Barney Hill

Place-name:Barney Hill
Suggested Meaning:crossing hill’
elementGaelic bearna ‘pass, crossing, gap’
elementStandard Scottish English hill ‘hill’
Blaeu Coila (1654):No Entry
OS Name Books (1855-57):Barney Hill
Location:Ordnance Survey (1892-1960)
Other Early Forms:

Barney Hill

Gaelic bearna ‘pass, crossing, gap’ + Standard Scottish English hill ‘hill’

The Ordnance Survey Name Books (1855-57) entry for Barney Hill reads –

A small hill about 25 chains N. [North] of Nethertown farm house.

Barney Hill on Corsencon Hill (Photo Robert Guthrie 2009)
Map 1: Ordnance Survey (1857) Barney Hill | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Sir Herbert Maxwell considers Barney Hill in the parish of Kirkcowan, Wigtownshire as Gaelic bearna ‘pass, a crossing, gap’ and also identifies this element in several other Barney place-names including Barnagee, Glasserton; Barneywater, Girthon; Barnyard, Kirkpatrick-Irongray and possibly Barneycleary, Penninghame [1].

Expanding on the OS Name Book entry for Barney Hill it is worthwhile noting that it sits on the lower east south facing slopes of Corsencon Hill, for it too can be described as a ‘crossing hill’ [2].

In 1205 William the Lion, King of Scots established toll and customs points at five routes into the newly established sheriffdom of Ayr including one at Corsencon [3] –

‘Grants his firm peace to all merchants coming to buy and sell at the burgh of Ayr and commands that toll and custom due to the burgh shall be given and received at Maich, Karnebuth, Loudon, Corsencon and Laicht. No toll or customs belonging to the burgh is to be taken outwith these marches’.
Lanark 21 May, 1203 x 1207, probably 1205.

G.W.S. Barrow (Editor,) The Acts of William I (1971)

R. C. Reid in his article ‘More Notes on Roman Roads’ in TDGNHAS considered that practical roads must have existed at this time to allow the transportation of merchandise and concluded [4] –

Now it is difficult to believe that these points on the boundaries of the sheriffdom could have been roads other than Roman at that period. Loudon certainly was, and a road up Nithsdale into Ayrshire must have had a toll station close to Corsincon.

R.C.Reid, TDGNAHS Third Series Volume XXXVII (1958-59)

Writing In the same journal ,Allan Wilson in his article ‘The Road into Ayrshire’ noted the discovery of a potential Roman post at Bankhead, a mile or so east of Kirkconnel village and also the local tradition of a Roman camp in Avisyard Hill in the parish of Old Cumnock. He then set out to determine possible routes between these points beginning with the first stretch from Bankhead to Corsencon. Here he identified two possibilities. First ‘on the line of Glenmuckloch Crichtons and Hillhead to the western shoulder of Corsencon Hill‘ and the second ‘eventually falling into alignment at Corsencon, with the parish road from March Street‘ [5]. In later work Wilson, expands on the second route and describes it as ‘a direct line through Knowehead and Corsencon Farm‘. He also noted the discovery of a sherd of Samian, Roman Pottery at Merkland Knowe [6]. The CANMORE entry for the Samian Ware notes that it was found at Merkland Knowe and adds’ location unknown’ [7]; however this will be Hillend Knowe which made up part of the lands of Merkland.

Map 2: Ordnance Survey (1899) Barney Hill | Reproduced with the Permission of the National Library of Scotland

Whether the two roads that cut across Barney Hill on the lower slopes of Corsencon Hill are Roman or not remains to be seen. However their presence certainly supports the idea of a ‘crossing place’, as indeed does the name Corsencon, since that name too signifies a ‘crossing place [8]’.

Footnote: It should be noted that other roads in the vicinity of Corsencon were first considered to be of Roman characteristics although later investigations revealed they were disused coal-roads associated with Mansfield Colliery, ‘however, the possiblity that this disused coal road follows an original Roman line should not be dismissed‘ [9]


[1] Sir Herbert Maxwell “The Place-Names of Galloway”
[2] New Cumnock Place-Name | Corsencon (in progress)
[3] G.W.S Barrow (Editor), Regesta Regum Scotorum II, The Acts of William I (1971)
[4] R.C. Reid, Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History & Antiquarian Society, Transactions and Journal of Proceedings, 1958-59. Third Series , Volume XXXVII. | More Notes on Roman Roads, 3. Roads in Ayrshire p.133
[5] Allan Wilson, Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History & Antiquarian Society, Transactions and Journal of Proceedings, 1958-59. Third Series , Volume XXXVII. | The Road into Ayrshire, Roads in Upper Nithsdale and Beyond, p.152.
[6] Alan Wilson, Roman Penetration in Strathclude South of the Antonine Wall, Glasgow Archaeology Journal, Vol. 19 (1994-95), pp. 1-30.
[7] CANMORE National Record of the Historic Environment |Merkland
[8] New Cumnock Place-Name |Corsencon (in progress)
[9] CANMORE National Record of the Historic Environment| Watsonburn, Coal Road

Reproduced by Permission of National Library of Scotland
Images used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) licence.
Map 1: Ordnance Survey Maps – Six-inch 1st edition, Scotland, 1843-1882 (1857) |Barney Hill
Map 2: Ordnance Survey Maps – Six-inch 2nd and later editions, Scotland, 1892-1960 (1894)|Barney Hill
Ordnance Survey Name Books
By Permission of Scotland’s Places
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 49| Barney Hill