Looking at any maps for this area gives an immediate indicator of the island’s past – placenames are littered with Norse words, as well as the expected Gaelic . This Norse influence takes a bit of getting used to but is good fun for a bit of decyphering.
Take a walk I did last weekend, for instance. I headed down to Caolas Paible. From there, I walked onto the beach Oitir Mòr. When I was on the beach, I looked directly out onto Eilean Chirceabost. I love this collection of names together. It shows so clearly the varied past of the islands, Gaidhealach and Viking visitors and settlers over thousands of years leaving their mark.
Caolas Paible : Kyles Paible
I found a great story in Dwelly about Paible. Who knows what element of truth there is in it, but it’s good fun all the same:
“Baile fada-gu-latha, the township of the long night (lit. the long-till-day township). The reference is to Paible, N. Uist. Long ago a stranger, happening to spend a night in the place, some mischievous lads covered up his bedroom window from the outside, with the result that the night was lengthened by many hours. Several times the astonished stranger was heard to mutter “b’ e seo am baile fada-gu-latha!” what a long-till-day township!”
Oitir Mòr: Oitir (pron. ‘aw-chir’) – sand bank Mòr (more)– big, large
Eilean Kirkibost: Eilean (ellen)– Island Kirk – church Bost – farm
Placenames aside, even in grey, overcast weather it’s beautiful.