Gateloch Craigs

Place-name:Gateloch Craigs
Suggested Meaning:‘goat ravine’
First elementScots gait ‘goat’
Second elementScots cleugh ‘narrow gorge with high rocky sides, ravine’ 
Blaeu Coila (1654):Gaitcleugh b.
OS Name Books (1855-57):Gateloch Craigs, Gatelochside
Location:Ordnance Survey (1892-1960)
Other Early Forms:
Gaitcleugh b. (1654), Gatelochside (1713)

Gateloch Craigs are instantly recognisable on the upper reaches of the Knipes and from a distance resembles the entrance into some long abandoned mine. A closer inspection however reveals a rocky ravine through which flows a burn on its way from its source on the hill top and onto the mighty River Nith in the valley below.

Gateloch Craigs on the Knipes above New Cumnock (Photo Robert Guthrie)

Similarly, the name Gateloch Craigs is not all what it seems. However, here too closer inspection can unlock its secrets, beginning with Blaeu’s Map Coila Provincia (1654).

Map 1 | Gaitcleugh: Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

The map shows Gaitcleugh b. (burn) rising in the Chnip Hill (Knipe) and although the “Craigs” are not shown, they can be found in the name. For Gaitcleugh comprises the two Scots elements gait ‘goat’ [1] and cleugh ‘narrow gorge with high rocky sides’ [2].

Gaitcleugh must have been coined at a time when wild goats roamed the slopes of the Knips and manoeuvred their way through the rocky cleugh.

From the wonderful writings of James Hogg we find ‘the Ettrick Shepherd’ up to his neck in snow in a gait cleugh, in his own neck of the woods [3].

“The Shepherd’s Calendar

However, it is either my strength failing, I canna won sae weel through the snaw, or I never saw it lie sae deep before. I canna steer the poor creatures frae ae knowe-head to the other without rowin them ower the body. And some time when they wad spraughle, then I stick firm an’ fast masel, and the mair I fight to get out, I gang aye the deeper. This same dae, nae farther gane at ae step up in the gait cleugh, I slumpit in tae the neck. Peace be wi’ us quo’ I to myself where am I now? If my auld  wife wad but look up the hill she wad see nae mair o’ her poor man but the bannet.”

Blackwood’s Magazine, Edinburgh (1823), Vol. 13, p.312
Gaitcleugh and New Cumnock Parish Church ( Photo Robert Guthrie)

Gaitcleugh to Gateloch Craigs and Gatelochside

At some time it appears the first element gait has been mistaken for gate. The second element cleugh may have evolved into cloch and the “c” then lost, or alternatively losing the ‘c’ and leugh pronounced as loch. Whatever the case the word cleugh has been lost and the Scots word craigs added to describe the rocky ravine (which was previously described within cleugh!)

The Ordnance Survey Name Books (1855-57) entry for Gateloch Craigs reads –

A Rocky Ravine through which Gatelochside Burn flows, and about 19 chains north of its Source.

Map 2| Gateloch Craigs: Reproduced with permission of the National Library of Scotland

It would have been expected following the change of the original name of Gaitcleugh to Gateloch that the name of the burn would also have changed to Gateloch Burn, but no, it changes to Gatelochside Burn. The Ordnance Survey Name Books (1855-57) entry for Gatelochside Burn makes interesting reading.

A burn rising on the Knipe Rig and flowing northwards into the River Nith. “Gateloch” is the name on the estate map; but that name without the affix “side” is unknown in the vicinity”

Although the Ordnance Surveyor(s) note that the Estate Map identifies the burn as ‘Gateloch burn’ the “Authorities for Spelling”, i.e. Thomas Hamilton,Polshill; Archibald Brown, Westland and William McMichael, Nether Westland, explain that “the name Gateloch without the suffix ‘side‘ is unknown”. (Although Gateloch Craigs has no such suffix?)

The Ordnance Survey Name Books (1855-57) entry for Gatelochside reads-

A small house on the roadside 20 ch. [chains] S.E. [South East] of Blackwood farm house

An early record of the name Gatelochside is found in the Old Parish Records of New Cumnock (1706-1854) in 1713 with the baptism of ‘Betsy daughter of John Hair and Janet Lorimer in Gatelochside’ [1].

Gatelochside cottage was built on the ‘side of Gateloch burn‘ on the route from New Cumnock to Kirkconnel. In later years it served as a toll house on the turnpike road. Gateloch Burn at some time evidently adopted the name of the cottage, as did the bridge that crosses it. Another new name was later spawned with the dip in the road at Gatelochside known at Toll Hollow [4].

Map 3 | Gatelochside . Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland 1. Milestone 2. Gatelochside Toll House 3, Gatelochside Burn and Bridge

In the 1841 Census Records the residents at Gatelochside are Agnes Vallance (aged 50) toll-keeper is resident at Gatelochside along with apprentice joiner John Vallance (15) and Catherine Vallance (15). Tolls were abolished in 1878 and this possibly sounded the death-knell for the cottage of Gatelochside.

The name Gatelochside occasionally comes up in discussion about the extent of the great ancient loch that covered much of the low lying land in New Cumnock. This “gate at the loch side” being marking its extent down the Nith valley, quite a jump from a Gaitcleugh in the upper reaches of the Knipes.

Gaitcleugh (photo Robert Guthrie)


[1] Dictionary of the Scots Language| gait
[2] Dictionary of the Scots Language| cleugh
[3] Blackwood’s Magazine, Edinburgh (1823), Vol. 13, p.312
[4] Andrew Howat for ‘Toll hollow”
Scotland’s People
Old Parish Records, Births, Marriages, Deaths, Census Records, Valuations Rolls, Wills & Testaments
[1] Old Parish Records | New Cumnock 1713
By Permission of National Library of Scotland 
Map 1 | Gaitcleugh b. 
Map 2 | Gateloch Craigs
Map 3 | Gatelochside
Ordnance Survey Name Books
By Permission of Scotland’s Places
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 49| Gateloch Craigs
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 49| Gatelochside
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 49| Gatelochside Burn