Dark Ages, so called, is a convenient term for the period
between the departure of the Romans in 423 AD and the
arrival of the Normans in 1066 AD. In the case of Scotland,
it was when David 1 came north in 1124 to claim his
throne and introduce a system of government strongly
influenced by that already in place in England.
It is now recognised that the term is something of a
misnomer. Although it contrasts a decline in civilisation
with the orderliness and culture of the Roman period
and the lack of knowledge of the times compared with
the well documented and researched Roman and Mediaeval
periods, there was order and culture in the Dark Ages
albeit not of the Classical type, and careful work is
establishing a clearer picture of what was happening.
Having said that, it has to be admitted that research,
both archaeological and historical, into what was happening
in south-west Scotland at the time has been limited
and as a result there is a lack of information which
could help in identifying routes. Among the clues that
are useful are placenames which tell us where people
lived and what routes might have been used, and references
to Ayrshire in early Welsh poetry. In what follows we
will look at what clues there are and what they can
tell us about the system of communications in the period.
Dark Age Routes
cursor over feature. Roads link to brief descriptions
but detailed discussion of evidence is in main text.
from the 1935 Ordnance Survey map. © Crown copyright
|Toll points for
Ayr c.1200 AD
doing this, however, it is worth remembering that the
Dark Ages started when the Romans left so that the Britons
would have inherited the system of roads they left.
These roads would have been in good condition and remained
usable for hundreds of years.
of course leads us back to the last section where it
was by no means clear what roads the Romans had built
in Ayrshire. We can make informed guesses based on invasion
routes and so on but it is easier to do this in the
south east of Scotland with Dere Street and other possible
roads which were followed by the Anglo Saxons in their
incursions into Goddodin, a Dark Age kingdom centred
in the Lothians. No doubt things will become clearer
with future research as to what roads were left in Ayrshire
but until then the reader will have to make up their
point is that it is highly unlikely that roads were
built in this period. For one thing they were too concerned
with protecting themselves against the Picts and Irish
and Anglo Saxons and indeed with their own wars. Nor
in a real sense did they need good roads, they were
not administering a conquered territory with all that
requires. Existing roads would have proved perfectly
adequate for their needs.
Even when in disrepair it is unlikely they would have
bothered to repair them. Some roads were repaired by
the Romano-British administration, for example near
Carlisle, but this was a major centre and even there
ceased under the pressures of war.
It is perhaps fitting that in dealing with the
Dark Ages, one of the first figures that comes to our
notice is Arthur. Nowadays, of course, we associate
Arthur with the south-west of England and Glastonbury,
holding back the invading Anglo-Saxons with his fast
moving and hard fighting cavalrymen using Roman cavalry
techniques. Yet there is a persistent tradition that
Arthur fought his battles not in England but in the
south of Scotland. The most recent exponent of this
theory is Alistair Moffat and possibly the earliest
His account is of particular interest
for Ayrshire as he places one of Arthur's battles on
the Glen Water near Darvel.
Arthur fought in north or south Britain the main facts
are clear. Up until 450 AD or so, 40 years after the
Romans had left, life was reasonably settled and the
Romano-British administration was still in place. In
the background however was the growing threat of invasion
from Scots, Picts and Anglo-Saxons. To combat this,
Vortigern, who seems to have represented centralised
authority at the time, employed Anglo-Saxons as mercenaries
and settled them in southeast England. When power struggles
broke out between Vortigern and others, the Anglo-Saxons
were employed as mercenaries by the various parties
and a little later revolted when agreed money and supplies
were not paid to them. This left the Britons facing
a strong and numerous enemy who were already firmly
based in the country and not just seasonal raiders.
It is in this context that Ambrosius Aurelianus and
Arthur appear, leaders of organised resistance which
was ultimately successful in the major battle of Mons
Badonicus in the 490's. Some writers see them as separate
persons, others as one and the same. The theory that
may make most sense is to accept the validity of the
conflict and resistance in the south of England; but
that in addition, there was resistance in the north
to incursions by Picts, Scots and Anglo-Saxons and that
the leader may well have been Arthur.
