Place Names A - B - Gordon C Harrison
Photo 4028 Sunset over Loch Ewe and Isle of Ewe, Wester Ross

Listed below are all the place names (beginning with A-B) referred to on this  website and for each an explanation, where possible, of it's origin and meaning. Click one of these links to access place name lists for C-E, F-L and M-Z.  

Following the notes for most place names are reference numbers indicating with reference to the source list the source(s) of the information provided. This is an ongoing project and not all the source reference numbers have been updated to each place name. The source list is displayed on the introductory place name page.

The names given in the list below in bold are the names as they appear or Ordnance Survey maps, and in the case of Gaelic and Norse names the map names are often a corruption of their true Gaelic and Norse names. The notes for each place name will, where possible, supply the proper Norse or Gaelic name.

The place name indexes are a work in progress and will be updated as new place names appear in my photographs. There are comment boxes at the end of each place name page and I welcome any thoughts you might have about the place name lists.

A

Abhainn Ghlas; Gaelic for ‘Gray River’, a river running through Flowerdale to exit into Loch Gairloch. Although the village commonly referred to as Gairloch nowadays extends for several kilometers along the coast it is reputed that the original Gairloch was sited where Abhainn Ghlas exits into Loch Gairloch. [1]

A' Chailleach, The Nun, or the old woman. [1]

Achgarve; From the Gaelic is An t-Achadh Garbh meaning ‘the rough field’. [5]

Achiltibuie; The Gaelic is heard as Achd-ille-bhuidhe, or Aichilidh bhuidhe, or Achill bhuidhe. From Professor Watson’s book he states that local tradition gives this name the meaning ‘Field of the yellow lad’ or ‘Cave of the yellow lad’. However he fears that this is mere popular etymology and that the first of the three Gaelic forms is a popular corruption to suit the story. The other two forms are similar to Achilty in Contin, Gaelic Achillidh, and may show the same root as the Welsh uchel, meaning ‘high’. [1]

Achnasheen; The Gaelic is Ach-na-sìn meaning ‘field of storm’; sìan, stormy weather. [1]

A' Chòinneach Mhòr; the mossy place on the steep flanks of Beinn Eighe [12]

Achtercairn; Gaelic is Achd-a’-chàrn meaning ‘Field of the Cairn’. [1]

A’ Chosag; Gaelic; a small hill on the eastern shore of Loch Bad na Sgalaig down which a burn called Allt na Còsaig runs. Apamapa has translated the meaning of the burns name as ‘the burn of the neuk or crevice’; I have assumed that as the name of the hill resembles that of the burn that the name of the hill means ‘the hill of the neuk or crevice’. [10]

Aird; At Badachro, full Gaelic name is Sidhean na h-Airde where Airde refers to a promontory or height and Sidhean to a ‘round’ or ‘fairy hill’. [1, 10]

Aird Point; At Aultbea, the word aird is Gaelic for a promontory in this place name.

Aird na Ban-fhaidhe; Gaelic; Height of the white seer. I am indebted to Kenneth Mackenzies book ‘Place Names in and around Poolewe’ for the meaning of this name. Aird na h-Eighe; Gaelic; written by Professor Watson as Ard na h-Eigheamh, meaning ‘promontory of shouting’ (for the ferry boat to Isle Martin). [1]

Allt na Còsaig; Gaelic; a small stream running into Loch Bad na Sgalaig meaning ‘the burn of the neuk or crevice’. [10]

Allt na Doire Leithe; Stream of the damp copse [13]

Allt na h-Airbhe; Gaelic; Written as Altnaharrie by Watson and in Gaelic it can also be written as Allt na h-Eirbhe. It comes from Loch na h-Airbhe, Loch of the Fence. The fence or wall in question runs along by the north end of the Loch, and so on towards Maoil na h-Eirbhe, Hill of the Fence. It is a very old wall composed of sods and stones. Gaelic airbhe or eirbhe in old Irish is airbe meaning ribs or fence and is not uncommon in place-names. At many places similar old walls exist and their antiquity may be gauged from their appearance, as well as from the fact that the word eirbhe is quite obsolete in the north, and that there is no tradition as to the purpose of them. [1]

A’ Mhaighdean; A mountain in Wester Ross; the name translates as ‘the maiden’. Why it’s called the maiden is not explained by any of my sources. It is however reckoned to be the most inaccessible of Scotland’s mountains due to the 2-3 days backpacking required in order to climb it. A lady friend did say to me that it is called the maiden because it is inaccessible, I have not been able to verify this! [1]

Am Fasarinen; 'The Teeth, a narrow serrated ridge on Liathach in Torridon. [The Scotsman Newspaper]

An Ard; Gairloch, adjoining An Dun, Gaelic; ‘the promontory.

