When you’re taking your nice new car out for a spin, do you ever spot road signs and place-names that make you smile?
We’ve scoured the country for the oddest, to bring you our top ten pick. Why not take a road trip to see a few of the weird and wonderful place-name road signs of our great nation?
But be warned, if you want to go look them all up! Many are in out-of-the-way rural spots, requiring some country lane driving, and some could even benefit from the road-hugging qualities of a sturdy 4×4.
We’ll start in the North of the UK and work our way down for this road trip, shall we? This very helpful sign, rather than being sarcastic, it is in fact directing you to our first place-name. It’s true that the hamlet of Lost would take some finding, lying 40 miles west of Aberdeen in the Cairngorm mountains.
Whilst you’re there, check out the Cairngorms National Park. You might have to leave the motor behind to walk the actual mountains though. Other than the national roads network, looping around the peaks, you can’t drive a motorised vehicle on land there, unless it’s modified for a disabled person and driven by them.
Although many routes are wide enough for vehicle traffic, there are restrictions to protect the area. So you may come across a locked gate which allows pedestrians, but not cars through.
Now our trip takes us further North still to the Orkney islands – where apparently, the names get stranger (there is another Twatt on Shetland, too). This small settlement actually takes its name from an Old Norse word meaning ‘small parcel of land’ – in English, the same word produces the place-name ‘Thwaite’.
If you want to check it out for yourself, getting to and around the Orkneys is driveable. You can travel by ferry from Aberdeen and other ports and two ferry companies allow you to take your car over. Should provide shelter from the elements too….
Heading South over the border into England, we come to this nice little Yorkshire village in beautiful Swaledale. Ey-up.
It might sound like someone’s giving a personal insult, but actually the name derives from the Old English word for crow and Viking for pot. Nothing like the obvious, is there?
Moving on southwards, this eccentric sign takes us into Worcestershire.
And no, if you’re wondering, it doesn’t take its name from local roadside services with toilets provided – actually it’s named after a marsh or fen, the meaning of the old English word ‘piddle’.
And so we drive on South to our great capital, and in EC1, London, we find this example of the humour of our ancestors.
It’s interesting to note, though, that back passage lanes and roads have their uses. They’re the reason we rarely see important people entering the front door of No 10 Downing Street. But you’ll have to look hard for this one, as it’s not actually on the map.
There’s another of the same name in Worthing, Brighton. Close to the sea front, and round the back of the Pavilion theatre. We’re heading for the coast now, anyway, so why not check that one out too?
Leaving London, we reach the much maligned name of an ancient hamlet in Kent, southeast of Gravesend.
While we’re at it, what’s the difference between a hamlet and a village? Well, apparently a hamlet is a small village in the country, especially one without a church. A village is larger than a hamlet but smaller than a town. Of course. And a town is larger still, having government administration. So you see. Size does matter.
Travelling on, we arrive in the beautiful scenery of the South-west coast of England, where the place-names start to win awards for the worst in the UK.
The clifftop valley of Scratchy Bottom is located in Dorset near to Durdle Door: it’s thought the name refers to it being a rough and rugged hollow. We’re cheating slightly as you’ll have to leave the car, and walk a bit of the coast path, to get to this sign – but this is not the only winning sign from Dorset, so perhaps you should consider a trip to see this and the next two as well.
The more contented version of the previous sign – perhaps that’s why Happy Bottom has become a settlement, not just a bare valley? This little hamlet is near Corfe Mullen, Dorset.
And here is the winner of a 2012 UK-wide vote for the worst place-name – it’s in Dorset again. Perhaps it’s a particularly apt name when your road sign gets nicked so often you have to replace it with this sturdy edifice.
Sorry – there’s no romantic old English explanation for this one. Plain and simple, the name grew from the fact that the town is on the stream of a sewer. It’s the direct descendant of the place-name recorded in the Domesday Book, listed as Scatera or Scetra.
The new Shitterton sign’s not that bad, is it? Moving West to our final destination, we find this amusing Devon place-name.
Famous for a number of reasons, Crapstone housed RAF crew during the second world war and an associated land deal was said later to have not been honoured by the Ministry of Defence.
And finally, the name of the village was used in 2007 in a television advert for the RAC but this led to a protest by villagers that the village used in the ad was not Crapstone itself. Which just goes to show you – the road signs may be slightly embarrassing, but the locals still love their homes.
Enjoy road-touring some more of the UK’s eccentric road signs! Let us know what your favourite you find is, on Twitter or Facebook – we’d love to see some more.