A land steeped in myth and legend, Scotland’s folklore roots rest in prehistory. As early as 800BC people were starting to form rudimentary societies in Scotland and the lives of these people were controlled by the power of nature. Here, we provide a small taste of Scotland’s rich myth and legend and where you can go to soak it up.
Soak your feet in the Queen of fairies’ playground
Lochranza is associated with a fairy legend in which a midwife was collecting a harvest from the side of the loch when suddenly a large yellow frog appeared. One of her companions went to kill it but she stopped her, thinking that the frog had something special about it. The next day a young boy riding a grey mare appeared to her, saying that the Queen of the fairies had been disguised as the yellow frog and that she had therefore saved the Queen’s life. He offered her safe passage to the land of the fairies and she mounted the horse and rode into the fairy realm. While there she became midwife to the Fairy Queen.
Certain Scottish rivers, lochs, pools and burns are traditionally associated with supernatural potency. The Fairy Pools of Skye are one such place. With crystal clear water and turquoise pools, waterfalls and underwater arches it doesn’t take too much imagination to see why the fairies would come here to play.
Visit the grave of a magical island-conjuring Princess
It is said that the name of the isle of Islay comes from the Danish Princess Ila, who left Denmark with an apron full of stones of various sizes. As she made her magical journey across the water, the stones fell out of her apron, becoming Ireland and a string of islands stretching to Kildalton on Islay.
Exhausted at the end of her journey, she died on the sands off the coast of Islay and was taken to Seonais Hill above Knock Bay where she was buried. Her grave is reputed to be marked there by a standing stone.
Enter the underworld
Famous for three-chambered Smoo Cave, believed to be the entrance to the underworld, Durness is also known for its associations with local landowner Donald Mackay, the fourth Lord Reay who lived during the 16th century. Also known as the Wizard of Reay, Lord Reay studied the dark arts in Rome, during which time the Devil is said to have stolen his shadow while trying to take his soul.
Fall in love with a Mermaid
Scotland’s earliest inhabitants gave equal status to themselves and the animals around them. So animals were given the powers of speech and many stories involve anthropomorphism of birds and animals. In Orkney, the Eynhallow Sound, which lies between the island of Rousay and mainland Orkney, is a place where the Fin People would appear each summer. Half fish, half human, they would bask on the shore near the village and attempt to woo the villagers. If they succeeded in attracting a human lover they lost their fish characteristic so that they could live on land.
Got some ancient tales, myths and legends from your local area to share with us? Drop us a comment below.