Scotland's Supernatural Countryside
The Forest of Shadows
'Deep in the hush of a mighty wood
I came to a place of dread and dream.
And forms of shadows, whose shapes elude.'
From, "The Forest of Shadows" by Madison J Cawein.
In the wild and beautiful Scottish countryside all manner of supernatural and legendary beings may be encountered. Witnesses tell terrifying stories of being followed, touched and chased by entities not of the physical world.
Part of the haunted A75 road
The 'Ghost Road' - Dumfries & Galloway, Scottish Borders.
Not only is the A75 Annan to Dumfries road the most haunted in Scotland but it might well be a contender for one of the most bizarre locations in Britain! Ghosts, spirits and other weird entities are encountered regularly.
One of the most terrifying aspects of these hauntings are the entities' manifesting in front of moving vehicles. There have been a few near misses over the years - but also a large number of unexplained accidents.
The Screaming Hag
One of the scariest apparitions experienced on the road is the 'Screaming Hag'. The phenomenon sometimes manifests by emerging from a white mist. She is reported to either wail or scream before vanishing as suddenly as she appeared. There is no evidence or records to point to who this woman might be. Speculation has arisen that this may be an entity of the non-human variety. What we can say is that she does have some resemblance to the folkloric 'washer-woman' - more commonly known as the Banshee, (Ireland) or Bean Nighe, (Scotland).
A Tale of Two Brothers
One of the best documented and terrifying encounters happened in 1962; involving two brothers, traveling at night. Their first encounter was with a number of different animals that appeared suddenly in front of their car - a dog, rabbit and goat in some accounts. This was followed by the apparition of an old man and old woman. They reported that the old woman looked like "a traditional witch." However, their ordeal did not end there. Within minutes of seeing the old couple the next encounter was with a ghostly van. This vehicle suddenly appeared from nowhere, on a collision course with their car. Just before impact the van suddenly vanished. It took the brothers sometime to gain their composure before they could go on with their journey.
Apart from the strange story of the two brothers the encounters with animal apparitions are numerous on this road. Many people have reported seeing cats, goats, wild dogs and many others that materialise then disappear. The most bizarre phenomena are birds that seem to be flying into the windscreen of the vehicle but vanish before impact.
The Ghost Couple
Over the years one of the most common sightings is a man and woman - some witnesses describe them as being dressed in Victorian style clothing - suddenly appearing in the middle of the road. The man was observed by some witnesses as having no eyes. So life like are the apparitions that many drivers have swerved to avoid hitting the couple, but as with other apparitions on this road, the couple simply disappear.
There have also been a number of incidents with drivers who reported hitting a man dressed in a red jumper. When the drivers get out to look there is no one there.
The Haunted Woods of Weem
'Cup-and-ring' marks on prehistoric stones
Rannoch Moor & Glencoe
Demons & Ghosts of Perthshire and Kinross
This is not only one of the most beautiful areas in Scotland but one of the most haunted. In addition, it has some fascinating history.
The oldest tree in Europe can be found in Perthshire - the Fortingall Yew - around 3000-5000 years old. This beautiful tree is the last of the primeval forest that once covered the location. It’s also the last remnant of Shakespeare's haunting Birnam Wood from the play 'Macbeth'.
In fact this tree could be viewed as a symbol for the whole area – as many of the paranormal encounters seem to be by entities that may be older than the Yew itself.
Woods of Weem
Lying to the north-west of Aberfeldy in Perthshire is the ancient woodlands of Weem. Perhaps due to its prehistoric beginnings the wood has numerous legends and supernatural stories associated with it. The name 'Weem' was developed from the Scottish Gaelic, 'Uahm ' meaning 'cave'.
In addition to the woods there are also prehistoric stones with 'cup-and-ring' marks. Some theories suggest that the 'cup-and-ring' marks were carved in order to catch blood from sacrifices made. However, if you look at many of these carvings, they don't seem to suggest that they were sculpted to catch blood. Many believe that they display mystical symbolism of life/time/death/afterlife etc.
Some of the most prolific stories about the woods are about demons inhabiting the area. They are believed to lurk in the many caves and crags scattered throughout the woodland.
