Place name of the week: Balnain - Baile an Àthain / Beul an Àthain /Baile an Fhàin

Glen Urquhart, where Balnain is Baile an Athain, the town of the little ford

Glen Urquhart, where Balnain is Baile an Athain, the town of the little ford

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Balnain is an instructive lesson in how names can be deceptive.

There are at least five places in Scotland with this name - spelt variably as Balnain or Balnaan - and they reflect a number of different Gaelic forms.

Three examples of this name in Duthil, Deeside and Feshie Moor (no longer inhabited) are in Gaelic Beul an Àthain ‘the mouth or opening of the little ford’. In Glen Urquhart, Balnain is Baile an Àthain ‘the town of the little ford’. Balnain near Conon Bridge however is Baile an Fhàin ‘the town of the slope’. It is perhaps not a coincidence that Millnain is nearby, which may be Muileann an Fhàin ‘the mill of the slope’.

Two examples of Ballindean in Fife and Perthshire also reflect Baile an Fhàin, but they come from an older Gaelic form Baile ind Fháin, whence the -d- in the modern form.

For more information on this name visit Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba

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