Suggested Meaning:1. ‘hollow of the fort’
2. ‘hollow of the fairy hill’
1st element:Gaelic lag ‘hollow, cavity’
2nd element (1):Gaelic na bhruighne ‘fort’
2nd element (2): Gaelic bruighinn ‘fairy hill’
Place-Name: Lochbrowan Hill
Place-Name: Lochbrowan + SSE hill ‘hill’
Blaeu Coila (1654):Lochbranen
OS Name Books (1855-57):Lochbrowan, Lochbrowan Hill
Location:Ordnance Survey (1898)
Early Forms
Lagbrowen (1535), Lagbrowan (1620), Lagbraben (1626), Lagbrowane (1631), Lagbrowan [Laighbrowend, Langbrowend] (1636), Lagbrowan (1641, 1643), Lochbrowing (1642), Lochbranen (Blaeu 1645), Lochbrowen (1705), Lochbrowan (1708).

Following the death of James Dunbar, baron of Cumnock in 1535 the following parcel of lands in Glen Afton, including Lagbrowen, passed to another member of the Dunbar family [1].

At Striueling , 27 Jul [1535]

‘Ane Letter maid to DAME JONET STEWART, LADY MOCHRUM (a footnote says “the second wife of Sir John Dunbar of Mochrum, and mother of Gavin Dunbar, Archbishop of Glasgow), hir airis and assignais ane or ma, – of the gift of nonentres, malis, fermes,profittis and dewities of the four merk land of the Blakcrag, ane merk land of Munthray, twa merk land of Cragydarrocht, thre merk land of Lagurgeroch, twa merk land [of] Polloch, three merk land of Puntlo and twa merk land of Lagbrowen, with the pertinentis,pertenyng to hir in in (sic) conjunct fee, liand in the barony of Cumnok, within the shirefdome of Aire, being in oure soverane lordis handis be resoun of nonenteree of the last terme of Witsounday, throw the deceis of umquhill James Dunbar of Cumnok.

Register of the Privy Seal of Scotland, vol 2, no. 1737.
Map 1: Lochbrowan & Lochingirroch (Barth. 1906) | Reproduced with the persmission of the National Library of Scotland
1535OS Map
2. MunthrayMontraw (Monthraw)
3. CragydarrochtCraigdarroch
4. LagurgerochLochingirroch
5. PollochPollach
6. PuntloPencloe
7. LagbrowenLochbrowan

Through time the names underwent some changes, some more dramatic than others. Of particular interest is the transformation of the place-element Gaelic lag ‘hollow’ [2] to what appears to be Scots loch, in the neighbouring properties of Lagurgeroch to Lochingirroch and Lagbrowen to Lochbrowan. Another example of this transformation in the parish is found in Lagmanharbe (1520) to Lochmeharb [3]. While, of course there is no loch in the vicinity of Lochingirroch and Lochbrowan nor indeed at Lochmeharb.

Wilsons of Lagbrowan

In the early 17th century the first element lag- is still prominent in the records of the Wilson family. Appearing in the Sasine Register of 14 August 1620 are the names of William Wilson in Lagbrowan/Lagbrowane and those of his son Andrew Wilson and daughter Margaret Wilsone [4].

On 23rd May 1626 William Wilsoune in Lagbraben and his son Andrew along with other members of the Wilson family are also named in the Testament of their neighbour Patrick Campbell of Dalhannay [5]-

‘Testament testamentar of Patrick Campbell of Dalhannay, in the parish of Cumnock, who died in May 1626, given up by himself. The estate is valued at £43316s 8d, being stock and plenishing. There was due to him £20 by William Fleming in Librie in Nidsdaill and Hew Dalziell, tailor. He was due £281 15s 8d, including sums to Andrew Wilsoun, his son-in-law, William Campbell, tailor his brother, Jonet Tempiltoun in Darmolloche, Jonet Greg, spouse to John Tempiltoun, William Cumyng of Powlorne, the Laird of Caprintoun, Sara Campbell in Loch , William Howat, tailor, Connell Wilson, Hew Gemmell, weaver, and Christian Campbell, his servant. His testament is dated at Dalhannay 23rd May 1626, and in it he appoints Margaret Dunbar, his wife, his only executrix, under the oversight of Knockshinnoch and Bogcorroche, his brothers, John and William Wilsoune in Lagbraben and Andrew Wilsoun, his son. He leaves his part of goods to be divided among his children. Witnesses were Glaisnok, Bogcorroch and William Campbell his son, the said William and Andrew Wilsoun, Adam Stillie and Andrew Baird. Confirmed, Mungo Boswall of Duncanzimmer, cautioner.’

