The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian




Nearest Town:Dornoch (33km ESE)
OS Ref (GB):   NC500023 / Sheet: 16
Latitude:57° 59' 4.96" N
Longitude:   4° 32' 13.94" W

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Like other parts of the British Isles, but perhaps more especially the Highlands, Sutherland has its tales of the disparity between mortal and fairy time. Despite its title, Henry Bett's English Myths and Traditions (1952) includes a characteristic story set near the south-east end of Loch Shin, He writes that a man returning from Lairg sat down to rest on the Hill of Durcha, near an opening in the ground:

He heard sounds of merriment from below, and went in. He was not seen again, and another man who was in his company was accused of making away with him. He asked for a year and a day's grace, and solemnly promised he would vindicate himself by then. He watched the opening in the hillside, and finally saw his companion come out with a troop of fairies. All of them were dancing. The man who had been accused seized his friend and held him. The rescued man said peevishly, 'Why could you not let me finish the reel, Sandy?' He could not believe that he had been with the fairies for a twelvemonth until he had reached home, and seen his wife with a child in her arms a year old.

The man's holding on to his friend when he came out of the hill is not a throwaway detail it may seem: this was the traditional way to redeem someone from the fairies, used for instance by Sandy Harg of New Abbey (Dumfries & Galloway) to rescue his wife. Other stories of the supernatural lapse in time are set at Bruan Broch, Maiden Castle (Central & Perthshire), and at Tomnahurich (Southern Highlands).

The 'hill of Durcha' was clearly a fairy mound in which the fairies had their dwelling. Often these were ancient cairns, but which of the many prehistoric sites around Lairg this one may have been is open to question. As well as brochs, stone circles, hut circles, and odd mounds, the parish contains numerous cairns and chambered cairns, any one of which might qualify as a fairy dwelling.

The Lore Of Scotland - A Guide To Scottish Legends

Westwood & Kingshill
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
28th January 2024ce

It sounds like this site is a bit of a muddle now, and there won't be much to see. It is honestly thought to have prehistoric roots though:
The burn of Invernauld, and the hill of Durcha, on the estate of Rose hall, are still believed to be haunted by fairies who once chased a man into the sea, and destroyed a new mill, because the earth for the embankment of the mill-dam had been dug from the side of the hill. The hill of Durcha is also the locality assigned for the following tale:-

A man whose wife had just been delivered of her first-born set off with a friend to the town of Tain to have the child's birth entered in the sessions-books, and to buy a cask of whiskey for the christening fete. As they returned, weary with a day's walk [..] they sat down to rest at the foot of this hill, near a large hole, from which they were ere long astonished to hear a sound of piping and dancing. The father, feeling very curious, entered the cavern, went a few steps in, and disappeared. The story of his fate sounded less improbable then than it would now, but his companion was severely animadverted* on, and when a week elapsed, and the baptism was over, and still no signs of the lost one's return, he as accused of having murdered his friend. He denied it, and again and again repeated the tale of his friend's disappearance down the cavern's mouth.

He begged a year and a day's law to vindicate himself, if possible, and used to repair at dusk to the fatal spot, and there call and pray. The term allowed him had but one more day to run, and, as usual, he sat in the gloaming by the cavern, when what seemed as his friend's shadow passed within it. He leant down, heard reel-tunes and pipes, and suddenly descried the missing man tripping merrily with the fairies. He caught him by the sleeve, stopped him, and pulled him out. "Bless me! why could you not let me finish my reel, Sandy?" cried the dancer. "Bless me!" rejoined Sandy, "have you not had enough of reeling this last twelvemonth?" "Last twelvemonth!" cried the other in amazement; nor could he believe the truth concerning himself till he found his wife sitting by the door with a yearling child in her arms. So quickly does time pass in the company of the "good people."
p217-18 in
The Folk-Lore of Sutherland-Shire [Continued]
Miss Dempster
The Folk-Lore Journal, Vol. 6, No. 4. (1888), pp. 215-252.

*Animadvert - meaning 'To remark or comment critically, usually with strong disapproval or censure'. A new and useful word to me.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
3rd April 2007ce
Edited 11th April 2007ce