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Witch's Stone, Straloch (Natural Rock Feature)

According to Affleck Gray's Legends of the Cairngorms (1987) when the Comyns were Lords of Badenoch the Chief enlisted the services of the Witch of Badenoch, who for a large sum of gold agreed to transport stones to the site he had chosen to build a huge impregnable castle.

She searched for two similar huge boulders for doorposts on the outer gate and could find none in Scotland but found some with help from a sister witch on the Isle of Man. So she flew to the Isle of Man and found them without difficulty.

She listed one enormous stone and put it in her apron and set off back to Badenoch. She was passing high above Glenfernate at dawn when a deer hunter spotted her great black mass flying above him. He dropped the deer haunches he was carrying and cried out in astonishment "Dhia gleidh sinn" (God bless us).

The utterance of the holy name destroyed the witch's power and her apron strings broke, sending the great boulder rolling down to the bottom of Glenfernate where it rests to this day, known locally as Clach Mor or the Witch's Stone.

The witch could never get her apron strings to hold even the smallest boulder again, and the castle was never built. Tradition says that on the anniversary the Witch returns and works from sunset to dawn trying to move the stone, and for a long time people gave the unhallowed spot a wide berth on that particular night.
Posted by LauraC
18th March 2018ce

County Limerick

The Banshee Lives in the Handball Alley

The Banshee Lives in the Handball Alley is a short compilation derived from a larger collection of folklore recorded in three primary schools in Limerick City as part of the Cuisle Poetry Festival and Young EV+A in 2004 and 2005.
ryaner Posted by ryaner
20th January 2018ce

Moel y Llyn, Ceulanamaesmawr (Megalithic Cemetery)

Llyn Moel y Llyn - the hill's haunting upland tarn - is, it would appear, referenced in Caer Arglwyddes, 'The Lady's Field', sited below to the west. According to Dr Gwilym Morus: "I had a conversation with an old lady who’s father had been born at Cae’r Arglwyddes, and according to her the name of the farm refers to a ‘lady of the lake’ folktale about the small lake up on Moel-y-llyn".

So, yet another reason to visit this enigmatic northern outlier of Pumlumon crowned by a quartet of Bronze Age cairns....
1st January 2018ce

Dumbarrow Hill (Stone Fort / Dun)

Anyway, some threads are so bright that they have to be picked up. This is the case with King Nechtan, whose name is perhaps found in Dunnichen (‘the fort of Nechtan’) and the English name for the battle where the Northumbrians were defeated by the Picts nearby, Nechtansmere. Before we consider which Nechtan Dunnichen is named after, there is the matter of confirming this as the place of the battle in 685 AD. To the Northumbrians the site of their national disaster was called Nechtan’s Mere, signifying the swamp or shallow lake in the shadow of Dun Nechtan. But the Welsh, who spoke a very similar language to the Picts, called the body of water Llyn Garan, the Pool of Herons. Was this the original name of the place or did it somehow have two names? (The Irish, meanwhile called it the battle of Dun Nechtan.) It would seem to cast a fragment of doubt over the identification of Dunnichen as the battle site. In fact Dunnichen was not positively identified as the place of the conflict until the connection was made by George Chalmers in his Caledonia in 1807. Chalmers pointed out that the ‘eminence’ on the south side of Dunnichen Hill, still visible in his day and known as Cashili or Castle Hill, must be the ‘fortress of Nechtan’. Chalmers also speculated that the neighbouring hill of Dumbarrow, ‘the hill of the barrow’, signifying notable burials there (Caledonia, I, 155.)

[Note also the King's Well on the east side of Dumbarrow Hill.]

Angus Folklore : In Search of King Nechtan in Angus and Elsewhere
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
30th December 2017ce

Hill Of Dores (Hillfort)

The Castle of Dores was situated on the summit of the Hill of Dores; it is traditionally said to have been a residence of Macbeth. Great quantities of ashes have been found at various places on this hill, as well as at the site of the Castle. They are thought to be from beacon fires.

Presumably the tradition concerning a castle of Macbeth arose from this; there is no trace of a castle.

Historic Scotland
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
30th December 2017ce

The Hole Stone (Holed Stone)

For the young antiquary. Series IV.

