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The Toll Points of Ayr and Rutherglen: Implications for Routes
The burghs of Ayr and Rutherglen were given the right to levy tolls on goods before these could be traded in their respective jurisdictions. The survival of the names of the locations where these tolls were raised or that defined a trade precinct provide valuable clues to routes in west and central Scotland in the early middle ages. In this section we look at the various locations proposed for these placenames and the implications that these proposals have for routes.
Note: The map below is based
on a map of Scotland produced by Eric Gaba and made available on Wikimedia under a Creative Commons licence and Commons:GNU_Free_Documentation_License. With thanks. See original on Wikimedia. Not all possible routes are shown - there may have been routes from Mach and Shettleston to Lennox, Loudoun to Lanark and undetermined routes to Karun and Prenteineth.

On coming to the throne in 1124, David I introduced important changes in how Scotland was governed, measures that were consolidated further by his immediate successors. He had been brought up in the Anglo-Norman court and had had ample opportunity to observe how England was governed. It was these measures which he adapted and applied in his new kingdom.

The main measures were a variant of feudalism; the encouragement of the Church to play an important role in the development of agriculture and husbandry, the exploitation of mineral wealth, and the fostering of education; the promotion of local and foreign trade by the founding of new towns with special trading privileges; and the formation of shires as an administrative unit.

An example of the third of these measures, the promotion of trade by granting special trading privileges is seen in the case of Ayr and Rutherglen which were granted the right to levy tolls on merchandise brought into their precincts - at that time, these covered huge areas. Other burghs were also granted trading privileges but these are not noted here.

The places where the tolls could be collected are noted in early charters and this affords us the possibility of determining the routes between the toll points and the towns, if the locations can be identified. It is of note that Ayr and Rutherglen share Karnebuth and Loudun in their list of toll points.



Rutherglen was created a royal burgh by David sometime in the 1100's. The first charter as such was by William the Lion that referred to the burgh as already existing. The charter gives Rutherglen trading rights within certain boundaries, viz: de Neithan ufque ad Polmacde et de Garin ufque ad Kelvin et de Loudun ufque ad Prenteineth et de Karnebuth ad Karun. By the time of a later charter of 1617, Karnebuth was written as Carnburgh (see Ure, The History of Rutherglen and East Kilbride for details of the charters).

Neithan & Polmacde: Garin & Kelvin
At first glance these might seem to be toll points, similar to those for Ayr, and thus allow us to infer routes between the paired placenames. However JTT Brown in his paper The Royal Burgh of Rutherglen (Scottish Historical Review, Vol.23, 1926, pps.42-57) shows quite convincingly in the case of the first two pairs that they define the Nether Ward of Clydesdale, south and north of the Clyde. That is, they define the limits of a trading precinct rather than stating the location of toll points. Moreover, it is more likely that the names are of rivers rather than actual places and indeed Brown shows how the rivers mark the boundaries of certain parishes lying in the Nether Ward of Clydesdale.

Unfortunately, if this is correct, it means we cannot infer routes between the placenames. Oddly enough, however, it is likely enough that there were routes between them. Neithan is undoubtedly the River Neithan that falls into the Clyde near Crossford. The old route from Hamilton to Lanark crossed the Clyde at Crossford and then took an upland route over to the Mouse Water and Lanark. West of the Hamilton area it would have run to Rutherglen from where it is a short distance to Polmadie (on the Polmadie Burn) where there was a hospital and which bordered on Govan.

Garin which Brown identifies as Garrion Gill is on the line of the Roman road that ran from Castledykes just north of Lanark through Carluke and Motherwell and ultimately through Shettleston and the east end of Glasgow where there was a definite possibility that it crossed the Kelvin to access the Antonine Wall. Interestingly, another charter refers to Rutherglen having a collection point at Schednestun Cross (i.e. Shettleston) which does indicate that this route was used by merchants. Merchants from Lennox were required to pay their tolls at Shettleston and presumably crossed the Kelvin at Partick or somewhere upriver. There is some evidence that the road continued into and beyond Glasgow into Lennox as Roy mentions vestiges of it near Tollcross and between Dalmuir and Old Kilpatrick and James Napier in Notes and Reminiscences relating to Partick gives some details of the tradition of a Roman road running through the area, page 1&ff. Brown refers to a via regis but gives no reference for this.