The reasoning here is that the Votadini and the Damnonii
may have been supported by the Romans in defending the
Antonine wall. The most likely time for this would have
been after the Barbarian Conspiracy of 367 AD. The Romans
would have supplied them with equipment and training
as well as payment to ensure they could carry out this
task effectively. There may even have been Roman soldiers
or leaders of Roman descent in the area well into the
400's. Arthur itself as a name is Artorius and the king
lists of the two tribes have indications of Roman names
On this theory, Arthur would have led a small but highly
effective army of horsemen who could move quickly, and
through careful ambushes at fords and elsewhere, totally
rout bands many times their number.
it became clear the Romans were leaving Britain, the
Picts and Scots stepped up their attacks which peaked
in the 450's. After initial setbacks the Britons seem
to have rallied and repelled them. Nennius in the Historia
Brittonum lists Arthur's battles and it is these which
give rise to the idea that Arthur may have been in the
Ayrshire area. Skene certainly thinks so, placing the
first battle at the mouth of the River Glen at Darvel.
It is a nice thought, on or near a Roman road, at a
ford where the Britons often fought their battles though
ambush is more likely than a battle between champions.
It is an obvious east-west invasion route and quite
convenient for the second, third, fourth and fifth battles
which were "on another river called Dubglas in the district
of Linnuis" whether we take this to be Douglas in Lanarkshire
or the Lennox area north of Glasgow. If a battle was
fought at the Glen and others north of Glasgow the easiest
route would have been down the Irvine valley then north
to a fording point over the Clyde but this is hardly
if any, Arthurian writers would accept the Glen attribution
today and could argue convincingly for placing the battles
more to the north and east, or indeed, in the south
of England. Yet this is not to say that Arthur was never
in the area, particularly if the Picts or Scots invaded
on the coast. At best then, it remains an intriguing
possibility and certainly consistent with the historical
context. Even if Arthur was nowhere near Ayrshire, and
even if, as one theory has it, the battle list is of
unrelated British conflicts 50 or 100 years later, (3)
it does make us realise that people in Ayrshire
could hardly have been unaffected by the raids of the
Picts and the Scots.
It has to be said, however, that even if raiding parties
of Picts and Scots were in the area we do not have any
accounts of this, nor any archaeological evidence that
could help. At most, we would assume the raids from
the north would come through the Lochwinnoch gap and
then spread out into Kyle as they sought the main defensive
sites where the population would have gone for protection.
They may have gone some way to the east towards the
Irvine valley but it is more likely that they would
head south keeping to higher ground using fording points
or even following the coast and striking inland at various
points. Alternative raiding routes could have been via
the Irvine Valley or by coastal landings. From what
is known of Celtic warfare these incursions were probably
opportunistic raiding where cattle, slaves and booty
could be carried off; once satisfied they would have
made their way back to their homeland.
Aeron first comes to notice in the poems of Taliesin
and Aneirin, two of the earliest British poets, writing
about 550 and 600 AD respectively. Taliesin was the
court poet of Urien of Rheged, a kingdom stretching
from Yorkshire through Cumbria into south west Scotland;
and Aneirin that of Mynyddog, ruler of the Goddodin,
the former Votadini, whose territory stretched south
from Edinburgh to Northumberland.
as the references to Aeron are they are not precise
enough for us to say exactly where it was and what its
relations were to Strathclyde and to Rheged. It is also
not clear whether the people were Damnonian or Novantian
in origin and indeed where the boundary was between
these peoples. Nor is it clear what the link was to
Cunninghame, Kyle and Carrick which were based on the
Irvine and Doon and may date from this time or earlier.
It is fairly clear however that there were political
links at onetime or another between Aeron and both Strathclyde
and Rheged and this fact allows us to make a reasonable
estimate of what routes there might have been.
is likely enough that Aeron was close to the River Ayr,
and it is possible that Dundonald was its centre. From
the poems, Aeron existed around 600 AD but there is
a interesting entry in the Ravenna Cosmography (c.700
AD) for Adron. (7)
This is usually ascribed to the River Wear in Durham
but in the list it is as near to the Annan and Nith
as it is to the Tyne and dr became ir early in British.
In this case Adron would be earlier than Aeron and could
have been taken from the early sources used by Ptolemy
whose Geography dates from about 150 AD. If this is
correct it implies a sub-grouping of the Damnonii or
Novantae from an early date.
That Aeron might have been part of the Novantian territory
is supported by a reference in the Gododdin to the hero
Cynddylig of Aeron who desired the praise of the Novantian
men. If by this is meant his own people it is a clear
sign that Aeron was linked to the territory of the former
Novantae or the Nouant or Enoant as they were now known.
