map Six-inch Scotland 1892-1960

Ordnance Survey Name Books
Ayrshire OS Name Book (1857-59) Vol. 49| Alwhat
Kirkcudbrightshire OS Name Book (1848-51) Vol. 4| Alwhat
Kirkcudbrightshire OS Name Book (1848-51) Vol. 5| Alwhat