Clan Campbell, vol. v, p.197

Andrew Wilson was married to one of Patrick Campbell’s daughters, Christian or Jonet. Both he and his father William Wilsoune of Lagbraben were included as overseers of Patrick’s wife Margaret Dunbar as executrix. Other members of the Wilson family were John and Connell, possibly brothers of William.

The second element of Lagbraben looks out of place compared with the previous forms of –browan, –browane. However, ten years later on 8th December 1636, the name of William Wilson in Lagbrowan appears in the Sasine Register although along side the place-name the following names Laighbrowend, Langbrowend have been included in parenthesis – some attempt to render the name in Scots! Unsurprisingly these forms did not prevail and the final entries in the Sasine Register, 27th January 1641 and 1st July 1643, record William Wilson in Lagbrowan [6].

In between times, at Edinburgh in August 1642 ‘a complaint was heard by ‘George Hamilton in Westland and other against Patrick Hamilton and others for assault on their persons‘. Participating in the assault were a number of ‘weomen being all hounded out be their husbands, all boddin with swords, rungs, pitch forks and other weapons invasive‘ including ‘Jean Dumbar, spous to Connell Wilsone in Lochbrowing‘ [7]. The transformation of the first element from lag- to –loch while the second element –browing is a new variant.

It is the loch– form that appears in Blaeu Coila Provincia as Lochbranen, the second element resembling that of Lagbraben (1626) discussed above.

Map 2: Lochbranen (Blaeu 1654) | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
Covenanting Times

‘Lochbruin was the residence of a devoted Covenanter of the name of Campbell, a good man, whose care was to live to God, and to follow Christ when His cause was tried‘, so writes The Reverend Robert Simpson in ‘The Traditions of the Covenanters’ [8]. No, doubt this branch of the Campbell family were related to another Covenanter, John Campbell in the neighbouring Lochingirroch.

Simpson related the tradition that a young man of the Lochbruin household burst into his master’s apartment to warn him that the dragoons were in sight forcing Campbell to take flight ‘and hasten to reach the height above his dwelling before the troopers should get within a shot of him.’

“To the Nypes”, cried the commander of the party: “I see the old bird has flown, and is soaring to the highest eminence. The Nypes is a lofty ridge that rises above Lochbruin; and it was in this direction that Campbell was fleeing when first observed by the soldiers. A vigorous pursuit commenced. The dragoons ascended the steep slope with all the speed their heavy horses could make; and ere they reached the summit, which spreads out into a wide mossy platform, Campbell was a good way in advance, dashing through the long heather, and wading through the smeary peat ground.

..he plunged into a deep narrow trench in the moss, , the sides of which were skirted with thick bushy heather, which nearly covered the opening above. The heavy tramp of this calvacade approaching was distinctly heard, till at length a tremulous motion imparted to the yielding turf announced their immediate presence – then one spring, and anothe, and another, till the whole party leapt over; while he distinctly recognised the bright shoes on te feet of their horse, and the long scabbards dangling by their side. He lay with apalpitating heart till their sound died away in the distance, and then ventyred to look up, and saw his deliverance complete. The Lord, in whom this good man trusted, did not desert him in the evil day, …

Rev Robert Simpson, Traditions of the Covenanters
Lochbrowan Hill showingy planting and areas of scree . The white wall of the farm visible in the woods (Robert Guthrie 2008)

Of course the form Lochbruin, belongs to the time of Reverend Simpson’s writings (1833) and not to the perseuction times (ca.1680-185), nevertheless Simpson included Lochbruin in his ‘Glossary of Celtic Names’ and offered Lochbruin ‘loch of boar or rushes’ ; presumably unaware of earlier lag– forms of the name.

