Place-name:Craig of Bahoun
Meaning (1): Local Traditioncraig of Personal Name: de Bohun
Suggested Meaning (2):craig of the hill of ?
1st element:S. craig ‘crag, rock’
2nd element:G. barr ‘height, hill’ +
3rd element:G. ?
Blaeu Coila (1654):Kraig of Barachoun
OS Name Books (1855-57):Craig of Bahoun
Location:Ordnance Survey (1894)
Early Forms
Kraig of Barachoun (1654), Craig of Bahoun (1828), Craig of Bahoun, Craig-de Bohun (1855)

Craig of Bahoun

The Craig of Bahoun is a substantial rocky landscape on the west side of a steep glen through which the Connel Burn flows, a few hundred yards from its source.

1st element: Scots craig of -‘crag, rock of- ‘

The place-name element craig is a very common throughout the parish of New Cumnock. It is from Scots craig ‘crag, rocky’ [1], as in this case, while others are from Gaelic creag ‘rock, precipice’ [2]. However, this is the only example of a ‘Craig of -‘ place-name name which suggests it may be associated with another topographical feature, place or person.

Map 1: OS Map (1850-57) Craig of Bahoun | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

A|2nd element: Personal Name de Bohun

The Ordnance Survey Name Book (1855-57) entry for Craig of Bahoun has two various modes of spelling recorded, the other one being Craig-de Bohun. The split between the Authorities for Spelling makes interesting reading

Craig of BahounCraig-de Bohun
Iron Company MapWilliam Johnstone, Schoolmaster, Cumnock*
Johnston’s County Map (see Map 2 )Reverend Robert Murray, Minister, Cumnock*
James Blackwood , Carcow* should read New Cumnock
Andrew Miller, Laigh

Although Craig of Bahoun ‘won the day‘ one the basis of 4 Authorities ( i.e. two maps and two farmers, familiar with the landscape) it was the minister and dominie that provided the background to the name from local folk-lore –

A rocky precipice bounding on one side a deep Glen, situated at the Source of Connel Burn.

Messrs Murray & Johnstone State that this name is derived from “Bohun”, the name of a proprietor of the ground who lived in the days of Robert Bruce. They also state that Bruce was pursued by de Bohun’s Bloodhounds into this glen and that he drew blood from his arm which he scattered on the ground in order to escape the pursuit. It appears that if the Bloodhound sees blood or scents it, when found out on the ground, he will not proceed any farther, and perhaps considers that his mission has been performed –

“Bohan” the name of the proprietor of the ground is is probably a reference to Humphry de Bohun, Earl of Hereford. After Bruce had been crowned King of Scots in May 1306, Edward I of England confiscated his properties in England and Scotland, including Annandale and Lochmaben Castle and he awarded them to de Bohun [3], however there is no suggestion that he acquired any lands in the Cumnock (Old and New).

After the death of Edward I in July 1307 his son Edward II marched a great army north in pursuit of Bruce and his men, who were still at large in south-west Scotland evading capture from the English forces and their Scots allies. Edward II camped at Cumnock Castle (New Cumnock) on 19th August 1307, however having failed to capture Bruce he set off homeward on 29th August to think again. His Wardrobe Account Book covering his stay at Cumnock Castle includes the following entry with a reference to his brother-in-law Humphry de Bohun [4] –

Pardon at the request of Humphry de Bohun earl of Hereford and Essex, to John Scot of Great Petlyng for the murder of John Lenegle of the same place. Cumnock

CDS Vol. ii, no. 1757

Seven years later when Edward II and his army faced Bruce and his forces in mid-June 1314 at Bannockburn, Humphrey de Bohun was one of the English nobles that fled the field and sought a safe-haven in Bothwell Castle, only for its owner to switch allegiance to Bruce and hand over de Bohun to the Scots. This was a significant capture for Bruce as he was able to trade de Bohun for his queen Elizabeth de Burgh, his daughter Marjory Bruce and several other Scots held hostage in England at that time [5].

Despite the high status of Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford it was through the deeds of his young nephew Sir Henry de Bohun on the battlefield at Bannockburn that the name de Bohun is perhaps best remembered. On the opening day of the battle the young de Bohun, riding in the vanguard of the cavalry, spotted Robert the Bruce mounted on a small horse armed only with battle-axe. Seizing the moment de Bohun lowered his lance and charged the King of Scots who stood his ground and at the right moment raised himself up on his stirrups before bringing the full force of his axe down on the head of his assailant cleaving it in two [6].