Hole stones are more abundant in Ireland than is generally supposed, and we have some fine examples in the North. The best I know is "The Holestone," Doagh, County Antrim, a very massive galean of basalt, with a bevelled hole through the upper part, bevelled on both sides so that the actual hole or centre of the stone is not large. Whatver may have been the original use to which this stone was put, one legend says criminals were chained to it, others that it was a contract stone, contracts of various kinds being ratified by joining hands through the hole. In later days it seems to have been - and possibly still is - used by engaged couples to ratify their engagement. It stood when I last saw it very close to the edge of a quarry that was rapidly approaching it. I trust that it may not follow other fine prehistoric memorials of the same area destroyed through the ignorance or apathy of the farmers on whose land those memorials stood. [...]
Robert J Welch encouraging the youth in the Northern Whig, 20th March 1924.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
21st December 2017ce

Devil's Ditch (Dyke)

The line of the Devil's Ditch and the county boundary runs pretty straight towards Park House (still a hotel, on the old line of the A303), which sounds like where Park Gate must have been, and presumably the stone. So it makes you wonder if this huge stone did have some significance. I can't see it marked on a map so not sure quite where it was - it's hard to tell which direction the 'narrow lane' was heading (possibly NW back along the boundary but who knows). Now the area is carved up with roads so I fear it won't be there any longer. But it sounds impressively big.
The county boundary at Clarendon Hill, about a mile west of North Tidworth, turns towards the south along an old landmark called the "Devil's Ditch," on the western side of Beacon Hill, down to Park House. The burial mounds called barrows abound in the direction of Ambresbury; and no wonder, for we are approaching what was once the fashionable burying-ground of eminent Ancient Britons.

[...] At Park Gate, on the county boundary, on the road between Andover and Amesbury, there is, or was, in a field abutting on a narrow lane leading from the roadside inn, a flat stone, of large dimensions, 11ft. long, 12ft. in breadth, and 5ft. in thickness. One of the many traditions about Stonehenge is that the great Sarsens came from Andover, and this Park Gate stone, in order to help the tradition, is quoted as having been on its way thither but abandoned.
From 'Notes on the Border of Wilts and Hants' by the Rev. Canon J.E. Jackson, in WANHM v21, 1883.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
20th December 2017ce

Fron Goch Camp (Hillfort)

Dick the Fiddler's Money

The adventures of rakish Richard (a 'fiddler' in more ways than one, not to mention waste of space husband to his long suffering wife) featuring his dodgy bewitched seashell currency obtained whilst returning home from Darowen. The hamlet displayed some pseudo-political 'comment' of very dubious intellect in its windows at the time of my visit. Hence I did not attempt to engage any local - why waste my time? - instead making straight for the excellent Fron Goch Camp rising above. Superb viewpoint, it has to be said.
10th December 2017ce
Edited 20th December 2017ce

Moel y Garnedd, Gwastadros (Cairn(s))

Bala Lake

Long, long ago, there was a fertile valley where now roll the waters of Bala Lake.

"At last he reached the top of a hill, some considerable distance 'from the palace".... Although the story isn't specific - mythical legends, eh? - I guess it's not utterly unreasonable to suppose Moel y Garnedd, overlooking Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake), may have been the inferred destination of the harper... being an old man and presumably not up to a trek up any mountain proper:
10th December 2017ce

Dyffryn Mymbyr (Cairn(s))

More fairy capers involving the "Fair Family", this time concerning changelings at Dyffryn Mymbyr:
10th December 2017ce

Yr Wyddfa (Cairn(s))

The Mantle of Kings' Beards:

An account of the titanic, legendary struggle between King Arthur and Rhitta Gawr. Needless to say Arthur emerged victorious - well he would, wouldn't he? - the story (arguably) lending credence to the theory that Yr Wyddfa Fawr (Snowdon) was once crowned by the premier Bronze Age cairn in all Wales:

"...And Rhitta gave up the ghost, and was buried on the top of the highest mountain of Eryri, and each of his soldiers placed a stone on his tomb. The place was afterwards known as Gwyddfa Rhitta, Rhitta's Barrow, but the English call it Snowdon."
10th December 2017ce

Mynydd Pen-cyrn (Cairn(s))

Concerning one Ifan Sion Watkin - apparently once generally known as Ianto Coedcae - and his far out trip away with the fairies upon Mynydd Pen Cyrn. With "an abundance of strong ale and old mead to drink" one is tempted to hypothesise that the gentleman was pissed... however isn't it funny how such legendary antics find themselves associated with great Bronze Age sites?
10th December 2017ce
Edited 17th December 2017ce

Carnedd Lwyd, Tyrrau Mawr (Cadair Idris) (Cairn(s))

The Fairy Harp:

A reminder to visitors out and about in the environs of this fine mountain to keep an eye out; not just for his giant-ness, Mr Idris (shouldn't be too hard to spot, to be fair)... but also the diminutive fairies at the other end of the scale, which, according to local lore, used to do the rounds knocking on locals' doors. Suffice to say it would appear wise not to upset the little people. Good for your elf, one might conclude:

oh, and... The Man with the Green Weeds:

