Resources

An assortment of useful hillwalking-related information and web resources

Cookbook

Cookbook

The club has put together a recipe book in aid of Patterdale Mountain Rescue Team. It is a 60 page, full colour book containing over 40 recipes for all tastes and budgets and loads of great photographs of hills for when you get bored of cooking.

Ordering

If you want a copy, please order here.

The cost for the book is £7, and also gives you access to the e-book version. All profits go to the Mountain Rescue.

If you just want the e-book then please tick the relevant box on the form, and the full £7 will go to Mountain Rescue. There is no DRM on the e-book, but we ask that if you share it with anyone, they donate to Mountain Rescue or order a physical copy.

The printed copies are available and being distributed to those who have ordered. It’s deliberately not too specific to the club, so you can order copies for friends and family.

Donations

So far, we have raised £291.93 for Patterdale Mountain Rescue. Thank you!

Contributing

If you spot a mistake, or want to contribute a photo or recipe to future editions of the book, please get in touch!

Contact

Please contact Philip Withnall for any queries about the book. If you’ve ordered a copy of the book, we’re happy to give out the source files for it, and to send you the e-book version.

Meanings of Gaelic Words Commonly Seen in Hill Names

Author: Mark Jackson

Gaelic has many names for hills. Beinn (bheinn, ben, ven, vain) is the place to start, used as a generic name for hills, particularly big ones. There are many fine distinctions.

Regarding rock; Càrn (càirn, chàrn, chàirn, chùirn), means a heap of stones or, by extension, a stony hill; similar is creachan, whereas creag (craig, chreag, creige) is the same as the English “crag”, i.e. rockface. Cruach (cruaiche) “stack” is often used for an upthrust of rock, as are tòrr and cleit.

A sgùrr (sgòr, sgòrr depending on region), is a jagged peak, and stob means a small top, point or peak. Also used to denote sharp peaks and pinnacles are stùc (stùchd) and its variant stac; bidean (bidein, bidhein), and its variant spidean; rarely biod (bioda); and binnean (binnein), an especially conical peak.

Meall (mheall, mill, mhill), is very common, describing a bare rounded lumpy hill. Similar is maol (maoile), meaning “bald head”, and ceann (chean, cinn, chinn), a head, is also used. Mullach just means summit.

A ridge is most commonly druim (droma), but can also be aonach, a high ridge, leathad (leathaid), a broad ridge, leitir (leitire), a long ridge, or gualann, a broad shoulder, or imir (iomair). The end of one may be called socach (socaich), a snout, or sròn (sròine), a nose. A barrow-shaped hill may be called sìdhean (sìdh, sìthean, sìthein, sìdhein), a peculiarly Scottish term meaning hill where the fairies live! An àrd (àird) is a height or promontory, often near the sea.

A high upland may be bràigh (bhràigh, brae) or monadh, or if particularly mossy/boggy, mòine, or worst of all leana “meadow, swampy plain”. Frìthe means heath or moor, also hunting forest; similar is fireach, high barren ground. The name bruach means edge.

A small rounded hillock can be called cnoc (chnoc, chnuic), but also bàrr, cnap, òrd (ùird), tulach (tulaich, tulaichean) or tom – or even guirean, pimple! If it has a hill fort, or looks like one, it will certainly end up as dùn. A hill, large or small, that bears a resemblance to a woman’s breast may well be named as such; màm (mhàim) or cìoch (cìche).

Other picturesque names for hills include cabar, a horn, sàil, a heel, teallach, a forge, sgiath, a wing, suidhe or cathair (cathrach), a seat, and caisteal (caisteil, chaisteil), a castle, all of which allow you to imagine the shape of the hill pretty well. Hills have been likened to people; thus bodach (old man, chancellor), buachaille (shepherd) and cailleach (chailleach, caillich) (old woman) are all used.

Adding –each or –anach to an adjective gives the meaning of “that place”; thus a hill may be called coinneach, mossy place, buidheanach, yellow place, etc.

But hills aren’t usually given just one name, and nine times out of ten a qualifier is added, denoting colour, position, shape, etc.

