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18 October, 2018

15 fascinating facts: a celebration of Gaelic and Scotland's natural heritage

High resolution images available to download below

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is marking this week’s Royal National Mòd with a celebration of the links between the Gaelic language, heritage and nature.

Here are 15 fascinating facts highlighting the intrinsic relationship between people, Gaelic and the landscape, animals, birds and plants of Scotland.

An robh fios agaibh…..? / Did you know…..?

There are over forty different words in Gaelic for ‘bog’. The English word ‘bog’ itself comes from Gaelic.

Rannoch Moor ©Lorne Gill SNH
Rannoch Moor ©Lorne Gill SNH

The poetic Gaelic name of the Isle of Skye is Eilean a’ Cheò - ‘the isle of the mist’.

Trotternish ©Lorne Gill SNH
Trotternish ©Lorne Gill SNH

The Gaelic name for October is An Dàmhair, derived from damh-dàir and meaning ‘deer roaring time’.

Red deer stag ©Lorne Gill SNH
Red deer stag ©Lorne Gill SNH

The Cairngorms get their English name from the Gaelic An Càrn Gorm ‘the blue mountain’ (the location of the ski resort). Their Gaelic name is Am Monadh Ruadh ‘the russet mountains’ - a commentary on the colour of the granite which dominates the range.

The Northern Corries, Cairngorm ©Lorne Gill SNH
The Northern Corries, Cairngorm ©Lorne Gill SNH

There are 276 Gaelic place-names in Scotland which name the iolaire ‘eagle’. Over two-thirds are thought to represent the golden eagle and the remainder the white-tailed sea eagle.

Golden Eagle ©Lorne Gill SNH
Golden Eagle ©Lorne Gill SNH

Whereas English adopted a French word ‘avalanche’, there is a native Gaelic word for the same phenomenon – maoim-sneachda ‘gushing forth of snow’ – reflecting the fact that avalanches have always been part of life in the Scottish mountains.

Ben Lawers ©Lorne Gill SNH
Ben Lawers ©Lorne Gill SNH

A Gaelic proverb says às an dris, anns an droigheann ‘out of the bramble into the blackthorn’. It’s an equivalent of ‘out of the frying pan into the fire’.

Brambles ©Lorne Gill SNH
Brambles ©Lorne Gill SNH

Loch Lomond was originally Loch Leamhain, named from the river that flows from it (it means ‘elm river’). It derived its modern name from Ben Lomond, in Gaelic Beinn Laomainn ‘beacon mountain’.

Loch Lomond ©Lorne Gill SNH
Loch Lomond ©Lorne Gill SNH

The mountain Lochnagar in Aberdeenshire gets its name from Lochan na Gàire ‘the lochan where the wind makes a noise’, near the summit. In Gaelic it is Beinn nan Cìochan ‘the mountain of the nipples’.

Lochnagar ©Lorne Gill SNH
Lochnagar ©Lorne Gill SNH

The aurora borealis is known in Gaelic as Na Fir-chlis, literally ‘the nimble men’.

Aurora borealis ©Lorne Gill SNH
Aurora borealis ©Lorne Gill SNH

The shortest place-name in the world is the one-letter Gaelic for Iona – Ì. It is often known as Eilean Ì or Ì Chaluim Chille, the latter linking it to its most famous inhabitant, Calum Cille (‘dove of the church’, St Columba).

Iona ©Lorne Gill SNH
Iona ©Lorne Gill SNH

The English names for two of our native birds come from Gaelic – ptarmigan (tàrmachan) and capercaillie (capall coille).

Ptarmigan ©Lorne Gill SNH
Ptarmigan ©Lorne Gill SNH

The foxglove is seen as a fairy plant in Gaelic tradition. Among its Gaelic names is Lus nam Ban-sìth ‘the plant of the fairy women’.

Foxglove ©Lorne Gill SNH
Foxglove ©Lorne Gill SNH

When the oystercatcher flies, it calls ‘bi glic, bi glic’, the Gaelic for ‘be wise, be wise’.

Oystercatcher ©Lorne Gill SNH
Oystercatcher ©Lorne Gill SNH

The darach or oak tree is known poetically in Gaelic as rìgh na coille ‘the king of the forest’.

Oakwood ©Lorne Gill SNH
Oakwood ©Lorne Gill SNH

SNH is involved in an extensive programme of projects to promote the use of Gaelic, boost interest in the language and secure its future as a unique and important part of life in Scotland.

Our work includes a bilingual series of booklets on Gaelic in the Landscape, celebrating the cultural and natural heritage of areas such as Skye and the North West Highlands, as well as an online Gaelic nature dictionary.

This year marks the third year of SNH’s involvement in the Royal National Mòd, with a specially commissioned concert led by acclaimed musician Mary Ann Kennedy to celebrate the Clyde. The performance, Clyde – A River Recovery, took place earlier this week as part of the Mòd fringe in Dunoon.

SNH has also recently launched a new foraging education pack and workshops for Gaelic-medium schools.

ENDS

Contact information

Name
SNH Media
Email
SNHMEDIA@nature.scot

Notes to editors

MEDIA QUERIES: For more information, contact SNH Communications Officer Catriona Webster on catriona.webster@nature.scot or the main SNH press office on 0131 316 2655 or snhmedia@nature.scot.

PICTURES: Free use. Please credit SNH/Lorne Gill. 

Scottish Natural Heritage is the government's adviser on all aspects of nature and landscape across Scotland. Our role is to help people understand, value and enjoy Scotland's nature now and in the future. For more information, visit our website at www.nature.scot or follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/nature_scot

Tha Dualchas Nàdair na h-Alba na buidheann comhairleachaidh dhan riaghaltas a thaobh nàdair agus seallaidhean-tìre air feadh Alba. 'S e an dleastanas a th' againn cuideachadh a thoirt do dhaoine gus tuigse, luach agus tlachd fhaighinn bho nàdar na h-Alba, an-dràsta agus san àm ri teachd. Airson tuilleadh fiosrachaidh, tadhail air www.nature.scot/gaelic  no lean sinn air Twitter aig https://twitter.com/nature_scot

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Rannoch Moor ©Lorne Gill SNH

Rannoch Moor ©Lorne Gill SNH

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Trotternish ©Lorne Gill SNH

Trotternish ©Lorne Gill SNH

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Red deer stag ©Lorne Gill SNH

Red deer stag ©Lorne Gill SNH

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The Northern Corries, Cairngorm ©Lorne Gill SNH

The Northern Corries, Cairngorm ©Lorne Gill SNH

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Golden Eagle ©Lorne Gill SNH

Golden Eagle ©Lorne Gill SNH

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Ben Lawers ©Lorne Gill SNH

Ben Lawers ©Lorne Gill SNH

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Brambles ©Lorne Gill SNH

Brambles ©Lorne Gill SNH

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Loch Lomond ©Lorne Gill SNH

Loch Lomond ©Lorne Gill SNH

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Lochnagar ©Lorne Gill SNH

Lochnagar ©Lorne Gill SNH

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Aurora borealis ©Lorne Gill SNH

Aurora borealis ©Lorne Gill SNH

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Iona ©Lorne Gill SNH

Iona ©Lorne Gill SNH

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Ptarmigan ©Lorne Gill SNH

Ptarmigan ©Lorne Gill SNH

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Foxglove ©Lorne Gill SNH

Foxglove ©Lorne Gill SNH

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Oystercatcher ©Lorne Gill SNH

Oystercatcher ©Lorne Gill SNH

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Oakwood ©Lorne Gill SNH

Oakwood ©Lorne Gill SNH

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