The Celtic names of hillforts


Holborn Head


Location:   north of Scrabster, Caithness

OS map reference:   ND 109 716

Celtic name: Carvedunum

Source:  Ptolemy – Tarvedum promontory


This is a coastal promontory fort lying on the lower slopes of a steep hill rising to some 94 metres above sea level. The fort is bounded by cliffs on its western, northern and eastern sides.

The Carv element of the name means ‘steep hill slope’ and the dun element means ‘summit of hill’, in this case referring to the location of the fort at the top of the cliffs.

The name was transferred to the promontory itself, appearing in the Geography of Ptolemy as the Tarvedum promontory, this showing change of initial C  to T and dunum shortened to dum (for the latter change compare Uxelodunum on the Amiens patera with Uxelodum on the Rudge cup).