Let’s start with colour; dubh (dhubh, duibh, dhuibh, duibhe, dubha) means black, whereas white is bàn (bhàn, bhàin), with fionn and geal both also meaning white, pale. Dearg (dhearg, deirg, dheirg) is more common than ruadh (ruaidh), with both meaning red; odhar (odhair) and donn mean brown or dun. Turning the colour wheel, buidhe (bhuidhe) means yellow and òr (òir) gold; uaine is bright green, and gorm (ghorm) is blue. There’s so much sea in Scotland that it has its own colour; glas (ghlas, ghlais) meaning greenish-grey. Also lìath (lèith) is grey or blue-grey. Finally, breac (bhreac) meaning “speckled, spotted” and riabhach (riabhaich) “brindled, greyish-brown” best fall into this category.

For size; we have mòr (mhòr, mhòir, more) to mean great, and beag (bheag, bhig, beg) to mean small. Meadhoin (meadhain, mheadhoin, mheadhain, meadhonach, meadhanach, mheadhonach, mheadhanach, vane – yes, really!) means “middle”, in size or position. A hill can be fada (fhada) “long” or geàrr “short”; its shape can be leathan (leathainn) “broad”, reamhar “fat”, or caol or cumhann (chumhann) both meaning “narrow”, or cam (caim) or crom, “crooked”. Cùl (cùil) means “back” whereas tarsuinn (tharsuinn) means transverse or crosswise.

If the hill’s in an exposed position it might get fuar (fhuar) “cold”, or windy – gaoth (gaoithe) means wind and gaothach windy. It might hold snow – sneachd (sneachda). Conversely, it might end up as a grianan – a sunny drying place for peat or manure.

The texture of a hill is often garbh (gharbh, ghairbh) “rough”, eagach “notched”, fiaclach “toothed” or creagach (chreagaich) “craggy”, or at the other end of the scale còinnich (chòinnich) “mossy, boggy”. It could also be slabby – leacach, since the word for slab is leac; or stony, càrnach (càrnaich) being stony ground; or gaineamhach (gainmheich), sandy. Or the hill could just be steep; corrach, or caise (chaise) means steepness.

Among geographical features that find their way into hill names, the most popular by far is coire (choire, coir’; plural coirean, coirein, coireachan), a glacial hollow, corrie or combe. All corries have a mouth – beul (beòil, bheòil). A bealach (bhealaich) or màm (mhàim) is a pass or col, with eag denoting a narrow gap or notch, breabag a cleft, dìollaid a wide saddle and lairig a low travellers’ pass. Gleann (ghleann, ghlinn, ghlinne, glen) means valley, with sràth (strath) a wider, fertile one.

Rock features include clach (cloich, cloiche), a rock or stone, hence clachaig, rocky; a hole, hollow, or pit may be a toll (tuill) or glac (glaic) if narrow. A gorge or ravine can be called clais (claise), a geodha is more of a chasm, while its reverse – a tooth or pinnacle – is a fiacail (fiaclan). A cave will be uamha (uamh) or lag (lagan).

A river – abhainn (aibhne) or uisge, literally “water” – will be fed by streams – allt (uillt) – fed by streamlets – dorain or feadan (fheadan) – in turn issuing from springs – fuaran (fhuaran, fhuarain). It may go over a waterfall – eas or steall – called easain if it’s only a small plunge – or became a marsh or bog – fèith or lòn (lòin) – before reaching a lochan (lochain), a tarn, which is of course a small loch, a lake or arm of the sea. The river could well be loud – labhar (labhair). A bay is lùib or òb, and a small pool or pit is poll (puill) or sloc (sluic). A tairbeart (tairbeirt) is a narrow crossing between two lochs. Also eilean (eilein) means island.

Or a hill may be named after an animal or plant! So it’s worth knowing each (eich), a horse, gabhar (gobhar, ghabhar, gaibhre), a goat, muc (muice), a pig, torc (tuirc), a boar, and caora (caorach), a sheep. The generic word for cow is (), but crodh (cruidh) and sprèidh (sprèidhe) are also used for cattle, with tarbh (tairbh) a bull, aighe (aighean, aighenan) a heifer and laogh (laoigh) a calf. A damh (daimh, diamh) is a stag and a boc (buic, bhuic) a buck – both likely to indulge in roaring and rutting, bhuirich (bhuiridh) – whereas eilid (eilde) is used for hinds, fiadh (fèidh) for deer in general, and earb (earba) for roe deer. Then there’s madadh (mhadaidh), a dog, wolf or fox; more specifically (con, coin) means dog and sionnach (shionnach) means fox. Finally, nathair (nathrach) means snake, and beithir (bheithir, beathrach) wild beast in general. A hill could be named for any one of these, or their den – saobhaidh (saobhaidhe).