Certainly Taliesin in The Conciliation of Urien talks
of the north and the half-kings, a reference to Urien's
sons Owain and Elffin who ruled Galloway and Aeron as
sub-kingdoms of Rheged. (4)
Interestingly, Strang in his recreation of a possible
Flavian map of Roman Britain shows the Novantian territory
as including the whole of Galloway and the Solway Coast
and much of Ayrshire. (8)
His boundary with the Selgovae
runs up the Nith Valley and with the Damnonii on a line
from near Cumnock over to Irvine.
that Aeron and Galloway were sub-kingdoms of Rheged,
there may well have been contact between them. There
was a stronghold at Dunragit near Glenluce and this
could entail a coastal route from Aeron as far as Glenapp
and then perhaps onward by the coast or by the hills
to the south of Genapp - there were certainly later
routes in this area. There must have been other settlements
in Galloway which again would entail links perhaps by
the Nick O' the Balloch route or via Dalmellington.
Links to the centre of Rheged would probably have been
by Nithsdale with its Roman road linking to others in
the south, although there is no certainty to any route
they might have taken from Dundonald over to the Nith
valley. Fairly direct routes would have been over to
Mauchline and then south, or down towards Stair and
Ochiltree. It is interesting to speculate on whether
Strang is correct in having the boundary between the
Selgovae and Novantae at the Nith and if this interfered
with the free passage of Aeron forces on this route.
If so an alternative route would have been the Dalmellington
route, certainly of great age, if not Roman, which would
allow a journey wholly in Rhegedian territory.
There is a reference to Cynddylig putting the sea journeying
enemy to flight, which probably refers to Picts or Scots
coming across the Firth of Clyde.
is another reference to battles in a poem by Taliesin
about Gwallawg, king of Elfed near Leeds, which could
date to about 580. The surprising thing is that some
of the engagements took place in Ayrshire. Troon is
mentioned and Coed Baidd, the Wood of Beith.
should be made here of an old path, currently known
as the Glen Path, that runs from Dundonald Castle to
Troon. It passes near Hallyards Farm, and the mediaeval
St Mary's Chapel, then Aughtwood and Collenan. Kirkwood
writing about Troon notes that it has signs of being
made, with stones along its length.
surmises that it was the old route from the castle to
the sea, in fact a Rotten Row, or King's Highway (Route
du Roi) but it could date from these times. The reference
to Beith is suggestive of a defensive action against
an incursion from the north though if this is by Strathclyde
or by the Picts is not clear.
|Dumbarton (Alt Cluith)
in Rheged Arise, talks of Urien coming in his day to
Aeron. Later he refers to a battle at the ford of Alcluid
(near Dumbarton) but it is not clear who the enemy was.
What is clear enough is that there must have been a
route to Dumbarton from Aeron, probably on the west
side of the Lochwinnoch gap.
their battles with Picts and Scots, there were also
conflicts amongst the Britons themselves. The best known
was the battle of Arthuret (near Longtown) in 573 between
Gwenddoleu and his cousins. It is quite possible that
Aeron was involved - the Nith valley would be the most
A great deal of Dark Age history is determined
by the attempts of the British tribes to come to terms
with the Anglo- Saxons. In 547 AD, Ida founded the Kingdom
of Bernicia with his base at Lindisfarne on Holy Island
and very quickly started expanding on the Northumberland
coast and plains. This was bound to lead to conflict
with the Gododdin to the north who were settled in the
area, and with Rheged to the west. Rheged seems to have
stretched to Catterick.
fact, things came to a head in the 570's and 580's when
the Britons attacked the Angles. The first occasion
was when Urien of Rheged and his son fought with Theodric,
son of Ida in the mid 570's. This implies Aeron involvement
if the son was the sub-king of Aeron. The second was
when a coalition attacked Hussa, son of Ida at Lindisfarne.
This included Rhydderch of Strathclyde and it is entirely
possible that men from Aeron were there as well. Although
partly successful, Urien, leader of the coalition was
killed and it was not long before the Northumbrians
continued with their expansion. Eventually the Goddodin
became alarmed and organised a major force to settle
things once and for all. This is the subject of the
famous poem the Goddodin, written by Aneirin.
