gaelic culture, gaelic language and placenames, the natural world

Ardgour placenames- Ainmean Àite Àird Ghobhar

Placenames can tell us a lot about an area – our history is recorded in the names of our glens, burns, hills and lochs, and they tell us about people, events, nature, industry and more. Most of the older place names in Ardgour are Gaelic, and a quick look at an Ordnance Survey map shows that many placenames survive in their original form, whilst other have been anglicised, but these names, connected to even the smallest features - streams, hillocks and hollows – all tell their own story.

As you walk through the village you’ll see bilingual roadsigns in Gaelic and English – Ardgour itself was originally Àird Ghobhar, the height of the goats, and there are still wild goats to be seen in the area, particularly in the south of the parish around Kingairloch. The area around the ferry is known as Corran – Corran Àird Ghobhair, the gravel-spit of Ardgour, describing the headland that forms the ferry narrows here. The Corran also divides Loch Linnhe in two – the waters to the north, between Corran and Fort William, is An Linne Dhubh, The Dark Water, and to the south is An Linne Sheileach, the Salt or Brackish Water, indicating where the tidal starts to merge with the inland lochs.

If you fancy walking a little further north, you’ll find Keil house and Keil farm – and in the farm fields a small graveyard, Cill Mhaodain, which gives them their name. The burial ground of St Maodan or Baodan, is named for a 6thC Irish monk who came to the area to spread the gospel, and is still used as the final resting place of the MacLeans of Ardgour.

The impressive corrie – or mountain-hollow above Ardgour has two summits – Druim na Sgriodain – the Scree Slope to the south, and to the north the hill known today as Sgùrr na h-Eanchainne, the peak of the intellect. But it’s possible, as Gaelic receded in this area, that this is a corruption of a name describing the hill as – Sgùrr na h-Eanaich – the peak of the matgrass. And pouring down from the corrie itself is a waterfall known as Tubhailte-Làimh Mhic ’ic Eòghainn – the Hand-towel of MacLean of Ardgour. The traditional names in the patronymic – or father-to-son name form used by the lairds of Ardgour – follow through to today’s young generations.

As told by local resident and musician Mary Ann Kennedy as part of a self-guided Ardgour audio trail. Hear therecording and access the full trail at

Image: Tubhailte-Làimh Mhic ’ic Eòghainn – the Hand-towel of MacLean of Ardgour