The other two pairs of names are of special interest because Loudoun and Karnebuth also occur in the Ayr charter, viz:
Loudun to Prenteneith
Loudun no doubt was near Loudoun Hill on the Ayrshire/Lanarkshire border on a well attested historic route with a Roman road to the fort at Loudoun Hill and other compelling evidence. From Loudoun the route would have gone down the Irvine valley to Ayr (see below). In the other direction one would imagine Prenteineth lay somewhere in Lanarkshire.

Brown, however, suggests that Prenteineth is Partick. Although his remarks on the similarity between the names of Prenteineth and Pertnech are interesting, his argument seems awkward on a couple of points. One is where he says that the Roman road ran from Loudoun to Strathaven then through East Kilbride to Rutherglen where it crossed the Clyde. A Roman road did run south of Strathaven in an easterly direction towards Lanark and Castledykes but there is no tradition nor any evidence that a road ran up to East Kilbride even taking into account the marching camp at Caldcotts, three miles south-west of Strathaven. Certainly the old road running from East Kilbride village over the Cathkin Hills to Rutherglen has been suspected of being Roman but it is aligned more with Polmadie than Dalmarnock where the Ferme ford was.

Another awkward point is that reaching Shettleston from Dalmarnock would require a considerable deviation from a direct route to Partick, where Brown places Prenteneith. Shettleston would make much more sense as a toll point on the Roman road running up from Garen.

Prenteineth has also been identified with Carntyne (Johnston, Placenames of Scotland) though this seems unlikely given that this would place it within the Nether Ward. Watson (Celtic Placenames of Scotland, page 352) suggests "tree of fire" for its meaning, perhaps linked to Beltane but otherwise does not locate it. Another suggestion is by Barrow of Tinny Bank (near Beattock Summit) which is reasonable given that it is by the Roman road leading from the south (GWS Barrow, The Acts of William I, King of Scots, p282). However the difficulty is that it is at the southern edge of the Upper Ward of Lanarkshire which had Lanark as its chief settlement. If it was intended that Rutherglen should embrace the Upper Ward one would expect the Neithan ad Polmacde of the charter to have read Prenteineth ad Polmacde (see AMM Duncan, Acts of Robert I, pps 494-495).
However, Barrow also has the interesting suggestion that Karun (immediately below) may have been at the extreme western boundary between Ayr and Renfrew, referring to Crawhin Hill in Inverkip parish. This would then imply that the charter's wording was a way of indicating that the precinct included the Upper Ward of Lanarkshire and Strathgryfe (Renfrewshire) and that the two pairs of names were like Neithan-Polmacde and Garin-Kelvin with no routes between these places.

Karnebuth to Karun
Oddly enough Brown translates the ad of Karnebuth ad Karun as at rather than to. It can have the meaning of near to, by, at, close by (see definition) but one would expect it to have the same meaning as all the other phrases with the usque (all the way to) implied. In support of this he suggests that the Karun was necessary to distinguish the Karnebuth (which he places in Carmunnock parish) from another in Bothwell parish (Carnbroe - see Watson, CPNS, page 204 who refers to the later rendering of the name in charters as Carnburgh- as this is firmly in the Nether Ward, however, it is hard to understand Watsons' identification) and that the nearby Earn which joins the White Cart at Busby and forms the boundary of the Nether Ward had been called the Carroun. Additionally he suggests that the clerk may have mistakenly written Karnebuth ad Karun for Karnebuth ad Earn. It is however more likely that the two names should be seen as a pair, that is, that the phrase means from Karnebuth to Karun.

Whatever the case, as will be seen below under the Ayr heading, three possibilities have been put forward for the location of Karnebuth: a point on the Stewarton road over Mearns moor known as Cairn or possibly the later Kingswell or Karin as it was known where, today, the Eaglesham road leaves the A77, or Carnbooth near Carmunnock.

Evidence for and against each of these locations is fairly tenuous although in a sense it does not matter too much as the first two although a few miles apart are only a mile or so off a direct alignment from Ayr to the Karnebuth in Carmunnock parish, and Rutherglen itself.

One possibility is that although the first two pairs of names serve to delimit the Nether Ward south and north of the Clyde, they do not say where their eastern and western edges were. Given that Loudun and Karnebuth could serve as the south-western and north-western limits, one would expect to find Karun in the north-east of the Nether Ward and Prenteineth in the south-east.

