Place-name:Witch Knowe, Witch Pool
Suggested Meaning:Witches meeting place
Blaeu Coila (1654):No Entry
OS Names Book (1855-57):Witch Knowe, Witch Pool
Location:Ordnance Survey (1892-1945)
Earlier Forms

The Witch Knowe and Witch Pool lie in a field between the Afton Water and the Afton Road just beyond Blackcraig farm. The location was likely to have been considered as a meeting place for witches. However, if the Witch Pool had been a deep one in the nearby Afton, rather than a spring, then perhaps a place of punishment would be a more sinister explanation; albeit there is no record witch executions in the parish.

Witch Knowe and Witch Pool | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

The Ordnance Survey Names Books (1855-57) entries for Witch Knowe and Witch Pool read –

Witch Knowe: A small green Knowe about 4 chains north East of the foot of Black Craig.

Witch Pool: A large spring, now nearly filled up with stones, at the base of Witch Knowe.

The small green knowe among the rushes (Robert Guthrie)

The Witch Knowe is instantly recognisable as a green knowe rising above the rushes while the Witch Pool, i.e. spring is hidden within rushes as is the small stream that flows from it.

Witch Knowe (Robert Guthrie)

Hopefully on the day these two photgraphs (above and below) were taken the purple circle at the Witch Knowe below is simply a sun flare on the lens!

Witch Knowe with camera flare or not? (Robert Guthrie)

 A search through the Ordnance Survey Name Books of Ayrshire reveal a Witch Knowe in each of the parishes of Auchinleck, Coylton and Craigie.

Witch Knowe, Glen Afton (Robert Guthrie)

Helen J. Steven in “The Cumnocks, Old and New” [1] recounts the legend of the giant that lived in the cave at Blackcraig. Of particular interest, in regard to Witch Knowe, was the story about the disappearance of the bouncing fiddler, held in high esteem throughout the parish. Several scenarios were considered, including that the fiddler had been bewitched, before it emerged he had been kidnapped by the giant. Nevertheless it is worth sharing the witch’s tale.

Up Glen Afton in a lonely, dreary spot lived an old, old woman with a cat for company. She grew no bour-tree at her house-end. Her chin was long and pointed and her eyes were bleared with age. She sat by the fireside all day long with her cat beside her, and it winked with wicked sleepy eyes and behind the door stood a heather broom. In the morning the old woman’s limbs were very stiff, and the cat was dull and sleepy. What wonder she was stiff and tired, for even a witch might may well be weary of a midnight ride on a broom with her familiar by her side. The farmer knew well who bewitched his cow so that she died. The shepherd’s only child was dwining fast away, and the old woman made a clay image and stuck it full of pins and drew away the sickness from the little one. And the shepherd gave her a sheep which was by his right, and the shepherd’s wife paid with her kirkin’ shawl. For it was the witch who sent the illness and only the with could take it away. Had she played the her cantrips on the fiddler, and what bribe would suffice to bring him back? But the witch sat in her house and her mouth was sealed, though her bleared eyes saw many things.

Helen J. Steven


[1] Helen J. Steven “The Cumnocks, Old and New” (1899)
By Permission of National Library of Scotland
Map 1 |OS Map (1892-1949) |Witch Knowe,Witch Pool
Ordnance Survey Name Books
By Permission of Scotland’s Places
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 49|Witch Knowe, Witch Pool