Placenamesni.orgthe history behind our place-names

Carrowdore, County Down


Ir. Ceathrú Dhorn 'quarter of the pebbles' or perhaps Ir. Ceathrú Dhobhair 'water quarter'


8.5km ESE of Newtownards

par: Donaghadee bar: Ards Lower

Carrowdore is a village in the townland of Ballyrawer.  The element ceathrú ‘quarter/quarterland’ is not uncommon in the place-names of the Lower Ards, though it has sometimes been dropped as a first element as, for example, in the early spellings of Crossnamuckley in the neighbouring parish of Newtownards. 

The second element of Carrowdore is uncertain.  It may be dobhar 'water, which is no longer used in Modern Irish dialects except in calcified compounds such as dobharchú 'otter' (lit. 'water-hound').  It is also preserved in place-names; for example, Gweedore, Co. Donegal is an anglicisation of Gaoth Dobhair  'water inlet'.  Ceathramha Dobhair 'water quarter' was proposed in 1905 as the original Irish form of this name by Seosamh Laoide (Post-Sheanchas 43), and the modernised form of this, Ceathrú Dhobhair, has been adopted in several other works (e.g. 198, PNI ii 189). 

However, a number of serious objections may be raised against this interpretation.  Firstly, the name has not been linked to a specific watercourse.  Although no place on the Ards Peninsula is very far from water, Carrowdore is rather further than most, lying as it does almost equidistant from Strangford Lough and the sea, approximately 4.5km from each.  At 40m above sea-level, it is situated on some of the highest ground in the parish of Donaghadee.  The Ordnance Survey Memoirs mention a number of townlands in the parish containing bog, but Ballyrawer is not among them (OSM vii 45).  One may also note that the interpretation offered in OSNB by O'Donovan, Ceathramha Doir 'Dore's Quarter', does not support dobhar as the second element.  However, Dore as a surname (from Ir. Ó Doghair) is mainly found in Co. Limerick (de Bhulbh 1997, 180)

Furthermore, three 17th century forms, of which O'Donovan seems to have been unaware, indicate a final [n], namely Kerrowe Dorne in 1627 (CPR Chas I 228), Corrondorne in 1636 (Inq. Ult. (Down) §75 Car I), and Carrowdorne in 1650 (Inq. Ult. (Down) §109 Car. I).  Against this one could argue that -dorne was a mistranscription of -dorre and that this had been copied from one source to the others.  However, the final [n] is confirmed in the rather less ambiguous 1707 form Carradoran from the Registry of Deeds.  Here, the -a- is likely to be epenthetic.  These forms point towards a form Ceathrú Dhorn ‘quarter of the pebbles’.  The importance of stone as a local resource is confirmed by the 1st edition OS 6" map c.1840, which shows 8 quarries and a gravel pit in the SW half of Ballyrawer townland where Carrowdore is located.  There is now (2012) a quarry on the southern edge of the village within the townland of Ballyrawer where greywacke is quarried.  Also possible, but less likely is the surname Doran (Ir. Ó Deoráin), which is found in Co. Down (de Bhulbh 1997, 180).


McKay, P. (2007): A Dictionary of Ulster Place-Names, p. 36; Hannan R. J. (1992): Place-Names of Northern Ireland vol. 2 p. 189; revised PT 2012.

Additional Information

T., 1851 Census

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference

Ceathrú Dobhair "water quarter"

1992PNI ii 189 (R.J. Hannan)
Kerrowe Dorne1627CPR Chas I 228
Corrondorne1636Inq. Ult. (Down) $75 Car I
Carrowdorne1650Inq. Ult. (Down) $109 Car. I
Carrowdore1650cMontgomery MSS 54 n.34
Carradoran1707Reg. Deeds abstracts i $30
Carrodore1823Downshire Direct. 319

Ceathramha Doir "Dore's Quarter"

1834cJ O'D (OSNB) E 167, E 24
Carrowdore1834cOSNB: gen. sources E 167, E 24

Ceathramha Dobhair

1905Post-Sheanchas 43
Dore''s Quarter1913Joyce iii 185

Ceathrú Dobhair

1969AGBP 114

Ceathrú Dobhair

1988Éire Thuaidh

Ceathrú Dobhair

1989GÉ 198

Ceathrú Dobhair "water quarter"

1999Dict. Ulst. PN 36
Ards Lower
Parish in 1851
Place name ID
Place name type