tells of Mynyddog, ruler of the Goddodin, gathering
an army from widely distant territories. There were
men from beyond Bannog, the sea of Ieddew, Aeron, Elfed
and Gwynedd. Bannog is the area north of the Kilsyth
and Campsie Hills, Ieddew was the Forth and Aeron was
Ayrshire. Elfed was in the west of Yorkshire and Gwynedd
in north Wales. The poem speaks of 300 men feasting
in the great hall of Eidyn - 300 spears of the offspring
of Cynfach, Cynwyd and Coel, though this number was
probably that of the chief warriors, each of whom would
have had a retinue. Lowe estimates there may have been
24,000 men in the northern army.(10)
said, the enemy were the Anglo-Saxons; the Angles based
in Bernicia, the present day Durham and Northumberland
and the Saxons in Deira, in Yorkshire. Collectively
they were known as the men of Lloegr. The two armies
met at Catraeth, probably Catterick, but the battle
was a disaster, with most of the British slain. It had
terrible consequences leaving Rheged and Goddodin wide
open to attack and settlement. The British were hunted
down or fled into the hills where they starved or eventually
had to surrender themselves into slavery.
are several short references to Aeron in the Goddodin,
and to its hero, Cynon, who was killed in the battle.
route taken to Din Eidynn as mentioned in the Gododdin
is not known. It could have been via Dumbarton or through
the Glasgow area or up the Irvine Valley and across
central Scotland using the Roman roads. Likewise the
route home after the defeat at Catraeth is unknown;
although it is likely to have been directly north to
Gododdin presumably by Dere Street or over the Stainmore
Pass into the heart of Rheged and then north and west
up the Nith valley.
Catraeth, the Angles expanded into the Tweed valley.
This rapid expansion alarmed Aedan, King of Dalriada
in Argyll so much that he sent a force over to confront
Aethelfrith but his army was defeated at Degsastane
(possibly Dawston in Liddlesdale) in 603. In 605 they
even took over Deira to the south to form Northumbria
and over the next few years expanded from the Tweed
into the Lothians. Rheged may have survived up to about
670 before the Anglians took over but this seems to
have been peaceful and effected through a marriage between
Oswy and a grand-daughter of Urien.
the Angles gained influence over Rheged about 670, whether
by conquest or intermarriage, the implication is of
a takeover of Galloway and Aeron. Certainly they had
extensive settlements in Galloway and clusters in Carrick
but nothing north of the Maybole area. This could indicate
that the area north of this was lost to Rheged and had
come under Strathclyde overlordship and this is certainly
supported by the invasion of 750 AD when Eadberht, King
of Northumbria, moved against Strathclyde in concert
with the Picts. The Continuatio Bedae notes that he
annexed the Plain of Kyle (Campum Cyil) along with other
regions. The invasion route is thought to have been
by the Nith but the Dalmellington route is also a possibility
because of the Anglian settlements in Carrick. However,
the occupation of Kyle only lasted to 756 when it was
retaken by Strathclyde.
There is a strong implication here of a route up to
Dunbarton, the capital of the Strathclyde British. The
later toll point at Mach, mentioned in the foundation
charter of Ayr, would fit such a route through the Lochwinnoch
gap. When the capital was moved from Dunbarton to Govan,
it is likely that a route developed either as a branch
from the old Dunbarton route or as a new one to the
east of the Lochwinnoch gap, i.e. close to the Beith
was a time of resurgence for Strathclyde when it extended
far into Cumbria. A century or so later, however, Malcolm
II annexed Strathclyde into the newly emerging kingdom
of Scotland. It is thought that Galloway remained independent.
While all this was going on, there was pressure
from another direction, the Scots of Dalriada, which
lay to the west in Argyll, and indeed Ireland itself.
Settlement may have taken place from the 400's in coastal
districts of Galloway and further north in Carrick and
to a lesser extent in Cunninghame. Apart from a small
number of historical references our best clues are to
be found in placenames of settlements and those which
imply a track. We will deal with these in a separate
the historical references to the Scots is a battle which
Coilus is said to have lost against the invading Irish
under Fergus in 702 AD and to have used the King's Steps
over the Coil Water after this battle.
There is a Bloody Burn running into Fail Water and opposite
its mouth is Dead Man's Holm. This Coilus may be the
person after whom the district of Kyle is named (others
derive it from gaelic coille, a wood and others again
say it is named after a Cole (of Old King Cole fame)
who may have ruled over Ayrshire and perhaps Galloway
in the mid 400's. There is another reference to an invasion
of Irish in 681 AD where they are said to have advanced
to Mauchline where they were beaten but this is now
thought to have happened in northern Ireland.
836 AD, Alpin, king of the Kintyre Scots landed at Ayr
but he was slain near Laicht Alpin on the route to Dalmellington
after devastating the land between the Doon and Ayr.
