From Livingstone in Zambia named after the missionary-explorer David Livingstone (you can visit his birthplace in Blantyre, that’s Blantyre in Scotland rather than Blantyre in Malawi!) to Macquarie Harbour in Tasmania (Lachlan Macquarie, one of the most popular colonial Governors of NSW), the names of famous Scottish explorers, scientists and missionaries have been used as place names right across the globe.
Many other places were named by early settlers after a town, village, river or a mountain in Scotland to remind them of home.
I find place names (and not just Scottish ones) can provide a fascinating trail of the history of exploration and emigration, reminding us of who has gone before, although sometimes I have to admit it’s too easy not to stop and consider where names might have come from. The large number of place names around the world that have direct or indirect connections with Scotland is an enduring legacy of the history of Scotland and her people.
Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, has sometimes been changed to Edinburg or Edinboro in the USA. The Gaelic form of Edinburgh, Dunedin, is found in New Zealand and places in Florida and Ontario. Edinburgh is also the name of the capital of the remote South Atlantic island of Tristan da Cunha of all places.
Well-known examples of places abroad that were given Scottish names include several major cities: Houston, Dallas, Knoxville (Tennessee) & Albany (New York) in America, Calgary (Alberta) & Hamilton (Ontario) in Canada, and Brisbane & Perth in Australia.
There is also Nova Scotia in Canada, the French territory of New Caledonia near Australia, the Murray River in Australia, the Mackenzie Mountains, River and Bay in Canada, and the Falkland Islands, South Shetland Islands and South Orkney Islands in the South Atlantic.
There’s even a Ben Nevis in South Africa, although the Scottish one (near Fort William and Britain’s highest mountain) was there first, I’m sure. It’s a wonderful climb, one of 284 Munros in Scotland (our highest mountains, above 3,000 feet, named after the man who first catalogued them, Sir Hugh Munro). However, that’s for another time.
There are at least 550 towns, suburbs, villages, mountains, rivers and other topographical features in South Africa alone that have Scottish names, as do more than 200 localities in Metropolitan New York.
During the nineteenth century, many places were named for popular novels, poems and their authors. Of the Scottish examples, two writers stand out – the novelist Sir Walter Scott and Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns.
A surprisingly large number of places were named for Sir Walter Scott novels and poems or characters in his novels, the two that occur most frequently being Waverley (Waverly in the USA) and Ivanhoe. Ironically, neither of these names is actually Scottish!
You can board The Steamship Sir Walter Scott, which has been sailing on Loch Katrine since 1899. The beauty of the loch unfolds before you in harmony with the gentle rhythm of the steam engine. The scenery captured the imagination of Sir Walter Scott, inspiring him to write his poem “The Lady of the Lake”. It’s easy to see why. Located in the lovely Trossachs in Scotland, it is just over an hour by car from Glasgow or Edinburgh.
The name of Abbotsford can be found in Melbourne, Sydney, Dunedin, East London, Johannesburg, Philadelphia and near Vancouver.
Abbotsford is the name of Sir Walter Scott’s home in the Scottish Borders. I can recommend a visit, indeed the Scottish Borders is a lovely part of the country with a long history of struggles with England, atmospheric ruined abbeys and castles, bustling market towns and historic houses, of which Traquair House is probably my favourite (and it does have its own brewery!).
The Borders is often overlooked, especially when time is short, but much can be seen in a day, perhaps as a side trip from Edinburgh by car. There are also some lovely hotels to tempt you to stay.
Melrose, the Scottish Borders market town near Abbotsford, is found in at least 19 American States and is hugely popular as a suburban name, although I like to think not many of them will have such a picturesque view of a ruined abbey!