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Scottish Folktales


A Changeling In Nithsdale

In his The Science of Fairy Tales’ (1891), Edwin Sidney Hartland gives the following description of a Changeling in Dumfries and Galloway. ‘In Nithsdale the elf-child displays a superhuman power of work. The mother left it on one occasion in the charge of a servant-girl, who sat bemoaning herself. Read More »

Alloway

The Old Kirk Church

Alloway, the birthplace of Robert Burns, provided inspiration for one of his most famous poems Tam o' Shanter. Read More »

Archibald Boyle and The Glasgow Hell Club

Archibald Boyle is said to have been the leader of ‘The Hell Club’ in Glasgow during the 18th century. There is a story associated with his death which has appeared in Catherine Ann Crowe’s ‘The Night-side of Nature’ (1848), and repeated again in ‘The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain’ by John Ingram (1897). Read More »

Ballad of Tam Lin

Oh, I forbid you, maidens all
That wear gold on your hair,
To come or go by Carterhaugh,
For young Tam-Lin is there.

There's none that goes by Carterhaugh
But must leave him a wad;
Either gold ring, or green mantles,
Or else their maidenhead.

Now gold rings ye may buy, maidens,
Green mantles ye may spin; Read More »

Bessie Dunlop, The Witch of Dalry

Bessie Dunlop was known as the witch of Dalry (Ayrshire), she was burned at the stake in 1576 although she was seen as a white witch. Her story is interesting because it outlines some of the folk beliefs at the time. Read More »

Canobie Dick

This story relates to a legend common throughout Britain, namely that of a secret cavern containing sleeping warriors. Often a test is conferred to the person who is shown into the cavern. Usually the tests are failed.

Once upon a time in the Borders region there lived a horse cowper (trader) named Canobie Dick, he was widely admired and feared for his fierce courage. Read More »

Changelings In The Borders

Edwin Sidney Hartland gives the following account of Dumfries and Galloway Changelings in his ‘The Science of Fairy Tales’ (1891). ‘A Kirkcudbrightshire tale represents a child as once left in charge of a tailor, who "commenced a discourse" with him. "'Will, hae ye your pipes?' says the tailor. 'They're below my head,' says the tenant of the cradle. Read More »

Duntulm Castle

Duntulm Castle is now a ruined shell of its former glory as a MacDonald stronghold, its walls disintegrating year by year against the constant onslaught of the Atlantic winds. The site traditionally has a long precedence as a defendable stronghold: there may have been an Iron Age, and a Viking presence here, situated on the rocky promontory of steep cliffs overlooking the sea. Read More »

Earth Dogs

A mythical creature that may be confined to one area of Banffshire in Scotland, according to Walter Grigor in his ‘Notes on the folklore of NE Scotland’ published in 1881, the Yird Swine were a “dreaded ..animal” that lived in graveyards and burrowed through the earth feeding on the dead bodies. Read More »

Edin's Hall Broch

This is one of the most southerly broch survivals, which are more typically associated with Northern Scotland. Broch’s were multi floored defensive structures with room for cattle in the lower enclosure and accommodation on the upper floors accessed by passageways in the thick walls. Read More »

Eildon Hill

Eildon Hill

Eildon Hill is a triple peak that dominates the landscape around Melrose in Southern Scotland. The hillfort was occupied in pre-historic times, was used as a signal station by the Romans, and was re-occupied during the Romano-British period. It is associated with the legendary wizard Michael Scot, and the ballad of Thomas the Rhymer. Read More »

Elphin Irving The Fairie's Cupbearer

Corrie Water is a stream running seven miles from Eskdalemuir to the Water of Milk near Lockerbie. The stream runs through Corrie, an ancient parish annexed to Hutton in 1609. It is here, according to a story by George Douglas in his Scottish Fairy and Folk Tales (1901) that fairies lived. Read More »

Eynhallow, Ancestral Home Of The Finfolk

On 14th July 1990, eighty-eight bird watchers got off a ferry organised by the Orkney Heritage Society and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds at the uninhabited Eynhallow Island. Only eighty-six returned for the journey back, which sparked a huge search and rescue operation involving the police and coastguard. Read More »

The Fairy Boy of Leith

The story of the Fairy boy of Leith is relatively unknown today, and doesn't appear to have been recently recounted since its last appearance in the 1970s Reader's Digest compendium, Folklore, Myths a Read More »

Haunted Ships

In the early 1800s Allan Cunningham described his experiences on the Solway Firth and stories around what he referred to as Blawhooly Bay. His piece below entitled 'Haunted Ships' has been reproduced many times throughout the 19th and early 20th century.
Read More »

Hermitage Castle

Hermitage Castle 2

Hermitage Castle has a long and colourful history, the castle was a bastion of power in the 'debatable land': land that was exchanged between English and Scottish hands during the border wars and skirmishes. The castle is steeped in folklore and legend, and there have been reports of varied strange phenomena in recent years. Read More »

Jedburgh Castle

Jedburgh’s original wooden motte and bailey castle dated back to the 12th century and was founded by King David I of Scotland (Born 1084 – Died 24 May 1153). The Scottish demolished the castle in 1409, which by then was a stone fortress with a pele tower, gatehouse and courtyard. In 1823 a Howard Reform prison was built on the site of the castle which was then closed in 1868. Read More »

John MacInnes And The Each-Uisge

According to Mr. J. Calder Ross in 'Scottish Notes and Queries' (1893) "John MacInnes found the labour of his farm sadly burdensome. In the midst of his sighing an unknown being appeared to him and promised a horse to him under certain conditions. These conditions John undertook to fulfil. Read More »

Kelpies Footmarked Stone by Vayne Castle

In James Mackinlay's 'Folklore of Scottish Lochs and Springs' (1893) he states 'If anyone refuses to believe in the existence of water-horses, let him go to the parish of Fearn, in Forfarshire, and there, near the ruined castle of Vayne, he will see on a sandstone rock the print of a Read More »

Loch Druich Mermaids

Selkies

There is a story connected to Loch Druich and three brothers who happened across a troupe of merfolk. One night the brothers were by the loch side when they saw a group of seals come up onto the beach and shred their furry skins. Beneath the skins were naked people, who danced together on the shore. Read More »

Loch na Beiste

In his 'Guide to Gairloch and Loch Maree' (1886), John H. Dixon gave the following account of a creature that was said to live in Loch na Beiste roughly 50 years early. 'The existence of water-kelpies in Gairloch, if perhaps not universally credited in the present generation, was accepted as undoubted in the last. Read More »

Loch Ness Water Horse

James Mackinlay in his Folklore of Scottish Lochs and Springs (1893) tells of another creature that was said to lurch in Loch Ness. 'A noted demon-steed once inhabited Loch Ness, and was a cause of terror to the inhabitants of the neighbourhood. Read More »

Lukki Minnie

The following account of the tale of Lukki Minnie appeared in Malachy Tallack's blog on the New Stateman website (30 April 2007). 'For centuries – perhaps even for millennia, no-one is entirely sure – Shetland has been home to a very special creature. Read More »

Port Henderson Mermaid

There is a mermaid story associated with the small fishing village of Port Henderson which was recounted by John H Dixon in Guide to Gairloch and Loch Maree (1886). According to Dixon ‘Roderick Mackenzie, the elderly and much respected boatbuilder at Port Henderson, when a young man, went one day to a rocky part of the shore there. Read More »

Redemption From Fairy Land

NEAR the town of Aberdeen, in Scotland, lived James Campbell, who had one daughter, named Mary, who, was married to John Nelson, a young man of that neighbourhood. Read More »



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