Place name of the week: Dunkeld - Dùn Chailleann

Dunkeld, on the banks of the River Tay, means the 'fort of the Caledonians'. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Dunkeld, on the banks of the River Tay, means the 'fort of the Caledonians'. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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Dunkeld - Dùn Chailleann

Dunkeld or Dùn Chailleann (Dúin Chaillden in 873 in an Irish text) means ‘the fort of the Caledonians’. These Caledonians or ‘Cailleann’ were a people who appear in two other names in the vicinity of Dunkeld. Firstly, the element is seen in the prominent hill Schiehallion or Sìth Chailleann ‘the fairy hill of the Caledonians’; the term sìth or ‘fairy hill’ has given its name to fairies in general, anglicised as shee. Secondly, near Dunkeld is a hill called Rohallion or Ràth Chailleann ‘the fortress of the Caledonians’.

Although the original meaning of Cailleann is unclear, it is a modern Gaelic survival of a pre-Gaelic tribe name mentioned several times by Classical writers, best-known as Caledonia; the name of the people Dicalydones contains the same element.

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