Boltcraig hill, bolt craig, Bolt Burn,

Place-name:Boltcraig, The Bout
Suggested Meaning:‘The Curve’
First element:Scots bolt, bout, bowt ‘curve’
Second elementScots craig ‘rock
Blaeu Coila (1654):Bootfoot
OS Name Books (1855-57):Bolt Burn, Bolt Craig, Boltcraig Hill
Location:Ordnance Survey (1937-1961)
Other Early Forms:
Boutfoute (1642), Bootfoot (1654)
Map 1 Bootfoot Blaeu | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

In 1642 Jean Campbell in Boutfoute was one of a group of eleven people that during a local feud descended upon nearby Craigdarroch, home of William Reid, “all boddin with swords, rungs, pitch forks and other weapons invasive”. The assailants “were put to the horn and escheated” and it seems unlikely she would have returned home before the cottage appeared in Blaeu’s map (1654) as Bootfoot.

Map 2 Bolt Burn, Bolt Craig, Boltcraig Hill | Reproduced with the permission of National Library of Scotland

1.Boltcraig Hill 2. Bolt Craig 3. Bolt Burn 4. Bolt Burn Bridge 5. Bolt Wood 6. Little Bolt Wood

Scots bolt is pronounced bout, bowt and it appears bolt has replaced bout, bowt in the Ordnance Survey Name Books. The entries for the Bolt Burn, Bolt Craig and Boltcraig Hill read –

Bolt Burn: A stream rising on Craigdarroch rig and flowing north of Bolt Craig into Afton Water.

Bolt Craig: A cliff extending from the top to near the bottom of the north side of Bolt Craig Hill.

Boltcraig Hill: A steep rocky hill at the north end of Craigdarroch Rig.

Boltcraig Hill (The Bout)

The local name of the hill at the north end of Craigdarroch Rig is known locally as The Bout which may have replaced an earlier Craigdarroch Hill, if the naming convention had been seen similar to the nearby Craigbraneoch Rig and Craigbraneoch Hill on the opposite of the Afton Water. Furthermore the name Bout is of Scots origin unlike Craigbraneoch and Craigdarroch which are both of Gaelic origin.

The Bowt does not appear in the Ordnance Survey Name Books but instead appears as Boltcraig Hill, which clearly is a later name otherwise Jean Campbell’s abode would have been called Boutcraigfoot!

Bolt Craig

The Ordnance Survey maps show a woodland on the lower slopes of The Bowt. However in more recent times the whole hill has been covered in forestry. It is only when these trees are felled that The Bowt reveals its secret of a substantial rocky outcrop, i.e. craig, with a signficant cliff face which has been named Bolt Craig. This may be the rocky outcrop, at the end of Craigdarroch Rig, that put the craig in Craigdarroch!

Clearly at some point The Bowt was renamed as Bolt Craig Hill after this rock.

Bolt Burn (Bowt Burn)

The Bolt Burn that rises on Craigdarroch Rig and flows into Afton Water has not been subjected to a change of name to Boltcraig Burn, for this is the Bout Burn taking its name from The Bouwt.


So what is the meaning behind the name ‘The Bout’?

Sir Herbert Maxwell identifies Bolt Rig in Balmacllelan, Kirkcudbrightshire but does not offer any derivation of the name [2]. However, a glance at the Ordnance Survey Map (see link below) reveals what appears to be a field of the name Bolt Rig.

‘The Place-Names of the Galloway Glens’ database entry for Bolt Rig reflects this topography and offers ‘without any confidence‘ Scots bolt ‘the extent of ground covered as the mower, driller or ploughman moves from one end of a field to the other, sometimes used also to include the return action’ one a number entries for bolt in the Scottish National Dictionary.

The upland topography of ‘The Bout’ and its environs are of course significantly different from that of Bolt Rig. A review of alternative entries for Scots bout ,bowt in the Dictionary of the Scots Language revealed the following ones for consideration.

BOUT, BOWT, Boot:-

3. “The sweep or curve made by a scythe“ (Ork. 1929 Marw.); the amount of corn, etc., cut by one such sweep. Abd.9 1934:
In the days of the scythe . . . a following wind made the cut corn fall away from the scythe and form a neat bowt.

4. Phr.: lying in the bout (see quot.). Known to Bnff.2, Abd.2, Ags.1 1935. Mearns 1825 Jam.2:

Corn or hay, when cut by the scythe, and lying in rows, is said to be “lying in the bout.“

It is worth noting that the three variants of the dictionary entry BOUT, BOWT, Boot all appear in variants of the place-name, i.e. Boutfoute (1642), Bowt (current local name) and Bootfoot (1654).

Bout, bowt is used to describe the curve made by a scythe and the interestingly the cut corn or hay is said to lie in the bout, an example of bout being preceded by the definitive article, i.e. ‘The Bout”.

Revisiting the OS Map (or walk the road) there is noticable curve from the Bout Burn, Bout Wood to the Low Bout Wood and this curve was the extent of The Bowt rather than just the hill.

The Bout | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

It is noted that the quotations refer to post 1700s in the north east of Scotland, i.e. Aberdeenshire, Angus, Banffshire, The Mearns and that it is not clear if the term was used in Ayrshire in the pre-1700s.

However, although Herbert Maxwell [1] had little to say on Bolt Rig, Balmaclellan he identifies the Boughty Burn, Penninghame, Wigtonshire as ‘the winding burn’ and quotes John Jamieson’s derivation bought, bucht ‘a curvature of bending of any kind’. That is to say bought, a form of bowt, was in use in the south-west of Scotland to describe a curve of any kind.

If this is the origin of the place-name ‘The Bout’ then it originally referred to the curved stretch of land shown above after which the burn, craig , woods and the property Boutfoute took their names. Locally the term was applied to the hill only. At some point the Scots term bowt was replaced by the variant of Scots bolt leading to Bolt Burn, Bolt Craig and Bolt Woods while the hill was ‘renamed’ Boltcraig hill after Bolt Craig.


[1] Sir Herbert Maxwell ‘The Place-Names of Galloway’
[2] Place-Names of the Galloway Glens | Bolt Rig
[3] Dictionary of the Scots Language | Bowt, Bout, Boot
Reproduced with the permission of National Library of Scotland
Map 1 |Joan Blaeu, Coila Provincia |Bootfoute
Map 2 |Ordnance Survey (1937-1961)| Boltcraig Hill
Map 3 | Ordnance Survey (1885-1903) | Boltcraig Hill
Ordnance Survey Name Books
By Permission of Scotland’s Places
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 49|Bolt Burn
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 49 |Bolt Craig
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 49 |Boltcraig Hill