Now eun (eòin) means bird; fithich (fhithich) raven, iolaire eagle, and cabhair hawk are the species most likely to have crags named after them or their nests – nead (nid), but there’s also coileach (coilich), cock, and cearc (circe), hen.

With plants, craobh (craoibh) is the generic word for tree, but also useful are caorann (chaorainn), rowan; beith (beithe, bheithe), birch; feàrna (fheàrna), alder; iubhar (iubhair), yew; giubhas (giuthas, giubhais, giuthais), fir; raineach (rainich), bracken; and fraoch (fraoich), heather. A wood or grove may be a coille (choille) or a doire (dhoire), with a smaller thicket a bad (bhaid).

A farm – baile – contains low pastures, dail, and meadows, cluain. A field or enclosure can variously be an achadh (achaidh), todhar (todhair) or goirtean (goirtein), with garadh a den or walled enclosure. A byre or cowshed is a bàthach (bàthaich), a cuidhe or fasgadh a pen, fold or enclosure. An airigh (airighe) or ruighe is a shieling – a summer shepherds’ hut. The grain is kept in a sabhal (sobhal, sabhail, sodhail). Then there’s taigh (tigh) house, eaglais church and drochaid (drochaide) bridge – any of which might be old, sean (seann, seana). And any village has a boundary – crìoch (crìche).

A hill might also get named after a famous soldier – saighdear (saighdeir) or priest – sagairt – or just a man – duine or fear (fhir)!

Finally, prepare for the odd personal name, such as Dònuill (Dhònuill, Dhomhnuill), Donald, the word mac (mhic) meaning “son of”, and numbers such as , two, and trì, three. The compass directions are tuath, north, ear, east, deas, south, and iar, west.

Other Clubs and Organisations

Please note: the resources listed here are outside our control, so links will occasionally be inoperative, despite regular checks. Please help by reporting broken links to the webmaster. Any additions would also be greatly appreciated.

Cambridge University clubs

For a full list, see the University Computing Service's list. Of particular interest to hillwalkers will be

In addition to the outdoor clubs, members may be interested in the CU First Aid Society.

Cambridge city clubs

Also in Cambridge are the Cambridge Climbing and Caving Club.

The "Old Duffers"

The Old Duffers is where people from CUHWC can keep in touch after they've graduated; it also includes some extant Club members, and one or two friends, siblings, &c.

Mountaineers' associations

Walkers' associations

Fell-runners' associations

The Fell Runners Association represents fellrunners in England.

Training

Mountain Leader Training UK is a UK-wide body setting standards and awards for leaders of outdoor activities. Most courses are organized through the national bodies MLT England, MLT Wales, MLT Scotland and MLT Northern Ireland (neither of which appear to have their own websites, but details are on the UK site).

Mountain Rescue

Accommodation

Transport

National Trusts

Government Conservation bodies

Natural England exists to advise Government and others on how they can contribute to the conservation of the English countryside, and people's enjoyment of it.

Conservation charities

  • The Mountain Bothies Association are a charity which maintains simple unlocked shelters in some of the most wild and beautiful parts of the country, for the benefit of all who love the wild and lonely places.
  • Similarly, the John Muir Trust is committed to practical action to protect and restore Britain's remaining wild places.
  • The Trust for Conservation Volunteers promote practical conservation work by volunteers.
Author: 
Toby Speight

The Unofficial Guide to Pronouncing Gaelic

Author: Mark Jackson

By popular demand (by which I mean at least two separate requests from Club members) I hereby present the sequel to my Welsh Guide, a guide to pronouncing Scottish Gaelic hill names.

Let’s get a couple of things straight before we begin. Firstly, it’s pronounced (in English) ‘gal-ick’. Irish Gaelic is pronounced (in English) ‘gay-lik’. The (Scottish) Gaelic name for (Scottish) Gaelic is Gàidhlig, pronounced ‘gaa-lik’, not to be confused with the Irish (Gaelic) name for Irish (Gaelic), which is written Gaeilge and pronounced ‘gail-gyuh’. Both languages are descended from 6th-century Old Irish, and are about as mutually intelligible as Cockney and Glaswegian (i.e. somewhat, if you speak slowly). Welsh is a more distant relation (compare Welsh pen and Gaelic beinn; Welsh moel and Gaelic meall).

Second, Gaelic pronunciation is a lot more complex than Welsh, and I enjoy writing about it, so I’m not going to give you short shrift. This is going to be a long guide.

