MYTHS & LEGENDS

ROBERT KIRK

Robert Kirk was a minister of Balquhidder parish and was a well renowned Gaelic scholar. Kirk was also a folklorist, best-known for The Secret Commonwealth, a treatise on fairy folklore. witchcraft, ghosts, and second sight, a type of extrasensory perception described as a phenomenon by the people of the Scottish Highlands.

 

Folklorist Stewart Sanderson and mythologist Marina Warner call Kirk's collection of supernatural tales one of the most important and significant works on the subject of fairies and second sight is famous for his essay on “The Secret Commonwealth” about “ faeries” and their territories.

In the late 1680s, Kirk travelled to London to help publish one of the first translations of the Bible into Scottish Gaelic. Gentleman scientist Robert Boyle financed the publication of the Gaelic Bible and pursued inquiries into Kirk's reports of second sight. Kirk died before he was able to publish The Secret Commonwealth. Legends arose after Kirk's death, saying he had been taken away to Fairyland for revealing the secrets of the "good people".

Scottish author Walter Scott first published Kirk's work on fairies more than a century later in 1815. Andrew Lang later gave it the popular title, The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies (1893). Multiple editions of The Secret Commonwealth have since been published, with notable scholarly analysis by Sanderson, Mario M. Rossi, and Michael Hunter.

ST BLANE

St Blane was a 6th-century monk, said to have cursed the lands surrounding Edinample Castle on Loch Earn, claiming that its owners would never prosper. This was certainly true for the MacGregor’s who were driven to near extinction by the Campbell‘s in this region.

Late medieval Scottish texts relate that his mother was Irish and that St Cathan was her brother. It was Cathan who saw to Blane's education in Ireland under saints Comgall and Kenneth. Blane became a monk, went to Scotland, and was eventually bishop among the Picts. Several miracles are related to him, among them the restoration of a dead boy to life.

 

There can be no doubt that devotion to St Blane was, from early times, popular in Scotland. There was a church of St Blane in Dumfries and another at Kilbane. In Greenock, the place name Kilblain is thought to refer to a cell or chapel of St Blane.

 

His name is recorded on the Scottish landscape at Strathblane in the central lowlands from Loch Lomond to Dunblane. The highest authorities say the saint died in 590. The ruins of his church at Kingarth, Bute, where his remains were buried, are still standing and form an object of great interest to antiquarians; St Blane’s chapel is picturesquely situated about 800 meters from Dunagoil Bay. The bell of his monastery is believed to be preserved at Dunblane. Dunblane Cathedral is said to have been founded on the site first used by St Blane.

THE GHOST OF EDINAMPLE CASTLE

The Ghost of Edinample Castle. Sir Duncan Campbell, the seventh knight of Glenorchy, was known as Black Duncan.

 

He built Edinample Castle on the south shore of Loch Earn in the 16th century. Legend has it that he asked his architect to design a parapet so that he could walk safely around his roof to view his land.

 

Unfortunately, this important feature was missed out of the design and the architect fell to his death, having been pushed off the roof by his furious employer. Black Duncan avoided having to pay the poor fellow and his ghost is said to have been walking on the roof ever since.

COLD SHOULDER?

Do you know where the expression “to give someone the cold shoulder” comes from? 

 

Some attribute it to the author Sir Walter Scott, however, locals say it originated around here before his time. It was once a tradition to provide a hot meal to travellers in need of food and shelter. Cold meat (shoulder) was served in place of hot to anyone who was considered unfriendly, hence the now-famous expression.

 

Lady Margaret Stewart of Ardvorlich on Loch Earn, was with child when she was approached by a party of MacGregor’s seeking shelter. Being cautious she served them cold meats and left the room. Having just killed her brother, John Drummond, the MacGregor’s positioned his severed head on the silver meat platter and rammed the cold offerings into his mouth.

 

On discovering this terrible sight, Lady Stewart ran to the hills where they say she gave birth to James Stewart.

ROB ROY MCGREGOR

Branded an outlaw, worshipped as a hero. Clans and tourists still travel miles to his graveside at Balquhidder churchyard. Rob Roy's wife, Mary Helen Macgregor, was born at Leny Farm Strathyre.

The 1995 movie dedicated to Rob Roy was filmed locally and at Glencoe and Rannoch Moor. Actor Liam Neeson played Rob Roy Macgregor.

Rob Roy's direct descendants still live in the Strathyre community and his name lives on locally with the popular Rob Roy Way, which is a 128km walk linking Drymen (on the West Highland Way) with Pitlochry in Perthshire. An alternative, wilder route variant via Amulree increases the total distance to 155km.

