As a place-name researcher I come across much material which does not get included in the database but is nonethtless interesting. This piece hopes to be the first in a number looking at such place-names.
The following name was brought to my attention whilst compiling and editing my book Scottish Gaelic Place-names, based on the manuscripts of Charles Robertson. On p. 271 there is a mention of a place called Glaic an Rìgh ‘the King’s hollow’. In his place-name list he mentions it as being in Logierait ‘going up from the manse gate’. In another manuscript he gives more information although he seems unsure about the exact nature of the story:
“A King living at Logierait where the Atholl Monument now stands conceived such an aversion to his queen that he caused the cutting now called Glaic an Righ to be made so that he could pass up and down to his residence without seeing her (or being seen by her?) The queen is stated to have lived at Baile an Dùin.” (MS372, p. 323)
The New Statistical Accounts mention the place as an antiquary but with no extra information:
“Glaic an Righ is a hollow way cut through the side of a steep eminence which forms part of the glebe. This is supposed to have been the access to the royal residence and must have been a work of immense labour.” 1845 New Stat. Acc. (Logierait) p. 690. (Rev. Samuel Cameron).
The name is remembered in Dixon’s 1925 Past and Present in Pitlochry, p. 34 albeit in a slightly altered form:
“The late Rev. Andrew Meldrum, Minister of Logierait Parish, showed the writer many years ago the hollow on the hillside sloping down from the west corner of the terraced plateau to the lower level opposite the commencement of the private drive to the Manse at Logierait. He said this hollow was still called the “King’s Hollow” (Clais-an-righ) and that when forming a drain or conducting some other operation involving deeper working of the land than ordinary ploughing, he came upon a regularly built roadway leading from the higher level to the lower by the easiest practicable gradient. Mr. Meldrum built a cottage in the King’s Hollow, which is otherwise unaltered. Thus there still linger in Logierait traditions of the Kings of Scotland who annually sojourned in this beautiful country.”
Here the generic element glaic has been swapped for clais, of a similar meaning. The cottage mentioned is presumably one visible on Google maps in the link above.
Fortunately, a fuller version of the story is preserved in a letter to Sir Walter Scott. Scott was very interested in Highland folklore, often incorporating it into his works. A letter dated 20th July 1825 from a Stewart Hepburne now located in MS874 at the National Library of Scotland describes the story in much more detail:
“… I learned from the minister of Logierait the following little tradition relating to a hunting seat of King Robert, the ruins of which now almost [is] defaced, now pointed out at that place. Along the front of the Castle is a fine esplanade intersected by a deep cut or covering[?] descending towards the Tay, called “Glaic an Righ” the Kings hollow or passage. At Cloichfoldich, about 4 or 5 miles distant, but within view of the Castle is a conical mount or Moot hill of a very rigid form flowered with a fine sward. The tradition says that in these days the fair Dame of Clochfoldich a “lassie light o laits” & cher amie to the Warrior King, raised this mount that she might see from its summit the stately form of her Royal lover as he walked on the terrace or rode out to the Chase:- and that in token of the object[?] of her affection, she caused the soil of which it is formed to be passed through a fine sieve. The ‘Glaic an Righ’ owes its existence to the jealousy of the queen, who formed this deep cut from the Castle gateward[?] that the King might pass to his sports[?] on flood or fell unseen of the sighing fair one.”
The two main versions seem to tell opposite stories, in the Robertson version the feature was made by the King to be a wall to obstruct the view between the area of the Atholl monument and somewhere else. In the Scott version it was the hollow which was made by the queen used as a line of sight between some spot and Tom na Croiche to the east which has ‘castle’ marked on it. The glaic does indeed line up well with this spot. The fact the name refers to the ‘king’ rìgh may suggest Robertson’s story is the original. In all likelihood however the name has had several different stories attached to it at different times.