Scotland is full of fantastic tails of the supernatural, with stories of mythical beasts and ghostly occurrences. If you are interested in tales from the other world, then you will have come across lots of accounts of people interacting with the Fairies. These little creatures were not the cute Tinkerbell from Peter Pan but often sinister and malevolent, at worst evil and at best merely mischievous, but defiantly something to be feared. The modern practice of fairy doors (a small wooden door) in your house for decoration or to entice the “little folk’ into your home would have filled our ancestors with dread.
It was thought that at one time the fairy folk or the Sidhe or Shee as they were known lived side by side with man. Then the fairy’s and mankind went to war. We were victorious and the Shee were all banished underground to the dark recesses of this land. The fairy and mankind are enemies and one day the Shee will rise and take what is rightfully their’s again, our world above ground.
The Shee only move around above ground at night and their armies can be heard in the darkness by the sound of their horses bridles jingling. They dress in green a colour thought by us to be unlucky as to wear green might offend the Shee. My granny who only died twelve years ago would never wear green and when asked why would reply “it is the fairies colour”.
Perthshire has many areas connected with the Shee. Glenshee, as its name suggests, means the glen of the fairies and Schiehallion is the fairy hill of the Caledonians. But the story I want to tell you about took place near Glendevon, an area rich in fairy lore with a nearby hill being named Ben Shee.
A piper was walking along the old drove road through Glenquey between Glendevon and Dollar. At the top of the glen stands a fairy mound known as the Maiden Castle. This piper was walking towards the mound when to his astonishment he heard the sound of music and laughter he looked up and saw where the fairy mound sits, a magnificent castle, with lights shining from the windows and flags flying from the turreted towers. A precision of fairies came from the main gate.
The terrified piper turned to run, but the Little Folk some mounted on small horses caught up with the man, he was made a prisoner and taken back to the castle.
In the great hall, the fairies were having a banquet, they made the piper stand in the corner of the room and play his pipes while the little people danced and danced, this went on all night and the next day. The piper was exhausted and pleaded to be set free, he wanted to return to his family and he knew that they would be worried about him. The king of the Shee said that they would release the captive piper if he played one last tune, the fairy leaders favourite. The piper put his pipes to his lips and played this tune for all his worth. Again the fairies danced in a big circle. When the piper finished, he was taken to the main gate of the castle and set free
The grateful man made his way home as quickly as he could, when he arrived at his house and walked in the front door, there was no one there he recognised, not his wife or children only one bent old man sitting by the fire. When the piper asked the man at the fire the whereabouts of his family, the old man knew nothing. But he did say that many years ago when he was a boy, his grandfather had told him a story of a piper going missing in Glenquey, he just vanished into thin air. Everyone thought he must have had an accident or got lost, but a body was never found. For while the piper thought had been playing his pipes in the fairy mound for a day or two, in our time, he had been missing for more than a hundred years.
There are a few similar stories from all over Scotland about people going disappearing and their disappearance being blamed on the fairies. Some people now recognise the similarities between these stories and current cases of alien abduction, so perhaps it was not the Shee who abducted these people after all.
Just beyond the mound of Maiden Castle is the Maiden Well, this well is reputed to be haunted. The story goes, a beautiful maiden who was imprisoned in Castle Campbell was allowed to walk the hills behind the castle. She often walked to the well and drank its water. Now her spirit can sometimes be seen around the well at night and if any unsuspecting traveller captivated by her beauty tries to steal a kiss from this young enchantress when their lips touch and the ghostly figure kisses you it will cause you to suffer a fatal heart attack.
I sat and had a flask of coffee on top of the Maiden Castle enjoying the stunning view down the glen. When I finished and was walking away, I thought just for a second that I could hear the faint sound of music, it may have been my imagination, or maybe.
The area is managed by the Woodland Trust and offers many excellent walks, it is well worth a visit.