Galloway (Gaelic: "Gall-Ghaidhealaibh", pronounced|əŋ ɡauɫ̪ɣəɫ̪əv or "Gallobha", Lowland Scots "Gallowa") is an area in southwestern Scotland. It usually refers to the former counties of Wigtown (or historically West Galloway) and Kirkcudbright (or historically East Galloway). It is part of the Dumfries and Galloway council area of Scotland.

Galloway is contained by sea to the west and south, the Galloway Hills to the north, and the River Nith to the east; the border between Kirkcudbright and Wigtownshire is marked by the River Cree.

The definition has, however, fluctuated greatly in size over history. The name is also given to a hardy breed of black, hornless beef cattle native to the region (and also to the more distinctive 'Belted Galloway' or 'Beltie'). Galloway has always been slightly isolated due to having convert|150|mi|km of rugged coastline and a vast range of largely uninhabited hills to the North.

Geography and Landform

Galloway comprises that part of Scotland southwards from the Southern Upland watershed and westward from the River Nith. Traditionally it has been described as stretching from "the braes of Glenapp to the Nith". Three main river valleys, the Urr, the Ken/Dee, and the Cree, all running north-south, provide much of the good arable land, although there is also some arable land on the coast. Generally however the landscape is rugged and much of the soil is shallow. The generally south slope and southern coast make for mild and wet climate, and there is a great deal of good pasture.

The northern part of Galloway is exceedingly rugged and forms the largest remaining wilderness in Britain south of the Highlands. This area is known as the Galloway Hills.

Galloway landmarks on Ptolemy's map

The second century geographer Ptolemy produced a map of Britain in his "Geography", in which he describes the landmarks and peoples of the island. The landmarks were identified long ago, and a number of them relate to Galloway: [Harvcolnb|Ptolemy|c. 140 Ptolemy, Bk. II, Ch. 2. Trans. "Albion island of Britannia - First Map of Europe"]

Land use

Historically Galloway has been famous both for horses and for cattle rearing, and milk and beef production are both still major industries. There is also substantial timber production and some fisheries. The combination of hills and high rainfall make Galloway ideal for hydroelectric power production, and the Galloway Hydro Power scheme was begun in 1929. Since then, electricity generation has been a significant industry. More recently wind turbines have been installed at a number of locations on the watershed, and a large offshore wind-power plant is planned, increasing Galloway's 'green energy' production.


It is generally agreed that the name 'Galloway' derives from the name Gall-Gaidel, and indeed the modern and medieval words for Galloway in Gaelic are Gall-Ghàidhealaibh and Gallgaidelaib respectively, "land of the Gaelic-Norse". The term is not recorded until the 11th century. Daphne Brooke, a popular author of the history of the region, tried to argue for a derivation from the term 'Caleddon', an alleged Brythonic form of the name written in Latin 'Caledonia'. This etymology is almost universally rejected.

Early Galloway

The Romans named the inhabitants of Galloway the Novantae. According to tradition, before the end of Roman rule in Britain, St. Ninian established a church at Whithorn which remained an important place of pilgrimage until the Reformation. The county is rich in prehistoric monuments and relics, amongst the most notable of which are the Drumtroddan Standing Stones (and cup-and-ring carvings), the Torhousekie Stone Circle, and Cairn Holy (a Neolithic Chambered Cairn). There is also evidence of one of the earliest pit-fall traps in Europe which was discovered near Glenluce.

In the west, the city of Rerigonium (literally 'very royal place'), shown on Ptolemy's map of the world, later referred to in the Welsh Triads as 'Penryn Rionyt' and remembered as one of the 'three thrones of Britain' was probably the caput of the post Roman kingdom of Rheged. Its exact position is uncertain except that it was 'on Loch Ryan', close to modern day Stranraer; it is possible that it is the modern settlement of Dunragit (Dun Rheged).

Middle Ages

Galloway probably remained a Brythonic dominated region until the late 7th century when it was taken over by the English kingdom of Bernicia. Local historian Daphne Brooke has suggested that the English took over the more fertile land and religious centres like Whithorn, leaving the native inhabitants the less fertile upland areas. English dominance seems to have been supplanted by Norse and then Norse-Gaelic (Gall-Gaidel) peoples between the 9th and the 11th century, though the processes by which this took place are unclear.

If it had not been for Fergus of Galloway who established himself in Galloway, the region would rapidly have been absorbed by Scotland. This did not happen because Fergus, his sons, grandsons and great-grandson Alan, Lord of Galloway shifted their allegiance between Scottish and English kings.

Alan died in 1234. He had three daughters and an illegitimate son Thomas. The 'Community of Galloway' wanted Thomas as their 'king'. Alexander III of Scotland supported the daughters (or rather their husbands) and invaded Galloway. The Community of Galloway was defeated, and Galloway divided up between Alan's daughters, thus bringing Galloway's independent existence to an end.

Alan's eldest daughter, Derbhorgail, married John de Balliol, and their son (also John) became one of the candidates for the Scottish Crown. Consequently, Scotland's Wars of Independence were disproportionately fought in Galloway.

There were a large number of new Gaelic placenames being coined post 1320 (e.g. Balmaclellan), because Galloway retained a substantial Gaelic speaking population for several centuries more. Following the Wars of Independence, Galloway became the fief of Archibald the Grim, Earl of Douglas and his heirs. Whithorn remained an important cult centre, and all the medieval Kings of Scots made pilgrimage there.

Modern history

Galwegian Gaelic seems to have lasted longer than Gaelic in other parts of Lowland Scotland, and Margaret McMurray (d. 1760) of Carrick (outside modern Galloway) appears to be the last recorded speaker.

In the years subsequent to the Union of the Crowns 1603, Galloway underwent radical change, during the War of the Three Kingdoms and Covenanter rebellion.

In modern times, a major ferry port has been set up at Stranraer, and another at Cairnryan.

Galloway in literature

Galloway has been the setting of a number of novels, including Walter Scott's "Guy Mannering".Other novels include the historical fiction trilogy by Liz Curtis Higgs, "Thorn in My Heart", "Fair is the Rose", and "Whence Came a Prince". Richard Hannay flees london to lie low in Galloway in John Buchan's novel "The Thirty-nine Steps".



*Brooke, D: "Wild Men and Holy Places": Canongate Press, Edinburgh, 1994: ISBN 0-86241-479-2
**Many of her monographs are available [ online] .
*Oram, Richard, "The Lordship of Galloway"
* Citation
date=c. 140
publisher=LacusCurtius website at the University of Chicago|

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