Ghoul’s Den

Ghoul’s Den ~ KLM R NO387229 1 351

    the Gowlis den 1586 RPC iv, 117 [Thomas Douglas, minister of Balmerino, is assaulted coming ‘fra the kirk of Balmerinoch ... toward Sanctandrois’, by men lying in wait ‘at ane pairte thairof callit the Gowlis Den’]
    Goule’s Den 1790s OSA, 466 [see discussion below]
    Goales Den 1845 NSA ix, 533 [‘the only fissure of any importance in the parish’]

Sc gowl + Sc den

In spite of the modern spelling implying some ghostly presence, the origin of the name is more likely to lie in Sc gowl ‘narrow pass or cleft between hills’ (CSD), than in SSE ghoul. However, its eerie credentials were already well on the way to being established by the 1790s, when the local minister describes the Goule’s Den as follows: ‘a romantic rocky den, cut deep in the face of the mountain ... By those who live near it, no explanation of the name is given. The manner in which it is written here would lead any one acquainted with the Arabian Nights Entertainments to imagine that superstitious errors had peopled with the destroying demons mentioned in one of these stories. The fact is that dismal reports of what had been seen and heard there were in other days circulated, reports which have had often less to gain them credit than the dismal gloom which the shades of night must draw over that rugged unfrequented scene’ (OSA, 466). OS Name Book (43, 21) adds yet another twist to the tale: ‘A small ravine or Valley through which a Stream flows, and is planted with Larch, Fir and Forest trees, on the Estate of Kilmany. The derivation of the name is not known: Mr Henderson[246] supposes Gowl to be a sort of Badger’. I do not know what word Mr Henderson had in mind.

    Through this den runs a burn that rises near Dandies Wood in the north and flows south to enter the Pitedie Burn at NO388226.

    Locally it is always named with the definite article (JMH).

/ðəˈgəulz dɛn/

This place-name appeared in printed volume 4