Local tradition has it that the name Alness applies primarily to the spot where the Parish Church stands, which is at once probable from analogy, and confirmed by old maps and by the fact that south of the church is Pair Alanais, Alness Park. The name, therefore, has nothing to do with the Norse ness, a point. Its ending; ais is that seen in Dallas, etc., and the first part is identical with Allan in E. Ross and the Black Isle Allans. There are at least three Scottish rivers called Allan, and this is supposed to be the modern form of the Alaunos of Ptolemy, who also mentions Alauna as a town of the Damnonii. Two roots seem possible; ail, a rock, and that seen in Latin pal-us, a marsh, which in Celtic would drop initial p. Culcraggie and Balachraggan (below), which adjoin the Church of Alness, favour ail; one of the other Allans is Allan nan clach. But another is Bog Allan. Further, Allan in, E. Ross, while far from stony, lies low, and was once, doubtless, marshy, while close by Alness Church is a burn and a low damp meadow. Local evidence therefore suggests the meaning of Allan to be ‘the bog,’ and of Alness, ‘place of the Allan, or wet place.’ Of the Welsh and Cornish rivers Alun.
a point west of Alness point. The ‘stell,’ or fishing station of Ardroy is mentioned in 1479; also “the Flukaris croft.”
G. Tigh ‘n aonaich,
Moor-house, or Market-house.
The name appears in the Retours, but not in the Ex. R., where the modern Teaninich appears as “the two Culmelathquhyis” (th=ch), 1479 and passim;
The two Culmalochies were thus Over and Nether Culmalochy.
G. Cnoc na cùil; the higher part of the village, in rear of the main street. Balnacoule 1583.
G. Cuil-chreagaidh, Rocky-nook,
creagaidh being the old locative of creagach. The banks of the burn which adjoins the are steep, but not rocky. The reference is rather to large boulders with which part of the farm near the present house was once strewn.
Town of the little rock.
G. Bail’ na creige. Rocktown, so called from the precipitous banks of the Alness River close by.
‘congeries of hillocks,’ accurately descriptive.
Of Conachreig, Coneas, Contin, etc. A park at the east side of the Boath road, near the Contullich farm-servants’ cottages, is called An Triubhais, the Trews, probably because of a resemblance to that article of dress at a time when the field was only partly reclaimed.
Cleft of the yellow flowers.
(always with the article both in English and Gaelic, which latter is sounded as the Eng.), referred to in the New Stat. Acc as Novar Inn. The name appears in Jamieson’s Scottish Dict. As Tilliesoul, “a place at some distance from a gentle-man’s mansion-house, where the servants and horses of his guests are sent when he does not choose to entertain the former at his own expense.” He gives also the form ’tilliesow.’ Derived by Jamieson from French ‘tous les souls,’ the place where all the drunkards congregate, or ’tillet les soulds,’ soldiers billet, a place where soldiers are quartered out with money to pay for lodging; or, G. ‘tulach an t-sabhail,’ barn-hillock. The last is out of the question. The Tallysow is by the roadside, near Novar House, and there is another Tallysow near Maryburgh.
G. Tigh ‘n fhuamhair, Giant’s house.
Fyrish (farm and hill);
the spelling varies almost with each appearance, and sometimes becomes even Fischerie; probably from Norse ‘fura’ or ‘fyri,’ pine-tree. Fyrish is and was noted for its wood. To the back of Fyrish hill, towards Ardoch, is Poll a’ Mhucainn, Poll of the place of swine. Here, according to local tradition, was concluded the Communion service held at Obsdale in 1675, which was broken up on the approach of a party of soldiers sent to apprehend the minister.
Ballavoulin; Bail’ a mhuilinn, Mill-town
Norse ‘áss,’ rocky ridge; ‘endi,’ end.
Of Assynt in Sutherland.
Aultgrande; G. an t-allt-grannda, the ‘ugly burn’ which flows through the famous Black Rock.
Cladh Churadain; (see Church names)
Druim nan Damh; Stag ridge.
Redburn; G. an t-allt dearg.
G. an ùig,
‘vik,’ bay, but it is well inland. And so is an extension of the primary meaning.
G. an t-socaich, a locative from ‘soc,’ snout, fore part of anything, with the suffix-ach. Common as a name for places that project.
An Lainn; Loc. Of lann, enclosure ; very rare in Scottish names, but of. Lhanbryde ; an Garbhlainn (Anglicised Caroline) on the farm of Tullich, Strathnairn. Part of Lainn is am blàr borraich; borrach is a species of rough grass. Near Glen-glass School.
Lorgbuie; G. an lorg bhuidhe, the yellow track.
Achnagou; ‘Gobhal,’ fork ; ‘field of the fork.’
