Scottish Place Names
- Cape Town, South Africa

For comparability with other large cities around the world, Cape Town has been defined as the Cape Peninsula together with the northern suburbs from Bloubergstrand in the west to Durbanville and Kraaifontein in the east, the built-up areas of the Cape Flats and the Eersterivier-Somerset West area. This metropolitan region comprises the entire urban and semi-urban area administered by the recently enlarged City of Cape Town, excluding the predominantly rural areas in the far north such as Atlantis and Mamre. Of the names of the 882 suburbs and neighbourhoods that have been identified to date in Greater Cape Town, 115 (13.0%) can be found in Scotland or are based on Scottish family names or Scottish words. Of course, some of the names are used in other parts of the British Isles as well, but at least 60 of these (6.8%) appear to have a direct or indirect connection with Scotland. However, several of these names are variations on a single name, for example the numerous suburbs with Brackenfell as part of their name or made-up names based on Bellville.

The photo of central Cape Town is via Wikimedia.

Suburbs and neighbourhoods with names that occur only in Scotland and not elsewhere in the British Isles, and/or are definitely or most probably of Scottish origin are:

Some of the following localities may prove on further investigation to have a link with Scotland. However, these names are also associated with other parts of the British Isles and very few look or sound obviously Scottish. The vast majority are likely to have an English rather than Scottish origin:

A final category of suburban names comprises places that can be found in Scotland but which, in Cape Town's case, definitely or most probably have no connection with Scotland.

Everglen, Glen Ive, Glen Lily, Oakglen and Sunset Glen also have a mild "Scottish ring" to them, but have not yet been established as Scottish in origin. These are probably made-up names, the word 'glen' (from the Gaelic gleann) having become a descriptive term for a valley that is now used quite commonly in Standard English.

Further evidence of direct and indirect Scottish influences on the development of South Africa's legislative capital city can be found in the names of natural and man-made topographical features within the metropolitan area:

Although Maclear and Hutchinson are both Scottish family names, the individuals after whom the topographical features were named were in fact Irishmen. Sir Thomas Maclear was born in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland in 1794 while Sir Walter Hely-Hutchinson was the son of the 4th Earl of Donoughmore, an Irish peer. The origins of these place names are therefore more properly 'Scots-Irish' than Scottish as such, i.e., names associated with Northern Ireland as a result of the Scottish Presbyterian plantations of the 17th Century.

The Scottish influence on place names in Cape Town, whilst certainly evident, is not as marked as in many Australian and Canadian cities. This is mainly because of the preponderance of names that are of Dutch or Afrikaans origin, followed by names from England and an increasing number of Xhosa names. Cape Town's history goes back to 1652 when the Dutch East India Company established a small colony, under the command of Jan van Riebeeck, to provide fresh meat, vegetables and water for crew travelling between Europe and what is today Indonesia. Because of its strategic importance during the Napoleonic wars to British interests in the East, the Cape became a British colony from 1806. It remained a Crown Colony until the creation of the Union of South Africa in 1910. Scottish influences on the development of South Africa's second most important city occurred mainly, but not exclusively, during the 19th and early 20th Centuries.

One of the earliest British residents in Cape Town was a Scotswoman, Lady Anne Barnard (1750-1825), the eldest daughter of the fifth Earl of Balcarres and wife of the Colonial Secretary at the Cape. It is thanks to her letters that much is known about daily life during the first British Occupation of the Cape from 1795 to 1803. The picture of Lady Anne Barnard is via Wikimedia.


  • Black, George F. (1996). The Surnames of Scotland. (Birlinn Ltd, Edinburgh).
  • Laidler, P.W. (1952). A Tavern of the Ocean. (Maskew Miller Limited, Cape Town).
  • MacKenzie, John M., with Nigel R. Dalziel (2007). The Scots in South Africa: Ethnicity, Identity, Gender and Race, 1772-1914. (Manchester University Press, Manchester).
  • McCracken, J.L. (1993). New Light at the Cape of Good Hope: William Porter, the Father of Cape Liberalism. Ulster Historical Foundation.
  • Picard, Hymen (1977). Cape Epic. (Khenty Press (Pty) Ltd, Howick, Natal).
  • Raper, P.E. (1989). Dictionary of Southern African Place Names (Second Edition). (Jonathan Ball Publishers, Johannesburg).
  • Raper, P.E. (2004). New Dictionary of South African Place Names. (Jonathan Ball Publishers, Johannesburg).
  • Room, Adrian (2003). The Penguin Dictionary of British Place Names. (Penguin Books, London).
  • Scarlett, James D. (1975). The Tartans of the Scottish Clans. (Collins, Glasgow and London).
  • James McFarlane, South Africa, freelance journalist and amateur historian, for information on the suburb of Bishopscourt.
  • Cape Town Street Plan, 2000 (MapStudio, Johannesburg).
  • City of Cape Town official website.
  • Clifton-on-Sea website.
  • Collins Gem Scots Dictionary (1995). (HarperCollins Publishers, Glasgow).
  • Google Maps for the names and location of new and outlying suburbs.
  • History of Plumstead
  • Reader's Digest Atlas of Southern Africa (1984). (The Reader's Digest Association South Africa (Pty) Ltd).
  • South African History Online
  • Websites, place name gazetteers and published Ordnance Survey maps of British and Irish cities, towns, villages and counties.

    © Ian Kendall
    Melbourne, Australia, February 2006
    Revised January 2012.

    If you wish to contact Ian about his research, his e-mail address is

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