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Ballagan

The name of this small settlement near Balloch, on the way to Gartocharn, comes from two Gaelic words: baile (= "enclosure", "settlement", "hamlet"), and lag (= "hollow" [the noun]). The -an ending is a diminutive implying "wee", "little". So "Ballagan" is "small settlement (piece of enclosed land) beside (or in) a wee hollow".

Those who know the area will not argue with that!


Balloch

Balloch is the northernmost "village" in the Vale of Leven. It was much developed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries because of its tourist centre appeal: it is situated at the south end of Loch Lomond, and was the starting point for the Loch Lomond steamers. Its name may reflect this geographical position if the origin, as has been suggested, is the Gaelic beul loch meaning "mouth of the loch", or even baile an loch, "place by the loch". Some think that it is more likely that the ford at the River Leven (where the older bridge stands, and where there was an ancient inn and staging post) was given the common Gaelic name bealach (="ford", "crossing place"). This Gaelic word can also mean "mountain pass".


Barnhill

Barnhill, Dumbarton, is the wooded hill immediately to the north west of Dumbuie. It has been wrongly named "Barwood Hill" on some maps, though that may, fortuitously, be nearer to the original meaning.

It is likely that "Barnhill" is a corruption of Gaelic barr-na-c(h)oille, meaning "little hill with (of) the wood", which certainly describes it to this day. If so, then "Barnhill" can be added to "Bonhill" as an example of an English word "hill" being generated from a combination of Gaelic pronunciation remains and loss of knowledge of the language. There is probably no connection with the English word "barn" either.

The private housing development of the 1970s called Barnhill, incorporating Barnhill Road, is not, in fact, on Barnhill, but nearby, on a slope near the A82.


Bellsmyre

Nowadays Bellsmyre is a housing scheme. It is assumed that the name comes from 'Bell's mire', a piece of marshy land belonging to somebody whose surname was Bell. There is a cottage called Bellsmyre on the main road from Dumbarton to Bonhill, half way between Barloan and the entrance to Strathleven estate. The marshy land may have been low-lying, beneath the slopes where the housing scheme has been built.

Bellsmyre Avenue was the name given to the main street of the original housing development.


Blairlinnans

Blairlinnans is a farm and its associated land about a mile and half south-west of Gartocharn. The common Gaelic prefix blar means "flat field", "plain" or "meadow", while linne is a Gaelic word for "pool", plural in this place name. The "-s" is probably a phonetic accretion. Blairlinnans is, therefore, a rather watery flattish piece of land!


Blairquhomrie

Blairquhomrie (pronounced "blarwhomry") lands are moors towards the south of the Parish of Kilmaronock. The name derives from the common Gaelic prefix blar meaning "flat land" or "plain" together with the Gaelic word comraich meaning "sanctuary" or "protection" (according to Irving in his Place Names of Dumbartonshire).

Assuming this to be correct, there might be a debate about whether the "sanctuary" or "protection" on offer (in the Middle Ages, probably) was of a religious or agricultural kind.


Bonhill

Bonhill is the oldest of the Vale of Leven "villages", and is also the name of the Parish that covers the larger part of the Vale. The name comes from the settlement near the Parish Church where a burn (stream) joins the River Leven on its east side about half way between Dumbarton and Balloch. The name comes from Gaelic both-n-uillt ("bend of, foot of, or house at the burn") - nothing to do with a hill! Locals correctly put the emphasis on the second syllable of "Bonhill", and don't pronounce the "h". This old Gaelic name generated some odd Anglicised spellings in early documents, including "Bothlulle", "Balul" and "Binnuill".

Bonhill Road in Dumbarton was named because at one time it was the main route out of the town for those heading towards Bonhill.