Scottish Field

Tales from the far East

Incorporat­ing the capital of Scotland, a glorious Kingdom and haunted castles and glens; Angus, Fife and the Lothians are a hotbed of myth and legend,

- says Morag Bootland

Follow in our footsteps as we uncover tales of the fire-breathing dragon that terrified the people of Scotland’s capital city and brave ghoulish goblins and necromancy in the beautiful East Lothian countrysid­e. Revel in the impressive cast of ghostly residents in Scotland’s most haunted castle and meet the Devil himself in the East of Scotland.


The crumbling ruin of Red Castle overlooks the glorious sands of Lunan Bay, between Montrose and Arbroath. As beautiful as the beach is, the story of the castle is wrought with tragedy. The owner of the castle, Sir William de Berkley had in his employ a giant who was slain attempting to protect the castle from Viking invaders. Inland from here, another castle is as famous for its ghosts as its royal connection­s. Glamis Castle is said to be Scotland’s most haunted castle and its list of ghouls include The Grey Lady, a former resident who was burned at the stake for being a witch; a young boy sitting by the door of the Queen’s bedroom and the 4th Earl of Crawford, Alexander Lindsay, who has a penchant for lurking over beds in the dead of night. Then there’s Hamish Rue Glamis, the 9th Laird who was executed for treason and roams the castle in full Scottish regalia or the tongueless woman running around the castle grounds, mouth agape. Glamis is open to the public, so you can visit and tour the beautiful castle and grounds and discover these extra special spectral residents for yourself.

Heading back to the coast, you will find a village named St Vigeans by Arbroath. In the 18th century, residents believed that a kelpie lived in a loch below the 40ft mound that the kirk stood atop. The creature had been enslaved by the man who built the church and in return the kelpie had cursed the building. The people of St Vigeans did not worship there for many years for fear that the kelpie would pull the church down into its loch.


Today Crail is best known as one of the picturesqu­e harbour towns in the East Neuk of Fife. Famous as a destinatio­n for seafood lovers, the harbour dates back to the

16th century. The town is also home to the ancient and beautiful Crail Parish Church, which dates back to 1243, but has been added to over the centuries.

Next to the church gates lies an unusually rounded blue stone, which seems not to fit with the geology of the rocks that surround the kirk. On the side of the stone an indentatio­n marks the spot where the Devil’s thumb left a fiery print as he hurled the rock at the church.

The story goes that the Devil was, understand­ably, annoyed at the building of the church. He decided that if he infiltrate­d the stone masons who were building the kirk, he could build it so fast that they all might be accused of witchcraft and that the build might be halted. So, he approached the Master Mason disguised as a mason’s apprentice and begged him for a job. Assuring the boss that he was skilled and would have the church up in no time, he started work that day.

Of course, with the help of a little witchcraft, the Devil proved to indeed be a skilled mason and the kirk duly sprung up. But one of the other apprentice­s soon became suspicious of

this craftsman who could work so quickly and effortless­ly. At the end of the day, he decided to follow his fellow apprentice and as he peered around the corner of the kirk, he watched the young man walk towards the forest in the gloaming and transform into a hideous beast; tall, with cloven hooves, a forked tail and terrible horns. There was no mistaking his identity and the boy could not contain his shock. He gasped and the Devil whirled around in anger and gave chase.

Running through the streets of Crail with the Devil at his heels the young mason screamed to warn the townspeopl­e that they had Auld Nick in their midst. As people flooded into the streets the Devil knew that he was lost and as the boy ducked up an alleyway he stamped one cloven hoof and vanished in a flash.

In the morning as the masons made their way to work on the church, they were horrified to find it in ruins. Amidst the rubble sat a great blue stone with a thumbprint engrained in the rock. The Devil had fled five miles south to the Isle of May where, enraged by his discovery he had thrown a huge boulder at the church and destroyed it. The stone split in mid air and it is said that the other half of the rock sits by the coast at Balcombie.

There’s also a blue stane in the town of St Andrews, so perhaps the Devil’s aim wasn’t quite spot on the first time. Or perhaps, as legend has it, this particular stone was thrown by an angry giant at the missionary, Saint

Rule. It is believed to be a meeting place for faeries and may have been used as a pagan alter but now locals treat it as a good luck talisman. It sits within the grounds of a pub these days, so a visit is well worthwhile if you are in the area.

Heading west along the coast from Crail stop off for a walk up Largo Law and enjoy great views across Fife. You may even be lucky enough to find the seam of gold that is said to run beneath this volcanic rock. It is said that the sheep who graze on the law have a yellow tinge to their fleece due to grazing above the goldmine.


The capital is awash with myth and legend. From the heartfelt tale of Greyfriar’s Bobby, to the macabre deeds of Burke and Hare. But, one of Edinburgh’s major landmarks has a story to tell that might appeal to fans of Game of Thrones.

Arthur’s Seat is famous the world over as a mountain in the heart of the city. However, it is actually an extinct volcano, or depending on who you ask, a sleeping dragon. Legend has it that the skies around the capital were once plagued by a ferocious fire-breathing dragon. The dragon was greedy and stole whole herds of livestock to satiate its voratious appetite. But like us all, the beast suffered the repercussi­ons of all of this overeating and became fat. It’s greed drove it on and it continued to decimate stocks of sheep and cows. Eventually, the effort of keeping its huge, rotund body airborne became too much and it rested on a peak for a sleep and never woke up. The coiled dragon became Arthur’s Seat.

Arthur’s Seat is also the focus of a legend surroundin­g the site of the legendary Camelot; hence it would have been the seat of King Arthur. But it may also be a translatio­n of ‘Ard-na-Said’, the Gaelic name for the hill, meaning Height of Arrows.

Veering further from the coast, a trip to Rosslyn Chapel in Midlothian is always filled with fascinatin­g tales and legends. Here you can discover a host of incredible characters from the past. There are green men, demons and angels in the intricate carvings. But it was a conspiracy theory sparked by Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code that linked the chapel to the Knights Templar and cited it as the possible hiding place of The Holy Grail, the skull of John the Baptist and the final resting place of Mary Magdalene. Whether you’re on a quest for the grail or just want to appreciate the sheer beauty of the architectu­re, the chapel is a fabulous place to visit.

Heading into East Lothian, the pretty village of Gifford is home to The Goblin Ha’ pub and restaurant. It is named after a rather scary tale of witchcraft and evil sorcery that is said to have taken place at Yester Castle, 1.5 miles south-east. Yester Castle is a ruin that sits in dense woodland, but beneath it lies a vaulted undergroun­d chamber that can still be accessed by anyone brave enough to enter the Goblin Hall. The castle was built by Lord Hugo de Giffard in the 13th century. A renowned warlock, necromance­r and purveyor of dark arts, it is said that he entered into a pact with the Devil, who provided him with an army of hobgoblins to help him to build the castle.

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 ?? ?? Left: Red Castle and Lunan Bay from the air.
Left: Red Castle and Lunan Bay from the air.
 ?? ?? Clockwise from left: The Crail Bluestone; Crail Parish Church; Arthur’s Seat; Yester Castle ruins.
Clockwise from left: The Crail Bluestone; Crail Parish Church; Arthur’s Seat; Yester Castle ruins.
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