A cautionary tale for those intent upon venturing to the summit of Cadair Idris - yeah, Idris's Chair itself. You have been warned!
10th December 2017ce

Mynydd Mawr (Round Cairn)

The Fairy Wife... apparently there were interesting goings on around Llyn y Dywarchen (the Lake of the Sod) back in the day:
10th December 2017ce

Dinas Emrys (Hillfort)

Dimas Emrys... Why the Red Dragon is the Emblem of Wales... and why every proud Welshman/Welshwoman (not to mention Briton... or anyone else, for that matter) able to make a visit to this haunting site really should do so:
10th December 2017ce

Oweynagat (Souterrain)

That night the three heroes [Laegaire, Conall and Cuchulain] were given as good a feast as before, but they were put to eat it in a room by themselves. When night came on, three enchanted monsters, with the shape of cats, were let out from the cave that was in the hill of the Sidhe at Cruachan, to attack them.

When Conall and Laegaire saw them, they got up into the rafters, leaving their food after them, and there they stayed till morning. Cuchulain did not leave his place, but when one of the monsters came to attack him, he gave a blow of his sword at its head; but the sword slipped off as if from a stone.

Then the monster stayed quiet, and Cuchulain sat there through the night watching it. With the break of day the cats were gone, and Ailell came in and saw what way the heroes were. "Are you not satisfied to give the Championship to Cuchulain, after this?" he said. "We are not," said Conall and Laegaire; "it is not against beasts we are used to fight, but against men."


There was at Cruachan the Hill of the Sidhe, or, as some called it, the Cave of Cruachan. It was there Midhir brought Etain one time, and it is there the people of the Sidhe lived; but it is seldom any living person had the power to see them.

It is out of that hill a flock of white birds came one time, and everything they touched in all Ireland withered up, until at last the men of Ulster killed them with their slings. And another time enchanted pigs came out of the hill, and in every place they trod, neither corn nor grass nor leaf would sprout before the end of seven years, and no sort of weapon would wound them. But if they were counted in any place, or if the people so much as tried to count them, they would not stop in that place, but they would go on to another. But however often the people of the country tried to count them, no two people could ever make out the one number.
From Lady Gregory's 'Cuchulain of Muirthemne' (1902), page 68 and page 148.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
9th December 2017ce

Mutiny Stones (Cairn(s))

Mr John S. Leitch, Longformacus, told the party of an old tradition about the stones and said that this was that "Auld Nick" had undertaken to build a cauld at Kelso across the Tweed. As he could not get the material at Kelso, he had gone to Dunbar for it, and there he had filled his mittens. As he had flown back from Dunbar one of his mittens had rubbed against the top of a hill with the result that the mitten burst and the contents fell where they now saw the stones. So angry had "Auld Nick" been that he had refused to build a cauld at Kelso.

Mr Leitch went on to tell the company that during the last war a German bomber had dropped 27 bombs close behind the stones, killing three sheep. He had told an old man in the village about this and the old man's reply was that it was not the first time things had been dropped at Byrecleuch. (Laughter.)
From a trip of 70 members of the Berwickshire Naturalists' Club, reported in the Berwick Advertiser, 26th May 1949. I didn't know the word but a cauld is a weir or dam on a river.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
6th December 2017ce

Creeg Tol (Natural Rock Feature)

On the way back to the carriages [from the Boscawen-Un circle] the party visited Careg-Tol, a fine pile of granite rocks not far from the Circle, commanding an extensive view. Thereon are some shallow rock basins, the outline resembling a human foot, and which, being of superhuman size, are locally called giant's or devil's footprints.
From a report of an excursion of the Penzance Natural History and Antiquarian Society, in the Cornubian and Redruth Times, 3rd September 1869.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
2nd December 2017ce

Pendle Hill (Sacred Hill)

Some stoney folklore from the hill (not unfamiliar from elsewhere):
On a farm called Craggs, near Sabden, on the sloping side of Pendle, is a mass of sandstone rocks, which have fallen down from the scar above. On one side of the big stones are two marks side by side, about two feet six inches long, and about six inches wide. They resemble gigantic footmarks, and are said to be those of the Devil. However, when he alighted on the stone he must have crossed his legs, for the left footprint is on the right side of the stone. The outline of this foot is quite perfect, but the other is ill-formed. This is accounted for by the well known fact that the Devil has a club foot.