There is some useful evidence for tracks at this
time to be had from placenames. Two in particular refer
to settlements and so presumed associated tracks; others
refer directly to tracks. The settlement placenames
are the British 'tref' and the Gaelic 'bal' which both
mean village or settlement. Another set of placenames
are those of Anglian origin occuring in Carrick.
There are three clusters of Anglian names of
the 7th/8th century near Maybole and Girvan. These are
Maybole itself, Turnberry and Kirkoswald, Authene and
Blanefield in Kirkoswald parish, Straiton, Merrick (with
the meaning of boundary), Snayde, Dailly and Kirkudbrigh
de Entertig (Ballantrae parish). Two other places, Le
Red Hohe and Alesbruc are as yet unidentified. (14,15)
The Angles may
have had overlordship over neighbouring British enclaves.
There is a clear implication here both of routes from
Galloway and between the settlements themselves. Brooke
mentions the route up the Glenkens to Dalmellington.
This is an atttractive idea as it joins the extensive
cluster of settlements in the Kirkcudbright - Castle
Douglas area with Carrick, and there was a settlement
at Earlston north of St John's Town of Dalry where travellers
could have stopped. From Dalmellington itself, it is
only six miles to Straiton, although they may have skirted
the north end of Loch Doon and made their way more directly
to Straiton. Certainly there were tracks south of the
present Dalmellington - Straiton road in use two or
three hundred years ago.
The other main route that suggests itself is up the
Cree and Water of Minnoch to the Nick O' the Balloch
from where they could reach their settlements at Dailly
or Straiton. Interestingly Merrick is only four miles
from this route and means "boundary ridge".
With the Carrick settlements it is hard not to imagine
a track between Straiton and Maybole, the "mother village",
though whether this was by Kirkmichael or Crosshill
is uncertain. Straiton is a suggestive placename as
it is often found where there is a Roman road or at
least a main road. However, it sometimes just means
"straggling village". (16)
It is hard to know which applies here, although it was
certainly on an early route. The link between Maybole
and Turnberry linking Suthblane (near Auchenblane) Authene
and Kirkoswald is less of a problem as it follows the
present A77 route. There were apparently isolated settlements
at Dailly and Kirkudbrigh de Innertig and it is difficult
to say how these were linked to the other places.
good idea of where the Britons lived can be gained from
the distribution of tref place names. (17)
Tref means village or settlement
and there are several examples from Ayrshire with definite
groupings east of Maybole, near Girvan, and between
Ochiltree and Drongan. There are one or two instances
from elsewhere in Ayrshire, with some lost names (Watson
(18) lists a couple ) and
a number of apparently English names like Three Thorns,
Trees, Tree Hills and so on which might bear a closer
from the 1935 Ordnance Survey map. © Crown copyright
names may well date from at least the time of the Anglian
occupation but another possibility is that all or some
could date from the time of Strathclyde's southward
expansion which is into the 800's or even that some
of those displaced by the Angles in the Edinburgh area
resettled in Ayrshire.
routes are conjectural, there could easily have been
quite direct routes between tref near Ochiltree. Similarly
to the east of Maybole. Three of the instances south-east
of Girvan are in a well-defined valley, and Threave
and Tranaw just east of Crosshill are ¾ mile distant
from each other. As there is an old lake bed running
between them to the north and firm ground on a ridge
to the south we can assume any path would lie on the
interesting possibility is that these clusters were
former cantref. This is a British land division, which
in mediaeval Wales at least was 100 sq.km or 36 sq.
miles in area (the tref was made up of four gauels,
of 64 acres each, and thus about 1 sq.km in area; four
tref made a maynaul, and 100 tref a cantref).(17,18,19)
As cantrefs had overlords, the implication is that in
each cluster there was a central settlement where laws
were enacted and applied and to which there would be
routes from outlying tref. In this respect, Ochiltree
is interesting as although it is taken to mean "high"
homestead it is also consistent with "high" social status,
i.e. it could be the chief settlement of the locality.
