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Updated 07/17/2017


Bonnie Galloway

Galloway (Gaelic: Gall-Ghàidhealaibh) is a region in southwestern Scotland comprising the historic counties of Wigtownshire and Kirkcudbrightshire.  Spelling variations of this name include Gallouay, Galoway, Gallaway, Gallway, Gallawaye, and Galloay.  The name Galloway is derived from the Gallgaidhel, or Gallwyddel (“Stranger Gaels”), the original Celtic people of this region, called Novantae by the Romans. The last “king” of Galloway died in 1234. During the 14th century the Balliols and Comyns were the chief families, succeeded about 1369 by the Douglases (until 1458) and in 1623 by the Stewarts. The 17th-century Scottish Presbyterians known as the Covenanters found much support throughout the region.

Galloway’s economy is predominantly pastoral in the lowlands, based on dairy farming of the indigenous hornless Galloway cattle.

Wigtownshire or the County of Wigtown, which forms the western portion of the ancient district of Galloway, appears to have derived its name from the situation of its chief town on an eminence whose base was washed by the sea.  After the departure of the Romans, the province became part of the territories of the Northumbrian kings until the ninth century, when it fell into the power of the Picts who continued to exercise a kind of sovereign authority, even after the union of the two kingdoms by Kenneth II.  But the original Celtic inhabitants retained their ancient customs and heroic character which caused them to be known as the "wild Scots of Galloway."  The county consists of 17 parishes. 

Kirkcudbrightshire forms the eastern portion of the historic province of Galloway.  After the departure of the Romans from Great Britain in the 5th century ad, the Celtic Britons of Kirkcudbrightshire faced invasions by Scots, Angles, Norwegians, and Danes. The Norsemen ruled the region for 300 years after they invaded it about ad 800. Unlike the rest of Scotland, Galloway retained its own code of laws until the late 14th century, a circumstance that vested great power in the region’s feudal barons. In 1245 John de Balliol became overlord of Kirkcudbrightshire through the inheritance of his wife, Devorgilla, daughter of Alan, lord of Galloway. The Balliols, who owned great estates in England and France, brought the best of Norman civilization to the county. Kirkcudbrightshire also became the home of two large Cistercian abbeys, one at Sweetheart (1273–1605) that was endowed by Devorgilla and one at Dundrennan (1142–1605), both of which are now impressive ruins. Kirkcudbrightshire was the site of bitter religious controversy during the Scottish Reformation in the mid-16th century. The royal burgh and former county town of Kirkcudbright, along the estuary of the River Dee, remains the principal town in the area, along with Castle Douglas and Dalbeattie.