Monday, 21 March 2011

The Fairies of Grennan Cove

I've been holding off posting this story until I could find more information and further sources, but unfortunately this is one of those stories that seems to be passed on by spoken word rather than being printed in books! I say unfortunately... but in some ways that makes it even more beautiful and special, a story passed on by locals and from parent to child. Of course, the other possibility is that it's a modern fairy tale, but either way it's a lovely story and a lovely place to visit!

I found the story on the Mull of Galloway website, the only source i've found for it so far. I've spoken to the website owner and he says as far as he knows it's local folklore, if I find out anything else i'll of course let you know. It's a lovely website for anyone thinking of visiting the area, and contains some curious other local tales including the heather ale legend.

The story is set on the Mull of Galloway, the most southernly point of Scotland, and a place famous for it's smugglers and beautiful scenic views. You can see right across to Ireland on a clear sunny day! The Mull of Galloway website says that here near present day Kilstay, the "sailors would throw offerings of food to ensure fair winds and a safe journey but none hung around to wait on the fairies coming out of the dark recesses of their cave to collect these offerings". According to folklore, the Cove of Grennan was a well known spot for these cave-dwelling fairies, and there was once a narrow passage leading all the way to Clanyard Bay on the west coast. It seems that the locals were wary and would not explore these caves until....

"One day a piper, braver than the rest, marched off playing his bagpipes and walked straight into the cave accompanied by his dog. Those left outside could hear the music being played from within the depths of the earth until, eventually, it faded away. The dog, minus its hair, finally emerged terror stricken from the cave at Clanyard Bay but the piper was never seen again. Local legend, however, suggests that sometimes in the summer nights, when all is still and there is no wind at all moving around the Mull, it is possible to hear the faint sound of the pipes and that of a howling dog coming from under the ground at Clanyard Bay."
This area was once used by smugglers, and was said to contain secret passageways used to smuggle goods from the coast to nearby farm houses, so there's a good chance that this bay did once contain tunnels as in the story above. Stories of hauntings in such tunnels were commonly spread about by the smugglers themselves, knowing that if the locals were too scared to enter the tunnels then they'd never discover all the illegal goods hidden there. Of course, once the smugglers had abandoned the tunnels, what a perfect home they would have made for any fairies looking for a new abode!

Whilst seeking fairies in nearby Dumfries, I couldn't resist visiting this lovely spot and seeking out the secret tunnels for myself! Unfortunately the tunnels are long since gone, leaving behind towering rocky boulders and dense green shrubs and brambles. Trickling waterfalls seep through the rocks and form sparkling little rockpools, and lonesome thorn trees top the rocky cliffs above. Very pretty and very typical of a fairy dwelling place!

On the beach I found a little washed up fairy door, in a bed of seaweed and driftwood. I tried knocking, but alas no reply!

Sources & Further Information
Mull of Galloway Website
Smugglers Britain, The Solway Firth & Galloway


Anonymous said...

Hello FF,
I love your blog. It's great to see photos of all these fairy sites. I was reading a book of Scottish tales and noticed you've been to Grennan too. Maybe you were looking on the wrong side of the road, unfortunately. It's marked on the west side on old maps too. Queer stories used to be told about the Co of the Grennan in Kirkmaiden, and it used to be reckoned an odious bit for Fairies, and the Fingauls when they passed it, used always to throw a meat-offering into it, both going from home and returning, in order to propitiate the little people.
It is a narrow oblique opening in a detached rock at the foot of an old craggy heugh on the roadside between the Grennan and Terally, the road passing between it and the shore. It is about sixteen inches wide and goes in about thirty feet, adn at the end widens transversely, so that about half-a-dozen people could stand in it, and there would be about sleeping room for three; and it appears to have been once inhabited."
(From Galloway Gossip ) Then he has the dog story too. So maybe it's still there! but I'm not sure I'd be brave enough to go in. all the best, Rhiannon

The Faery Folklorist said...

Hi Rhiannon, lovely to meet you! Are you the same Rhiannon who posts all the lovely folklore on the Modern Antiquarian website?

Sadly I think I was looking on the wrong side of the road, and from your description it sounds thoroughly intriguing so I wish I'd managed to find it! Definitely going to have to take another look when I'm back in the area. The meat-offering part is certainly strange, not the usual offering to the fairies. Definitely wouldn't want to venture too near if they're carnivorous, that's for sure!! :)

Anonymous said...

Yes that's me! Probably everyone over there thinks I'm a bit bonkers but I stick at it anyway. So it's nice to find a fellow fairy fan. You're right about the meat thing, a bit worrying. Better take some iron with you. And an extremely bright torch. Keep up the good work, it is very inspiring to see reports back from these places. I need to get out more. Then I can have a blog too with all those non-megalithic fairy spots!

The Faery Folklorist said...

Thought it might be you! :D Love reading your posts, I'm a big fan of visiting megalithic sites too, hillforts, and anywhere with a bit of ancient history. No shortage of that here in Northumberland!! You should definitely do some blogging too, would love to read about your adventures!