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Highland (Mainland): Latest Posts — Folklore

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Carn Liath (Chambered Cairn)

I wonder if these stones (which you can read the details of at Canmore ) have any markings on them. Or perhaps the stone in the story is the nearby Clach A Cholumain. There seem to be plenty of candidates, judging by the photos on Mark Stevens' Flickr pages.

The story is told in Hugh Miller's 'Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland' (1860). It goes on a bit. But it describes this very strange bit of river, which is in a chasm, but the sound of it gets funneled up. The banks were somewhere where 'no one would choose to walk alone' - but the lady of the house of Balconie used to walk with her maid there. Though the maid thought she was a bit weird to be honest. One night she freaked the girl out by trying to make her go near the edge. 'No nearer, ma'am' squeaked the terrified girl, 'Strange sights have been seen in the gully after nightfall.. I shall swoon with terror and fall over.'

But the lady gets really nasty and shrieks 'Nay wretch there is no escape!' and drags her towards the chasm.. suddenly there's a 'strong masculine voice' and a dark-looking man in green appears, saying 'let me accompany you - your surety must be a willing one'. The maid escapes and the lady lets herself be led miserably to the edge.

"She turned round on reaching the precipice, and, untying from her belt a bunch of household keys, flung them up the bank towards the girl; and then, taking what seemed to be a farewell look of the setting sun.. she disappeared with her companion behind the nearer edge of the gulf. The keys struck, in falling, against a huge granitic boulder, and sinking into it as if it were a mass of melted wax, left an impression which is still pointed out to the curious visitor."

Ten years later a man walked up the stream and found a cave in which he met the lady of Balconie.. but you could read that bit for yourself.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
24th July 2010ce
Edited 25th July 2010ce

The Great U of Stemster (Standing Stones)

ND 1567 3035
Near Ballachly Farm, about 5 miles distant, is the Ballachly Burial Grounds, where part of the adjoining land is known as Croit Trolla, or the Croft of Trolla. Trolla is another version of the name Trollhaena, the norse name for Triduana.

Some authors think the Orkneyinga Saga is talking of Croit Trolla as the resting place of Triduana's bones in the story of King Harold's blindness being cured (instead of the more well known, but far flung resting place at Restalrig).

In medieval times it was common for a single bone to have a home as a holy relic with healing powers away from the main grave site. Or for the story of such to spring up, in the case of made up saints, who were used over and over to obsfucate similar pagan customs in a variety of areas.

Triduana was one of the saints removed from the saints lists in the sixties because of the lack of evidence she actually existed as the christian nun of the stories. has more on Croit Trolla, as found in RCAHMS
Posted by Branwen
28th December 2009ce

Isle Maree (Sacred Well)

"There is a healing well on an island in Loch Maree, which was used for curing lunacy as late as the nineteenth century. Coins and nails, as well as pieces of cloth and rag, were hammered into the trunk of a nearby oak tree. Oak trees were believed to be sacred, and may have reflected a pre-Christian belief.

Loch Maree, one of the most beautiful lochs in Scotland, is also the site of a chapel and remains of a burial ground, which are believed to have been founded by St. Maelrubha, although there also appear to have been older pagan traditions associated with the site. Bulls were sacrificed here, as they were at Applecross, and later the custom was associated with St. Maelrubha's day, 21 April."

Joyce Miller.

Magic And Witchcraft in Scotland.
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
4th December 2009ce

Skail (Chambered Cairn)

As Postman's photo explains, this was said to be the cell of the Red Priest, whose Stone lies nearby. The Red Priest is supposed to be St. Maolrubha, who was busy evangelising in these parts in the 7th century. He prophesied that the population of Strathnaver would be driven from here for their sins, and would not be able to return until his bones had been washed out to sea.

This page at the Highland Council HER has lots of details
but the main reference for the folklorish things, 'Scott, 1909' is never given fully!
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
28th October 2009ce

Baile Mhargaite (Broch)

[There is a tradition] regarding the Sandy dun at Bettyhill, where an old woman hid a croc of cold previous to the dun being attacked, and measured the distance from it with a clew of thread.
A disappointingly brief mention in 'Notes of Cromlechs, Duns, Hut-Circles, Chambered Cairns and other remains, in the County of Sutherland' by James Horsburgh, in PSAS v7 (1866-8).

