Update, 2022: There’s now a version 2 to explore.
After posting on twitter about starting to better understand Scottish maps since learning some Gaelic, I was pointed to all sorts of interesting articles, projects, books and events on the subject. One was this Ordanance Survey guide to the Gaelic origins of place-names, which I felt was crying out for a map to be made from the data. It gives examples and translations of some of the most commonly-seen Gaelic words on maps of Scotland.
As the grid references listed were for a 1km box and the NLS Historic Map Layer uses various OS maps from the 1920s-1940s, you’re going to have to do a bit of sleuthing to try and see each Gaelic word. 🕵 You may find the reference or you may not, but exploring these lovely old maps is all part of the fun…
The tweet that kicked it all off is below; there are plenty of excellent replies too. The joy of understanding the Gaelic placenames was summed up with this lovely quote from James Westland:
Once I started learning, it was like a veil being lifted, like some sort of opaque film being removed from the map…
So I’ll keep practising my Gaelic to know my Rubha Mòr Nighean Eoin from my Eilean Meall na Suirudhe, gradually lifting that veil. It’s worth noting that there are numerous databases of Celtic-language placenames at the bottom of this page, and the 1000+ names above are just a tiny sampler. Hopefully it’s enough to give you the Gaelic bug though… Happy exploring!
One of the cool things about learning Gaelic is the sudden awakening of place names on Scottish maps – it's like someone suddenly switched the light on… A "Gaelic for Cartographers" course would be a great idea! @ScotsGaelicfor @ScotsGaelicDuo @OrdnanceSurvey #gaelic pic.twitter.com/xcyM67b3Kn— Phil Taylor (@ScienceAndMaps) February 25, 2020
- The original article / data from OS.
- Scottish Place-Name Society
- Gaelic Place-Names of Scotland
- Northern Ireland Place-Name Project
- Placenames Database of Ireland
- Reading the Gaelic Landscape by John Murray