Fifty shades of landscape

Gaelic, Norse, Brittonic? A look into the history and origins of placenames around our area

Cairn on Dunan Liath. cc-by-sa/2.0 © Ian Shiell –

There are two different words for grey in Scottish Gaelic: glas or greenish grey, and liath, a light grey of a blueish hue. Place names in the area related to the glas shade of grey are Glaschoille, a ‘green-grey wood’ near Croick, and Creagan Glas, a ‘greenish grey rock’ north of Loch Buidhe (which in turn means ‘yellow loch’). A chambered cairn, hut circles and clearance cairns were found in Drumliah (from Drum-liath) north of Bonar Bridge. Drum is of Scots origin meaning a long narrow ridge or knoll. Cnoc an Liath-bhaid is the ‘hill of the grey clump’ on the east side of the Easter Fearn burn, opposite the Struie hill. The 682m high Dùnach Liath is ‘the grey place of forts’. Both Leac Ghorm, ‘the blue-green hillside’, and Dunan liath, ‘grey little fort’, are beyond Coir’ a’ Mhalagain (‘Hollow of the little bag’) near Glencalvie.

by Silvia Muras

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