The route joins paths and tracks through some fine Highland scenery, taking advantage of some attractive villages and small towns for refreshment and accommodation. The route begins through the forests of the Trossachs before a long stretch of cycleway leads through fine glens to Killin. From here the route climbs high into the hills before descending to follow the quiet and attractive road along the southern shores of Loch Tay. The main route then takes in a fine terrace with magnificent views before descending to Aberfeldy, before the final stretch along the river and over the moors to Pitlochry.

ST FILLAN

Arriving from Ireland in the 8th century this Saint is said to have cured the mentally ill from his holy pool at a church that he built in Strathfillan.

 

His healing stones are kept in the old meal water mill at Killin which serves as the local tourist and folklore centre today. 

St. Fillan was credited with powers such as the healing of the sick and also possessed a luminous glow from his left arm which he used to study and write Sacred Scriptures in the dark.

St. Fillan is the patron saint of the mentally ill. As late as the 19th century, such people were dunked in St. Fillan's Pool, bound and left overnight tied to the font, or possibly to a pew, in the ruined chapel. If the bonds were loosened by morning, it was taken as a sign that a cure had taken place.

A story is told that while St. Fillan was ploughing the fields near Killin, a wolf took the life of the ox and thus Fillan could not continue.

 

A geis was put on the ox, which meant the wolf had to take the place of the ox and do its work. The story may be considered more of a parable than historical truth, but the connection with the origins of Fillan's name remains obvious.

St Fillan's cave can be found in Pitenweem Fife

WATER HORSE

Did you hear that Loch Earn is inhabited by a legendary Water Horse – Each Uisge.

 

They say that it was chased across the hills from Loch Tay by the giant Fingal. Not a mere kelpie; this supernatural horse is said to be the most dangerous water creature in Britain. Each Uisge is a shape-shifter often manifesting as a fine horse, pony or handsome man. Never let the horse entice you to ride on its back though. As soon as Each Uisge glimpses or smells the loch with a mounted rider, its neck becomes adhesive and its victim will be held fast while it rides to the deepest part of the loch. The rider will be drowned and everything devoured save the liver, which will float to the loch’s surface. If you do meet a handsome bloke in this area, don’t panic, just check to see if he has water weeds in his hair!

 

Many locals believe Strathyre has its own monster – Lubhi a smaller distant cousin of Nessie. Witnesses talk of small humps appearing on the surface of Loch Lubnaig. It is not unusual to see parked cars in laybys with cameras clicking away in the hands of excited tourists, convinced they spotted something on the surface of the loch. The steep mountain slopes and artistic reflections of the trees on the still waters of the loch add a touch of magic, especially in Autumn. These reflections may capture the imagination of passing tourists.

The Each Uisge Legend is captured in the famous Kelpies near Falkirk

FAIRY COLONY

The Picture opposite is one of several enchanting forest areas to be found all around Strathyre. This one is affectionately referred to by the villagers, as Endor. Legend has it that small folk - troll-like creatures and faeries, can be found here at dusk with reports of strange sounds claimed by visitors heard well into the night.

On the west-side of Strathyre, the towering presence of Ben Sheann is an impressive sight. In Victorian times Strathyre was a major tourist attraction and posters could be seen as far away as London stations stating "come to Strathyre and visit Ben Sheann. ancient faerie mountain of the Caledonians". Ben Sheann is referred to as the hollow mountain where many fissures are reputed to be gateways to where the faeries live. 

 

Have you seen a green light or heard music coming from an earthen mound? In 1995, the villagers of St Fillans protested that a housing development would harm the fairy colony believed to live beneath a rock that stuck out of a field surrounded by the steep slopes of Dundurn mountain.

 

Robert Kirk, a former reverend of the Balquhidder church is famed for his essay “ The Secret Commonwealth of elves, fauns, and fairies” written in 1691. His work details the nature and social structure of these magical creatures with examples of their friendly and mischievous meddling. He declares “These Siths or Firies, they call Sleagh Maith, or the good people…. said to be of a middle nature betwixt man and angel ”

THE CLACH DHEARG

The Clach Dhearg was a red charm stone that was brought to Ardvorlich House in the 14th century after the crusades.

 

Local storytellers claim that if you dipped the stone in a keg of water and moved it three times clock-wise while reciting a Gaelic charm, the water would have healing powers which could be used to treat sick cattle when they drank it.

 

The spell would only work on condition that the owner took the keg straight home to his cattle without entering any house on the way.

THE FAERIE MOUNTAIN

Visit Strathyre and see the ancient Faerie Mountain

Can you see a girls face just above the tree line?