Balnard; Town of the height
Eilean na Cabhaig; (In Val. Roll Ellancavie), Island of the hurry. With it goes Bruach dian, steep bank.
Loch a’ Chapuill; ‘Capull,’ horse ; Horse Loch.
Meall an Tuirc; ‘Torc,’ boar ; Boar’s Hill.
Bendeallt; (Bénnjullt), on O.S.M. Beinne na diollaide ; an un-Gaelic- looking name ; possibly corrupt.
Cnoc Léith; or, Cnoc an liath bhaid, hill of the grey clump. (O.S.M. Cnoc Liath Fad).
Cnoc Coille Bhrianain; (O.S.M. Cnoc a’ Ghille Bhrònaich), now often simply ‘Brianan ; Hill of Brendan’s wood ; but ‘coille’ is almost certainly a recent corruption of ‘gille,’ servant follower.
Loch a’ Mhàgraidh; From màg, pawing, paw ; also toad, Loch of the place of toads (possibly of pawing) ; of. Mucarach, from muc, pig.
Sgor a’ Chaoruinn; Rowan-tree rock.
Meall nam bò; Cow-hill.
Kildermorie (see Church names).
Above the old chapel is Creag na Cille, Church-rock, below which is Glaic nan Clerach, where the parson of Kilmuir was killed by the parson of Kildermorie (or vice versa) ; near the chapel is Tobar Mhoire. Mary’s Well. A market, Feill Mhoire, was once held here. The waters of Loch Moir, G. Loch Mhoire, are locally reputed to have under-ground outlet to Loch Glass, a tradition noted by Macfarlane (c. 1750), who says that its waters sanctify those of L. Glass. Between Kildermorie and Teaninich. On the north side of Loch Moir is Allt na Fuirrid. Ir. furbaide, a cutting out?
Leathad Riabhach; The ‘brindled hill-side,’ north of Loch Moir-a precipitous rocky face.
‘Màm,’ large round hill ; M. Ir. ‘mamm,’ breast. Cf. ‘Cioch’ as a hill name.
Kinloch; Loch-end ; at the end of Loch Moir.
Bothmore 1583 ;
G. na Bothachan, the places of booths or huts. The name applies to Cnoc a’ Bhoth, Hill of the booth, which runs north and south at its western end, to Cnoc ‘Chroisg, Hill of the crossing. In Cnoc a’ Bhoth is Creag a’ Bhoth, Rock of the Booth, and under it, Both-bhig, with a field, am Blàran Odhar, the dun field, at the top of which is a sloping piece of grass called am Bard, the meadow, a name common in the district; not yet obsolete in Badenoch speech. Both-mhòr is next to Glaick. The great cairns of Boath are noted below. There are hut circles and numerous tumuli on Cnoc Alasdair, and on the highest of the hillocks to the east of Strone are the ruins of a hill-fort or broch with many tumuli on its south-east side, and a hut circle to the west.
Poll na Cuilc; Reedy pool, in the river east of Kinloch.
Strone; Nose ; Cnoc na Sròin, the hill running to a point which separates Boath from Strathrusdale, West of the Strone peat road is Druim na Ceardaich, Smithy Ridge, with a curious circular ruin, said to have been a smithy. East of it An Ruigh Dreighean, Thorn-slope, with a small cairn.
Glaick; G. a’ ghlaic, the hollow ; part of the farm so called is the highest cultivated land in Boath. Near it is an t-Uchdan the terrace, breast-let.
Duchan; Probably based on dubh, black ; the little black place.
Ballone; Bail’ an lòin, town of the loan, or wet meadow. Above the farm-house is Am Bàrd, the meadow.
Allt na’ Cnuimheag; Burn of worms ; explained locally be reference to a skirmish with cattle lifters which took place near it, after which the dead were left unburied.
Milltown; G. Baile-mhuilin.
G. An Cnoc-liath,
grey hill from the grey appearance given by the two great cairns on the moor. One of these has an oval megalithic chamber, once vaulted, and still over eight feet deep. The other is much destroyed.
‘Ach,’ field ;
It is adjacent to the cairns ; ‘fields of the cairns.’
Clais na’ mial; A small winding glen opposite the road leading to Acharn ; ‘saltus pediculorm,’ locally explained (1) from its convenient privacy, (2) from the poverty of its grass and consequent effect on cattle. But ‘mial’ is used here in its old general sense of ‘animal’; ‘beasts’ hollow.’
Balnagrotchen; Bail’ nan croitean, croft-township ; the hill to the south west is Cnoc na Leacachan. (O.S.M. Cnoc liath na h-Acain).
Balmainach; G. Bail’ meadhonach, Middle-town ; between Acharn and Loanroidge.
