(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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Isle of Lewis (Stone
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.
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.
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.
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'.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Isle of Skye,
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.
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.
Just outside Kinross is the stone circle known as the Orwell
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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."
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.
Orkney (Dwarfie Stane
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
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 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.
A number of witch trials and subsequent executions were held
in Samuelston (the executions were at nearby Birlie Knowe).
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
Circle, Grampian (Stone
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.
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.
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
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