In Queen Victoria’s time and for many years afterwards, a national tourism strapline was: “visit Strathyre and see the ancient Faerie Mountain” This was made even more popular with the arrival of the railway on 1st June 1870.

 

The Rev Robert Kirk obviously knew Strathyre well. "It is a narrow, clear, north-south pass, flanked on either side by steep hills whose sides are now covered in conifer forestry". Two faery knolls lie on either side of the glen, one well-known, but misunderstood and the other virtually ignored nowadays and both are passed by thousands of modern travellers.

 

On the west side lies steep-sided Beinn an t-Sidhein, known locally as Ben Sheann or Shian, and popularly called the faery mountain or hill. It must have looked imposing in Robert Kirk’s time, but its sides are now softened by conifers. Strictly speaking, Beinn an t-Sidhein is only partly a faerie hill, despite the name. It has a knoll-shoulder on the south side called An Sidhean which is the faery hill and which is part of Beinn an t-Sidhein.

In the last century, many local people referred to Ben Sheann as the ancient mountain of the Caledonians or the hollow mountain, with tales of faeries living deep inside the hill.

In Winter 2012, local LETi Vice Chairman Kenny Higgins, climbed The foothills above Cnoc an t-Sidhein – directly behind his home and captured some photos of snow-clad Ben Sheann.

 

On studying the photographs, a girls face was clearly seen on the steep mountain slopes below the summit, and the image was displayed around the village and local magazines, upholding the faerie mountain legend. The face can be seen better on the photo opposite. On some days, as many as three faces can be seen.

Perhaps Rev Kirk was right!

Ancient stories are often passed on through song and verse and the local band Balvaig have tried their hand at this on numerous occasions.  On the eastern hill slopes of Strathyre beyond the Cnoc an t-Sidhein - (Faerie Knoll), is a footpath forming part of the Rob Roy Way. This runs behind the Strathyre tennis court and northwards. At the split in the path, take the right fork, which takes you up the side of a stream with waterfalls, to a wooden bridge. As you cross the bridge you enter a rather special place being only a quarter of a mile from the village, but eerily-tranquil. The locals refer to this as the enchanted forest or by the youngsters, as Endor. 

We have not even touched on:

  • The Adam and Eve stone at Dundurn burial ground

  • The prophecies of the Lady of Lawers

  • The grave of the 7 MacDonalds

  • The Pictish fort said to be the capital of the surrounding area at Dunfillan

  • The revenge of the McNabs on Neish Island

  • The rocking stone at Glentarken

  • The Grave of Major Stewart of Ardvorlich following attempts to dishonour his corpse

  • The cross of the rowan tree used to keep cattle free from disease

  • The sacred stone of St Angus at Balquidder church

  • The monument to Duigald Buchanan convertor of the Bible to Gaelic who lived at Ardoch House Strathyre

  • Ancient Road Marker stone dedicated to the soldiers who built the road through Strathyre in the mid-1700s

 

and many more….

To truly enter into the spirit of this area you have to see, hear and believe it for yourself.

We hope to see you very soon.

STRATHYRE TARTAN

BONNIE STRATHYRE

“Bonnie Strathyre” is a song about one of the most beautiful parts of Scotland. Strathyre, in the heart of Rob Roy country. The words are by Sir Harold Boulton to a traditional air called "Taymputh." 

Bonnie Strathyre. The Words reflect the singer's love for his Lassie, Maggie, his cattle and most of all Bonnie Strathyre.

There's meadows in Lanark and mountains in Skye,

And pastures in Hielands and Lowlands forbye;

But there's nae greater luck that the heart could desire

Than to herd the fine cattle in bonnie Strathyre.

 

O' it's up in the morn and awa' to the hill,

When the lang simmer days are sae warm and sae still,

Till the peak O' Ben Vorlich is girdled wi' fire,

And the evenin' fa's gently on bonnie Strathyre.

 

Then there's mirth in the sheiling and love in my breast,

When the sun is gane doun and the kye are at rest;

For there's mony a prince wad be proud to aspire

To my winsome wee Maggie, the pride O' Strathyre.

 

Her lips are like rowans in ripe simmer seen,

And mild as the starlicht the glint o' her e'en;

Far sweeter her breath than the scent o' the briar,

And her voice is sweet music in bonnie Strathyre.

 

Set Flora by Colin, and Maggie by me,

And we'll dance to the pipes swellin' loudly and free,

Till the moon in the heavens climbing higher and higher

Bids us sleep on fresh brackens in bonnie Strathyre.

 

Though some in the touns o' the Lowlands seek fame,

And some will gang sodgerin' far from their hame;

Yet I'll aye herd my cattle, and bigg my ain byre,

And love my ain Maggie in bonnie Strathyre