An Coileachan; 'The cockerel'; the application is difficult, but we say 'tha an coileachan air siubhal an diugh' of a fall when spray is seen rising off it ; 'tha coileachan math air a' ghaoith' of a gale ; 'tha coileachan air an loch' of waves. On the other hand the name may mean literally 'Place of grouse cocks' which is the accepted meaning of Kyllachy, G. Coileachai(bh) [1].

An Dun; Gairloch, Gaelic An Dùn; ‘the Fort’, there are traces of such. [1]

An Fhaighear Bheag & Mhóir; A rocky point on the western shore of Loch Ewe at Coast. Listed by Professor Watson [p229] as Am Faithir Beag meaning the little shelving declivity and Am Faithir Mór meaning ‘the big shelving declivity’. I feel that Fhaighear or Faithir is probably the origin of the ‘Fire’ in the place name ‘Firemore’. Note that Dixon when referring to Firemore said that its Gaelic name is Faidhir Mor which he describes as a ‘great market’, from Faidhir, a fair or market. [1,14]

Annat; Gaelic; an Annait, ‘the mother church’. Annat Bay in Gaelic is Linne na-h-Annait or am Polla Mór. Annat graveyard is Cladh na-h-Annait. [1]

An Ruadh Stac; Gaelic; Ruadh, red, Stac, high cliff or hill, precipice.

An Teallach; Gaelic, ‘The Forge’, according to Wikipedia from its colour in certain lighting rather than its shape. From personal experience I can agree with this explanation. In the summer, during a good sunset, and when looking east over Gruinard Bay An Teallach can appear bright red with the reflected light from the sunset in the west. However Professor Watson says that the being called the forge is due either to its smoke like mists or from supposed resemblance to a forge. [1]

An Uidh; A small short stream flowing from Loch Bad na h-Achlaise to the bay at Badachro. Watson states that uidh is from the Norse eith and is common in place-names, where it may mean (i) isthmus, cf. the Eye peninsula at Stornoway, or (ii) according to some, slow running water between two lochs. The latter explanation fits this case. [1]

Applecross; For a full explanation of the origin of this name the reader is referred to Professor Watson’s excellent book – click ‘North-west Highland Place Names’ in the main menu for further information. Summing up his comments it appears that the name means the ‘estuary of the Crosan’ which is the river (Abhain Crosan) that flows into Applecross Bay. The word Crosan is of uncertain origin but is assumed to be Pictish, meaning unknown. [1]

Ardaneaskan; According to Professor Watson this is Ardnaniaskin, which in Gaelic is Aird an fhiasgain, meaning ‘mussel promontory’. [1]

Ardheslaig; The name Ardheslaig has Gaelic and Norse roots. Norse hesla-vik means ‘hazel bay’, and with the Gaelic ard added the name means ‘the point of the hazel bay’. [1] Ardmair; In Gaelic it is Ard Mhèara - ‘finger promontory’. [1]

Ardtreck Point; Gaelic, thought to be aird bhreac - the speckled point. From the Tour Scotland website.

Ardvreck; A small peninsula in Loch Assynt on which a ruined castle sits. Gaelic, Àn aird bhreac - the speckled headland. [5]

Argyllshire; "The coastland of the Gaels". Mid Argyll is Dal Riada, named so after the territory in Ireland where the Scots settlers originated. [5]

Arkle; There is doubt about the meaning of this name and I have come across four definitions. The transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness Volume XVI 1889-90 claim the name is derived from Gaelic earrgheal, a white tailed falcon or eagle, thus it could be ‘the mountain of the white tailed eagle’. Another possibility is given by the Scottish Outdoors website which states the name may derive from the Norse ark-fjall meaning the hill of the level or flat top. Finally Alex MacBain’s ‘Place names Highlands and Islands of Scotland’ published in 1922 suggests the name may derive from arg-fell meaning ‘Shieling’s Fell’ or from Arkfell meaning ‘ark like’.