About a mile from the "Devil's Footprints," and on the crest of the hill above Ashendean Clough, not far from the Well Springs public-house, are a quantity of stones scattered about on the ground, locally known as "The Apronful." Nearly in the centre of them is a hollow in the ground, and the writer is inclined to think that these stones were formerly built into a rude wall round the hollow as a base for a beacon fire, and that they have since been scattered about as they now lie.

The local legend however, is as follows. One day the Devil was coming with an apronful of stones for the purpose of knocking down Clitheroe Castle. He stepped from Hambledon Hill on to the side of Pendle, where he left the footmarks on Cragg's Farm before alluded to. His next step was to the Apronful. Here being in view of the Castle, he took one of the stones and threw it towards Clitheroe; but just as he was in the act of doing so, his 'brat string' broke, and all the stones he was carrying were tumbled on to the ground. [The stone he was throwing] fell short of the mark, and may now be seen, with the marks of his fingers on it, in a field above Pendleton.

The breaking of the apron-string is a very common incident in folk stories. It occurs in connection with the building by the Devil of a bridge near Kirkby Lonsdale; and in an Ormskirk legend of the Devil.
From a piece in the Burnley News, 8th January 1916.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
2nd December 2017ce

Sallachy Broch

Just to warn you, if you see a horse here. Just leave it alone.
The Seven Herds of Sallachie and the Water-horse.

Lang syne, when men, and flocks, and herds were plenty in Sutherland, there were seven herds watching their flocks by Loch Shin, and it was evening. They all quarrelled among the others. Said one herd to the other, "That is my father's horse." "No, it is my father's horse": and they fell to fighting (for the horse looked different to each of them). The first jumped up. "There is room for two," said the second, and jumped up also. The others were angry.

"It is a bonny horse, too," said a girl that came by, when they were all up but one. And she patted its shining skin, but her hand stuck to it.

"Oh! Annach," cried her brother,"will ye die with the others, or want your hand?" "Oh! take off the hand and let us run."

So he took the hand off, and they two ran home, and the seven herds of Sallachie were never seen again.

Mr Young, Lairg.
It's a bit ghastly isn't it, with hands being chopped off and magic water horses willfully drowning people. Excellent.

From Miss Dempster's "The Folk-lore of Sutherlandshire" in The Folk-Lore Journal volume 6.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
25th November 2017ce

Caer Bran (Hillfort)

From Mr Borlase's article in The Cornish Telegraph, 27th April 1864:
Having obtained the kind consent of William Rashleigh, Esq. of Menabilly, Cornwall (to whom the property belongs), I visited Chapel Uny on the 10th of August, 1863. The ground above and around was intersected by the low dilapidated walls of an ancient British village somewhat similar to, but in no way so perfect as, those at Chysauster (where there is also a cave), at Bossullow Crellas, and other places in the neighbourhood.

In two places the ground had fallen in, disclosing in the one a portion of the side of a circular subterranean building; and in the other a deep and dark cavity. It appears that for the last century the cave has remained in exactly the same state as it is at present. Traditions of the place aver that it terminates beneath a huge 'cairn' [where] treasure is concealed; and also that it leads to the fortification of Caer Bran, which is about a quarter of a mile distant: but the former of these curious traditions has already proved to be incorrect.
I guess he's suggesting the fogou at Carn Euny connects with this spot.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
25th November 2017ce

Dunadd (Sacred Hill)

Old chestnuts, the Stone of Destiny and Scotia, came up as they often do. We have a little history to work with and a bit of archaeology to go on . . .
The foundation stone or rock of faith is the point where ascension takes place in Christianity and Islam. They routinely have a footstep in them.
However, this is much older - Scotia is a personification of the Cailleach, properly translated as the Veiled One. We find her at Callanish in 2,600 BC and Callanish was part of the ancient Orcadian civilisation at Ness of Brodgar. Brodgar is built from stones brought from all the islands in the manner of a Moot Hill where stones or soil were carried by nobles to medieval coronations such as Robert I's.
The community or land is brought together/ assembled, then it is built up . . . all of which connects to early Scottish sovereignty where the people and the land are considered indivisible. The king marries the land at coronation in an act of epiphany wedding the community together and building upon that through the road to Damascus connect . . . the laying down of a pillow/ stone which in early translations becomes pillows using the same platform and ladder/ tree metaphors as in the biblical tale.
So we have an original Scottish Stone of Destiny in place at Dunadd and an earlier model of the same concepts going much further back. Consequently, we can consider the Stone of Destiny, (in it's Christianised form Foundation Stone or Rock of Faith), as largely an investiture in a system of understandings and beliefs, a philosophy. This investiture is expressed in the actions of bringing together 'the land' or assembling 'stones' to form a Stone of Destiny, which can then be stacked/ raised upwards.

