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Place Names on the Kinlochbervie Coast

Kinlochbervie Coast
[58.456045, -5.065186]
Brendan O’Hanrahan
North West Highlands Geopark

Geodha, the Gaelic form, is derived from the Norse gjá meaning ‘chasm, cleft, gully’. In practice geodha tends to be used for rocky, often relatively narrow inlets, albeit ones which don’t indent too deeply into the coastline. The shore is often rocky and even steep around a geodha, though there are of course variations.  Geodha…

Geodha, the Gaelic form, is derived from the Norse gjá meaning ‘chasm, cleft, gully’. In practice geodha tends to be used for rocky, often relatively narrow inlets, albeit ones which don’t indent too deeply into the coastline. The shore is often rocky and even steep around a geodha, though there are of course variations. 

There are notably more Geo names along the Kinlochbervie coast than there are in Assynt or Wester Ross, where poll or other similar names start to take over. Although, Geo never entirely disappears further south. Some Geodha names are simply descriptive, e.g., Geodha Ruadh south of the Bay of Keisgaig and north of Sandwood Bay describes the red or orange geodha. We also find Geodha Gorm. The dark blue-grey geodha, perhaps a gloomy place because of the rocks overshadowing it. Rubha nan Cùl Gheodhachan, is a bit more unusual, in that geodha is here appearing as an adjective. This headland southwest of Sandwood Bay, is of the geodha-y corner or stretch of coast, i.e. a piece of coastline characterised by several geodhas.  Most other names for these eponymous geodhas have been lost, as so many other maritime landscape features.

Ordnance Survey Title_ 12 inch enlargements of OS map, 1874_ 10 Kinloch, bervie, Rhiconich Date_ 1874

It’s not unexpected that Loch Inchard proper has virtually no geodha place names, its shores are often just too gentle. But we do find several Mol place names on the southern side of the outer part of the loch. Mol means shingle beach, where the stones are bigger than mere pebbles. The name comes originally from the Old Norse word “mol” which initially used to just mean a man-made mound of stones. However, this term has come straight into Gaelic, and is ubiquitous across the Western Isles and northwest seaboard. Opposite Loch Bervie, and to the west, you encounter Mol Bàn Mòr and Mol Bàn Beag. The headland west of them is Rubha a’ Mhill Bhàin.

It’s not unexpected that Loch Inchard proper has virtually no geodha place names, its shores are often just too gentle. But we do find several Mol place names on the southern side of the outer part of the loch. Mol means shingle beach, where the stones are bigger than mere pebbles. The name comes originally from the Old Norse word “mol” which initially used to just mean a man-made mound of stones. However, this term has come straight into Gaelic, and is ubiquitous across the Western Isles and northwest seaboard. Opposite Loch Bervie, and to the west, you encounter Mol Bàn Mòr and Mol Bàn Beag. The headland west of them is Rubha a’ Mhill Bhàin.

Image : Mol Ban Beag

Another prominent, and almost overworked coastal place name term borrowed from Norse is sgeir, skerry in English, derived from Old Norse sker. Round the corner from the headland is Sgeir Eòrna, the oddly-named Barley Skerry. There are also Sgeirean Cruaidhe, the rough or cruel skerries. Further out to sea are the Sgeirean Dubha, the black skerries, a treacherous place for any boat or ship which doesn’t know the area intimately, as the unfortunate crew of the Sgeir Eòrna discovered to their eternal cost.

Learn More About the Place Names of Assynt

Gaelic Norse in the Landscape Booklet

Placenames in Caithness and Sutherland

Scottish National Heritage

Images:

Caves north of Geodha a_ Bhrideoin: Unknown Source (Brendan may know)

Geodha Ruadh na Fola, Highland: Copyright: Ordnance Survey

Mol Ban Beag: Copyright Ordnance Survey

Sutherland, Sheet XXI, Survey date: 1875,  Publication date: 1878, Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland Copyright: NLS

Ordnance Survey: 12 inch enlargements of OS map, 1874: 10 Kinloch, bervie, Rhiconich

Date: 1874, Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland Copyright: NLS