Originally published in the Scotsman on 2 April 2016
The name of this famous mountain is puzzling: Why does this mountain have the name of a loch? The exact reason is unknown but the name comes from a small loch on the north face of the mountain; this is Loch na Gàire, ‘the loch of the outcry’, thought to take its name from the howling of the wind among the rocks.
This gives rise to the question, what was the mountain called in Gaelic? The answer is Beinn nan Cìochan, ‘the hill of the paps’ (pap is used here in the sense of ‘hill’). This was the name recorded from the last generation of native speakers of Aberdeenshire Gaelic. The paps in question are called in Scots the Meikle Pap and the Little Pap. These are translations from the Gaelic names, since the name for the Meikle Pap has been recovered as A’ Chìoch Mhòr, of exactly the same meaning.