Some ground rules

  • Gaelic has only eighteen letters in its alphabet, so no J, K, Q, V, W, X, Y or Z.

  • A consonant + H denotes a completely different sound to the same consonant without an H following it.

  • Gaelic has a system of broad vowels (A, O, U) and slender vowels (E, I). It’s a strange feature of Gaelic spelling that a consonant – or bunch of consonants – only ever has broad vowels on both sides, or slender vowels on both sides. So aonach and coire are both valid words, but not aonech or core. After a while, these sorts of words just start to look wrong.

  • When many - but not all - consonants are surrounded by slender vowels (called a slender consonant), they change their sounds to sound as though they have a Y following them. Consonants do exactly the same in English when followed by a U. Thus the initial sounds of the words ceann, dearg are the same as the initial sounds of cure, dune.

  • There is also a distinction that needs to be understood in certain places between back vowels (vowels that sound in the back of the mouth, that is 'aw', 'ur', 'oo', 'ow', 'aa', 'o', 'u', 'a') and front vowels (everything else).

  • Gaelic words are stressed on the first syllable. There, that was simple. The whole discussion about vowels only applies in stressed (i.e. initial) syllables, because anywhere else in the word, vowels only make a couple of sounds (to be covered later).

Simple vowels

Gaelic uses the grave accent on vowels, so suddenly we have ten to cope with. The use of the accent is consistent though and just signifies a longer version of the vowel.

  • A like in cat, or more accurately, like the first part of the vowel in cow.

  • À is a longer version of the above, as in father.

  • E like a short version of the sound in bay before the Y sets in; like French é.

  • È longer version of the above.

  • I is a short version of the sound in see.

  • Ì as in see.

  • O as in cot usually; but [8] before B, BH, G, GH, M and MH it makes a sound more like the French au in jaune.

  • Ò as is law.

  • U is a short version of the sound in food; like French ou.

  • Ù as in food.

These rules aren’t applicable all the time, but they’re a good starting point.

Broad consonants

(that is, consonants surrounded by broad vowels.)

  • F, L, LL, M, N, NN and S; as in English. Well, I wanted to start you off with the easy ones.

  • H as in English, but only when it's found in isolation (which isn't often). When it comes after a consonant, it modifies the sound of the preceding consonant instead of having a sound of its own. See below.

  • P, T and C; as in English, except that in the middle or end of words you should add a very slight 'kh' sound before them, almost no more than a little extra breath. (That 'kh' is the back of the throat sound as in loch or German Bach. Practise it.) E.g. càrn 'caarn', baca 'ba(kh)-kuh'.

  • B, D and G; as in English only at the beginnings of words. Elsewhere they sound like English P, T and C respectively. E.g. bàn 'baan', fada 'fat-uh'.

  • R and RR; rolled, and never left out. Ever. If you can't roll your R's (and I can't) you can approximate a single tap of the roll (which is all most Gaels ever say anyway) by bending your tongue back until the underside of the tongue is touching the roof of your mouth, and then flicking the tongue forward while trying to say an English R. The tongue should catch behind the teeth, producing a sharp tapping sound rather unlike the English R.

  • BH and MH; both pronounced as the English V. For example, mhòr 'vaur'.

  • CH; as in loch or German Bach. If you can't make this sound, you might as well give up now, because there's no surer sign that you're a Sassenach than being unable to pronounce loch as anything other than 'lock'.

  • GH and DH; these are to CH as G is to C, i.e. with the mouth and tongue in the same place but with the vocal cords vibrating. (You can tell if your vocal cords are vibrating or not by placing your hand against your throat and seeing if you can feel a buzzing sensation.) It's a bit like gargling, or sitting on a G for several seconds. E.g. dhorain 'ghorrin'.

  • FH is silent. E.g. fhuaran 'uaran'.

  • PH as in English.

  • SH and TH; as the English H. For example, thuilm 'hoolim'.

Combinations of consonants

Only one rule here: for some reason best known to itself Gaelic inserts a SH sound into the combinations RD and RT. Therefore aird 'aarsht'.

Slender consonants

As discussed above, in most cases, 'slenderising' a consonant just involves sticking a Y after it. Thus slender B is like the BY in English beauty at the beginning of a word, and like the PY in English puke elsewhere. Slender C is just like the CY in English cute, slender SH is like the HY in hew, slender L is like the LY in million and slender BH is just like the VY in English view. This process is also done to R and NG although their modified forms aren’t found in English. E.g. cìr 'kyeery'.