Barbrethan, "hill of the Britons" is also interesting
as it implies a major settlement and there are several
tref nearby. It lies about one mile north east of Crosshill
on the Kirkmichael road.
word Baile (Bal) denotes a permanent settlement and
shows a distribution in Carrick and to an extent, Cunninghame
(Nicolaissen, 17). Kil
place names occur in much the same places, and this
may indicate that Irish hermits were the first to settle
in the area, perhaps in a search for solitude or perhaps
as missionaries. We know, for example, that St. Finbar
(Finnian or Winning) settled in the area of Kilwinning
about 540 AD after spending 20 years at Whithorn and
he is reputed to have made frequent visits to the chief
at the fort on Dunlop Hill. (20)
The earliest occurences of Bal may date from around
650 AD and may extend up to 900-1000 AD with an influx
of Clan-Goidel peoples after the main period of settlement
from Ireland and possibly Argyll. Some of the place
names may date from the time Strathclyde was annexed
by Malcolm, as the ruling class was Gaelic-speaking.
and Kil placenames are very numerous and provide strong
indications of likely routes, albeit local. Using just
from the1935 Ordnance Survey map. © Crown copyright
occurences of Bal (and Dal) on the 1:25,000 OS maps
it is reasonable to assume routes from the vicinity
of Ballantrae up towards Lendalfoot; up the valley of
the Stinchar where there are several occurences and
south of Girvan. Also reasonable are routes to the south
west and south east of Maybole and over towards the
Dalrymple area and down towards Dalmellington. A number
are close to instances of "Balloch" which helps to confirm
some of the routes.
A number of other placenames imply the existence of
a track. These are noted below. Most of the derivations
are from McDowell's Carrick Gallovidian.
This is just to the south of Colmonell where there may
have been a bridge for pilgrims going to Whithorn. The
Stinchar is certainly fordable here and indeed McDowell
says both that Pyet Bridge (now Colmonell Bridge) is
derived from Ath, "ford" and that there were stepping
stones before the bridge was built.
As this was in the 1740's, this is not the bridge implied
by the name. Pont shows Bardrochat but no indication
of a crossing.
- path-side copse. Darnconnor (NS576240) lies at
the south west edge of Airds Moss about three miles
north of Cumnock. It is not clear where any path might
have gone though there is a possibility that it was
linked to an "auchen" placename, i.e. was a path to
a cultivated field.
Darnaconnar, three miles east of Barrhill (NX277834).
(NS488327), 1 km east of the A76 near Bargower.
Glenconner (south of Ochiltree). The nearby Rottenrow
and Pont's crossing of the Burnock Water are suggestive
but further evidence would be needed to link them with
Hill, south-west of Cairntable. Newall and Lonie
thought that a Roman road passed nearby. It would be
on a reasonable route from the Muirkirk area to the
on an old hill path from Straiton to Barr. It is most
easily seen on the 1" 1925 OS map but appeared on Armstrong.
Mains, near Girvan. McDowell says this is from Conaire.
It is a farm one mile east of Lendalfoot on a road leading
to Pinmore on the Girvan to Newton Stewart road (A714).
Rather than referring to a Water of Lendal route however
it might indicate that the north - south route as shown
on several of the later maps passing nearby was in existence
at this time.
Hill. This was formerly Croseneton and Watson gives
the derivation as Crossing of the Hound. The name merely
confirms that there was a route here in the 7th and
8th centuries although being near the Nith it clearly
goes back well into prehistoric times.
There is an Auchencross 2 miles south-east of Ballantrae
on the Stranraer Road. McDowell thinks it related to
the crossroads half a mile to the south where the Colmonell
turnpike joins the Stranraer road. Equally Auchencrosh
is very near a watershed as the road heads over to Glenapp
and may refer more to this route.
O' the Balloch. This is in Barr parish on the old
route south to Newton Stewart and the Solway. Pinvalley
is associated with this as it comes from Peighinn a
Bhealaigh - Pennyland of the Pass. It is to be found
at the north end of the pass.
Ballochbeatties. Fairly close to the above and
one mile south of Loch Braden is Ballochbeatties and
Balloch Lane (Burn of the Pass). From the geography,
it leads in a couple of miles to Loch Riecawr to the
south. From there, another three miles would take one
to the southern shores of Loch Doon. Just north of Ballochbeatties,
a path heads for the Stinchar Bridge which could have
given a route along the Stinchar to Barr. Indeed McDowell
gives the meaning of Ballochbeatties as "a pass with
a smaller pass branching off it" which this refers to.
It is not at all obvious what this route was for, that
is, who used it and between which points. Certainly
Loch Doon although it is sparsely populated and isolated
today may have been quite well populated in the past.
The castle itself suggests this and communication would
always have been relatively easy along the line of the
loch with a ready food supply from fish and wild fowl.
So it may just be that the Ballochbeatties route represents
a link between Loch Doon and the rest of Carrick.