Walkers and hikers have reported feeling a powerful presence and sense of unease that intensifies the deeper they travel into the woods. The shapes seen tend to be shadows that melt into the natural background of the trees and shrubs.
Other witnesses report an overwhelming feeling of not only being watched but of being followed.
The woods also have a reputation as a home for the Sidhe (the good folk or fairy folk) and other nature spirits. Human apparitions have also been seen – but who these people are or what historical time they come from is unknown.
Whether these sightings and sensations are the work of demons or other forms entity, no one can say. Nevertheless, the ancient legends and stories of the woods are still causing a few hearts to skip a beat even today!
The Death Bogle
Crossroads anywhere in the world have always been thought of as supernatural places.
The crossroads near Pitlochry has a particularly frightening apparition known locally as the 'death bogle'. The name 'bogle' is an old Scots word for ghost. The Pitlochry bogle has been reported as being white in colour and observed manifesting at the main crossroads. Stories relate that anyone who is touched by this spectral figure is marked and will soon die.
The Demonic Water Spirit of Loch Derculich
This is a beautiful fishing spot with a dark secret - a demon haunts the waters of the loch. Known as the 'Tarbh Uisge' - or water bull – it not only devours adults but has a particular liking for children that strayed too near to the water's edge.
It was reported by author James Kennedy in 1928 that - "At peat-making times it was observed very frequently.” Further legends claim that this demon was named after a Pictish Chief who is buried in a mound near to the loch.
The Picts were the ancient and mysterious inhabitants of the east and north of Scotland. Perhaps they also had terrifying encounters with the ‘water bull’?
This wild stretch of ancient forest, lochs and mountains has numerous legends of supernatural beings as well as more down to earth heroes.
Both King Robert the Bruce and Sir William Wallace waged guerrilla warfare against King Edward I and his English invaders from the moor. Not only was it a safe haven for these warriors but the tactics they used were instrumental in finally freeing Scotland from Edward's grip.
Less savoury characters were also found here including robbers and murderers – using the vast rugged moor as a hideout from the law. However, the heroes and robbers were frequently joined by other beings that no sword or crossbow could deal with.
Sightings of spirit people and dogs are numerous in this area and the deep lochs are said to harbour one of the feared Kelpies.
Kelpies or ‘water horse’ can shape shift into a harmless creature in order to lure its prey into a false sense of security. Then when it has its victim, they are dragged into the depths of the loch to drown.
As for ghosts and spirits, one of the most prolific sightings of an apparition is experienced at Schiehallion – known as the ‘Fairy Hill'. A ghostly shadow, resembling the shape of a large dog, is said to have followed people around the hill. The shadow appears from nowhere and disappears in an instant.
Not so long ago many rituals were carried out at Schiehallion. On one area of the hill there are stones that mark the sight of an old well. It was believed that this well was inhabited by the Sidhe/fairies. On May Day, young girls dressed in white with garlands of flowers would visit the site and give offerings to the 'wee folk' better known as the fairies.
The Fortingall Yew
Loch Rannoch with Schiehallion, (the Fairy Hill) in the background.
There are many more tales to tell and entities to encounter, not just from Scotland, but from all over the world.
Many people in the 21st century see themselves as superior to any idea of the supernatural or mythic beasts from old. Nevertheless this planet probably holds many mysteries yet to be revealed.
Through time we may learn that the physical world is only one small part of an infinite web of other worlds - some within the physical, some within other dimensions.
Perhaps one day, when the physical and spiritual planes do merge, we will view these ghostly entities as natural rather than mysterious and otherworldly.
Ghost Poll 1
If you were on your own, which haunted location would scare you the most?
Ghost Poll 2
If you had the chance to investigate one location with friends - which one would you choose?
Book & Journal Sources
Source: Alexander Polson's Scottish Witchcraft Lore (W. Alexander: Inverness 1932).
Further Information & Sources
Scottish History articles including Scots Law, Wars of Independence, Gaelic, weaponry, sherrifs. Also books,Scottish Links and help for CSYS students.
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- BBC - Scotland - Home
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- WWW.SHROUDEATER.COM - Main Menu
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- The 'Big Tree Country' - Aberfeldy & Weem
© 2012 Helen Murphy Howell