This is implicitly recognised by Gray (George Gray, The Early Charters of the Royal Burgh of Rutherglen, 1920) who suggests that Prenteineth lay to the north-east of Loudun at the edge of the Nether Ward and suggests it was in the vicinity of Bathgate or Linlithgow. Linlithgow itself had a trading boundary of the River Avon. He suggests Karun was the River Carron which would give access to the Stirling area.

As noted above, Barrow suggests Karun could have been on the western edge of Strathgryfe on the boundary with Ayrshire which could mean the charter was including Strathgryfe in Rutherglen's precinct and that there was no route between Karnebuth and Karun.



For more details see the Roads and Tracks of Ayrshire section of this website.

Ayr's charter was granted in 1202 by William the Lion, with the right to to levy tolls and customs on goods passing certain locations, viz. Mach, Karnebuth, Lowdun, Croseneton and Lachtalpin (see Charters of the Royal Burgh of Ayr, Ayr & Wigton Archaeological Association, 1883, pps xix-xxv and George Pryde, Charter of Foundation, AANHS Collections, 2nd Series, Vol. 2, 1953). Various proposals have been put forward as follows:

Mach - in the area of the Maich Burn, near Kilbirnie;

Karnebuth - a point on the Stewarton road over Mearns moor known as Cairn or possibly the later Kingswell or Karin as it was known, or Carnbooth near Carmunnock;

Lowdun - Loudoun;

Croseneton - Corsincon;

Laichtalpin - either Little Laicht north of Cairnryan or Laicht Alpin between Ayr and Dalmellington.

This is generally thought to have been near the Maich Burn close to Kilbirnie. The route probably came from Ayr either by the coast or Dundonald to the Irvine and Kilwinning area then east of the Garnock to avoid unnecessary river crossings to reach Dalry and Kilbirnie. An intriguing possibility, if Mach is the Maich Burn, is that it might be an older route into the heart of Strathclyde. It would be equally easy to head for Dumbarton or the later British capital at Govan by this route and it would be coming from an area incorporated into Strathclyde in the 800's. Without this explanation, it is hard to account for a route being here at all.

As said, it does not matter too much whether this is at Cairn on the Stewarton to Mearns road, or Kingswell on the Eaglesham road near to the A77 or Carnbooth in Carmunnock parish as they are all well aligned with Rutherglen and Glasgow. This toll point is shared with Rutherglen
To the south, heading for Ayr, a charter of about 1290 for the Symington area, mentions a great way (magnam viam) leading to Ayr (W J Dillon, Three Ayrshire Charters, AANHS Collections, 2nd Series, Vol. 7, 1966, p.35). This is close to the A77 line.

Irvine valley at Loudoun HillThe Roman road heading for Loudon Hill along with two military engagements in the Wars of Indepence and J Keith Joseph's remarks on mediaeval hollow ways beside the main road near Allanton (A71)
confirm that this was a route well used in mediaeval times between Lanarkshire and Ayrshire (J Keith Joseph, The Avondale Road, in The Roman Occupation of South-Western Scotland, S N Miller (ed), 1952).

In the direction of Ayr there is a strong possibility that the route from Loudoun crossed the Irvine at Newmilns and ran on the south side of the river to Galston and then made its way to Ayr via Fail (see John Strawhorn, Newmilns, AANHS Collections, 2nd Series, Vol. 1, 1950). Again, this is a toll point mentioned in connection with Rutherglen (see above).



The Nith valley looking south - Corsincon  Hill is on left
It seems clear enough that this was near Corsencon Hill on a route up the Nith Valley. Dumfries was also a burgh, set up like Ayr to contain Galloway and the implication is that it must have been a safe route for trade.

Opinion is divided as to whether this is to be indentified with Laight Alpin near Waterside on the Ayr to Dalmellington route or Little Laicht north of Stranraer.

The evidence from these charters is a little disappointing although potentially important for determining long distance routes. The Ayrshire names clearly imply routes even though there still remains doubt about the location of Karnebuth and Laicht Alpin though there is other evidence that there were routes in the 1200's to Dalmellington and beyond and down towards Stranraer.

