Here’s the definitive list of my own personal favourite place names in Ireland, celebrating the weird, the whacky and the wonderful.
Irish: Carraigin na gCailleach Dubh
One possible translation for this island in County Mayo is ‘Rock of the Cormorants.’ However, according to my own understanding of Irish it should actually mean “Rock of the Black Witch.’ Perhaps the cormorant, which is in fact a black water bird, used to be called a black witch in Irish many years ago? My favourite option, however, is easily Google Translate’s result of ‘Blackthorn Carrots.’ This is how we know that machine translating won’t put too many of us human translators out of work just yet!
While I cannot for the life of me determine what this could possibly translate to, I do know that it must be some sort of island or coastal feature, as the word ‘illaun’ is a common form of the Irish word ‘oilean’ meaning island or isle. This townland is located in the Burren, County Clare, for all those who might want to venture off on the Burren Way to check out the area and look for other similarly longwinded place names.
The Irish names for Waterford, Wexford and Wicklow
It’s always puzzled me, since moving to Ireland, how the three ‘W’ counties in Ireland are at all related to their Irish language counterparts. Waterford is ‘Port Lairge,’ which sounds like something to do with a port to me. Wexford is ‘Loch Garman,’ which I’m pretty sure should have been translated as Garman Lake. Finally, if Wicklow is ‘Cill Mhantáin,’ then surely Kilkenny should actually be ‘Wickenny’ instead, right?
Gaillimh / Corrib / Galway
In a similar fashion to the WWW Counties of Ireland mentioned above, the inconsistencies found in the name Galway are also quite interesting. I only realised last year that the Irish ‘Gaillimh,’ which we are all familiar with here in Ireland as representing both Galway City and County, has a second version in English: ‘Corrib.’ This is what we call the river and large lake adjacent to Galway City. However, what most don’t realise is that Galway and Corrib are actually the same thing. Somewhere over the centuries there was a bit of a ‘lost in translation’ moment when the English translated Gaillimh twice and applied it to two rather different pieces of geography. So, should we all start calling it ‘Galway Lake’ now? Alternately, when sports fans shout ‘Gaillimh Abu,’ do they actually mean ‘Up Corrib,’ not to be confused with ‘I’m taking a boat trip up the Corrib’? Anyway, I’ll leave that one for the citizens of Corrib City and along the shores of Lake Galway to decide.
Irish: I have no idea
If only it were instead Too-ree-na-na-coo-na, what a wonderful phrase, it means no worries, for the rest of your days. One of many interesting place names in Connemara, County Galway.
Irish: Moing Gharrai Bhun na hAbhann
Something to do with a river garden… or Garry’s River! Also in Connemara, County Galway. A bonus feature here is the capitalised ‘A’ in hAbhann, meaning river. No, this is not a typo.
Irish: Bhaile Chlair
If Claregalway is Bhaile Chlair, literally meaning Clare Town, then does that mean that Claretuam is Bhaile Tuaim, meaning Tuam Town, despite being only a few miles outside of the actual Tuam Town?
Found in County Limerick and named after Saint Eimhin. I hope he would be honoured to be included in this lighthearted and humorous list, but I’d say he may instead be pretty ‘effin’ mad.
Irish: Tearmann Feichín
Alternately, one could also describe the aforementioned saint as being particularly ‘termonfeckin’ mad at being brought up once again here.
Irish: Glas Oileán Bhéal na Cora
This townland in County Galway wins the award for most adorable Irish place name, translating to ‘the small green island at the weir’s mouth.’
Irish: Muiceanach idir Dhá Sháile
Yes, I kid you not, Muckanaghederdauhaulia is technically a word in the English language – and an actual place in County Galway. I really think we should have simply stuck with the original Irish for many of these place names, but especially on this one. At 22 letters in length (23 in Irish), this one’s a whopper. However, despite holding the title of number one longest place name in Ireland for many years, this honour recently came into contention with some arguing they’ve found even longer ones. For example, there also exist, believe it or not, ‘Bullaunancheathrairaluinn’ and ‘Sruffaunoughterluggatoora,’ both an astounding 25 letters in length and both also in County Galway. Examing Muckanaghederdauhaulia once more, we find that there’s absolutely no consensus as to what this even means. I’ve thus far found the following:
1. ‘Piggery between two expanses of briny water,’
2. ‘mummy between two bases,’
3. ‘mushroom between two saws,’ and
4. ‘a ridge in the shape of a pig’s back between two expanses of briny water.’
My personal favourite is certainly number four.
Interested in visiting some of these incredible places yourself? Why not check out the West of Ireland route right through Connemara, County Galway, where a good few of these are located.
|West of Ireland/Connemara|
|Self-guided tours from €599! Accommodation and bag transfer included.|