The difficulty for English speakers is ending a word with this kind of slenderised sound. For example, cìr above only has one syllable, and it ends with what sounds like an R and a Y run quickly together. Writing out the pronunciations for these things isn't easy either!

Of course, there are a lot of exceptions.

  • Slender S is pronounced as the English SH. E.g. clais 'clash'.

  • Slender CH is pronounced like the German ich; that is to say, rather like an H and a Y run together and said with more force. E.g. lapaich 'la(kh)-piçh'.

  • Slender GH and DH are a voiced version of the above, i.e. as above, but with the vocal cords vibrating. It can sound rather like a severely overdone Y. E.g. dhearg 'yyerrak'.

  • The consonants B, BH, M, MH, F, FH, P, PH, SH and TH only slenderise before a back vowel (see the Ground Rules section). E.g. bealach 'byal-uhkh' and meall 'myowl', but beag 'behk' (not 'byehk'), caibe 'kap-uh' (not 'kap-yuh') and tìm 'teem' (not 'teemy').

  • L only slenderises at the beginning of a word. E.g. leum 'lyehm' but cuilean 'ku-luhn'

  • N only slenderises initially or after a back vowel. E.g. nead 'nyet' and duine 'duwn-yuh', but teine 'tyen-uh'.

  • R slenderises everywhere except at the beginning of a word. Honestly, who makes these things up? So we have rèidh 'ray' but bhuiridh 'vui-ryee'.

LL, NN and RR slenderise as expected, you will be glad to hear.

Finally, ever hear the English word tune pronounced 'tchoon' rather than 'tyoon'? This is a common trend, and the same is happening in Gaelic. Thus it's fine to pronounce teallach 'tchal-uhkh' rather than 'tyal-uhkh', and of course it means the word nid comes out as 'nyitch' (because the D is pronounced as a T because it's not at the start, but it's also slender, so it becomes TY which then becomes TCH...)

Enjoying yourself? Just wait till we meet the vowels...

Combinations of vowels

The trick with this stuff is knowing which vowels are actually supposed to be sounded, and which have been inserted to mark the surrounding consonants as broad or slender. Also, Gaelic vowels have a habit of changing before certain consonants, much as the A's in the English words ''half'', ''hand'', ''hall'', ''halt'' and ''hallow'' are all pronounced differently. Just be grateful you aren't having to learn as many rules as a learner of English!

  • As a general rule, an I following a vowel does not change its pronunciation, thus AI, EI and ÒI are pronounced the same as A, E and Ò respectively. E.g. caisteal 'kash-tchuhl' and coire 'corruh'.

  • AO is a new vowel, and we all love those. It's like the OO sound in English ''food'', but with the lips unrounded, and sounded further back in the throat. To some, it sounds like a cross between that OO sound and the UR sound in burn. E.g. aonach 'uw-nuhkh'.

  • EA: this combination sounds just like a Gaelic E before the letters D, G and S. Elsewhere, it mostly has the sound of the English E in ''bed'', e.g. beag 'behk' but geal 'gyel'.

  • EO and sound just like the Gaelic O and Ò, except that a Y sound is added before them when they come at the start of a word. E.g. beoil 'byaul' and eòin 'yawny' (note the slender n).

  • EU, IA and ÌO sound like a Gaelic I and A run together, that is, like the English word ''ear'' (without the R). E.g. riabhach 'reea-uhkh'. One exception; before M, EU becomes a long E sound instead. Thus leum 'lyehm'.

  • IO just sounds like I. E.g. biod 'bit'.

  • IU, and IÙI sound just like the Gaelic U and Ù, except that a Y sound is added before them when they come at the start of a word. E.g. iubhar 'yoo-uhr'.

  • UA and UAI sound as in English pure or Northern tour. Thus bruach 'bruakh'.

  • UI normally just sounds like U (as you'd expect from the first rule in this section) but before M, N, NG and S it sounds like the Gaelic AO instead. E.g. uisge 'uwshk-yuh'.

Vowels in unstressed syllables

  • A, E, EA make an 'uh' sound as in the second syllable of butter. E.g. bidean 'bit-yuhn'.

  • AI, EI, I, OI, UI make a short 'i' sound as in pin. E.g. tarsuinn 'tar-sin'.

Simples. No other vowels appear in unstressed syllables.

