Tarbat Place Names
Attribution: unknown (Tarbat Free Church and Portmahomack Caravan Site)
Arterbert 1227 ;
Terbert 1529 ;
Tarbat 1561-66 ;
G Tairbeart, a crossing, portage, isthmus.
The land of Estirterbate stands first in the list of lands given in the Exchequer Rolls as belonging to John, last Earl of Ross, which passed to the Crown on his resignation in 1479.
G. rudha Thairbeirt, of. Arterbert above where Ar(t) is for airde, promontory.
Cairns near the lighthouse are named Budach an rudha, the old man of the point ; an Cailleach, the old wife ; a’ Bhean-mhuintir, the servant lass.
A rock in the sea is called Steolluidh, Norse stagl-ey, rock-island.
Port a’ chait; Cat’s port ; cf. Cadboll. There is also Got nan cat, hole or cavern of the cats, from Morse gat, hole ; English gate. Near it is Got nan calman, hole of the pigeons.
Port Buckie; G. Port nam faochag.
Wilkhaven; A translation of Port nam faochag. Near it is na h-athan salach, the nasty fords, a small burn, which appears on record as Allan sallach, with a chapel dedicated to St Bride.
Blar a’ chath; The battlefield.
Brucefield; G. enoc an tighearna, the laird’s hill, probably from Robert Bruce Macleod, a former porprietor. North Brucefield is in Gaelic Loch Sier. Near it was Loch nan cuigal; cugeal, a distaff, is also the name of a water plant.
Port Uillem; William’s port.
Hilton; G. Bail a’ chnuic ; near it is Cnoc beallaidh broom-hill.
G. Bindeil ;
Noirse bind-dair, sheaf-dale.
The name occurs in Norway. Near it is Siana Bleadar or stoney-blather, Norse stein-blettr, stone-spot
Portmahomack; Portmahlimag N.S.A. ;
G. Portnia Cholmag, Colman’s port.
Toler na Chalmag, Colman’s well, is near the library.
Behind it is Pitfaced, G. Baile Phaididh, of doubtful meaning.
Gaza; So called (i.) because it is desert, being mostly sand-hills (ef. Acts viii. 26), or (ii) because a minister of Tarbat once referred to its people as “muinntir Ghaza,”men of Gaza, i.e. Philistines, because of their irregular attendance at church. Such are the local explanations.
Balnabruach; Town of the banks.
Rockfield; G. a’ Caisteal or Creag Tarail beag.
Castle Corbet; G. an Caisteal dearg, Red Castle. In 1534 James Dunbar of Tarbat sold one third of the lands of Arboll to John Corbet of Estir Aird, and the Corbets appear on record thereafter as proprietors in Tarbet.
Balachladich; Shore town ; further inland is Seafield.
Drumancroy; G. an druim(a) cruaidh (locative), the hard ridge.
Petley; So called in the first decade of last century by Sheriff Macleod of Geanies, who married Miss Jane Petly. The old name was Mulbuie, yellow height ; Mulboyeid 1535.
John of Tarale 1373,
Tarall 1561 ;
Probably ‘tar,’ across, over, and ‘ail,’ rock; Over-cliff. There are high cliffs at Tarrel and at Rocktown (Little Tarrel), as there are at Geanies. Gaelic has ‘Tarail mhor, is Tarail bheag, is Tarail fo na chreag’.
Meikle Tarrel; included in 1529 Royeindavoir, Renmasrycshe, Creitnacloyithegeill, Creitmantae, Kilpottis, Rownakarue, Rownaknoksenidis, and near it were Callehumetulle, Kandig, Kilstane.
Gathenu 1529 ;
Midilgany 1561-1566 ;
The modern form is thus an English plural. Gaan is most probably a Gaelic plural of Norse ‘gja,’ a chasm, from the precipitous rocks on the coast. From the same root we have also ‘gaw’ a furrow or small trench ; cf. ‘yawn’ Ger. ‘gahnen,’ Scottish ‘gaunt’.
Balaldie; ‘Baile,’ town ; ‘alt,’ burn, with &SHY;ie ending &SHY; Burn-town.
Balnuig; G. bail’ an aoig, town of death ; Baile na h-atha, Kiln-town, is part of it.
Toulvaddie; G. toll a’ mhadaidh, dog-hole.
Loch Clais na cre’; Loch of the clay hollow.
Arkboll 1463 and 1535 ;
Norse ork-bol ark-stead, but possibly from orkin, seal, which in Skye gives Or-bost. Near Arboll were Knokangirrach on the coast, 1633 ; also Lochanteny and Loanteanaquhatt, i.e. Lon tigh nan cat, Cats’-house mead.
Gallow Hill; G. scoc na croiuche, about a mile from Balloan Castle.
Skinnertown; G. baile nan Scinnearach. Skinner is a surname very common in the coast villages of Easter Ross.
Innis Bheag; Small Isle; of the north coast.
A’ Chreag Mhaol; Bare or blunt rock, below Tarrel.
Teampall Earach; Easter Temple, a cave on the south coast of Bindal opposite a moor now cultivated between Bindal and Wilkhaven called Blar-Earach ; there is also Cruit Earach, easter croft ; ef. cuil earach, easter recess, in Islay. There is a tradition that the cave, which is but small, was once used for purposes of worship. Rev. Mr Taylor quotes a description, which applies not to it but to a much more imposing cave near it.
Balloan Castle; Two causeways lead to it,
Cabhsair an righ, King’s causeway, and
an cabhsar mor, the big causeway.
Near it is Cnoc Dubh, Black Hill,where stone coffins have been found, also Cnoc druim(a) langaidh.
Port a’ Chaisteil; Castle-haven, whence the title in the Cromarty family of Viscount Castlehaven. In a rock to the west of it is Got a choire, hole of the cauldron.
Toll Raoiridh is a cave on the north-east side of Tarbat Ness. Its mouth is now blocked, but some cattle which entered it long ago came out in Caithness! Cf. Creag Raoiridh in Kincardine and Leac Raoiridh below Achtercairn, Gairloch.
Kilpots, which appears as Kilpotis, is a sea-mark ; this also oir na poit, edge of the pot.
Cillean Helpak is a fishing bank in the Moray Firth, called in Cromarty Geelyum Melpak. There is another ‘Geelyum’ nearer Cromarty. Helpak is said to have been a witch.
The following names, probably belonging to Fearn or Tarbat appear to be obsolete :–
Hardnanen and Ardnadoler,
Port na cloiche,
Port nagrigack, Portnawest* alias St John’s port;(*This is probably Port a’ bhaist, still known) all described as small ports, and the last three near Arboll ;
Ballinsirach, and near Arboll, a port called Camray.
Place Names of Tarbat 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 p 45 onwards