10 Scottish place names that confuse visitors

People arriving in Scotland often struggle with not only the spelling and pronunciation of some place names but also how they got such unusual names.

Often a source of bafflement for outsiders, arriving in Scotland can mean coming into contact with some very unusual place names. With many towns and villages having ancient names that make little sense if you don’t live there or don’t understand Scottish pronunciation – it can sometimes be hard to ask for directions.

Some of these places owe their names to the Gaelic language, others to Scots or Norse and some even have a French influence. This means that many places have names that seem impenetrable to even those who have become acclimatised to some of our unusual words and spellings.

Many can’t be pronounced phonetically while the silent letters, regular ‘ch’ as in loch sounds and rolling ‘R’s can come across as confusing, which can be daunting for the casual traveller. Thankfully, the locals are patient and usually more than happy to help with a correction or two.




Here are some of the places that people can find confusing to spell, say or just understand how their name came about.

1. Culzean
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This is the wonderful name for a beautiful clifftop castle in Ayrshire but outsiders will often be confused when people refer to it as ‘Kull-ane’ and not ‘Cul-zeen’.

2. Ecclefechan
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A delightfully named town in Dumfries and Galloway can seem like a strange name to read at first but it’s relatively easy to pronounce if you remember that most place names with a ‘ch’ are pronounced like ‘loch’ and not as in cheddar. So, ‘eck-el-feck-han’. Easy.




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