Vowels before LL, M and NN

Much as in English hall, almost every vowel in Gaelic changes its sound before these letters. This only happens in stressed syllables.

  • A and EA now make the sound of English cow. E.g. meall 'myowl' and ceann 'kyown'. In the case of EA, a Y sound is added before it when it starts a word, and it doesn't change before M.

  • AI now makes the sound in English sky. E.g. caill 'kyle'.

  • EI now sounds like English vein, e.g. beinn 'beyn' and greim 'greym'.

  • I and U simply get lengthened, e.g. till 'tcheely'.

  • IO (and this is a weird one) becomes the long OO sound (but not before M). What's more, it gains an extra Y sound in front if it begins a word. E.g. fionn 'fyoon', fhionnlaidh 'yoon-lee' - don't forget the FH is silent!

  • O is lengthened to a sound similar to that in English home. E.g. tom 'tohm'.

  • OI becomes the sound of the Welsh EI, that is, a sound formed by running together a short 'uh' and an 'ee'. E.g. broinn 'brueyn'.

  • UI becomes a difficult sound formed by running together the back-of-the-throat Gaelic AO sound and an 'ee'. E.g. druim 'druuym'.

An important rule to remember is that this does not happen if a vowel follows the LL/M/NN. It's the same in English with the words fall and fallow. Most of the time a following vowel just causes the preceding vowel to fall back to how it would have been had the LL/M/NN not been present (e.g. mullach is 'mu-luhkh' not 'moo-luhkh'), but there are a couple of exceptions:

  • EA becomes a Gaelic short A, but still has a Y preceding it if it starts a word off. E.g. teallach 'tchal-uhkh'.

  • IO becomes a Gaelic short U. It also still has a Y preceding it if it starts a word off. E.g. sionnach 'shu-nuhkh'.

Vowels before RR/RN/RD

A similar lengthening takes place before the combinations RR, RN and RD. This one is simpler though.

  • A, AI and EA lengthen to make a long À sound. E.g. aird 'aarsht' and fearna 'fyaar-nuh'.

  • O and U lengthen to sound like Ò and Ù, e.g. sgurr 'skuur'. Similarly, IU lengthens to sound like .

As in the previous section, this lengthening does not happen if a vowel follows the RR (note: it does happen if a vowel follows an RN or an RD), e.g. corranaich 'korruh-niçh'. Also as in the previous section, under these circumstances an EA ends up sounding like a short A (e.g. earrach 'yarruhkh').

Those pesky BH, DH, GH and MH

The most annoying thing about these four consonants is their tendency to disappear when following a vowel. If you come across one of these four in that situation, you're safer assuming that it's silent than that it sounds as it should: e.g. dubh 'doo', labhar 'laa-uhr', sidhein 'shee-in', buidhe 'buuy-uh', mheadhoin 'vey-in' (often contracted further to 'vein'), braigh 'bruey', nighean 'nyee-uhn'. But then there are words like abhainn 'av-in', laogh 'luwgh', damh 'dav' and caoimhin 'kuw-vin'... It helps to know that DH almost always disappears and that MH rarely does.

One thing a consonant disappearing like this often does is lengthen the preceding vowel. This explains why the common ending -aidh is pronounced 'ee'.

But sometimes (and whether they disappear or not!) these four consonants change the sound of the preceding vowel instead. As follows:

  • A/EA before DH/GH; the DH/GH is not silent, and the A/EA becomes another new vowel, like the ur in English burn but further back in the throat and shorter. E.g. feadh 'fyeugh', ladhran 'leuu-ruhn' (in this instance the vowel is lengthened by the disappearance of the DH).

  • AI before BH/DH/MH; lengthens to the sound of English sky. E.g. aibhne 'eyev-nyuh'.

  • AIGH and OIGH make the sound of OI before LL, that is, 'uh' and 'ee' run together. E.g. mhaighdean 'vuey-tchuhn' and oighreag 'uey-ryuhk'.

  • AOI plus BH/DH/GH/MH; like an AO and an 'ee' run together. E.g. laoigh 'luuy'.

Extra vowels

Gaelic isn't a fan of having too many consonants of certain types stuck together, so it tends to stick extra vowels in between them, even when there's no vowel written. To be precise: where an L, N or R is followed by a B, BH, CH, G, GH, M or MH, or preceded by an M, an extra vowel comes between the two. Usually this vowel is a copy of the previous vowel; e.g. bhalgain 'val-a-kin', gorm 'gorom', garbh 'garav'.

