Some places have names that are very ancient in origin. Others have names that are much more recent, sometimes surprisingly so. Muir of Ord is a good example of the second group, having only been called that since 1862.
Historically, overland travel north of Inverness was, at best, difficult. Two particular obstructions were the River Beauly where it flows into the Beauly Firth near Beauly, and the Rover Conon, where it flows into Cromarty Firth. The two rivers were only crossed, by the Lovat Bridge and the Conon Bridge, both built by Thomas Telford, in 1814. This brought increasing traffic to the main coastal route north that ran between them, and led to the growth of a village called Tarradale, which lay at the junction of that road and the main road into the Black Isle.
The bridges also placed Tarradale at the focal point of a network of routes extending inland to the north, west, south-west and south. By this time clearance of crofters to make room for sheep was already well under way in parts of the Highlands. Nonetheless the rearing and trading of traditional black cattle, which had for centuries been the mainstay of what passed for an economy across much of north-west Scotland, remained of huge importance.
With the removal of the barriers posed by the Rivers Conon and Beauly, the flat land between them became an ideal place for cattle drovers from most of northern Scotland to congregate, selling their cattle on to traders who would then drive them south to markets in Falkirk or Crieff, either via Inverness and the route of today's A9, or down Strath Glass to Cannich then across the hills to Fort Augustus en route to the Corrieyairack Pass and all points south.
The result was that from about 1820 huge trysts or cattle markets began to occur on land a little north of Beauly, then later on a better site a little further north, just south of Tarradale. The trysts became known by the name of the site, at Muir of Ord.
Meanwhile, the Mill of Ord, a little north-west of Tarradale, had become well known for the illicit whisky distilled there. It legalised its operations in 1838 and grew rapidly to become a significant distillery producing 80,000 gallons per year by 1885. Today this is known as Glen Ord Distillery, and offers distillery tours and an excellent visitor centre.
In 1862 the Inverness and Ross-shire Railway was built with a station at Tarradale. However, the railway company called their station Muir of Ord, after the site of the cattle trysts still taking place a mile to the south. And within a relatively short time "Tarradale" was but a fading memory, and the settlement that gradually filled in the gaps between the distillery, the railway station and the site of the trysts, became known as Muir of Ord. Today "The Muir" is the site of an industrial estate, opposite the Muir of Ord Golf Club. Muir of Ord retains its railway station on the main line north from Inverness.
In other ways today's Muir of Ord is less busy than it once was. Later roads followed the line of Telford's over the Lovat and Conon Bridges, and for many years Muir of Ord was passed through by all the traffic using the A9 north of Inverness. This all changed with the opening of the Kessock Bridge from Inverness to the Black Isle in 1982, meaning that the main A9 coast road now passes many miles to the east of Muir of Ord.