Tours Of Scotland
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"No one who Tours Scotland can escape the past.
It is everywhere, haunting like a ghost."

Tours Of Scotland

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Tours Of Scotland, Mysterious Scotland

Aberfoyle, Central
(Fairy Hill near Aberfoyle Graveyard)
Robert Kirk the author of The Secret Commonwealth a book on fairy lore is buried in Aberfoyle graveyard. Nearby is Dun-shi hill the Fairy Hill where he is said to have died. According to local legends he ran 7 times around the top of the hill trying to summon the Devil and died on the 7th circuit. Others say that he did not die but was made a prisoner of the fairies.

Aberlemno, Tayside
Three Pictish stones stand by the roadside in Aberlemno and in the graveyard of the church is the Aberlemno Stone on which dragons and monstrous beasts are depicted.

Abernethy, Tayside
Dr John Brown the Abernethy author of the Dictionary of the Holy Bible is with some irony reputed to have been charged with witchcraft due to his neighbours' suspicions that he had been given his learning by the Devil!

Auchencrow, Borders
Usually Witch Stones are large boulders said to mark the places where witches were burned. Auchencrow is home to a number of them but according to local legend these were dropped by witches on the way to their sabbats.

Auldearn, Highlands (Witchcraft)
The Scottish witch Isobel Goudie claimed to have been baptised by the Devil in Auldearn Church graveyard. A number of other witches at Auldearn were brought to trial and confessed to riding on broomsticks, making children ill, raising storms, plaguing cattle, etc. The church is now a ruin but can still be seen east of the 19th century church.

Brahan, Highlands (Witchcraft)
Around 1650, after being convicted of witchcraft, the 'Brahan Seer' Cinneach Odhar made a number of unfavourable prophesies about the Seaforth family of Brahan Castle. In Brahan Wood there is supposed to be a rock called Gradhthol with a hole in it through which sick children would be passed to cure them of their ailments. The stone no longer exists and it may be a confusion with a holed stone that Odhar used for divination. When he was approaching his death Odhar is said to have thrown the stone into a cows hoof print which then expanded into the hoof-shaped Loch Ussie.

Brodgar, Orkney (Stone Circle)
Orkney has one of Britain's best stone circles. The Ring of Brodgar stone circle is over 100 metres in diameter and although only 27 of the original 60 equally spaced stones are still standing many of the fallen stones are close to their original positions. At least one of the stones contains an indecipherable runic inscription.

Burghead, Grampian (Holy Well)
A grave slab with a hollowed surface called the Cradle Stone is built into the wall of the old graveyard at the top of Burghead. According to legend if you strike the stone in the hollow, the sound of a baby crying and a cradle rocking will be heard. Burghead also contains an ancient holy well within the bailey of Burghead fort (Bailey's Well) a chamber cut into rock with steps leading down to it. On the 11th January (the date of the old Scottish New Year) Burghead annually holds a unique festival of fire known as the Burning of the Clavie an ancient tradition faithfully kept up by the villagers.

Cairngorms, Highlands (Legend, Haunting)
An evil and ugly monster known as the famh (gaelic for mole) is said to haunt the Glen Avin area of the mountains of the Cairngorms. It is said to have a head twice the size of its body and anyone crossing its tracks before the sun rises will quickly die. Another figure haunting the Cairngorms is the Fear Liath Mor (gaelic for Great Grey Man) of Ben Macdhui, a ghostly human spectre.

Callanish, Isle of Lewis (Stone Circle)
The best of Scotland's stone circles is the stone circle of Callanish. Callanish has a central circle of 13 stones, the tallest being almost 4 metres tall. Leading to the stone circle is an avenue of monoliths. Callanish was almost certainly used for astronomical purposes. The skimming of the moon at Callanish which takes place every 18.5 years is still impressive.When viewed from the north, the moon rises in the east, skims along the avenue of stones and eventually sets in the horizon in the middle of the circle leaving a number of strange afterglow effects on the stones. 2 other stone circles are close by but these are dwarfed into insignificance by callanish's majesty.