G. An Lòn-roid, wet meadow of bog-myrtle, which is very plentiful here. East of the farm-house is a pretty meadow by the river-side, called Bàrd nan Laogh, calves’ meadow. Further along is The Assarow, G. an asaradh, a stretch of pasture sloping up from the river, based on fasair or asair, pasturage. It has no connection with Ir. Assaroe. Below the Assarow is Am Poll Ruadh, the red pool, the deepest in the Boath part of the rive.
Pollag Aitionn; Juniper pool ; in the river below Loanroidge Farm. Known also as Poll nam morbh, Pool of the fish spears. It is a good pool for salmon and sea trout. East of it is
Poll na’ Clàr; As this is a good place for crossing by leaping from stone to stone, the meaning may well be that seen in many similar Irish names, Pool of the Boards, i.e., planks to facilitate crossing.
Cnoc ‘Chroisg; ‘Crasg,’ a crossing ; the hill over which the road crosses into Boath. The old road crossed rather to the west of the present road.
Lealdy 1622 ;
G. Lethalltaidh ; ‘leth-allt,’ half-burn, i.e., the sloping land on one side of the burn, common as Leault, but here it shews the &SHY; ie termination. A ‘Leault’ is usually a ‘one-sided burn, and is so here. East of Lealty and north of Ardoch is a wooded hill, Cnoc Churadair, a name which looks like “hill of the sower,” but it really stands for Cnoc Churadain, St Curitan’s hill.
An Corran; Dimin. Of ‘coire,’ corry.
Ardoch; G. An àrdach, the high place. Below it, north of the present road, is An Cabhsair fliuch, the wet causeway, part of the old road.
Baddans; G, Na Badanan, the little copses. A little south of the farm-house and east of the road is Am Bàrd, a nice flat field.
Clais druim bhàthaich; Cleft of the byre-ridge. Auchvaich and Ardache appear in 1608 as pendicles of Contullich.
Multowy 1490 ;
G. Multabhaidh, an extension of ‘mult,’ wedder; place of wedders. Cf. Muckovie, place of swine. The termination represents an early &SHY;ab-, -ob-, -ub-. Cf. Cen-abum, Or obis, Es-ubii.
Cnoc Duchary; Probably ‘dubh-chàthraidh,’ the black-moss-place. A great cairn containing cists stood on its easter slope.
Cnoc Céislein; Hill at back of Fyrish ; a derivative of Ir. ‘céis,’ sow. It is a broad-backed hill, and faces Meall an Tuirc (Boar’s Hill) on the west. Cf. The Boar of Badenoch and the Sow of Atholl. East of it is Poll a’ Mhucainn, noted above.
The local name of the Alness River. The local derivation is worth recording. Once on a time there lived at Kinloch a widow with two sons. One died suddenly, and not long there after the second was drowned in crossing the ford above Poll na Cuilc. When the sad news was brought to the mother, she exclaimed, “M’ ath bhròn!” ( My second sorrow!), whence the river is called Averon to this day. A similar derivation is locally given for Carn-averon in Aberdeenshire. The name is best regarded as an extension of O. Ir. ab, river, with diminutive termination – Abh-ar-an. Strictly it is said to apply only to the part from L. Moir to the junction at Strathrusdale. An equation with the Gaulish Avara, though tempting, would be rash. Cf. Strathrory, Avoch.
Ceann-uachdarach: “lands of Candwachterach with its brewhouse (cum brasina),” 1642; upperhead ; beyond Kildermorie, but of old evidently a less lonely place than it is now. It was near the drove road from the north of Dingwall.
Càrn Sonraichte; Cairnehondrig 1619 ; ‘notable cairn,’ north of Kildermorie.
Loch Bad-a-bhàthaich; Loch of the byre-clump. About a mile to the east of it is Clach àirigh a’ Mhinistir, Stone of the Minister’s shieling.
Creachainn nan Sgadan -; Bare hill-top of the herring. There is a local tradition of a shower of herring, which may be founded on fact : for inland places in Ireland similarly named, see Joyce II., 312.
Bad-sgàlaidh; (Also Bothan Bad-sgàlaidh), about five miles beyond Kildermorie, and noted for ghosts ; Ir. scàl, spectre ; “Spectre-clump.” In this direction, near the river, is Braonan, the little wet place ; v. Fairburn.
Place Names of Alness Parish
This extract was taken, with the permission of the Trustees, from Prof. W.J. Watson’s – ‘Place Names of Ross and Cromarty’. The most recent edition of this work was published by HIGHLAND HERITAGE BOOKS Tir nan Oran, 8 Culcairn Road, Evanton IV16 9YT
Place Names of Ross and Cromarty p75 onwards