Land Tax Rolls

The Lands Tax Rolls for ‘The Cumnocks’ include the following entries [Scotland’s Places] which in turn includes the present day place name of Lochbrowan.

1705: CumnocksLochbrowen, a part of Tarringzean
1708: CumnocksLochbrowan, a part of Tarringzean
1759: CumnockLochbroun
1803: Cumnocks, Old and NewLochbrown, The Earl of Dumfries

Tarringzean is reference to the lands of the Barony of Tarringzean which in 1563 the Craufurds of Lefnoreis had resigned ‘the lordship of Terryntene to Matthew Campbell of Lowdon, Knycht‘ [9]. The aforementioned William Wilson of Lagbrowan had acted as attorney for Hugh, Lord Loudon, on a number of occasions [10], and presumably Lagbrowan formed part of the Tarrinzean estate at that time. The property later passed to the Crichton family (Earl of Dumfries) and then later to Crichton-Stuart (Marquis of Bute).

Old Parish Records

Lochbrowan was the established form of the name in the early Old Parish Records [Scotland’s People] . It is first found in the baptism records of the children of James Hair and Jean McCall (no, they didn’t meet ‘at a waddin’ in the Co-operative Ha‘) – namely James (1718), James (1720) and Jean (1722). A sad reflection of time with the first born dying in infancy and sadly baby Jean was born as ‘daughter to the defunct James Hair’.

Although Lochbrowan does not appear on Roy’s Military Survey (1744-7) it appears on Armstrong’s Map of Ayrshire as Lochbrown [1775, Map 3] and in Johnstone’s map (1826, map 4) as Loch Browan.


The Ordnance Survey Name Book (1855-57) entry for Lochbrowan reads-

A small farm house, the property of the Marquis of Bute, occupied by Daniel Hyslop.

Three of the ‘Authorities for Spelling’, including John Mitchell of the neighbouring Lochingirroch, gave the form Lochbrowan while another, a Property Map, gave Lochbrouan.

1st element: Gaelic lag ‘hollow”

The first element of the early forms of Lagbrowen (1535) through to Lagbrowan (1643) is Gaelic lag ‘hollow’. Today the property of Lochbrowan sits 350 yards north of Lochingirroch (Lagurgeroch 1535), and both could be said to share the hollow lying between Lochbrowan Hill to the east and Ashmark Hill to the west’.

Map 3: Lochbrowan & Lochingirroch (Barth. 1895) | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

2nd element:

The early forms of the 2nd element appear to fall into the categories

  • browen (1535), –browan (1620), – browane (1631) and the outlier –browing (1642)
  • braben (1626), –branen (1645)

The following possibilities were considered albeit without much confidence.

  • Gaelic braon ‘drizzle’ [11]. A derivative of this element, i.e. Gaelic braonach ‘a moist place’ [12] is found in Craigbraneoch a few miles upstream from Lochbrowan near the head of Glen Afton, which Michael Ansell identified as A’ Chreag Bhraonach’ [13]. Either way it is presumed these elements would lead to Lagbran or Lagbraneoch, rather than Lagbrowan. Having said that ‘damp, drizzly hollow’ is reasonable fit with the location of Lochbrowan.
  • Gaelic bruin ‘caldron, kettle, belly’ [14] – the only thing that came to mind was the rounded shape of Lochbrowan Hill?
  • Gaelic bruinidh ‘spectre, the brownie of the Lowlanders’ [15] – but the Brownie does not appear in the folk-lore of the parish.
  • Gaelic bruitheann ‘skirmish’ [16] – in the summer of 1307 during the Wars of Independence Robert the Bruce, King of Scots and 400 of his men were hiding in the hills of Glen Afton and pursued by Sir Aymery de Valence and John of Lorne and their respective forces [17].
  • Personal Name: Browan – the place-name Browanstone (1647) appears elsewhere in the parish, coincidentally in the lands of Terrinzean, it also appears in the forms Brunstoun (1645) and Brownstoun (1709), Brunstown (1730), suggesting the personal name Brown [18]. There are also examples of Gaelic + Personal Name in the parish including possibly the neighbouring farm of Dalhanna, Gaelic dal ‘holm’ + Personal Name Hannay [19] and the farm of Dalricket, Gaelic dal ‘holm’ + Personal Name Richard [20].