Chapel of Garioch, Grampian
A small stone circle known as Balquhain lies close to the village of Chapel of Garioch and about half a mile from the village is a 3.5 metre inscribed Pictish Cross known as the Maiden Stone.

Crieff, Tayside (Witchcraft)
According to legend, a witch called Catherine Niven was strangled and burned on cnoic (gaelic for hill)or Knock Hill near Crieff. As she was being dragged up the hill she spat out a blue stone and gave it to one of her foster children as a good luck charm which was later set into a ring and kept as a treasure by the family. As Nicniven was the secret name of the Fairy Queen, the legend is probably spurious.

Crook of Alves, Grampian (Macbeth)
The south slope of the Knock or cnoic (gaelic for hill) at Crook of Alves is reputed to be the place where Macbeth met the 3 witches in Shakespeare's famous Scottish play 'Macbeth'.

Culross, Fife (Witchcraft)
According to legend the witch Helen Eliot was due to be burned at the stake at Culross when the Devil came and carried her off into the air. Eliot swore in surprise using the name of God and the Devil dropped her which made her 'brake her leggs'. She was then carried on a chair to be strangled and burned.

Dalkeith, Lothian (Witchcraft)
Dalkeith was a centre of the witchcraft scares in the 1600s and at least 11 people were strangled and burned for witchcraft in 1661 in Dalkeith. In 1638, James Spalding a Dalkeith man was hanged for murder but prayed not to be allowed to die until he was reconciled with God. Failing to die on the scaffold, he was buried alive resulting in 'such a rumbling and tumbling in his grave that the very earth was raised'. Spalding's house is reputed still to be haunted.

Dalmeny, Lothian (Astrology)
The Norman carvings on the St Cuthbert's Church are usually described as astrological figures but the only design which can be definitely be discerned is a medieval Sagittarius symbol, though this may be meant to show a centaur.

Daviot, Grampian (Stone Circle)
The Loanhead Stone Circle is one of the best in Scotland. It consists of a 'recumbant' stone circle with a further smaller circle outside it.

Doon Hill, Lothian (Witchcraft)
Local legend sites the prehistoric fort remains as the site of a number of executions of witches. The pile of stones that lies north of the fort is said to represent the number of witches burnt.

Dornoch, Highlands (Green Man, Witchcraft)
Dornoch cathedral, one of the oldest churches in Scotland has a number of gargoyles on the outside of the church and a Green Man. This is often confused with the Dornach imp which is not part of the fabric of the church but now resides in the wall of a private residence. Janet Horn was the last person to be officially executed for witchcraft in Scotland. she was burned in Dornach in 1727.

Dronley, Tayside (Dragon)
St Martin's stone, a large boulder just outside Dronley marks the spot where a man-eating dragon was killed. The pictish carving on the rock shows a man on horseback attacking a serpent with a spear.

Dumbarton, Strathclyde (Devil)
The rocks comprising Dumbarton Rock are said to have been thrown there by the Devil (or all Scotland's witches depending on the version of the legend) who drove St Patrick to Ireland. The ancient name for Dumbarton rock was Dunbreatan (meaning fort of the Britons) from which the name Dumbarton was derived.

Dunbar, Lothian (Sphinx)
Lauderdale House, built in the 18th century for the Earls of Lauderdale was designed by Robert Adam and features a large sphinx on top of its facade.

Dunning, Tayside (Alchemy)
A 19th century fountain in the village square at Dunning features the alchemical symbols of fire, earth, air and water. To the west of the village is a cross on a rough bed of stones bearing the legend 'Maggie Wall burnt here in 1657 as a witch.

Dunvegan, Isle of Skye, Highlands (Fairies)
According to local legend, one of the chieftains of the clan MacLeod married a fairy. A time limit of 20 years was set for the marriage and after the 20 years, the chieftain and his wife parted at 'Fairy Bridge' (2 miles east of Dunvegan Castle). As a gift the fairy gave him the 'Fairy Flag' which now hangs in Dunvegan Castle. The flag is said to have helped the MacLeod family out on at least 3 occasions. In the kitchen of the castle is also the 'symbol stone' which shows solar and lunar symbols.

