The Black Isle is a peninsula near Inverness in The Highlands of Scotland. The towns and villages of the ‘Isle’ boast many excellent museums, hotels and shops, there’s castles too, making a quick drive over the Kessock Bridge well worthwhile. Dismantled oil rigs can be seen on the Cromarty Firth side, as can dolphins sometimes.
Inland there are older places, prettier places. We took a wrong turn while searching for The Clootie Well, an ancient, possibly Celtic, shrine and then spent some time wandering among trees.
Ah Ha! We were on the right track:
People hang cloots (cloths) beside the well and in the surrounding woodland to ask for wishes or healing. As the cloot disintegrates, healing occurs or wishes come true.
It’s an unusual but peaceful place; despite the modernity of many of the hanging items, the well feels timeless. The number and variety of cloots is impressive. They extend right down the hill to the roadside.
A few miles on there is The Fairy Glen, another beautiful woodland, this time with waterfalls. Children used to dress a pool within the glen to keep the fairies happy.
Coins are pressed into a dead tree, by some for wishes or luck, but in older tradition these tree coins are an offering to the fairies to ask them not to exchange babies for changelings.
The atmosphere of The Fairy Glen is joyful; it’s easy to imagine fairies dancing and flying and giggling over the pools and streams.
Set in a fictional castle in Aberdeenshire, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR blends an often overlooked period of history, the Scottish witchcraft accusations, in particular the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, with a love story.
It has a castle.
And a stone circle.
And medieval Christmas.
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