Robert the Bruce” v. “Henry de Bohun” , Bannockburn 700th anniversary, 2014 (“Robert Guthrie)

In the New Cumnock School-Fellows’ Association Magazine (1898) a series of questions were posed regarding historic events associated with the parish [7] , including the following one which identified the celebrated Sir Henry, and not the Earl Humphrey ‘proprietor of these lands‘ as the de Bohun that hunted Bruce with hounds.

Was Bruce hunted with bloodhounds by Sir Henry de Bohun along the narrow pass at the head of Connel Burn?

New Cumnock Schoolfellows Associaton Magazine (1898)

George Sanderson in ‘New Cumnock Far and Away’ shares some family folk lore of the tenants of nearby Glenlee farm [8] –

At Glenlee farm on the Deugh Water the tenants have always handed down a folk lore of Robert the Bruce resting there and an Anglo Norman knight, Bohoun, who was hunting Bruce has his name remembered in the Craigs of Bohoun at the nearby source of Connelburn.

Map 2: Craig de Bahoun (Johnstone Map of Ayrshire) | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

John Barbour in his epic work ‘The Bruce’ recounts the time Bruce was was hunted by a sleuth hound in the hills of New Cumnock [9]. He and 400 men were up in the hills when they became aware of the plans of English forces under the command of Sir Aymer de Valence and their Scots allies under John of Lorn (John MacDougall, nephew of John Comyn) to trap them in a pincer movement.

John of Lorn and ’22 men-at-arms and 800 foot’ were guarding Ayr on 19th July 1307 [10] while Aymer de Valence and his forces were in the Glenkens on 24th July 1307 [11] before returning to Skeldon on the banks of the Doon by the end of the month [12]. A case has been made for considering that de Valence and his men returned from the Glenkens by way of the upper reaches of the Water of Ken and then descending Glen Afton while John of Lorn marched his forces from Ayr to Glen Afton by way of Cumnock Castle to set up the pincer movement [13].

Barbour explains that Johne of Lorn not only had a force of ‘aucht hundreth men and ma‘, which matches exactly with the numbers guarding Ayr, but he also had sleuth-hound with him which had been reared by Bruce and would follow him wherever he went.

John Barbour “The Bruce. Book 6”

Bruce, with a force of 400 men, decided the odds were stacked against him and that the best course of action was to break into three groups to escape to Galloway and live to fight another day. Johne of Lorn set the hound off and Bruce quickly noticed that it was following his group which he then divided further, time and again, until he was only paired with his foster-brother. Together they fought and killed five pursuers and yet still the hound pursued them. Bruce and his foster brother entered a wood and went downwards to a glen where a stream ran through the wood. Here Bruce informed his companion that he had once been told that whoever wades down a stream for the length of an arrow shot the slueth hound will lose its scent and his master the prey. So, into the burn both men waded, for an arrow-shot’s length, before continuing their journey on land. Soon after Lorn reached the burn, but the hound became confused and clearly had lost the scent of Bruce, who did indeed lived to fight another day.

Perhaps the burn in question was the Connel Burn and the glen was the one overlooked by the Craig of Bahoun. However, sadly Barbour makes no reference to either Sir Humphrey de Bohun nor his nephew Sir Henry de Bohun in his account of Bruce and the sleuthhound. It may well be the case that this episode along with other tales of Bruce were ingrained in local folklore and that Craig of Bahoun was readily identifiable with Sir Henry de Bohun, well known for his endeavours at Bannockburn, and somehow the two events became intertwined.

(N.B. Comparisons can be drawn with local folklore that suggests the rockface known as Stayamera, on Craigbraneoch Hill in Glen Afton, is from stay Amery in the sense of persevere Amery after the commander of the English army had once again failed to capture Robert the Bruce [14].)

