Finding “Lost” Landscapes of the Covenanters in Galloway: Making #History. #Scotland

Can you find some ‘lost’ historical sites and landscapes of the Covenanters in Galloway? These places used to live in the imaginations of folk in Galloway, but now have mostly slipped beyond memory. None of them are in the guidebooks. This is your chance to explore these evocative sites. This is a chance for you to make History by finding and photographing them. All of the “lost” sites, below, still exist, but are rarely visited and no photographs of them appear online. What they look like is a mystery that needs resolving. Can you find and photograph them? That way knowledge of them can be shared with others and perhaps they may live in the imagination again …

Below you will find three field preaching sites, two Whig holes, one of which is a large cave, and a secluded glen. Some lie not far from the roadside, some require fortitude or good boots and a bit of forward planning. I hope you can help.

From west to east in Galloway the sites are:

Nick of Liberty

1. Alexander Peden’s Field Preaching site at Nick Of The Liberty, north of New Luce.

Recently rediscovered in the OS name book, this “lost” field preaching site of Alexander “Prophet” Peden possibly has a standing stone. Peden was the outed minister of New Luce parish and probably illegally preached at the Nick Of The Liberty in 1682 and/or 1685.

This site is certainly one for the more intrepid walker who knows maps. The Nick Of The Liberty lies to the east of the hill called Beneraird, from which it will be visible. If approaching from Galloway, it is best approached via the path north of Lagafater Lodge. The path climbs for about 2.5km to near the summit of the hill called Beneraird, the Nick lies to the east of Beneraird.

For the full story and details of the Nick Of The Liberty site, see here. Technically, this site lies in Ayrshire, but it is literally on/just across the Galloway boundary.

According to the OS name book, it was ‘a flat patch of moss between Beneraird and [the hills of Kilmoray/]Benaw. It is said that the Rev. Alexander Peden the celebrated Minister at the time of the Covenanters preached here on Several occasions.’

The Nick Of The Liberty is a flat patch of moss between the hills. Although unlisted on the Canmore database of historical sites, a standing stone stood there (see map above) near the head waters of the Main Water of Luce. It is possible that Peden preached near the stone, as it may have been a feature that people attending the field preaching could have been directed to in the flat patch of moss.

The standing stone at Nick Of The Liberty stood near
NX 144 785
214434, 578508
-4.90757, 55.06626

If anyone could find and photograph the Nick Of The Liberty (which certainly exists), or the standing stone (that might exist), it would be of great service putting Peden back into the landscape.

Map of Nick Of The Liberty

If you are interested in finding other lost Alexander Peden sites in Ayrshire, see here.

2. The Cameronian Field Preaching Site at the hill called Brocklock, near Newton Stewart.

At the top of small hill named Brocklock to the north of the A75 west of Newton Stewart and the River Bladnoch is a hollow where the Cameronian Society people/Covenanters are said to have worshipped during the repression of the 1680s.

According to the OS name book ‘Brockloch’, now Brocklock, was:

‘A Small, arable Hill North of the Road leading from Kirkcowan to Newtonstewart & about two miles from Kirkcowan. its E[ast] & W[est] as well as its N[orth] & S[outh] Sides, are very prominent, & each gradually sloping towards the centre forms a basin-like hollow, in which the Cameronian Sect, in the time of the Episcopalian persecution [of the 1680s] are Said to have assembled for divine Worship.’

Presumably, the hollow still survives. Can you find and photograph it?

Map of Brocklock



3. The ‘Preaching Howe’ near Newton Stewart.

Not far from Brocklock (above) is the Preaching Howe, which also lies to the north of the A75 west of Newton Stewart. It was probably where the famous Covenanter John Welsh of Irongray field preached in the late 1670s. According to the OS name book, the Preaching Howe is ‘a small hollow in which it is supposed the Covenanters assembled for Worship during the time of the Conventicles, or, as it is commonly termed in the country “during the persecution”.’

The hollow still survives. Can you find and photograph it?



Whigs Hole Kirkmabrack

4. The Whig’s Hole at Barholm, south of Creetown.
Is this a photograph of the Whig’s Hole at Barholm?


The Whig’s Hole centre? Photograph taken at low tide.

