First published in the Scotsman on 31 December 2016
Conon Bridge relates of course to the bridge, built between 1807 and 1809, over the River Conon here. Prior to this there was a ferry called Scuttol or Scuddale ferry. The Gaelic form Drochaid Sguideil ‘the bridge of Scuddale’, refers to the original name. Sguideal or Scuddale perhaps comes from a Norse name scat-dalr meaning ‘tax-dale’, possibly relating to tax paid on common grazing. Further up Strathconan is Scatwell or Sgatail Mòr and Little Scatwell or Sgatail Beag. These names contain the same Norse element pertaining to ‘scat’ or ‘tax’. Another Gaelic form of Conon Bridge was Ceann na Drochaid, a common place-name simply meaning ‘the bridge end’.
The bay here also had a Norse name; a Latin charter dated 1587 refers to the River Conon as aqua de Stavack, meaning ‘the water of Stavack’, which most likely derives from Norse staf-vík ‘staff-bay’.
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