The Fairy Flag of Dunvegan
Hear the tale of the tattered silk fairy flag of Dunvegan castle, the hereditary seat of Clan MacLeod where the flag still sits on display as one of their most treasured possessions.
Dunvegan Castle (1814/1827) by William DaniellNational Library of Scotland
The Fairy Flag of Clan MacLeod
The Fairy Flag is made of tattered silk and belongs to the MacLeods of Dunvegan. It is kept in their ancestral home, Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye. Nobody knows how it came to Scotland. Perhaps a MacLeod who fought in the Crusades brought it back from the Holy Land.
Clan Ivor got the word to charge (1910) by A&C BlackNational Library of Scotland
It is said that the Fairy Flag has magical powers in warfare. When the MacLeods are in desperate danger during a battle, they can unfurl it and become invincible. Legend has it that they used it in 1450 and 1520 against the MacDonalds. But the Fairly Flag only works three times.
Highland Piper (1831) by L. Haghe, from a drawing by FraserNational Library of Scotland
The MacLeods employed the MacCrimmons as their hereditary pipers. They composed and played music for the Highland bagpipes and one of their masterpieces was a tune called ‘The Fairy Flag’. Its theme and variations tell of its magical qualities.
Dark Fairy (2021-06) by Jordan HunterNational Library of Scotland
Fairies are said to be very fond of the Highland pipes. According to legend, the Fairy Queen offered a MacCrimmon piper a choice: he could either have skill without fame or fame without skill. When MacCrimmon chose the first option...
the Fairy Queen was so delighted that she gave him not only skill and fame, but also a silver chanter, saying it would be sweet and faultless in his fingers. It is not known if the flag was ever unfurled when he was playing for the chief of the Clan MacLeod on the ramparts of Dunvegan Castle.
The Loch Ness Monster
Learn about the origins of the famous Loch Ness Monster, a creature said to live in Loch Ness in the Highlands of Scotland. The first photograph was taken in 1933 but the scientific community has never confirmed the monster's existence.
Loch Ness Monster (2021-06) by Jordan HunterNational Library of Scotland
The first documented sighting of the Loch Ness monster was in 565 when Irish monk St Columba came across Picts burying a man next to the River Ness. He was told that the dead man had been attacked by an aquatic creature and dragged him underneath the water.
St Columba (2021-06) by Jordan HunterNational Library of Scotland
St Columba then sent one of his followers into the river for a swim but when he was approached by the monster, St Columba reportedly made the sign of the cross and exclaimed "Go no further. Do not touch the man. Go back at once."
The Loch Ness Story (1934-04) by Colonel R K WilsonNational Library of Scotland
The monster then retreated back into the depths of the river. In the centuries that followed sightings of the monster increased, especially in the 1930's. This is believed to have been due to the upgrades to the road which encouraged many more visitors.
Alongside being a global tourist attraction, the search for proof of the Loch Ness monster continues. Sonar beams and even satellite tracking have so far not produced any results. However, Loch Ness continues to be a popular destination for tourists around the world.
The Baobhan Sith
Hear the story of the Baobhan Sith, (pronounced bahvan see) who are also known as the White Women of the Scottish Highlands. These mysterious creatures take the form of a beautiful woman, lurking in Highland forests waiting to seduce young hunters and travellers.
Baobhan Sith (2021-06) by Jordan HunterNational Library of Scotland
In English, the name means 'Fairy Woman'. The Baobhan Sith appears as a beautiful seductress who preys on young hunters in the Highlands, inviting them to dance with her. When they are off guard she makes holes in the victim's neck and sucks their blood.
Loch Muich by Moonlight (1869) by Joseph AdamNational Library of Scotland
The Baobhan Sith are also shapeshifters who can take the form of a wolf, a raven or hooded crow. It is rare to see a lone Baobhan Sith as they prefer to hunt in packs and only come out at nightfall. During the day, they rest in their coffins.
Deerstalking (1848) by Robert Ronald McIan (1803-1856), James Logan (1794?-1872)National Library of Scotland
The only way to kill or harm a Baobhan Sith is with iron. They dislike horses because of their iron shoes, a warning to hunters with wives at home that it’s best to stay on their horse. They are also said to be clever, able to speak in any language their victim knows.
The Pass of Killiecrankie (1869) by Joseph AdamNational Library of Scotland
Like other Highland legends, the message of the Baobhan Sith appears to warn men not to stray from the path, don’t speak to strangers – especially beautiful female ones. That it is best to stay indoors and most of all to stay faithful.