Although it seems the connection between the sleuth-hound and de Bohun at the head of Connel Burn can be discounted and that it is unlikely that the Craig De Bahoun was named after the English knight, we should not lose sight of the local tradition as just that. Similarly it does not negate the Glenlee folklore that Robert the Bruce rested there … albeit after being chased by his sleuthhound under the control of John of Lorn. Neither should we should we lose the

Kraig of Barachoun

To seek out the the origin of the name of Craig of Bahoun it is necessary to consider the early form of the name Kraig of Barachoun that appears on Blaeu Coila Provincia (1654). Although it is shown some distance from the source of the Konnyr b. (Connel Burn) its proximity to Chayng hil (High Changue / Changue hills) confirms this is the modern-day Craig of Bahoun.

Map 3: Kraig of Barachoun| Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

1st element: Scots craig of -‘crag, rock of- ‘

The first element of this early form is also Scots craig of– ‘crag, rock’ and indicative that the craig may be associated with another topographical feature, place or person.

A search for similar place-names yielded Drumbrochan in the neighbouring parish of Old Cumnock and two occurrences of the place-name Barrachan in Galloway.

B|2nd element: Gaelic brochain ‘porridge, gruel’

Drumbrochan: W.J. Watson in “The Celtic Place-Names of Scotland” [15] considers Drumbrochan as Gaelic druim brochain ‘porridge ridge, gruel ridge’ where “brochan is applied to a mixed-up ‘through-other’, sort of place, or to soft sludgy ground.” Although the proximity of Drumbrochan may be supportive of brochain/barachoun comparison the topography of the two places bear no comparison.

C| 2nd element Gaelic barr fhraochan ‘hill of the whortleberries’

Barrachan: The 2nd element in effect comprises of two elements, the first of which is the common place-name element Gaelic barr ‘height, hill’. Sir Herbert Maxwell in “The Place-Names of Galloway” [16] considers Barrachan, in the parish of Mochrum, Wigtownshire along with its early forms Barbrochane (1557), Barqurohane (1612), Barcraechan (Pont, 1654) as Gaelic barr fhraochan ‘hill of the whortleberries’. N.B. he also identifies Barfraggan (Kelton, Kirkcudbrightshire) as Gaelic barr fraechan ‘whortleberry or blaeberry hill’.

D|2nd element: Gaelic barr a’chreachainn ‘height of the stony declivity of a hill’

Barrachan: Here again the 2nd element comprises of two elements, the first of which is Gaelic barr ‘height, hill’. John MacQueen in “Place-Names of the Wigtownshire Moors and Machars” [17] also considers Barrachan, Mochrum (Pont: Barcacchran) and its Wigtownshire counterpart Barrachan, Penninghame (Pont: Barchraichan) and finds them both to represent Gaelic barr a’chreachainn ‘height of the stony declivity of the hill’.

Although MacQueen’s ‘height of the stony declivity of the hill’ matches well with the topography of Craig of Bahoun the transformation of the Galloway Pont from names Barcacchran & Barchraichan (1654) > Barrachan and the New Cumnock Pont name Kraig of Barachoun (1654) to Craig of Bahoun appear to follow a different path.

Map 4: Craig of Bahoun | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
Scottish Place-names / Ainmean-àite na h-Alba Facebook Group

Turning to the Scottish Place-name Facebook Group for suggestions and explaining that the stress of the name bahoun was ba-houn then it was suggested by one group member that the name was unlikely to be related to the Galloway forms, however if wasn’t stressed on -houn then it would make it more plausible [18]

Another member recalled and old rhyme about Bruce and de Bohun [19] which suggested the ‘h’ in Bohun is not pronounced and rhymes with ‘croon’, i.e.

  • Bruce and de Bohun were fechtin for the croon,
  • Bruce lifted up his battle axe and knockt the fellow doon

Further research revealed a local poem which supported the pronounication [gs] -matches that in a local poem “Words of Connelburn” [20] –

  • It is up at the Craigs o’Bahoun
  • Where the lambs in their mirth run sporting aroon!”

Another member offered the following derivation [21] –

E| 2nd element: Gaelic barrach ‘pinnacled’ + Gaelic uaine ‘green’

Dwelly gives Gaelic barrach ‘high-topped’ as well as pinnacled’ [22].

