Caithness is in the very Far North of Scotland. Caithness is as far North as you can you go on the Scottish mainland and offers stunning views of Orkney.
The county is fringed to the north and east by dramatic coastal scenery and is home to large colonies of seabirds Including the beautiful Puffins who come back to mate each year.
The surrounding waters of the Pentland Firth and the North sea hold a great diversity of marine life and if your lucky you may spot a Killer Whale or two casually swimming along the coast.
Beyond the coast, the landscape is dominated by open moorland and blanket bog known as the Flow Country which is the largest expanse of blanket bog in Europe, extending into Sutherland.
Morven, the highest peak in the county at 706 m (2,316 ft).
Caithness has rich mystical history, the county is speckled with an abundance of historical places to visit, each with it's own story or tale to tell.
🖤💜The Wizard Of Reay 💜🖤
The Wizard of Reay, also known as Donald MacKay is a dark sorcerer from Scottish folklore and he is sometimes considered more clever than Satan himself.
As with many of the tales that originate in Caithness there are many different versions of events however I thought since it is almost Halloween we would go with the creepiest version of The Wizard of Reay!
The Wizard of Reay was a very cunning man and unlike other sorcerers, he used a combination of dark magic and wits to get out of peril.
The Wizard could pass himself off as a dignified nobleman yet underneath this was a bloodlust and a cruel dark soul, which the Devil obviously saw as worthy of belonging to him.
It is said The Wizard of Reay studied dark sorcery in Italy, under the skillful tutelage of the Devil himself. When his exams were over and it was time to go, the Wizard rose with the other students, and Satan tried to grab the Wizard's soul for his own. But the Wizard was far too quick for him, he saw Satan's plan and ran for it, yelling "The Devil take the hindmost!" and Satan only grabbed the Wizard's shadow. From that day on, the Wizard was without a shadow, and Satan was eager to grab the rest of him.
The Devil tried numerous times to grab the Wizard's soul:
Once, the Wizard of Reay was on a midnight hike in the cave with his dog familiar, when suddenly the hound ran off onto another part of the cave. Suddenly, there was an explosion and a singeing smell, and the dog ran back in squealing without any hair left on it. The cunning Wizard knew that Satan was waiting nearby to claim his soul, so the Wizard only escaped because dawn broke and the Devil fled the light. Another version says the Devil was accompanied by two witches, apparently the Smoo Cave has three holes in its roof, said to be made by the Devil and his hags when they flew back to Hell.
Meanwhile, the Wizard of Reay made up a name for himself by kidnapping, robbing, torturing and then drowning numerous people in his region of Scotland. He passed himself off as a respectable figure and thus he got away with it - but he was deeply barbaric, sadistic and cruel under his guise.
Another time, the Wizard of Reay was out walking again in Smoo Cave when suddenly he came upon a little wooden box on a rock. Curious, the Wizard opened it, and suddenly a little man popped out. Soon the small man began to grow, larger and larger, until the terrifying form of Satan stood before him. The arrogant Devil demanded the Wizard's opinion of his trick. The Wizard said it was all good if Satan could come out of the box, but what about going back in? The Devil was too vain to ignore this, and showed off his power by shrinking once more into a tiny figurine. The Wizard of Reay cunningly picked up Satan and tossed him back into his box, locking it tight, trapping the foolish Devil and saving his soul yet again.
The next time you are out late at night wandering the outlaying villages of Caithness those footsteps behind you could very well be the ghost of the Wizard of Reay as it is said he still haunts the long narrow dark roads looking for victims!
Sources: Scottish villains
The Castle of Mey was perhaps best known as the holiday home of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who purchased it in 1952 after the death of her husband King George VI. She restored it to its former glory, even giving it back its original name. She made regular visits to the castle in August and October from 1955 to 2001. Her last visit was in October 2001, and she died in March 2002.
By 1996, the Castle had been made over to the Queen Elizabeth Castle of Mey Trust, which opened the castle and the gardens to the public after her death. It is now open from 1 May until 30 September every year, except for ten days in July/August when the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay stay there.