A request for suggestions was made to members of the Scottish Place-names / Ainmean-àite na h-Alba public Facebook Group which delivered responses A. and B. below.

A. Scottish Place-Names Facebook Group| Alan G James

Alan kindly suggested the following [21]

Possibly brugh, gen. sg. na bhruighne, gen. pl. nam bruighneann, for which Dwelly has ‘large house, village, tower, fortified town, fairy hillock, tumulus, cave, house half under the surface, fort’; there’s also the suffixed form bruigheann, gen. bruighinn, again ‘palace, fairy hill’; Watson, CPNS 227, adds that brugh may be used of a territory. I note that Canmore lists ‘an isolated stretch of turf bank’ on Lochbrowan Hill, which I suppose might favour ‘fort’, perhaps with some fairy-lore attached?

Alan G. James, Scottish Place-Names Facebook Group
2nd element 1. Gaelic bruigheann ‘fort’

Alan whittled down the broad variety of possible derivations of Gaelic brugh, gen. sg. na bhruighne, gen. pl. nam bruighneann, given by Dwelly [22] in favour of ‘fort’ based on the presence of ‘an isolated stretch of turf bank‘ recorded in Canmore, ‘…. which is visible for up to 40m. It is 1.5m wide and up to 0.2m high‘ [23].

Indeed, there are several entries in Canmore associated with the lands of Lochbrowan including shieling huts on the hillside, enclosures, structures and a further reference to ‘turf and stone banks’, namely [24] –

Part of a series of turf and stone banks on the W side of Lochbrowan Hill was surveyed during the course of a pre-afforestation survey . The banks are spread to between 2m and 3m in width and are up to 0.3m in height

CANMORE, National Record of the Historic Environment

The forest is now well established and blankets much of the west face of Lochbrowan Hill apart from stretches of scree as well as a circular clearing for the site of the four shieling huts further up the hill. In addition the line of deciduous tree at the foot of hill is also well established and not unexpectedly a quick search failed to reveal any of the banks.

Strap of land between Afton Water and Lochbrowan Hill (Robert Guthrie 2022)

There are no local traditions of any fort or fortification in the vicinity of Lochbrowan. There are records in Canmore of other turf banks in the parish, a few of which had the School-Fellows Association of 1898 asking the question [25] –

What is the story of the sod fences or embankments to be seen on Wee Dalhanna and Corsincon, said to be for the hiding of cattle from the Border Raiders?

New Cumnock School-Fellows Annual Magazine , 1898

The references to Wee Dalhanna and Corsincon are to hills of the same name. Wee Dalhanna sits less than a mile from Lochbrowan Hill and the embankment that can still be seen on that hill is better known as a stretch of the celebrated “De’ils Dyke” [26].

2nd element 2. Gaelic bruighinn ‘fairy hill’

Although there are several place-names in the parish associated with local folk-lore, nothing comes to mind regarding Lochbrowan- however that does not discount a lost association. Despite the lack of fairy folk-lore, Alan G. James suggestion Gaelic bruigheann, gen. bruighinn ‘fairy hill’ is of particular interest. Lochbrowan Hill takes its name from the farm of the same name, like other nearby hills, for example, Dalhanna Hill and Ashmark Hill. However, it is an impressive hill rising steeply from the banks of the Afton Water and worthy of consideration of being a ‘hill name’, in this case a potential fairy hill.

So who were the Fairies?

John Gregorson Campbell (1836-1891), a minister of the Free Church and a leading Scottish folklorist described The Fairies as follows [27] –

The Fairies, according to the Scoto-Celtic belief, are a race of beings, the counterparts of mankind in person, occupations and pleasures, but unsubstantial and unreal, ordinarily invisible, noiseless in their motions, and having their dwellings underground, in hills and green mounds of rock or earth. They are addicted to visiting the haunts of men, sometimes to give assistance, but more frequently to take away the benefit of their goods and labour, and sometimes even their fellows. They may be present in any company, though mortals do not see them. Their interference is never productive of good and in the end, and may prove destructive. Men cannot therefore be sufficiently on their guard against them.

