Hikers Guide to Gaelic Mapping Words

If you want to hike in Scotland, you need to learn some basic Gaelic words so you can read a map. The maps of Scotland published by the UK’s Ordnance Survey are full of Gaelic place names like Lairg Ghru, Beinn Bhreas, and Monadh Mor. Once translated, these names can give you important clues about the terrain you are likely to encounter and how to match what you are seeing in the landscape to your map.

The most important words to lean are those that describe mountains, rivers and streams, lakes, mountain passes and notches, valleys and colors. They’re easy to pick up with a little practice and prove invaluable when route planning and navigating.

Here’s a glossary of the basic Gaelic words that you need to read an OS map of Scotland. If I’ve left out any words that you think are important to add, be sure to leave a comment.

Gaelic Translation
a’, an the
abhainn, amhainn river
allt stream
aonach ridge, steep hill
ban, bhan white, fair
beag, beg, bheag small
bealach pass, glen, gap
ben, beinn, bheinn mountain, peak
bidean, bidein peak
braigh, brae hill-top
buidhe, bhuidhe yellow
carn cairn, hill, pile of stones
clach stone, stony
cluaine meadow, lawn
cnoc round hill, knoll
coille wood
coire, choire corrie, hollow
creag crag, cliff, rock
còinneach moss
dearg red
donn brown
drum, druim ridge
dubh black, dark
dìollaid, dìollaide saddle
eag, eige notch, gap
eas waterfall
fionn white, blessed, holy
fliuch wet
gaoithe wind
garbh rough
geal white
geodha chasm, ravine
glac small valley
glas, ghlas grey, green
gleann glen, valley
gorm blue
lairig pass
laogh, laoigh calf
leacach bare summit
liath grey
linn pool, pond, channel
lochan small loch
maol bare top
meadhoin middle, center
meall rounded hill
monadh moor, heath
mor, mhor big, large
mòine peat, mor
na, nam, nan the, of, of the
odhar dun-colored, yellow
ruadh red
rèidh level ground
sgurr, stob, stuc rocky peak
srath, strath wide valley
stob, stuib point, stake
tobar, tobair, tobrach well, spring
torr hill, mountain, mound
tur, tuir tower
uaine green
àileach breezy
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Written 2010.

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