Volas bay

Identification: unknown, but apparently the bay at the entrance to Loch Eriboll in Sutherland

Volas is a river-name in the river-letters b (changed to v), l and s, though in the chronological order s, l, b. The river-letter s was apparently applied by the Caereni, who used the hill-letter r and river-letter s. The area around the river was then taken over by a people who used the hill-letter n and river-letter l, presumably the Carnonacae (though the Cornavi also used the hill-letter n and river-letter l). The river-letter b (changed to v) will have been added by a people who used the hill-letter s, thus presumably by the Smertae. It would thus appear that the river Volas flowed through territory belonging to the Carnonacae but that at least its upper reaches were in the territory of the Smertae. However, if Ptolemy obtained his data from someone who had actually sailed around the north of what is now Scotland then it is probable that the river-name Volas and the then name of the river Naver, Nabarus (comprising the river-letter b, changed to n, used as a prefix to the place-name Bar), were both actually used by the people who lived along the coast. This would suggest that the Smertae had extended their territory all the way up to the north coast at the expense of the Caereni, and this may suggest that the Caereni had ceased to exist as an independent tribe. This in turn would suggest that Ptolemy’s information as to tribes and their relative location is earlier in date than his information as to rivers and bays, at least in the north of Scotland. Coming back now to Volas, given that the river-letter b (changed to n) is also used in the then name Nabarus of the river Naver, it is likely that the river Volas also reached the sea somewhere on the north coast of Sutherland. But the river Volas is perhaps unlikely to have been  the insignificant stream which trickles into the southern end of Loch Eriboll. It is more likely to have been the longer river a little to the east. This river is apparently now called the Strathmore river. It flows north into Loch Hope and from there, now called the river Hope, it drains into the bay at the entrance to Loch Eriboll a little over one kilometre to the east of the loch itself. That bay will then have been Ptolemy’s Volas bay.

Note, however, that the argument presented above rests largely on the assumption that there is a connection between the boll of Eriboll and the Vol of Volas, though of course the resemblance between those two elements may be entirely coincidental. In principle the Volas river could have been any river flowing into a bay on the north coast of Scotland to the west of the river Naver, or even on the northwest coast since the predecessors of the Carnonacae also used the hill-letter r and the river-letter s (as is evident from the Car element of Carnonacae). And the bay at the mouth of that river would be Ptolemy’s Volas bay.



[NB. Detailed information as to the different river-letters and as to how they were combined to form compound river-names is given in Chapter 19: the rivers of Roman Britain. Detailed information as to the different hill-letters is given in Chapter 1 and information as to how the hill-letters were combined to form compound place-names is given in Chapter 2]