The Rutherglen names however are less certain. Neithan and Polmacde and Garin and Kelvin undoubtedly define the Lower Ward of Lanarkshire as a trading precinct and have no particular implications for routes (although such routes existed) but the other two pairs can be interpreted in two ways.

The first way is to assume they are extensions of routes from Ayr. In the case of Karnebuth a route would lead through Rutherglen and Shettleston to somewhere in the vicinity of the River Carron giving access to the Stirling area. In the case of Loudun a route would lead across central Lanarkshire to Prenteineth, located on the eastern boundary of the Lower Ward, somewhere in Cambusnethan or Shotts parishes and perhaps indicating a route from the Bathgate or Linlithgow areas as suggested by Gray. This would also serve to define the eastern and western boundaries of the precinct.

The other possibility is that Karnebuth-Karun and Loudun-Prenteineth are the same as the first pairs, i.e. they are points on the boundary of the trading precinct and, if Barrow is correct, intended to include the Upper Ward of Lanarkshire and Strathgryfe in the precinct. This possibility would preclude us from inferring routes between them other than noting the possibility that as named and identified places routes may have passed through (but not between) them. In the case of Prenteineth it would have been a major historic route from Annandale into Clydesdale and in the case of Karun it may indicate a coastal route between Cunningham and Strathgryfe.

Charters of the Royal Burgh of Ayr, Ayr & Wigton Archaeological Association, 1883, pps xix-xxv
GWS Barrow, The Acts of William I, King of Scots, p282
JTT Brown, The Royal Burgh of Rutherglen, Scottish Historical Review, Vol.23, !926, pps.42-57
W J Dillon, Three Ayrshire Charters, AANHS Collections, 2nd Series, Vol. 7, 1966, p.35
AMM Duncan, The Acts of Robert I, pps 494-495
George Gray, The Early Charters of the Royal Burgh of Rutherglen, 1920
James Brown Johnston, Placenames of Scotland
, 1903
J Keith Joseph, The Avondale Road, in The Roman Occupation of South-Western Scotland, S N Miller (ed), 1952
David Murray, Early Burgh Organization in Scotland
James Napier, Notes and Reminiscences relating to Partick, 1873 - see the first few pages for the tradition of a Roman road running through the area
George Pryde
, Charter of Foundation, AANHS Collections, 2nd Series, Vol. 2, 1953
J Strawhorn, Newmilns, AANHS Collections, 2nd Series, Vol. 1, 1950
David Ure, The History of Rutherglen and East Kilbride, 1793
Watson, The Celtic Placenames of Scotland - see page 198 for Ayr, page 203 for Rutherglen, page 352 for Prenteineth


As noted above, Prenteineth has not been identified. One possibility, which would link quite well to Gray's idea that it lay somewhere on the eastern boundaries of Lanarkshire on a route from the Bathgate or Linlithgow areas is a much decayed boundary marker in Carnwath parish between Lanarkshire and West Calder parish in Midlothian.

The Ordnance Survey Name Book of 1865 (see NMRS record) notes that it was a cairn some 8 foot high. On early maps it is noted as Thirlstane, near Hendrey's Corse.

The Thirlstane todayAs can be seen from the photograph the cairn is now practically destroyed although archaeological work might provide some clues to its origin and purpose. The name Hendrey's Corse shows that there was a crossing here although given that an early map shows a drove road nearby one suspects that the name had to do with the droving trade and not with Prenteineth.


The Thirlstane is interesting as it may have a connotation of having to render a service of some
kind (see DSL definitions), in this case, a requirement to pay a toll to Rutherglen. Sightlines to the east are good although not as good to the west. This means that it would have been clearly seen approaching from the east which is what would be required if it was in fact a place where tolls were collected from merchants travelling to Rutherglen, although it would suit an Edinburgh route better than Bathgate or Linlithgow.

Click for larger image
Described as a truncated cone, this picture of another cairn probably gives a good idea of what the Thirlstane looked like in the past

Admittedly this is quite speculative, and supporting evidence would have to be found before we could talk about a route coming through here, though it does have some appeal as a hypothesis - certainly Cairnfore, another massive boundary marker in the south of Ayrshire was on an early route.

The Thirlstane is at NS975 579 in a remote forested area. If visited, a large scale and up to date map is essential as it is easy to get lost.