John Gregorson Campbell, ‘Superstitions of the Highlands and Islands’

The Fairies were known as sidh in Ireland and as sith in Scotland while an earlier form was sid. David MacRitchie in his ‘Notes on the word Sidh’ (1893) pondered [28] –

Was sid applied in the first place to a certain race, and from them transferred to their mound-dwellings, thereafter being further transferred to any hillock, hill or mountain, resembling these structures in outward form? Or, on the other hand was sid originally used to denote a hillock, hill or mountain of a peculiar form, being subsquently transferred to a race which inhabited or was supposed to inhabit, mounds of this shape?

David MacRitchie, ‘Notes on the word Sidh’ (1893)

He also considered the word sithbhrog and explained that one scholar defined the second element bhrog ‘house, habitation’ before listing ‘some of its compounds with the definition found in three Scotch-Gaelic dictionaries of the time*’

  • Sith-bhrog: fairy hill
  • Sith-bhruach: a fairy residence
  • Sith-bhruth: fairyland
  • Bruth: a house half under the surface, the dwelling of fairies in a hill
  • Sith-bruth, sith-bhrugh: a fairy hill or mansion.

* the three dictionaries were those of Robert Archibald Armstrong (1825), Norman McLeod & Daniel Dewar (1853) and Neil McAlpine (1833).

In addition MacRitchie noted that the following other translations from Armstrong were noteworthy – Brug, Brugh (Irish idiom), a large house; a village; hillock, the residence of fairies; a tower, a fortified town. Bruth (Irish idiom), a cave, the dwelling of fairies; which resemble the entries in Dwelly given above.

The extent of the scree, recorded as ‘Loose Stones’ in the Ordnance Survey map (1856) is quite considerable and can be seen on the above photo taken in 2008. Could these mounds of scree have been perceived to be the basis of the now lost folklore of the fairy dwelllings underground, in hills and green mounds of rock or earth‘? Today, (see photo from 2022 above) scree can still be seen in the clearings in the now established forest – almost like an entrance into the hillside !

If so was the hill originally known as Gaelic bruighinn, ‘fairy hill’ and the hollow at the foot of the hill was known as Gaelic lag bruighinn ‘hollow at the fairy hill’.

Map 4; Lochbrowan and Loose Stones | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
B. Scottish Place-Names Facebook Group| Caoimhín Ó Donnaíle

Caoimhín Ó Donnaíle kindly suggested the following [29]

One which looks interesting, especially for “Browanstone”, is “bràthann”, genitive case of “bràth”, ‘quern’. Another, especially in connection with “lag”, ‘hollow’, is “braon”, which generally refers to dampness, drops of water, drizzle.

Caoimhín Ó Donnaíle

As discussed above Browanstone (1647) has also forms of Brunstoun, Brownstoun and Brunstown and suggests variants of the surname Brown. Nevertheless Gaelic bràthann ‘quern’ is of interest. W. J. Watson in ‘The Celtic Place-Names of Scotland’ notes “Auchenbrain c. 1200 and Acchenebron for Achadh na Bron ‘field of the quern’, about three miles from Mauchline” [30]. The name survives to this day as North and South Auchenbrain, which by analogy would suggest a second element of the form –brain, –bron rather than – browen, –browan, – browane.

Gaelic braon ‘moist’ was also considered above and although ‘damp hollow’ is certainly a good description of the locale this perhaps would have delivered a name of the form Lochbran rather than Lochbrowan.

Lochbrowan Hill

Place-name: Lochbrowan + SSE hill ‘hill’

A Steep hill, bearing good sheep pasture, on Lochbrowan farm – there is a Trig [Trigonometric] Station upon it

Although it was suggested above that an earlier name for the hill may have been Gaelic bruighinn ‘fairy hill’, today it is simply named after the farm of Lochbrowan.