An exception is that when this would lead to the sound combination E-R-E, an A is sounded instead. This explains why the common word dearg is pronounced 'jerrak'.

A guide to the respelling used

Yeah, trying to write out how these words are pronounced isn't very easy when English doesn't contain half the sounds involved. Here's a roundup of all the conventions used:

Spelling Meaning
'by' etc. as in beauty, even at the end of a word.
'çh' like the German ich; that is to say, rather like an H and a Y run together and said with more force.
'eh' like a short version of the sound in bay before the Y sets in; like French é.
'eu' A new vowel, like the 'ur' in English burn but further back in the throat and shorter.
'gh' to CH as G is to C, i.e. with the mouth and tongue in the same place but with the vocal cords vibrating. It's a bit like gargling, or sitting on a G for several seconds.
'kh' The back of the throat sound as in loch or German Bach. Practise it.
'uey' A sound formed by running together a short 'uh' and an 'ee'.
'uh' As in butt_er_ or comm_a_.
'uuy' A difficult sound formed by running together the back-of-the-throat Gaelic AO sound (see below) and an 'ee'.
'uw' Like the OO sound in English ''food'', but with the lips unrounded, and sounded further back in the throat. To some, it sounds like a cross between that OO sound and the UR sound in burn.
'yy' as 'çh', but with the vocal cords vibrating. It can sound rather like a severely overdone Y.


Test

Right, now that you've been reminded of what all my garbled pronunciations are trying to say, cover up the right-hand side of the page/screen and have a go at these Munro names:

Name Pronunciation
Stob Bàn 'stop baan'
An Stuc 'uhn stu-(kh)k'
Creise 'kreh-shuh'
Aonach Mor 'uw-nuhkh maur'
Stob Coire an Laoigh 'stop corr-uhn luuy'
Stob Ghabhar 'stop ghow-uhr'
Meall Chuaich 'myowl khua-çh'
Càrn a' Gheoidh 'caarn uh yyoy'
Sgurr an Doire Leathain 'skuur uhn dorruh ly-e-hin'

The Unofficial Guide to Pronouncing Welsh Place Names


CUHWC goes to Wales four times a year, but so far its members have demonstrated a regrettable lack of interest in the varied and intricate sounds of the country’s ancient and beautiful language. Not only is this a shameful lack of cultural empathy, but it also makes them sound like fools to Welshmen (even if some would argue the feeling’s mutual). Would you be annoyed if a tourist came to Cambridge and cheerily insisted on calling it 'Camm-brid-gee'?

This lack of interest is usually put down to the language being full of sounds that require you to get your tongue stuck between your front teeth, not having nearly enough vowels, and looking as though a bowl of Alphabetti Spaghetti has had an accident with a blender. In actual fact, though, Welsh pronunciation is one heck of a lot easier to learn than English. Gone are the oddities such as cough failing to rhyme with tough, seven with even or show with cow. All you have to do is learn a few rules and a few new sounds and bam, you’re a half-decent Welsh speaker (even if you don’t have a clue what the words mean!)

For those who’re interested, then...

Consonants

  • B, D, FF, H, L, M, N, NG, P, PH and T are said the same as in English.

  • C and G are always 'hard', as in cat and get; NEVER soft as in centre or gem.

  • CH is as in the Scottish loch or the German Bach, NOT as in church.

  • DD is the soft 'th' sound, as in that, NOT as in middle.

  • F is pronounced 'v' as in veil, NOT 'f' as in fail. Our 'f' sound is represented by FF in Welsh.

  • LL is a real peach of a sound, but it’s not all that hard to say. Just put your tongue in the position you would for an L, and blow hard. If you spray the person you’re speaking to with spittle, you may be overdoing it. Learning to put this sound in the middle and ends of words takes a bit of practice, but stick with it.

  • R is rolled. As in Arrrrrrrrr.

  • RH is to R the same way LL is to L; just blow harder and hope for the best.

  • S and TH are always as in bus and bath respectively, NEVER as in does or that. There is also a bit of an oddity in that SI is pronounced SH.

Vowels

  • Vowels can be both short and long, much as in English. This isn’t much to worry about though, since they are only long in single-syllable words, and even then only when 0 or 1 consonants follow the vowel; remember this. The circumflex (e.g. in ê) is also used to show a vowel is long.