Kempock, Strathclyde (Standing Stone)
The 2 metres high 'Granny Kempock Stone' was once called the 'Longstone' and according to the trial records of Marie Lamont who was burned as a witch in 1662, witches danced round the Longstone at their sabbat intending to throw stone into the Clyde estuary to destroy ships. Presumably the attempt was unsuccessful as the Longstone is still in its original position.

Kinross, Tayside (Haunting, Demons)
Just outside Kinross is the stone circle known as the Orwell Stones.
Outside the council offices in Kinross itself is an impressive fountain complete with 4 carved demons. The priest's house in Kinross was the subject of a poltergeist attack in 1781. Pins were hidden in food, clothes were torn, stones were thrown and the preacher's bible was thrown onto the fire but did not burn.

Kirkcudbright, Dumfries and Galloway (Witchcraft)
Elspeth McEwen and Mary Millar were charged with witchcraft in Kirkcudbright in 1698. The horse on which McEwen was taken to trial is reported to have 'trembled and sweated blood'. She was strangled and burned at Kirkcudbright.

Lanark, Strathclyde (Witchcraft)
At the High Kirk at Lanark, Margaret Watsone confessed under the usual extreme torture that at a sabbat she had ridden on a bail of straw while her accomplices Mailie Paittersone, Janet Lockie, Jeane Lauchlan and her aunt Margaret had ridden on a cat, a cock, an elder tree and and a thorn tree respectively.

Maeshowe, Orkney (Burial Chamber)
The burial chamber at Maeshowe is illuminated by the sun at mid-winter which lights up the inner chamber 12 metres inside the mound. It has a number of Viking runic inscriptions and the Maeshowe dragon on one of the uprights.

Melrose, Borders (Wizard)
Melrose Abbey contains the tomb of Michael Scot, a 13th century wizard. He is alleged to have made a brass head that could talk and predict the future. Michael Scot instructed Frederick II of Italy in Arabian magic and astrology and also wrote the first book on astrology in Europe - the Introductorius.

North Berwick, Lothian (Witchcraft)
The witches of North Berwick are the most famous in Scottish history. They were supposed to have attempted to raise a storm to wreck the ship in which King James VI was returning from Denmark. According to contemporary reports, the Devil preached to the witches from the pulpit of the Old Kirk in North Berwick.

Pittenweem, Fife (Witchcraft)
A number of local women were charged with afflicting a man with a fit. Following torture at the hands of their guards they confessed to deeds of witchcraft. One of the women managed to escape her captors but was caught by the villagers, taken down to the beach and hung on a rope between the shore and a ship. She was then "pushed under a heavy door, over which stones were heaped until she was crushed to death. The murderers were never punished."

Prestonpans, Lothian
Local Prestonpans schoolteacher was tried for trying to bewitch a woman into his bed. He confessed to witchcraft after being tortured by 'the boot'. this was a metal boot which was placed on the suspected witch's foot and then smashed with a sledgehammer. He later withdrew his confession and despite having his fingernails pulled off and needles pushed into his fingers up to their heads and having the boot re-applied until his legs were completely crushed and "the blood and marrow spouted forth", he refused to confess again. The torturers decided that his strength was being provided by the Devil and took him for execution in Edinburgh.

Rackwick, Orkney (Dwarfie Stane Burial Chamber)
The 'Dwarfie Stane' on the island of Hoy is one of only 2 rock-cut burial chambers in the British Isles. Ireland has the other at Glendalough. The name Dwarfie Stane is from Sir Walter Scott's book The Pirate.

Rosslyn, Lothian (Gargoyles)
The famous Apprentice Pillar in Rosslyn Chapel - the church of St Matthew at Rosslyn (privately owned by the Earls of Rosslyn) is the pillar of Sir William St Clair, Prince of Orkney. Both inside and outside the church is a collection of gargoyles, demons and other grotesque figures and the roof has a number of pentagram stars similar to some found within Egyptian pyramids.