Map 6: Lochbrowan Hill (OS map 1894 ) Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotlan

Many thanks to Alan G. James & Caoimhín Ó Donnaíle
Reproduced with the Permission of National Library of Scotland
Images used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) licence.
Map 1: Bartholomew’s “Half Inch to the Mile Maps” of Scotland, 1899-1905 (1900) | Lochbrowan
Map 2: Joan Blaeu, 1596-1673 Coila Provincia, [or], The province of Kyle / auct. Timoth. Pont( 1645) |Lochbranen.
Map 3: Bartholomew’s “Half Inch to the Mile Maps” of Scotland, 1899-1905 (1900) | Lochbrowan & Lochingirroch
Map 4: Ordnance Survey Maps – 25 inch 1st edition, Scotland, 1855-1882 (1856) |Lochbrowan and Loose Stones
Map 5: Ordnance Survey Maps – Six-inch 2nd and later editions, Scotland, 1892-1960 (1894) | Lochbrowan Hill
Ordnance Survey Name Books
By Permission of Scotland’s Places
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 49|Lochingirroch
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 49| Lochingirroch Burn
Scotland’s People
Old Parish Records, Births, Marriages, Deaths, Census Records, Valuations Rolls, Wills & Testaments, Farm Tax Rolls.
[1] Register of the Privy Seal of Scotland, vol 2, no. 1737
[2] Edward Dwelly, Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary | lag
[3] New Cumnock Place-Names | Lochmeharb
[4] H.M. Stationery Office. Indexes No. 29. Index to Particular Register of Sasines for Sheriffdom of Ayr and Bailiaries of Kyle, Carrick and Cunningham 1617-1634. Vol. I
[5] Stuart Clarkson correspondence | Clan Campbell, vol. v, p.197
[6] H.M. Stationery Office. Indexes No. 31. Index to Particular Register of Sasines for Sheriffdom of Ayr and Bailiaries of Kyle, Carrick and Cunningham 1635-1660. Vol. II
[7] Stuart Clarkson correspondence |Complaint by George Hamilton in Westland and others against Patrick Hamilton in Colcreoch and others for assault on their persons, Edinburgh 28th June, 1642.
[8] Reverend Robert Simpson, ‘Traditions of the Covenanters’ (1879)
[9] Reverend John Warrick ‘The History of Old Cumnock’ (1899)
[10] Stuart Clarkson correspondence | Campbells of Dalhanna
[11] Edward Dwelly, Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary | braon
[12] Edward Dwelly, Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary | braonach
[13] New Cumnock Place-Name | Craigbraneoch
[14] Edward Dwelly, Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary | bruin
[15] Edward Dwelly, Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary | bruinidh
[16] Edward Dwelly, Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary | bruitheann
[17] John Barbour ‘The Bruce’ an edition with translation and notes by A.A.M. Duncan, Canongate Classics, 1st Edition (1997) Reprinted (1999)
[18] New Cumnock Place-Name | Burnston
[19] New Cumnock Place-Name | Dalhanna
[20] New Cumnock Place-Name | Dalricket
[21] Alan G. James, Scottish Place-names / Ainmean-àite na h-Alba Facebook Group
[22] Edward Dwelly, Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary | brugh
[23] Canmore, National Record of the Historic Environment | Lochbrowan, Bank
[24] Canmore, National Record of the Historic Environment |Lochbrowan , Bank
[25] New Cumnock School-Fellows Annual Magazine, 1899
[26] Graham, A. and Feachem,  R. W. 1956 ‘The Deil’s Dyke in Dumfriesshire and Ayrshire”,
Proc. Soc. Antiq. Scot. 88, 137-53
[27] John Gregorson Campbell, Superstitions of the Highlands and Islands (1900)
[28] David MacRitchie in his ‘Notes on the word Sidh’ (1893)
[29] Caoimhín Ó Donnaíle, Scottish Place-names / Ainmean-àite na h-Alba Facebook Group
[30] W. J. Watson ‘The Celtic Place-Names of Scotland’ | Auchenbrain