Place name of the week: Ballachullish - Baile a' Chaolais

The original settlement in Lochaber known simply as Ballachulish or Baile a' Chaolais (Balecheules in c. 1591) is what is now marked on maps as South Ballachulish.

The Ballachulish Ferry in 1965. A bridge took its place in 1975. Picture: Scotsman Publications

The name means ‘the farm of the strait’ pertaining to the narrows across Loch Leven where a ferry was. The strait in question was known as Caolas Mhic Phàdraig ‘the son of Patrick’s strait’. It sits at the foot of Gleann a’ Chaolais ‘the glen of the strait’.

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In more recent times the settlement of North Ballachulish has been established on the other side of the strait, with Ballachulish proper being now known as South Ballachulish. To the east of South Balluchulish was an area called Slate in English and An Sglèata (also found written as An Sgliata) in Gaelic, literally ‘the slate’, referring to the famous slate quarries at this location. Confusingly, this is referred to on maps as Ballachulish.

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