The Whig’s Hole lies off the A75 well to the south of Newton Stewart and beyond Creetown. It lies at the foot of the Heughs of Barholm by the rocky foreshore of the tidal Kirkdale Sands. It is just to the south-east of a cave known as Meg Merrilees Cave/Dick Hatteraick’s Cave, aka. The ‘Cove of Barholm’.


Meg Merrilees Cave/Dick Hatteraick’s Cave on left, the Whig’s Hole on right? Photograph taken at low tide.

According to Barbour’s Unique Traditions of Scotland, there are three caves, as pictured above: ‘The one next to Kirkdale [on the left] bears the name of the Cove of Barholm; that in the middle, the Kaa’s Cave; and the third [on the right], since the days of Charles II., has been named the Whigs’ Hole.’

Caution: The foreshore here is tidal and the Whig’s Hole lies only three feet above the high tide mark. It is probably best to go on a reasonable day and when it is not high tide. Do not be reckless. You can check the tide times for the nearby Ravenshall Point here.

For a practical guide to some of the difficulties of approaching from the road, see the Glebe blog here, that explored the fascinating Cove of Barholm/Merrilees Cave/Dick Hatteraick’s Cave, which lies beside the Whig’s Hole.

Clearly entering a cave is risky. Take a light.

The Whig’s Hole as marked on the 25″ map of c.1900.

Map of the location of the Whig’s Hole

For further details of the Whig’s Hole and the traditional stories connected with it, see here.

Can you find and photograph this secret hiding place of the Covenanters?

5. College Glen, near Moniaive or St Johns Town of Dalry.
The College Glen lies a little off the B729 and roughly half way between Moniaive and St Johns Town of Dalry. According to the OS name book, College Glen is ‘a glen or hollow on the farm of Fingland. It is traditionally handed down that the persecuted Presbyterians used to hold some of their meetings here in the time their persecution [in the 1680s].’

Map of College Glen


Can you find and photograph this secluded place of worship?

Whigs Hole Altry

6. Whig’s Hole on Altry Hill, north of St Johns Town of Dalry.
The Whig’s Hole , or ‘Whighole’, was a secret hiding place of the Covenanters that lies high on the slopes of Altry Hill. For the full story of the Whig’s Hole, see here.

This site is one for experienced walkers as it is a bit of a challenge. It is not far from a road, but is up a steep climb and may involve crossing the Water of Ken and/or The Altry Burn depending on your approach. It is certainly one for a good day and for when the burns are not in spate.

Map of the Whig’s Hole

The “whighole” was first recorded in the Old Statistical Account of the 1790s:

‘On the farm of Altrye, near the top of a hill, there is a trench which seems to have been digged, capable of containing 100 people. As in this trench one has a view of two different roads, at a comfortable distance, without being observed by those persons who travel upon them; the Whigs or the Cameronians, as they are usually styled, are said to have frequently made use of it during the time of the persecution in Scotland, both as a place of refuge, and of observation. Hence it obtained the name of the Whighole, which it bears to this day.’

The site of the ‘Whighole’ lies above the farm of Lorg, aka, Lorgfoot, which was the home Daniel McMichael, one of the original “Cameronians”, a proclaimed traitor and activist in the Society people.

The Whig’s Hole is also supposed to be the spot where two Covenanters, Margaret Gracie and George Allan, were killed, however, those stories are almost certainly made up. The earliest surviving traditions about the Whig’s Hole, or ‘Whighole’, do not mention their deaths at all.

Can you find and photograph this secret Covenanters’ hideout?

If you find and photograph any of these sites, please get in touch via jardinesbookofmartyrs [at] or via my twitter account @drmarkjardine. Full credit for any discovery will be given to you.

Good luck,


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Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please feel free link to this post on Facebook or other social networks or retweet it, but do not reblog in FULL without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine

~ by drmarkjardine on June 22, 2017.

One Response to “Finding “Lost” Landscapes of the Covenanters in Galloway: Making #History. #Scotland”

  1. […] For other “lost” landscapes of the Covenanters in Galoway, see here. […]

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