Solstice of the Moon: The High Way of the Fairies

glenshee

We…well, okay, I… decided to take a shortcut from our stopover to our destination. ‘Shortcut’ may not be entirely accurate. Taking the main roads would be nine miles shorter in distance, the roads would undoubtedly be faster and with less likelihood of being further sidetracked… but we would have to drive on fast roads that show little of the countryside and navigate towns along the way. The alternative was to meander through the hills on narrow and winding roads. Either way, we had a good four-hour drive ahead. Knowing the beauty of the Cairngorms, there really was no contest.

Our road was to lead us through Glen Shee, now famous for its winter skiing, but it was its older stories that drew us there. Its name comes from the Gealic word shith, which means ‘fairies’… and the Glen of the Fairies is a beautiful place. Until the old language fell out of use in the 1800s the inhabitants were known as the Elves of Glenshee, Sithichean a’ Ghlinnshith. Coire Shith,  the Fairy Burn tumbles down the slopes of Ben Gulabin and a Bronze Age standing stone still marks the ancient gathering place at the Hill of the Fairies.

glenshee2

There are many legends about the Fairy Glen. One of the earliest is the tale of Diarmid, a famous warrior and Grainne, who fell in love with him. Grainne was the wife of the local chieftain, Fingal, and when he realised the state of affairs, Fingal arranged for Diarmid to hunt the enormous wild boar that had been terrorising the glen, hoping thereby to rid himself of the warrior. Diarmid tracked and fought the boar and his might prevailed. Fingal demanded that the boar be measured to prove the feat, but in doing so, Diarmid was poisoned by the beasts bristles. Fingal refused to allow his healers to help the young warrior and Diarmid weakened and died. Grainne, unable to live without her love, threw herself on an arrow. The two were buried, side by side. Legend says they sleep in the four-poster stone circle known as Diarmid’s Grave.

It is told that the Fairies of the glen are both faithful and fickle, choosing those whom they like and hounding those they do not. Those they accept are given the gift of returning to the magical glen, over and over, until their life’s end. Those who offend them will undoubtedly be made aware of the fact. In the early years of the nineteenth century, an ancient chapel at the Spittal of Glenshee had to be rebuilt. A new site was chosen, at some distance from the old chapel, and the fairies did not approve. Each morning the builders found their tools in disarray and the previous day’s work undone. The locals shook their heads and waited. It was not until the work was returned to the original site of the ancient place of worship that the building was able to be raised. Having driven through these hills many times, I was hopeful that we would be accepted and waited to see what would happen.

We had barely left the towns behind when we spotted a pair of huge birds soaring above the ridge of the hills. They were not kites… we could tell by the shape of the tail feathers. They looked way too big for buzzards… and the only time I have seen golden eagles it had been in these hills. That time, there was absolutely no doubt… the pair of them were feasting on a carcass in the middle of the lane as I turned the corner. They had looked at me with utter unconcern before taking flight, leaving me wide-eyed and awed. We watched the birds riding the air… unable to get a close enough shot to identify them. Maybe they were buzzards… but they were so very big that I hope not.

We were pretty much bouncing after that as we drove through the winding pass to Braemar and beyond. Deep shadows and drifts of pale mist vied with the sun, each striving, it seemed, to show the hills at their most magical. There may have been a certain amount of squeaking from the driver’s seat as each bend in the road offered a gift of beauty. It is time, always time, that is the problem. We had left later than intended and expected to arrive with no more than minutes to spare before the appointed rendezvous., There was no time to explore the ancient sites or visit the stones… yet I would not have missed that road for the world.

glenshee 4

As in life itself, it is always simpler to take the highway. But the easiest route is not always the best… you never know what you might find when you take the road less travelled. The main road would have been wide and straight, well signposted, with few surprises save roadworks and traffic. Taking the high road over the mountains led us into unknown territory, where nothing was predictable. The twists and turns threatened danger and the going was, of necessity, much slower. Yet, for all that, we did arrive on time and we arrived replete with beauty, having seen things that the easy road could never have offered.

Did the Fairies of the Glen approve? Will we be able to return and explore one day? Given their parting gift, I think we may…

glenshee5

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She has written a number of books, both alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com
This entry was posted in adventure, albion, Ancient sites, Don and Wen, Landscape, Photography, scotland road trip, Silent Eye weekend workshop, Solstice of the Moon, Stuart France and Sue Vincent, travel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to Solstice of the Moon: The High Way of the Fairies

  1. The less travelled road is almost always more interesting. Looking at your photos, I’m surprised how many of them show wide stretches of country without cars, houses or people. I admit I’ve thought of the British Isles as crowded and built up, compared to Canada. (Of course, most of us Canadians live fairly close together in the southernmost parts of our vast country).

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Just my sort of place.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Helen Jones says:

    Well. That is just completely beautiful.

    And I agree about the road less travelled – often so much more interesting…

    Liked by 3 people

  4. jenanita01 says:

    Who would use a motorway if they didn’t have to? The people who do, miss so much…

    Like

  5. willowdot21 says:

    I do enjoy traveling with you Sue I do believe the rainbow is your answer about your return 💗💗

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Running Elk says:

    Always a detour, certainly in the top 3, worth making! It’s not that long ago we were parked in that same lay-by, jaws dropped, watching the eagle soar.
    McGonagall, didn’t take to it quite the same… http://www.mcgonagall-online.org.uk/gems/the-spittal-of-glenshee 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh my…if only…someday…sigh ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  8. paulandruss says:

    Stunning Sue… The connection between Ireland and Scotland with the common tales of Finn is incredible. I never knew the story of Dermot and Grianne had also been picked up and taken to Scotland. It looks a truly magical place.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. tric says:

    This could have been here in Ireland, the story, the myth, the fairies, the scenery. Great choice of route.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Eliza Waters says:

    Such a especially beautiful landscape. I’d be squeaking, too! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I tend to go with whichever road lets me pull off to the side and safely take pictures, though highways do have their uses.

    I saw a pair of Golden Eagles in the Hermon mountains. I have seen many American eagles over the years, but Golden Eagles are easily three times the size. I saw the Condors at Grand Canyon, but they were too far away for me to get a sense of their size. They are supposedly the biggest of all the birds, but they do keep their distance.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sue Vincent says:

      So do I… though my mournful cameraless state just leaves me sighing…

      It was the size that convinced us about these two. We are so used to the kites and buzzards, which are big enough, but therse were huge in comparision. Even without a clear shot…it would be wonderful just to glimpse an eagle in flight.

      Like

  12. Pingback: Writing Links…10/2/17 – Where Genres Collide

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