Township: Barrapol,Ceann a’ Bharra

Map Reference: Kenavara 34

Name Type: fort

Meaning: Fort of the foreigners

There are at least two possibilities for the specific:
• ON skarð (genitive singular skarðs, genitive plural skarða): ‘crevice ... frequent in local names Skarð, Skarð-strönd’ (CV, 539; Mowat 1931, 4), ‘gap in the hill ridge’ (see Cottascarth, Sandnes 2010a, 105); Skarð occurs ten times as a settlement name in the Faroe Islands (KO). There is an intrusive schwa. This is topographically very appropriate
• ON skarfr ‘cormorant’. Skarvbergvika is a common name in Norway (NG). 'Scaraber, a frequent shore name in Orkney, indicating a spot where skarfs (cormorants or shags) are wont to sit: ON skarfa berg' (Marwick 1995 (1947), 68). The Blaeu map of 1654 records Scarinish as Sckareness, having already lost its medial /f/. An important hill name, however, is more likely to be named after a spectacular and strategically important location rather than one of a number of bird-covered rocks at the shore
The generic is likely to be ON borg 'fort'. The two forms Skarbarigh and Bin Sckarbarig do not agree on the nature of the terminal ¬-g, which is fricative in the first and plosive in the second. The first supports ON berg ‘rock’ or ON borg 'fort'; the second form suggests ON bryggja ‘landing place’. However, there is already a name in -bryggja nearby (See Borabrig in Gazetteer).
In 1329 the Scottish king made a grant of the 'Castle of Scarburgh', which has never been identified (MacLean-Bristol 1995, 13). The ruined Iron Age fort of Dùn nan Gall is in a suitably strategic location, but there is no surface evidence to suggest that it was ever used as a thirteenth-century castle.
There is a Scarrabus on Islay (Macniven 2015, 231); a Skardan in Lochalsh, and Scord is a common element in Shetland (SP); names in Skardberg are common in Norway; and Skarðaborg is a farm name in Iceland (SAM). The summit is today known simply as ScG Am Mullach Mòr 'the big summit'. See Ceann a' Bharra.
The alias ScG Dún nan Gall was recorded by the Ordnance Survey in 1878. The assumption is that this name, usually translated as 'the fort of the strangers', was coined by Gaelic-speaking islanders about a Norse raiding party that used this fortification. It is, however, a phrase name 'X of Y, and is therefore not likely to date from earlier than the fifteenth century (see section 11.2.1). It is unlikely to refer to the Norse in this context, but to another Late Medieval raiding group. Gall can also mean standing stone (Márkus 2012, 549; and see Cox 2002, 374). There is a Dún nan Gall on Islay and another on Mull (SP).

Other Forms: Skarbarigh, 1654 Blaeu (Pont): settlement symbol
Bin Sckarbarig, 1654 Blaeu (Pont): + ScG beinn 'hill'
No longer known in the oral tradition
Alias Dùn nan Gall, 1878 OS 6 inch first edition, Brownlie 1995, 154, and common local usage: ScG 'the fort of the strangers'

Related Places: Donegal in Ireland comes from the same root and relates to a Viking fortification as named by a Gaelic speaking population. There is another Dun nan Gall at Loch Tuath, Mull at an Iron Age broch site - JH.


Local Form:

Languages : Gaelic

Informants: OS

Informant 2: multiple

Informant 3: Niall M Brownlie, Bailtean is Ath Ghairmean, Argyll Publishing, 1995, p154