The Scots are blessed with many myths and legends and it's no wonder that visitors to the dreamy glens and lochs of Scotland are filled with an almost mystical awe of the beauty that gives rise to the magical stories. While modern Scotland is alive with vibrant cities and towns, the highlands are famed for their superb offerings of outdoor pursuits and their myths and legends continue to fascinate and draw people to the fabled locations. Given that 2013 is the 80th anniversary of the first modern day sighting of the Loch Ness Monster, one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of our time, 2013 is a great year to visit places of myth and legend and say Happy Birthday Nessie!
Loch Ness is not just a gorgeous body of water skirted by majestic mountains; it is home to one of the greatest legends that captivates the entire world. Since the 6th Century when reported sightings of a monster living in the loch emerged, the hunt for Nessie has continued. From boatmen rowing out in the middle of the loch in simpler times, to the very best modern technology can throw at it, every effort to find her has failed and the Loch Ness Monster remains a myth. There is a full visitor experience to be enjoyed at Loch Ness beyond the sheer beauty of the location.
Everyone is familiar with the story of Pontius Pilate – the man who condemned Jesus Christ to death, but legend has it that the notorious Governor of Judea was in fact a Scotsman who had been born at Fortingall in modern day Perthshire. Archaeological evidence has proved that there was a Roman fort at Fortingall, near the River Tay, but not until at least 80AD. Some claim that Pilate's father was a Pict emissary sent by Emperor Augustus. For visitors wanting to follow the Pilate trail, one of the attractions not to be missed is the Fortingall Yew – a tree thought to be 5,000 years old and classified as the oldest living thing in Europe. Fortingall stands in scenic Perthshire countryside, an area renowned for its fishing and hiking.
Robert the Bruce is a real life hero to the Scots and his exploits in evading the English invaders are legendary. One story goes that while hiding in a cave, Bruce sat watching a spider trying to create its web across the cave's roof. When it succeeded on the seventh attempt, Bruce accepted this as a sign to keep fighting and led the Scots to victory at the Battle of Bannockburn. There are caves dotted all around South West Scotland claiming to be the spider cave of Robert the Bruce but nothing will ever be proven. A more tangible place to visit to pay homage to "The Bruce" is the new Bannockburn Centre which is being opened by the National Trust of Scotland in June 2014, to coincide with the 700 hundredth anniversary of the battle.
Many of the castles in Scotland give rise to great stories – some true, others legend. A Highland castle with one of the scariest stories is the now ruined Lochindorb. The Wolf of Badenoch was Alexander Stuart, Earl of Buchan, the son of King Robert II who lived between 1343 and 1405. Described as a huge man with a jet black beard, the whole of Morayshire was in fear of him. Notoriously cruel, it was said that an invitation from The Wolf to "enjoy" the hospitality of his castle meant that the invitee was never to be seen again. Lochindorb's ruins stand on an island in the middle of Lochindorb Loch. Like all of Scotland's Highland lochs it is a place of stark beauty and popular with visitors for wildlife spotting and bird watching. When dusk falls, the sinister aspect of the ruins adds to the atmospheric loch.
Anyone who is interested in myths and legend will not be disappointed with Scotland. The stories of ghosts that haunt castles, kelpies, red caps, selkies and shellycoats, cannibals and giants are woven in the landscape just waiting to be discovered.
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