Thursday, 23 September 2010

Schiehallion - The Fairy Hill of the Caledonians

There are many legends associated with this mysterious mountain in the centre of Scotland, but I was interested in finding a magical cave in its flank called 'Uamh Tom a'Mhor-fhir' which has much local folklore attached to it concerning the fairies:

"Of all the caves in the Parish, the most remarkable is that at Tom a Mhorair, on the south side of Glenmore, near the west shoulder of Schiehallion. It has a fairly wide opening which extends for three or four yards. It then contracts and slants into total darkness in the bowels of the earth. Some miles to the east of this there is another opening, which tradition holds to be the other end of the cave. According to the traditional accounts, this cave was regarded as an abode of fairies and other supernatural beings, rather than a hiding place of mortals. The only men who were supposed to have lived there were individuals who were believed to have been in league with supernatural powers."

"Two hump-backed men lived on either side of the mountain, one near Braes of Foss and the other near Tempar. One fine summer's eve, the man from Braes of Foss went to visit his friend, walking through Gleann Mor. As he approached the cave - Uamh Tom a'Mhor-fhir - he heard the singing and dancing of fairies. He was totally thrilled and joined in the song in a melodious voice, adding a new line. The fairies were delighted with the addition and gave him three gifts - that he would be tall and lose his hump, that he would be healthy and that he would have plenty until he died."

"There is a famous cave at the foot of Schiehallion where, tradition has it, fairies loved to dwell. There, it is said mortals from time to time dwelt among them, and interesting stories are told of the strange ways in which they were rescued from their power. Behind Schiehallion, again, on Creag Chionneachan, is one of the spots where the old Fingalian warriors were supposed to lie on their elbows awaiting the third blast of the horn that is to raise them to life again."

"…Schiehallion (3,547 feet)- i.e. the hill of the Daoine Shi or the Fairies' Hill. If all the tales one hears related by old natives of Rannoch could be fully relied on, Schiehallion in days of yore used to be a favourite resort of the fairy folks, and more especially once a year, when all the various tribes throughout Glenlyon, Rannoch, Strathtummel, etc. congregated. Here they used to assemble in large numbers and hold their annual convocation, presided over by the beautiful and accomplished Queen Mab, gorgeously arrayed in her favourite green silk robes, with her abundant crop of beautiful golden-yellow hair waving in long ringlets over her shoulder down to her waist. It is said that there are a long series of mysterious caves, extending from one side of the mountain to the other."

"There is a very remarkable cave near the south-west angle of Sith-chaillinn [Schiehallion], at the 'Shealing,' called Tom-a-mhorair, or the Earl's eminence. Some miles to the east, there is an opening in the face of a rock, which is believed to be the termination thereof. Several stories are told and believed by the credulous, relating to this cave; that the inside thereof is full of chambers or separate apartments, and that, as soon as a person advances a few yards, he comes to a door, which, the moment he enters, closes, as it opened, of its own accord, and prevents his returning."

Well it doesn't get any more intriguing than that! So I set off into the mountains and managed to find a very rocky 4x4 track that led up from Fortinghall almost to the base of Schiehallion.




After about 10 very bumpy kilometers I reached the end of the track and continued through the boggy ground on foot.


I then had to cross a small river to reach the old shielings where in times gone by the herders would have spent the summer with their sheep.


I performed a small ceremony by one of the shielings and was met by Faery Queen Mab dressed in her green robes with long flowing golden hair. She told me to spread the word and publicise my faery knowledge, not to keep it secret.

I always remembered what Queen Mab told me, but wasn't really sure how to proceed with it, and have always been worried that publicising these sites would ruin them somehow and take away their magic.


I spent the rest of the afternoon looking for the cave, but no matter how hard I tried I could not find it! This really was a magical cave, perhaps it was hiding itself from me!

After speaking with the gamekeeper I returned the next day to try to find the cave again, and again it eluded me! I remembered the tales about how upon entering the cave the doors will close behind you and you won't be able to get out again, so maybe I was being protected from finding it! Or maybe the fairies were just playing games with me?

I have read several accounts of people finding this cave, including the gamekeeper's own, but so far have not been able to find a single photo of it on the internet, despite its fame! Mysterious indeed! Maybe the time will be right for me to return someday...

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Rob Wildwood (Aurvandil) has now released a book containing hundreds of his own stunning full colour photos of many of the magical places he has visited in his travels. The images capture the magic and mystery of each place and are enhanced by extracts of local folklore that reveal the magical lore of each place and tempt deeper investigation. Every site listed has full directions and map grid references that can be checked online, so join Rob Wildwood as you discover Britain's magical places at www.themagicalplaces.com


2 comments:

Cam Morrison said...

Ive found the entrance but didn't know the legend of Uamh Tom a'Mhor-fhir, so I only looked but then walked passed.

Time to go back to Glen Mhor.

Aurvandil said...

Did you take a photo? I've still not seen any pictures of this place, so to me it's legendary! :)