Stow of Wedale

Stow of Wedale

Old St. Mary’s Kirk, built in the mid-13th century, is fabled to have been commissioned by King Arthur himself.

The parish, Stow of Wedale or Wedele developed in what became the county of Midlothian, located in the central Lowlands. By most accounts, it seems that Wedale is derivative of the Old English words “wēoh (or wīg) meaning ‘shrine’ and dæl meaning ‘valley’” and Stow or stōw simply indicating ‘holy place’ or ‘meeting place’.1

This seems fitting for a place so aptly named, to have been associated as a sanctuary of sorts for ancient Scotland, and a place oft held to religious significance.

The church and city of St. Andrews had held strong ties with the area; a former Archbishop of St. Andrews even made his summer home among the hills of Stow of Wedele. Older remnants of chapels and churches mark the landscape even today and a local myth poses one of such buildings was commissioned by the legendary King Arthur.

Ruins of the early 16th century manor of the Archbishop of St. Andrews.

Other theories surrounding the origin of Wedale hold to more Celtic roots. An excerpt from Gavin Main Waddell’s history reads:

…Thomas Wilson in his most comprehensive book The Stow of Wedale, published in 1924, is the most interesting, namely “Wedale is a corruption of Goidel the ancient race name of the Celts or a synonym for Gael (Gwyddle is the Welsh name for the irish and by dropping the ‘g’ in its Cumbrian form it becomes Wyddel, hence Widdell, Woddell, Wedale, and Waddel which are all forms of the same name)”. The ancestral figure Goidel Glas was of great genealogical significance to the early Irish Church. Wilson goes on to say, “Wedale is the one tract of the country which, by it’s name bears witness to the Goidelic stock, whose kingdom, at one time stretched from Northumbria as far North as the Tay.”

Gavin Main Waddell goes on to cite a Rev. Duncan MacGregor and his work, St. Columba, 1897 in which he explores how “The Cumbrians or Welsh of Scotland spoke a dialect of the old British language, one peculiarity of this dialect was the omission of the letter ‘g’ in words beginning with ‘gw’…” and therefore, the Scot Gaelic “Goidel” became Wydell, and ultimately Waddell.2

Today, Stow of Wedele is mostly referred to just as Stow. With little over 700 residents and just a fifty-minute car ride north to the capital of Edinburgh, Stow still manages to reflect the quiet, quaint image it once had.

This Pack-Horse bridge over the Gala Water, a river, was used as a means to travel sheep, horse, and other cattle from one side of the bank to the other.

1Stow of Wedale, Wikipedia
2A History of the Waddells of Scotland. Gavin Main Waddell. 2013.

Images (in order of appearance):
© Copyright Iain Lees and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons.
© Copyright John Lord and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons.
© Copyright James Denham and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons.
Featured image: © Copyright G Laird and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons.



About the author


I write comics, draw penguins, and research family genealogy. Sometimes, all at once.

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