From Scottish Media Lab.
tjj Posted by tjj
22nd November 2017ce

Ashmore Down (Long Barrow)

I've found Grinsell's source about the Gappergennies:
There was another barrow, over which the road to Fontmel now runs, by Folly Hanging Gate, near Washer's Pit. In this lonely place, till within living memory, strange sounds were made by creatures in the air called Gappergennies, or however else the name may be spelt.* Of the nature of these sounds I have not been able to learn anything, ecept that they could be successfully imitated by human lips.

When, perhaps fifty years ago, a metalled road was made to Fontmel instead of the old cart-track, this barrow, which lay close to the old road and on the line of the new one, was dug up, and the bones it contained buried in the churchyard. As there is no entry of the fact in the register, this was no doubt done without the burial service.

On the down, by the roadside, a cross had always been kept cut, opposite the barrow. This has been neglected since the reinterment; and since then, also, the strange sounds have not been heard.

The low mound and the cross on the turf are well remembered. On the common below Sandpits Field is a line of small barrows, which seem to have been opened at some remote date. No exploration of any of these Ashmore remains has in recent times been attempted...

* Otherwise called Gabbygammies. The late Mr Stephen Hall, of the Manor Farm, who had often heard the sounds, thought they were made by badgers. (E.H.)
God what a let down. But also in the book:
With the hollow below the Folly, where the road to Fontmel crosses the bottom, a legend is connected, well known in Ashmore, into which the name of the Barbers has been introduced, though the story must be far older than their time. It runs that a Squire Barber, or perhaps his daughter, for the tale is variously told, was warned in a dream on three successive nights, or else three times on the same night, that some one was in distress at Washer's Pit.

The person warned woke the household and asked for a volunteer to go down to the place. No one would venture, except the cook. Her master gave her his best hunter for the ride, and she went forth to find a lady in white hanging by her hair from an ash tree over the well, now closed, at Washer's Pit. She released the victim and carried her back on the horse to Ashmore [...]

Connected with the same ground as this legend and that about the barrow at Folly Hanging Gate, is another of a woman in white, who has been seen and felt brushing by them, within the last fifty years, by travellers between Spinney's Pond and Washer's Pit. I have heard it connected with the barrow, but the true form of that story is the Gappergennies; and the affair at Washer's Pit ended too happily to generate a ghost. This must be some third and independent legend.

It is curious that in a parish full, as Ashmore is, of dark and lonely places, no other neighbourhood than these few yards on the road to Fontmel should have its story.
Pp 3 and 20 in Ashmore, Co. Dorset: A History of the Parish, by E W Watson, 1890.

Washer's Pit is actually the other side of Ashmore and nowhere near the longbarrow. But as an example of excellent local barrow folklore I hope this is the best place to record it.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
22nd November 2017ce

Cleeve Toot (Hillfort)

Doubtless there is not a single jot of evidence for the following. But if you want to experience a thrill about those savage Ancient Britons then it's just the thing. Also, it's always nice to involve the Phoenicians in some way, don't you find.
Some months since a query was asked in these columns as to the derivation, &c., of the word 'toot'. Much interesting information was given, but I don't think the derivation as given below was hinted at. This derivation I found in a book published in 1888, written by Theodore Compton, and called "Winscombe Sketches of Rural Life and Scenery."

Speaking of Cleeve Toot, "a remarkable crag or conical rock, the top of which can be seen above the Brockley Woods from the railway between Nailsea and Yatton," we are informed that this is supposed to be one of the Toot Hills used by the Ancient Britons for sacrifices to the Celtic god Teutas. Also there are several other Toothills in different parts of England, as well as other places supposed to be named from the same deity - Tottenham, Tutbury, Tooting, to which might possibly be added Chewton Mendip and Chew Magna, near which is the Druid Temple of Stanton Drew. The Celtic deity Teutas was identified with the [Roman] god Mercurius, the Greek Hermes, the Egyptian Thoth and the Phoenician Tautus. Finally, reference is made to the human sacrifices which used to be made on Cleeve Toot. -- F.F.
In the Notes and Queries section of the Taunton Courier, 13th May 1936.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
22nd November 2017ce

Hinton Hill (Hillfort)

Derham, or Durham, is remarkable for certain huge Ramparts and Trenches, which shew, that it has antiently been the Scene of some Military Action; and here Ceaulin the Saxon, in a bloody Engagement, slew three British Princes, and by that Means dispossessed the Britons from that Part of the Country: 'Tis likewise noted for many fine Springs, which supply the Boyd.
From The Natural History of England, volume 1, by Benjamin Martin (1759).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
21st November 2017ce
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