[If the text below uses any of the terms ‘hill-letter’, ‘river-letter’, ‘old-style name’, ‘transitional name’ and ‘inversion-type name’ a reader who is not familiar with those terms may wish to refer briefly to ‘The Celtic names of hillforts’, where an explanation of those terms is given].


The Celtic names of hillforts




Location: Cumbria

OS map reference:  NY 616 661                                      

Celtic name:  Cambaglanda

Source:  Ravenna Cosmography (131) - Gabaglanda

             Notitia Dignitatum – Amboglanna

             Rudge cup – Camboglans

             Amiens patera – Cambogs  (letters missing where the handle came off)


This was a promontory fort south of the Hadrian’s Wall fort at Birdoswald. All trace of the fort (and of the later Flavian and Trajanic forts on the same site) has been lost to river erosion.

The Celtic name of the promontory fort was most probably Cambaglanda, though Gambaglanda would also be possible if Ravenna’s initial G is correct. This is a compound name in the three hill-letters m, l1 and n2, where cam or gam means ‘steep hill’, bagl means ‘high steep hill’ and and means ‘hill summit’. The name is thus entirely appropriate for a promontory fort standing at the top of the high, steep escarpment on the northern side of the river Irthing at Birdoswald. Note that because the place-name is an old-style compound in three hill-letters applied at different times by different waves of settlers we can be confident that there was a Celtic fort/settlement there long before the Romans arrived in that area. The promontory fort was presumably still occupied when the Romans arrived since they retained the name of the fort for the Flavian fort which they built there, and later for the Trajanic and Hadrianic forts - see Chapter 20 (Rome's frontiers in northern England) of the Home menu.