Personal Name: Cowan

Closer to home it m

F| 2nd element: Gaelic barr ‘hill, height’ + Personal Name ‘Acowan

Closer to home it may be worth noting that Craig of Bahoun is located a mile south of Benty Cowan Hill [23] and a mile north east of McCowan’s Knowe [24] . Both of these hills may be associated with the Personal Name Cowan/McCowan. So perhaps barachoun is, Gaelic barr ‘hill’ and Personal Name Acowan, i.e. ‘son of Cowan‘. Here the prefix A (or on ocassion Ap) is the Brittonic equivalent of the Mc or Mac ‘son of-‘. In which case Craig of Barachoun would be the Craig of McCowan’s hill, one mile from McCowan’s Knowe. Taking into account that Cowan doesn’t rhyme with Bahoun (boon).

Map 5: Craig of Bahoun & ‘Cowan names’ | Reproduced with the permsission of the National Library of Scotland

N.B. Although I have, thus far, been unable to find the personal name McCowan in the form Acowan associated with the parish of New Cumnock or its near neighbours, there is a reference in 1579 to ‘John Acowan of Mekill Daluce‘, near Minigaff. Kirkcudbrightshire [25 link ].


Reproduced with the permission of the 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) |Craig of Bahoun
Map 2: Northern (Southern) part of Ayrshire / compiled from estate plans, &c. by William Johnson (1828). |Craig of Bahoun
Map 3: Blaeu Coila Provincia (1654) | Kraig of Barachoun
Map 4: Ordnance Survey Maps – Six-inch 2nd and later editions, Scotland, 1892-1960 (1894) |Craig of Bahoun
Map 4: Ordnance Survey Maps – Six-inch 2nd and later editions, Scotland, 1892-1960 (1894) |Craig of Bahoun, McCowan’s Knowe, Benty Cowan Hill


[1] Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd |craig
[2] Edward Dwelly Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary | creag ‘rock, precipice’
[3] Calendar of Documents of Relating to Scotland Vol. ii, no. 1757
[4] Calendar of Documents of Relating to Scotland Vol. iii, no. 7
[5] G.W.S Barrow , Robert the Bruce & The Community of the Realm of Scotland, p. 231
[6] G.W.S Barrow , Robert the Bruce & The Community of the Realm of Scotland, p. 231
[7] New Cumnock School Fellows Aassociation Magazine (1898)
[8] George Sanderson, ‘New Cumnock Far and Away’
[9] John Barbour ‘The Bruce’ an edition with translation and notes by A.A.M. Duncan. Canongate Classics, 1st Edition (1997) Reprinted (1999) |Book 6 ‘The king is pursued by John of Lorn and his tracker-dog;’
[10] Calendar of Documents of Relating to Scotland Vol. ii, no. 1957
[11] Calendar of Documents of Relating to Scotland Vol. ii, no. 1958
[12] Calendar of Documents of Relating to Scotland Vol. ii, no. 1959
[13] New Cumnock History | Robert the Bruce
[14] New Cumnock Place-Name | Stayamrie
[15] W. J. Watson, Celtic Place-Names of Scotland | Drumbrochan
[16] Sir Herbert Maxwell, The Place-Names of Galloway | Barrachan
[17] John MacQueen, Place-Names of the Wigtownshire Moors and Machars
[18] Scottish Place-names / Ainmean-àite na h-Alba Facebook Group: Craig de Bahoun 20 April 2021 |Thomas Owen Clancy
[19] Scottish Place-names / Ainmean-àite na h-Alba Facebook Group: Craig de Bahoun 20 April 2021 |Alan Baillie
[20] George Sanderson, ‘New Cumnock Far and Away’ | Words on Connelburn
[21] Scottish Place-names / Ainmean-àite na h-Alba Facebook Group: Craig de Bahoun 20 April 2021 |Roddie MacLennan
[22] Edward Dwelly, Ilustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary | barrach
[23] New Cumnock Place-Name | Benty Cowan Hill (in progress)
[24] New Cumnock Place-Name | McCowan’s Knowe (in progress)
[25] Clugston Family History |Acowane

Ordnance Survey Name Books
By Permission of Scotland’s Places
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 49|Craig of Bahoun
Wigtownshire OS Name Books (1845-49) Vol. 47 | Barrachan, Pennighame
Wigtownshire OS Name Books (1845-49) Vol. 65 | Barrachan, Mochrum
Wigtownshire OS Name Books (1845-49) Vol. 66 | Barrachan, Mochrum