St Andrews, Fife (Witchcraft)
St Andrews was the site of many witch burnings both on Witch Hill which lies east of St Andrews and in Market Square. Step Rock in St Andrews Bay where suspected witches were 'swum' was used as a swimming pool until 1978. The witch swimmings that took place there involved the right thumb bring tied to the left big toe and vice versa before the suspected witch was 'swum'. A nearby knoll called Methven's Tower was believed to be a fairy hill but this did not stop witches from being burned on it. A storm in 1856 washed away some of the hill and exposed many human remains and a stake. The tortured face high on the wall of the tower of St Salvator's College (pictured above) is said to have formed as Patrick Hamilton, a Protestant martyr was being burned in front of the college in the 16th century.

Samuelston, Lothian (Witchcraft)
A number of witch trials and subsequent executions were held in Samuelston (the executions were at nearby Birlie Knowe).

Scotlandwell, Fife (Holy Well)
The holy well in Scotlandwell is one of the most beautiful of Scotland's holy wells. The waters bubble up into a cistern and can be drunk from a cup hanging by the well. The well itself is protected by a wooden roof. Robert the Bruce is said to have been cured of leprosy by drinking from the well.

Skirling, Borders (Dragons)
The village of Skirling is known for its collection of ornamental ironwork sculpture commissioned by Lord Carmichael. It shows Carmichael's oriental influence in its birds, dragons and lizards (Lord Carmichael was once Governor of Bengal).

Spott, Lothian (Witchcraft)
Spott village has a holy well which can still be seen although now dry. It was once the focal point of an annual St John's Day procession by the Knights Templar. In the 17th-18th centuries witches were burned at Spott Loan. A witch stone set back from the road matks the spot of a witch burning.

Staffa, Strathclyde (Giants)
It was believed that the hexagonal paves and basalt pillars of the island of Staffa had been carved by giants. Helena Blavatsky believed that parts of the Scottish Highlands are the last remnants of the islands that were left after Atlantis was swallowed by the ocean. Perhaps the myths of giants are distant folk memories of the atlanteans and the giants (Gibborim) spoken of in the Bible.

St Vigeans, Tayside (Pictish Stones)
Opposite the church in St Vigeans is a small museum containing a collection of 9th century Pictish stones. The 2 metres high Drosten Stone is decorated with a serpent, dragon, a hunting scene and a cross.

Storr, Isle of Skye (Legend)
Baldor of the Evil Eye is said to have turned an old man and his wife into stone to form the stack known as the Old Man of Storr on the Trotternish peninsula of the Isle of Skye.

Sunhoney Circle, Grampian (Stone Circle)
Sunhoney Circle is a stone circle hidden on private land within a distictive circle of trees just north of Echt village. Sunhoney is one of the 'recumbent circles' found in Scotland. There is a circle of 11 standing stones about 2.5 metres tall. The 6 metres long recumbent stone (which is said to be aligned towards minimum full midsummer moon) touches one of the stones on the south side. On the Sunhoney recumbent stone are 28 cupmarks, the purpose of which is unknown.

Temple, Lothian (Knights Templar)
The village of Temple was, as you might expect from the name, once associated with the Knights Templar. The small ruins of the 13th century church in Temple shows visible signs of the link with the Knights Templar - many of the memorials and gravestones feature secret symbols.

Tomnahurich Hill, Highland (Fairies)
According to common belief the thickly wooded and mysterious Tomnahurich Hill is where Queen Nicniven and the fairies hold court. One legend tells of a man who fell asleep on Tomnahurich Hill being invited to play the fiddle for a fairy party. He was taken to an underground palace and played until he could carry on no longer. He called out to God and was transported to a riverbank near his home. Then he realised that during the night with the fairies, 100 years had passed in the human world. He died soon afterwards and his grave is said to be in St Mary's Church in Inverness. The sorcerer Coinneach Odhar correctly predicted that the Fairy Hill of Tomnahurich would one day become a graveyard.

Tranent, Lothian (Witchcraft)
The events leading to the famous North Berwick witch trials started in Tranent. David Seaton was Deputy Bailiff of Tranent and he was suspicious of the healing powers of his servant girl Geillis Duncan which he attributed to the Devil. Abusing his position of authority he tortured the young girl until she admitted a pact with the Devil. After more torture at the hands of the judiciary, she named her supposed associates including Agnes Sampson.