Assynt; From the Norse Asaint or Asaint meaning ‘ridge end’. [1, 5]

Attadale; At Loch Carron. Possibly Norse from at-dalr, fight dale. Professor Watson says that the Norsemen were fond of horse fights, hesta at and this level strath would be good for that purpose. [1]

Aultbea; From Watson; In Gaelic it is an Fhàin - the gentle slope, locative case of am Fàn. The real Aultbea, Gaelic Allt-Beithe, ‘birch burn’ is the stream that runs through the village. The Aultbea coast in Gaelic is an t-Eirthire Donn, ‘the brown coast’. The Scottish Parliament website claims that an older Gaelic name for Aultbea was Am Fàn Braonach, meaning ‘the slope of the Loch Broom area’. Considering the distance between Aultbea and Loch Broom I find this an odd connection. [1]

B

Bad á Chreamha; A hill near Strome Castle, Gaelic meaning ‘Clump of the wild garlic’. [1]

Badachro; from the Gaelic Bad a Chrotha which is defined by Professor Watson as the clump of the fold. Dixon’s Gairloch defines it as grove of the cruive, from bad, a grove; chro, possessive of cro, a cruive, a fank. [1]

Badcaul; Gaelic is am Bad-call meaning ‘the hazel clump’. [1]

Baddidarach; A small town in Sutherland. The usual references failed me but I did find a reference to this place name on the linguae-celticae.org website. There I learned that the Gaelic name for this place is Bad an Daraich which based on my limited knowledge of Gaelic translates to ‘the clump of oak (trees)’.

Badluarach; Written as Badluachrach by Watson. The clump of rushes, from luachair, rushes. [1]

Ballachulish; In Gaelic it is written as Baile a' chaolais and means "settlement on the strait". The strait in question is Caolas Mag Phadraig - Peter or Patrick's narrows, at the mouth of Loch Leven. This information was obtained from the Ballachulish Community Council website.

Baosbheinn; Watson lists it as Bus-bheinn; Gaelic Badhais-bhinn (or baoghais-bhinn, ao short). The phonetics do not admit the popular explanation - Forehead Hill from the Gaelic bathais. The name is probably a hybrid of the same type as Suilven, Blaven, Goatfell, Gaelic Gaota-bheinn, where Norse fell, a wild hill, has been translated into Gaelic beinn, the first part being left untranslated. The Apamapa website states that the current local Gaelic is Badhaisbheinn which might mean the ’mountain of the hunt’. [1, 10]

Bealach na Bà; The pass of the cattle, from Gaelic Bealach, ‘pass’ and Bà, ‘cow’. From visitwester-ross.com.

Beinn a' Bheithir; Several websites state this to mean the ‘Mountain of the thunderbolt’ but both the Scottish Place Name Society and the Scottish Parliament website note bheithe as referring to birch, as in birchwood.

Beinn a' Chàisgein Mór; Listed by Dixon as Beinn a Chaisgean which may be a corruption of caisg; Easter. Apamapa translates the name as ‘the big mountain of Cashken’. Watson lists the mountain but offers no explanation of the meaning of the name. I have not been able to source any other explanations. [1, 10, 14]

Beinn a' Chlaidheimh; Hill of the Sword

Beinn Airigh Charr; Gaelic. Listed by Watson as Binn Airigh a’ Charr and explained as ‘hill of the shieling of the projecting rock or shelf’. Listed in Dixon’s ‘Gairloch & Guide to Loch Maree’ as Beinn Aridh Charr its meaning is given as ‘the mountain of the rough shieling’ from the following roots; Beinn, ‘mountain’, aridh (accepted spelling is àirigh), ‘a shieling’, charr, a corruption of garbh, ‘rough’. [1, 14]

Beinn Alligin; Listed as Beinn Ailiginn by Watson. This mountain is named after the stream Abhainn Alligin The name Alligin is usually connected with àilleag, a jewel, a pretty woman, which may possibly be correct but Professor Watson says the single 'l' in àiliginn is a serious difficulty. [1]

Beinn a' Munidh; So called from a thin waterfall in its face, called Steall a' Mhuinidh ; mhuinidh - to piss. [1]

Beinn an Eòin; Gaelic, meaning ‘bird hill’. [1]

Beinn Bhan; Listed by Professor Watson as A’ Bhinn Bhàn, meaning ‘the white hill. [1]

Beinn Bheag; The little Hill [12]

Beinn Dearg (Bheag and Mór); Gaelic; ‘the Red Hill’ (small and big). [1]

Beinn Ghobhlach; Gaelic A’ Bheinn Ghobhlach; the forked hill. [1]

Beinn na Caillich; On Skye near Broadford. The name is Gaelic and mans ‘Hill of the old woman’ and is sad to be named after a Norwegian or Danish Princess (or her nurse whose remains are interred on the summit. This information was obtained from the virtualhebrides.com website.

