What’s in a name 2 – from the sublime to the ridiculous

No not the ongoing debate about the BMC rebrand (at approximately the same time indoor rock climbing was made an Olympic sport: coincidence? I think not..) but the names of hills. These range from the truly sublime to the absolutely ludicrous and of course when translating from the Gaelic there is an added element of weirdness.

The basic: the ultimate basic hill name has to be Ben More which simply means big hill. A lot of other names are similar e.g Geal Charn (white cairn) Beinn Dearg (Red hill) Beinn Dearg Mor (big red hill) that hill over there with a corrie or something. Lakes equivalent – something like Grey Crag, Black Fell, Great Dodd etc. I guess High Street counts though given the name is because there was a Roman road I think this one is rather fabulous.

The sublime: Buachaille Etive Mor (Big shepherd of Etive) Liathach (the grey one) Beinn Alligin (jewelled hill). Stuff that just sounds good without a translation. Helvellyn. Blencathra.

The ridiculous: Braigh Choire Chruinn Bhalgain. Mullach Clach a’Bhlair. Bidean a’Choire Cheasgaich (aka Cheesecake). Yoke (where’s the white?) 3 Bell, sorry Ill bell.

The rude: loads of these. The Mamores – an entire range of mountains which translates as ‘Big breasts’. See also any reference to mam, pap or ciche. The Devil’s Point – a euphemism for a part of the male anatomy for the benefit of Queen Victoria. (Bod an Deamhain in Gaelic). Great Cockup in the Lakes. Lord Hereford’s Knob in South Wales.. To be fair naming after body parts is not confined to rude bits e.g. Maol Chean-Dearg (Bald red head)

The names of the hills mean lots of things. Some are prosaic, some amusing, some inspiring. Like most things, it’s what you make of it that counts. Did I climb the Devils Point because of the name? No, it’s a good hill anyway. But I can’t deny that the name amused!


4 thoughts on “What’s in a name 2 – from the sublime to the ridiculous

    • Cheers. Stuart and I just had a debate on the train that BEM’s name while cool is still less cool than the view. All perception I guess – had good days on a couple of Geal Charns where the views been great even if the hill was a bit of a plod.


  1. They were really just descriptions before people decided to give the hills names as such – someone would ask where a fellow clansman or crofter had been that day and they’d just point and say ‘that big red hill over there’ or suchlike. The descriptions have just been adopted as the names. Admittedly though, some have turned out amusing 😉


  2. Love the Dartmoor tor called “Branscombes loaf”. Looks like a loaf of bread and named after a Walter Branscombe!! Also Glaramara in the Lakes sounds like it should be further north in Scotland!!


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