Here are some photographs I made yesterday using a digital camera from a wee walk around the Fairy Knowe by Gartmore. It’s almost bluebell season in this part of the world, but we made it to this hill before the clichés begin! 😉
There are wonderful stories about faeries in local folk beliefs connected to the Fairy Knowe. Robert Kirk, a local minister, took a great interest in the faeries, publishing a book in 1691 about the folk beliefs surrounding them (with the catchy title Secret Commonwealth: or an Essay on the Nature and Actions of the Subterranean (and for the most part) Invisible People heretofor going under the names of Fauns and Fairies, or the like, among the Low Country Scots as described by those who have second sight). Although his ultimate interest was no doubt in convincing his parishioners to be good Christians rather than believe in what he regarded as superstitious folk tales, it is said that publicising the stories about the faeries did not go down well with the faeries themselves. They wanted their secrets kept, and in 1692, as he went on a walk up the hill (which was behind his church), they captured him and took him away to faerie land so that no further secrets would be revealed. The folklorist Andrew Lang wrote a poem about him:
Now far from heaven, and safe from hell,
Unknown of earth he wanders free.
Would that he might return and tell
Of his mysterious company
For we have tired the Folk of Peace;
No more they tax our corn and oil;
Their dances on the moorland cease,
The Brownie stints his wonted toil.
No more shall any shepherd meet
The ladies of the fairy clan,
Nor are their deathly kisses sweet
On lips of any earthly man.
And half I envy him who now,
Clothed in her Court’s enchanted green,
By moonlit loch or mountain brow,
Is Chaplain to the Faery Queen.
The Literary Loch Lomond and the Trossachs website (a wonderful resource, if you don’t know it already) has the full poem and discusses this episode in more detail.
My wife was telling me about this story as we were going up the hill (she had been there before and read about it), and it really is a magical sort of place – it’s easy to see where such stories come from.