This is between Barlewan and Barclay on the Maybole
to Crosshill Road, 1½ miles south-east of Maybole. It
means passage between the low hills. It is difficult
to say whether it was named before or after the Anglian
settlement in the area in the 7th century
and Ballochneil. Ballochillie is just south of Turnberry
near the A77. Travellers presumably turned inland from
the coast round about here, following the line of Ballochillie
Glen up towards Ballochneil and Kirkoswald.
There is a Ballochtoul, ¾ mile east of Knockcushion,
Girvan where the road passed below the fortification
at Low Troweir. McDowall gives the meaning as "road
by the moat" so the dating of the fortification would
help to date the road. In any case, Troweir is a "tref"
name so there must have been a track here at the time
High and Low Ballochdoan are about 3 miles south of
Ballantrae and about one mile west of the Stranraer
Road, apparently on a continuation of the Colmonell
road. As Doan comes from "domhain" deep, it probably
refers to the Currarie Glen leading to the coast which
is very narrow and deep and therefore a local track
rather than a main route to Stranraer.
This is on the old track to New Luce and Stranraer passing
Beneraird Hill. It is just south of Benawhirter.
This is a farm near the Water of Duisk between Pinwherry
and Barrhill. McDowell says it was on a old road between
Colmonell and Ballochmorrie where it crosses the Duisk
by a ford and ran to the east of the A714 to Barrhill.
The stretch of track between Colmonell and the Duisk
is still there, running past Drumskeoch. It is shown
on Thomson (1828) but not Armstrong (1775). The same
applies to the stretch east of the A714. This appears
to be the track that starts near Muick Bridge close
to Liglartrie. The implication is of a route to the
near Mauchline. The name means the bare pass but
it is not clear whether it refers to an east - west
or a north - south route.
Dailly. McDowell suggests this came from Dail Ath,
meadow at the ford. Certainly there is a ford and stepping
stones at Killochan just north of Old Dailly which might
tie in with a north - south route. He makes the interesting
suggestion that the "Blue Stanes" in the old kirk came
from the ford.
Brockloch, north of Maybole. McDowell suggests that
this was Aster Bro Cladh and was a path from Maybole
to Old Trees fort. In similar manner he derives East
Enoch from Astar Enoch - path to the fortress. These
derivations may be suspect as there is a Mid and Wester
Brockloch as well as a West Enoch.
The derivation indicates an early crossing here. Stairaird
nearby is "upper Stair" and Starr at the head of Loch
Doon has the same derivation.(18)
Further evidence would be needed before there could
be any certainty about a long distance route through
Stair at this time. Starr at the foot of Loch Doon could
tie in with the Ballochbeatties route above but it is
not clear if it would have crossed over to the old track
that ran down to the Carsphairn area or carried on south
into the Galloway Hills.
(Seanfhas) in the south of Ballantrae parish. The implication
is of a stopover point for the night. It is about eight
miles from Ballantrae, New Luce and Stranraer which
is suggestive of a day's travel. Moll in 1724 has a
route running through here from Glenapp to Stranraer.
It is also on the Beneraird track shown on Armstrong
(1775). Despite these late dates, both routes were very
likely pilgrim routes to Whithorn from very early times
and the placename helps to confirm the routes.
Tarfessock on the Newton Stewart hill road just
north of the county boundary appears on Moll's map of
1724 as Torfas. Again, it helps to confirm the early
route over the Nick O' the Balloch.
not referring to a road there are other words which
imply a track but are probably of local significance
only. These include:
or Tinnel, a gathering place. There is a Knockytinnal
in Colmonell parish.
an encampment or a shieling. Sorn parish has an Auchinlongford
and Barrhill has a Drumlamford.
Tiobhar, a well. Examples from Ayrshire include
Auchentibber, Knockentibber near Kilmarnock and Auchengibbert
(field of the well) near Cumnock.
map shows the location of most of the above places and
it is reasonably clear that they are useful indicators
On the map a number of possible routes from this
time are shown, although there is no certainty when
they became established.
may have been an early route established by the Damnonians
between Vindogara (probably near Irvine) and Damnonian
areas to the north, particularly Dumbarton. It may well
have been used by early invaders in the time of "Arthur".
There is a bit more certainty that it was in existence
in the time of Aeron as witness the references in Taliesin
and a little later when the Angles invaded in 750 AD.
