I had dropped my wife off in Gairloch and had an hour to spare, so on a whim I headed out to Big Sand, about 10 minutes drive further north along Scotland's north-west coast. It was the first time I had visited Big Sand so I had no real idea of how the landscape would look, but I took my camera in the hope that photographic opportunities would present themselves..
I left my car at the end of a single track road, wandered a few hundred metres up the hill on the track that led from it, turned round, and was amazed with this view of Loch Gairloch and the Torridon mountains including Baos Bheinn and Beinn Alligin.
I was so pleased with this image that I've promised myself to go back to this spot and capture it in different moods, but for one reason or another, this is yet to happen.
North-west Highland Place Names
The landscape of the North-west Highlands and the Gaelic language are intimately connected. Other languages have contributed to the richness of our place names, notably Norse, but the North-west Highlands have for centuries been a Gaelic landscape. In listing the meanings of place names I have relied on authoritative sources wherever possible. For further information about sources please refer to North-west Highland Place Names in the main menu.
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]
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.
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’.
Gairloch; Gaelic, village named after the loch of the same name, Loch Gairloch, An Gearr-loch, the short loch.
Loch Gairloch; Gaelic An Gearr-loch, the short loch.
Torridon; Professor Watson gives a detailed account starting with the recorded history of this name – Torvirtayne 1464; Torrerdone 1584; Gaelic Toir(bh)eartan compare with the Irish tairbheart, to transfer, carry over, the infinitive of tairbrim. This would give the place the meaning of ‘place of transference’ with reference to the portage from the head of Loch Torridon through Glen Torridon to Loch Maree. The name applies specially to the strip of land at the head of the loch.
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