  • The short vowels A, E, I, O, U are pronounced as in bat, bet, bit, bot... bit. No that is NOT a typo. U is pronounced the same as I in Welsh. Get used to it.

  • The long vowels A, E, I, O, U are pronounced as in bra, bear, bee, bor, bee. Simples.

  • Y is a bit funny. In the last syllable of a word it makes the short 'i' sound, but elsewhere it makes a neutral 'uh' sound as in butter. Its long vowel sound is as in bee (obviously this only happens in single-syllable words).

  • W is even worse because between consonants it acts as a vowel, whereas next to another vowel it acts as a consonant (making the same 'w' sound as it does in English). Its short and long vowel sounds are 'uh' as in book and 'oo' as in food, respectively.

Vowel combinations

  • AE, AI and AU are all pronounced as in high.

  • AW is pronounced as in cow.

  • EI and EU are pronounced as in bay (the actual Welsh sound is a bit more like an 'uh' and an 'ee' strung together, but this is a reasonable approximation).

  • EW is like running a short 'e' and a long 'oo' together; it’s like nothing in English and learning to stick this sound at the end of words takes a bit of practice. Similarly, IW and UW are like running a short 'i' and a long 'oo' together.

  • I before another vowel; here the I ends up making a Y sound (as in yes) and the other vowel behaves normally. This catches people out.

  • OE is pronounced as in boy.

  • WY is a bit like the sound of gooey, but with the vowels run together more.

  • YW is pretty much as you'd expect (if you've a systematic mind). In the last syllable of a word it sounds like IW and UW; elsewhere it's like running a short 'uh' and a long 'oo' together. It ends up sounding a bit like an English 'oh' if you do it right.

Three final notes...

  • A warning about R; it’s always pronounced (and always rolled). Do not try and pronounce AR, ER, IR, OR, UR or YR as they are in English – just say the short vowel and then stick the R after it. If you aren’t too fussy, ER will come out a bit like English air; IR, UR, YR (final syllables) like in English deer; and YR (non-final syllables) like in English fur.

  • See too many consonants at the end of a word (e.g. cefn)? The Welsh just haven’t bothered to write in the extra vowel that separates the f and the n. Such a vowel is always inserted and always sounds the same as the preceding vowel (or the second part of it, if a combination of vowels). Hence eifl is pronounced 'ay-vil'.

  • Oh, and the small words y, yr and yn are pronounced 'uh', 'uhr' and 'uhn'.

...and one really important rule

  • Stick the stress on the second-to-last syllable.

That really is it; not too bad. Thanks for sticking by, and happy Welshing.

Some examples,

These are the most difficult ones you are likely to see; most place names are a bit simpler than these. They're all from place names you might see on CUHWC trips. In the pronunciation guide vowels are short unless otherwise stated.

  • Aran Fawddwy – 'ARR-an VOWTH-wee' ('th' as in that)
  • Betws-y-Coed – 'BET-uhss uh COYD' (not 'Betsy Co-ed'!)
  • Blaenau Ffestiniog – 'BLYE-nye fest-IN-yog'
  • Bryn Brethynau – 'brrin brreth-UH-nye'
  • Capel Curig – 'CAP-el KIRR-ig'
  • Carneddau – 'carr-NETH-eye' ('th' as in that)
  • Caseg Fraith – 'CASS-eg VRYE-th'
  • Cefn y Dyniewyd - 'KEV-en uh duhn-YE-wid'
  • Crib Goch – 'crreeb gaukh'
  • Cwm Dyli – 'koom DUH-lee'
  • Dolgellau – 'dol-GE-hleye'
  • Fan Brycheiniog – 'van brruh-KHAYN-yog'
  • Moel Cynghorion – 'moyl cuhng-HORR-yon'
  • Moel Eilio – 'moyl AYL-yo'
  • Moel Siabod – 'moyl SHAB-od'
  • Mynydd Mawr – 'MUH-nith mowr' ('th' as in that)
  • Rhyd Ddu – 'hrreed thee' ('th' as in that)
  • Y Lliwedd – 'uh HLI-weth' ('th' as in that)
  • Yr Wyddfa – 'uhrr WUHTH-va' ('th' as in that)
  • Ystradfellte – 'uh-strrad-VE-hl-te'

External links (to prove I'm not lying);

  • http://www.plas-coch.co.uk/soundmap.html
  • http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/freefun/didyouknow/placenames/welshintro.html

If you've got any queries, comments or corrections, please feel free to comment below.

Author: 
Mark Jackson

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