Welcome to the ‘Land of Stories’

To mark VisitScotland’s ‘Year of Stories’ we share some of the Cairngorms’ most famous tall tales…

The Cairngorms is teeming with tales of fairies and ghosts, as well as ‘real’ stories of bloodthirsty battles. These can bring a walk or area to life, especially for little listeners.

Badenoch even has its own ‘Storylands’ app, complete with, not just audio stories, but augmented reality creations, music, maps and accompanying walks.

Here are just a few places in the Park with a story behind them…


Glenshee. Credit: Mike Bell

Its name comes from the Gaelic word for fairies. Inhabitants until the late 1800s were known as ‘Sithichean a’Ghlinnshith’ meaning the ‘elves of Glenshee’.

Loch Morlich

The King of the fairies, Donald, allegedly lives here and can often be heard playing his bagpipes.

Glen Cluny

Fairies live on the grassy hills here and are said to dance on the summits in the moonlight.

Ben Macdui

Ben Macdui. Credit: John Hogg

The ‘Big Grey Man’ is said to haunt hikers summiting this peak. Walkers have talked of feeling an eerie presence with some even claiming to have seen a tall figure in the fog. Some have also talked of ‘fairy music’ coming from this Munro, too.

The Corrieyairack Pass

The ghostly ‘Highlander with hounds’ apparently patrols this pass, helping lost hikers find their way in bad weather.

Loch Mallachie

This small loch by Loch Garten means ‘Loch of the Curse’ due to reports of a phantom roaming the waters at night, letting out a blood curdling scream to warn of impending death. Visit Loch Garten Nature Centre and you might catch a sight of the Osprey fishing.

Balmoral Castle

Balmoral Castle

The ghost of John Brown, a close friend of Queen Victoria, apparently walks the corridors of Balmoral Castle, always wearing his kilt.


Lochan Uaine, (Green Loch) Ryvoan Pass, Glenmore.

Fairies here are legendary, said to milk deer and wash their clothing in the nearby An Lochan Uaine (known as ‘the Green Loch’ for this reason).

Corgarff Castle 

Corgarff castle. Credit: Marty Davis

This remote castle on the SnowRoads is thought to be haunted after a fire killed 28 women, children and servants.

Ruthven Castle

Ruthven Barracks. Credit: James Stevens

A green fairy dog is said to roam this area and causes ‘normal’ dogs to cower and flatten themselves to the ground. Listen to the stories of Badenoch on the Badenoch the Storylands app here.

The River Spey

River Spey

Thought to be where various water horses and Kelpies (shape shifting spirits) live. 

The River Don

Also famously home to a Kelpie!

We asked 3 of the Park’s premier storytellers for their favourite yarn…

Simon Blackett of Yellow Welly Tours, Braemar

Simon Blackett, of Yellow Welly Tours

“Famous writer Robert Louis Stephenson rented a cottage in Braemar in 1881 when he started writing Treasure Island, featuring some well known villagers; Long John Silver was based on John Silver the miller! About 30 years ago the local doctor moved into this cottage and one day he showed his 10 year old daughter a photo of the novelist. She said ‘But dad, this is the man who sits on the end of my bed at night and tells me stories!’”

Yellow Welly Tours

Marcus Caldwell of Secret Strathspey:

One of Marcus’s favourite storytelling locations, Anagach, Grantown

“Picture the scene – It’s Christmas Day and John MacGregor, an infamous cattle thief, is hiding in an ox byre in Abernethy Forest. Suddenly, the byre is surrounded by the King’s men, yelling at John to come out. But John is not going to come quietly. Isabel, the local girl who has fallen for him, is with him and they have spent the last few days preparing for this. In a scene straight out of a Western, John kicks open the door and starts shooting…

If you want to know what happens next and hear more stories of the local area, why not come on a Secret Strathspey guided walk?!”

Secret Strathspey

Sarah Hobbs of Strathspey Storywalks

Sarah Hobbs, Strathspey Storywalks

“In Kinveachy Woods, just outside Boat of Garten, there lives a giant. He’s quite a quiet giant, and keeps himself to himself… but he’s also pretty wily.

Despite living a quiet life never bothering anyone, he knew that us humans might be quite fearful of him on account of his size, and might try to do him harm, or even kill him. So, he took out his heart and hid it under a stone in Kinveachy Woods.

Now it came to be that the only way to kill him is to lay your hat or bonnet on the stone under which the heart is hiding. But, the heart is pretty wily too: whenever it sees anyone coming, wearing or clutching a bonnet, it hops out and goes and hides under another stone! Given the number of stones in Kinveachy Woods, we can conclude that the giant is very likely alive and well… and maybe you’ll spot him there one day! Just don’t take your hat…”

Strathspey Storywalks

(Adapted from Otta Swire’s The Highlands and their Legends, published 1963)

For more information on tour guides, see www.visitcairngorms.com 

You can download the Storylands app, for free, from the App Store or Google Play

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