After that time, it may have been used to reach Govan
which was the new centre for Strathclyde, although an
alternative route on the east side of the Lochwinnoch
gap could have developed then. It was probably also
used by pilgrims on their way to Whithorn. It is worth
noting that one of the toll points where the new town
of Ayr could collect tolls from merchants was at Mach,
north of Dalry. There is a very strong implication that
these locations were on already existing trade routes
which would help to establish the case for an early
route in this area.
there is no particular evidence for a route here at
this time there was a proved Roman road in Lanarkshire
that ran as far as Loudoun Hill, and a possible road
beyond this. In addition, Loudoun is named as one of
the toll points for Ayr.
was certainly a route here from early on in the Dark
Ages with a proved Roman road as far as Kirkconnel,
and a possible road north of that. At the time of Aeron,
it would have provided a direct route to the centre
of Rheged and may have been used by the Angles in their
invasion of 750 AD. North of the Cumnock area any route
would be speculative but the two routes shown would
take it to the presumed location of Aeron. Although
Gaelic in origin, the name Corsencon probably dates
from the Dark Ages and another of the toll points for
Ayr was located here. If this indicates a previously
existing route, this must have gone fairly directly
over to the vicinity of Ayr.
this is a definite road or at least a made track we
cannot be sure that it is Roman. It would have provided
a route between Aeron and central Galloway, both of
which were part of Rheged. At a later date it could
have provided a route from the Anglian settlements in
the New Galloway area up to their settlements in the
vicinity of Maybole, and some researchers would place
the toll point of Laicht Alpin near to Dunaskin, north
for this as a Dark Age route is limited but the fit
with Gaelic placenames referring to a route is quite
good and it would afford a link between the Anglian
settlements near Maybole and those further south. It
may also have been used by pilgrims to Whithorn.
there is nothing definite about a Roman road south of
Ayr, it would be reasonable to assume an early route
within the territory of the Novantae down to their major
centre near Stranraer; as well as Dunragit when Galloway,
like Aeron, was part of Rheged. Pilgrims travelled to
Whithorn by this route and although the inland branch
south of Girvan is speculative it links quite well with
placenames. Some place the toll point of Laight Alpin
north of Cairnryan.
can be assumed in the three British enclaves and in
the Anglian settlement near Maybole. Given the extensive
distribution of "bal" placenames in south Carrick, it
is reasonable to assume the same for that area.
this is very late in the period, a possible route over
the Fenwick Moors is included here because Karnebuth,
one of the Ayr toll points was sited near Kingswells
close to the present turn-off from the A77 to Eaglesham
or alternatively at Carnbooth just south-west of Castlemilk,
Glasgow. In addition a possible route from Ayr towards
the Loudoun toll point is shown.
Alistair Moffat, Arthur and the Lost Kingdoms, Phoenix,
2. W F Skene, Arthur
and the Britons in Wales and Scotland, edited by Derek
Bryce, Llanerch Books, Lampeter, 1988
Michael Wood, In Search of the Dark Ages, BCA, 1981
Taliesin Poems, trans. Meiron Pennar, Llanerch Books,
Aneirin - The Gododdin, trans. Steve Short, Llanerch
Books, Lampeter, 1994
6. The Gododdin
of Aneirin, John T Koch, University of Wales Press,
The Placenames of Roman Britain, A.L.F.Rivet
and Colin Smith, BCA 1981, pps.213, 489
8. Strang, A
possible Flavian map of Roman Britain, PSAS, 2000, p
Rev. J Kirkwood, Troon and Dundonald, Kilmarnock, 1876
Lowe, Angels Fools and Tyrants, Historic
John Smith, Prehistoric Man in Ayrshire,
H Stein, Tarbolton, Its History and Associations, 1896
J Strawhorn, Historical article in Among Thy Green Braes,
ed. J Moore, Cumnock & Doon Valley District Council,
Brooke,The Northumbrian Settlements in Galloway
and Carrick, PSAS, Vol.121, 1991, 295 -327
Daphne Brooke, Wild Men and Holy Places,
Canongate, Edinburgh, 1994
Margaret Gelling, Place Names in the Landscape, Phoenix
Press, London, 2000
17. W F H Nicolaisen,
Scottish Placenames, John Donald, Edinburgh, 2001
J Watson, The History of the Celtic Placenames of
Scotland, Birlinn, Edinburgh, 1993
John Morris, Age of Arthur, Phoenix, London, 1995
Bayne, Dunlop Parish
J Kevan McDowall, Carrick Gallovidian,
version of the Goddodin
Four Ancient Books of Wales W F Skene
(The Mediaeval Period)