Humans love to imagine alternative realities where bizarre creatures interact with society. In fact, dig into Scotland’s past and you’ll soon uncover a plethora of legends and myths that attract intrigue.
Of course, the most famous of these Scottish legends is the Loch Ness Monster. It’s a story that has almost no scientific backing, yet millions flock to the lake every year to get amongst the hype.
On our Wild Scotland adventure, we visit many locations steeped in folklore. Here’s a selection of fascinating myths that date back centuries – remember to leave your tinfoil hat at home!
Selkies (Orkney and Shetland Islands)
Originating from the Scottish world for seal (selch or selkie), selkies are mythical creatures that have the power to transform between seal and human. Legend has it that the mermaid-like creatures can be seen bobbing their heads above the waves near the shore, watching with their human eyes.
The transformation power of the selkie is held in its sealskin. In one tale, a man found a female selkie sunbathing on a beach and stole her skin she had slipped out of – forcing her to become his wife. Several years later, the selkie managed to find her sealskin and return to the sea.
Blue men of Minch (Lewis, Outer Hebrides)
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July 14, 2017
As we travel through the Outer Hebrides, you’re bound to notice the sheer remoteness of the region. Settlements are few and far between and the landscape is imposing and rough. However, it’s perfect for the Blue men of Minch, if you believe!
The myth goes that the Blue men of Minch live in the water between Lewis and mainland Scotland, on the hunt for ships to sink and sailors to drown. Again, similar to selkies, the Blue men of Minch are mermaid-like and are known to raise their long restless arms above the waves before striking. Don’t worry, the Polar Pioneer features anti-minch technology to ensure we can pass through these waters without fear.
Wulver (Shetland Islands)
If you’re to believe the legend, there is a creature lurking in the caves of the Shetland Islands – the wulver. With the body of a man and the head of a wolf, this werewolf-like being is actually seen as a peaceful figure, known for taking pity on those less fortunate and leaving fish on the windowsills of the hungry.
The ‘Robin Hood’ of the Sheltands is covered in thick brown hair and is believed to never have been fully human, and is instead a descendant of wolves. The wulver is one of those mythical creatures that you’d actually like to meet, but as they haven’t been ‘seen’ since the mid 20th century, you’d be lucky on the Wild Scotland tour to capture a photo of one!
The Old Man of Storr (Inner and Outer Hebrides)
Oban represents the start of your Wild Scotland adventure and what better way to get yourself into the mood of legends and folklore than a good haunted castle. Dating back to the 13th century, Dunstaffnage is one of the country’s oldest stone castles and its walls can tell more than a few stories.
Legend has it that the land has been used as a fort since the first century and was even home to the Stone of Destiny at one point. In more recent times, it was the stronghold of Clan Campbell which attacked the MacDonalds and the Macleans during the 16th century. To this day, the castle is said to be haunted by a woman in a green dress who foretells major events affecting the Campbell nobility.
Wild Scotland – a combination of history, fauna and folklore
Scotland’s wild islands are full of mystery. Whether it’s because of the rugged landscape or small communities, it’s an environment that doesn’t change much over time and this can lead nicely to legends and myths becoming entrenched in the culture.