Information about the broch can be found here.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
28th October 2009ce

Lochan Hakel (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

To the west [is] Loch-an-Hacon, or as it is generally called Loch-an-Haalkal, in which is an island with the remains of a castle on it, said to have been built by Hacon for a hunting seat [...] it is said that a causeway ran from the island to the mainland, a distance of 20 or 30 yards; the water is now, however, 6 or 7 feet deep. On the edge of the preciptious bank of the loch, and exactly opposite the island, there is a large boulder with a flat top, and on this there are a number of cups and rings. The people say they were made by the high heels of a fairy who lived in the castle. This stone is not generally known. Old Ross, the gamekeeper at Tongue, first told me of it, and he and I scraped off the moss and exposed the whole. He thought it was for playing some game. On the left of the stone, on a bit separated by a crack, there is a sort of a figure which appears to have been formed by cutting away the stone around it and leaving it in relief, and also some artificial cutting on the right, a sort of circular groove.
From 'Notes of Cromlechs, Duns, Hut-Circles, Chambered Cairns and other remains, in the County of Sutherland' by James Horsburgh, in PSAS v7 (1866-8).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
28th October 2009ce

Isle Maree (Sacred Well)

Another legend connected with the island is a Romeo and Juliet-esque yarn, of a local girl and a Viking Prince. They got married and lived in a tower on the island. They were very happy but the prince's Viking friends needed him back on the longboat. The couple hatched a plan involving black and white flags that would be displayed on his return to indicate whether they were dead or alive. When the prince sailed back he flew his white flag. But his princess had devised some daft method of testing his feelings, involving pretending to be dead. You can guess the rest. They're supposed to be buried on the island.

Told at length in 'Gairloch in North west Ross-shire' by John Dixon (1886).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
29th July 2009ce

An Dun (Stone Fort / Dun)

When you walk to the dun from the road, you may well go through a little dip in the ground called 'Leabaidh na Ba Baine' - the bed of the white cow. It's said to have been scooped out by Fingal himself to provide a comfy spot where his white cow could calve.

Mentioned in 'Gairloch in North-west Ross-shire' by John Dixon (1886).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
29th July 2009ce

Ben Loyal (Rocky Outcrop)

Regarding the Parish of Tongue:
A semicircular chain of mountains passes nearly through the middle of the parish, the principle of which are Knoc-Rheacadan, (The Watchman's Hill), Ben Laoghal, and Ben Hope. Ben Laoghal is almost a perpendicular rock, deeply furrowed, and about half a mile high. As it declines towards the west, it is broken into several craggy points, on one of which are seen the remains of a building, called by the country people Caistal nan Druidhich, the Druid's Castle.


Ben Laoghal is famed, in the songs of the bards, as the scene of the death of Dermid, a young man of such extraordinary beauty, that no female heart, of that age, could resist; and withal of such prowess, that even Fingal, whose wife he had seduced, would not himself attack him, but found means to get him slain by a boar. He and the lady, or the boar, (it is not yet determined which), lie buried at the foot of the mountain.
From v3 of the Statistical Account of Scotland of the 1790s.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
2nd March 2009ce

Craigiehowe (Cairn(s))

Here at the mouth of Munlochy Bay there are the traces of more than half a dozen cairns. And at the end beyond them, on the tip of the land, a cave, about which the RCAHMS record says:
Craigiehowe Cave is traditionally inhabited by the Fingalians.
At the mouth is a dripping well which is resorted to as a cure for deafness.
W J Watson 1904. (Place Names of Ross and Cromarty).
The Statistical Account of the 1790s mentions that:
There is one large cove in this parish, at a place called Craig-a-chow (a name given it for its famous echo) at the entrance of the bay of Munlochy, it is very large and reaches far into the rock, so far indeed that the farmers in the neighbourhood were obliged to shut it up toward the hill with rubbish; for, when their sheep and goats strayed into it, they were never again seen nor heard of. The mouth of the cave was made up with stone and lime several years ago, by traders who secured and secreted smuggled goods in it; but since that contraband trade has been abolished on this coast, the mason work is fallen to decay. The cave could easily contain, I am told, a whole ship's cargo.

In this cave, there is a spring of water to which the superstitious part of the people attribute a medicinal effect, and still repair to it on the first Sunday of every quarter, for a cure to any malady or disease under which they happen to labour. The water is said to be particularly famous for restoring the sense of hearing, by pouring a few drops of it into the affected ear; but this, in my opinion, must be owing to the cold and piercing quality of the water forcing its way through the obstructions of the ear. The coldness of this water is greater than any I ever tasted, and no wonder, for the sun never shines upon it, and it oozes through a considerable body of rock.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
27th February 2009ce
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