Beinn nan Caorach; Gaelic; ‘mountain of the sheep’.

Beinn Eighe; Gaelic meaning ‘file peak’ from its serrated outline as seen from Kinlochewe. [1]

Beinn Enaiglair; Hill of the timid Birds [Google]

Beinn Ghobhlach; The forked Hill [1]

Beinn Lair; To be taken in connection with Ard-lair; there are two rocks near this promontory in Loch Maree called an Lair, the mare, and an Searrach, the foal. The meaning is thus Mare- hill, and Mare-promontory. [1]

Beinn Tarsuinn; Cross-hill or transverse hill. The hill's east/west ridge lies at right angles to a north/south ridge running from Beinn a' Chlaidheimh to Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair. [1]

Beinn Tharsuinn Chaol; The narrow cross-hill or transverse hill. [1, 12]

Ben Mór Coigach; The highest Coigach peak, see Coigach.

Ben Stack; I have been unable to find a translation in any of my references of the mountain name but I feel fairly confident that this is a hybrid Gaelic/Norse name. In Gaelic it is Beinn Stack. I believe Stack is derived from the Norse stakkr meaning ‘precipitous rock’, an apt description for this extremely steep sided pyramidal mountain.

Bidein a' Ghlas Thuill; According to Professor Watson the local Gaelic is Spidean a' Ghlas Thuill meaning ‘pinnacle of the green (or grey) hole’ or perhaps ‘hollow’.

Big Sand; According to Watson it s called in Gaelic Sannda Mhor, derived from the Norse Sand meaning ‘sand’ or ‘beach’. Dixon agrees on the meaning but quoted a different Gaelic name for the place, Sanda a chorran, ‘the sand of the shingly beach’.

Boor; A small settlement on the western shore of Loch Ewe. Both Watson and the Scottish Parliament propose it is derived from a Norse word búr-á meaning ‘bower stream. J H Dixon offers two explanations, that it is from a word containing the root boor, meaning ‘roaring’ because stags used to roar here. The other explanation is that it is from the Gaelic word buradh, meaning a ‘bursting forth of blood’.

There is a story in Dixon’s ‘Gairloch & Guide to Loch Maree’ regarding Dixon’s latter explanation. Before McLeod’s got possession of the Gairloch area (of which Boor is part) it was held by a tribe of Macbeths. On one encounter between the Lord of Kintail’s men and the MacBeaths one of the MacBeaths was shot by an arrow which pierced him “in the thickest of his flesh”. In making an escape, running with the arrow still in him, he ran down the brae to a place which is called Boora to this day. When he pulled the arrow out, a buradh, or bursting forth of blood came after it. A nice story, but as Watson is the pre-eminent scholar in the field of place names it is more likely that his less romantic explanation is the correct one. [1, 5, 14]

Boust Hill; On Skye, I could find no references to this name. However Alex MacBain’s ‘Place names of Highlands & Islands of Scotland’ explains that ‘bost’ is a common suffice in place names from the Norse bólstaðr meaning steading or farm. So perhaps it means ‘farm hill’. [11]

Bracadale; Gaelic is Bràcadal. One source (Scottish Parliament) states it is derived from Norse and means ‘slope valley’ while another source claims it means ‘place of meeting of townships. [5]

Braemore; Gaelic am Bràigh’ Mór, ‘the big upper part’. [1]

Braes of Ullapool; Gaelic Bruthaichean Ullabuil, ‘the hillside of Ullapool’. [1]

Broadford; From the Gaelic An-t-Àth Leathann meaning ‘the broad ford’. [5]

Buachaille Etive Mor; Gaelic meaning ‘The great herdsman of Etive’, from Wikipedia.

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