During the summer months, the tour guides leading visitors around the castle, often tell the story of the ghost that haunts the castle.
The story goes that Lady Fanny Sinclair, the only daughter of the 14th Earl of Caithness, haunts the upper floor of the castle. Lady Fanny had fallen in love with a young stable hand, and they became secret lovers. Her father found out and supposedly banished the young man and legend has it that Lady Fanny sat by her bedroom window waiting for him to come back and when he failed to return Lady Fanny supposedly threw herself out the window.
Another story goes that the couple managed to elope, but they were caught and Lady Fanny was forcibly locked in a bedroom on the top floor. The result remains the same; Lady Fanny throws herself from the window.
Visitors have reported feeling the presence of what is now called ‘The Green Lady’ and they say door shut and lights switch off for no apparent reason. Some of the staff are wary of going up the top floor of the Castle, where Lady Fanny supposedly jumped from her window. Though the exact story is still debated, it should be noted that one window on the top floor is now bricked up, quite curious!
Sources Royal Central, Scottish Castles.
🙏🏻 The Healing Powers of St John’s Lough 🙏🏻
Legend has it the water at St John’s Lough, Caithness, contain the magical power of healing.
For hundreds of years it was believed to work and perhaps it did, and perhaps it still does work but only if you believe in it.
Your illness must be chronic, of body or mind - no use seeking help for a broken leg. 🤦♀️
You must go to the loch on the first Monday of a summer month, and arrive there at gloaming.
Bathe in the loch, give it an offering of money, walk round it clockwise and be gone before sunrise.
Fail to do any of these, and the influence of the healing waters will not work.
Today, the loch is better known as an unique bird reserve and for it’s abundance of trout, making it a wildlife enthusiasts paradise rather than for healing leprosy or those stricken with the palsy.
At the moment the Lough is closed to all human visitors due to an outbreak of aviation flu.
St John's Loch is situated near the village of Dunnet some 8 miles East of Thurso in the County of Caithness, the Lough can be viewed from the roadside heading from Dunnet Bay towards the small hamlet of Mey.
Source: The Northern Highlands
🔥 The Devil’s Stone 🔥
The split stone sits at the side of the road a mile from Melvich at Drumholliston. It marks the ancient boundary between Caithness and Sutherland.
There are several legends and stories as to why the stone was split by the Devil however, my favourite comes from a book entitled ‘Tales From The North Coast’ written by Alan Temperley…
To summarise the story:
“One dark evening, a woman returning across the moor from Reay realised she was being followed and started to run for Melvich, she stopped at the stone, which was still whole, and turned to see that she was being pursued by the Devil. Around the stone she ran, trying to evade capture, so terrified was she that the devil could not catch her. In frustration, he raised his staff and split the stone asunder with a bolt of lightning. By the time the smoke had cleared, the woman was already too far away to catch.”
Many locals (including us) toot their car horn every time they pass the Devil’s Stone so the Devil won’t follow them home 🏡
Achavanich Standing Stones:
Set on a low rise above the south western tip of Loch Stemster is a peculiar setting of standing stones. The stones are unusual in several ways; the setting is not a circle. Rather, it describes a horseshoe shape, like the letter U. Another oddity is that the narrow side of each stone aligns with the centre of the U.
Thirty five stones can be seen standing, with another six fallen, and there is always the possibility that there were originally more stones. The tallest is about two metres high, with an average height around 1.5 metres. There is what may be a slight bank on the southwest side, suggesting an enclosure.
The Achavanich Stones are turned 90 degrees to face along the stone row. The axes of the stone setting are aligned roughly northwest to southeast. The south-east end of the elongated oval is open, and there is no evidence to suggest that it was ever closed. The stones were erected roughly 4000 years ago. That makes them comparative newcomers compared to a 5000-year-old burial mound that can clearly be seen a short distance to the south.
Remains of cremated bones have been found at Achavanich, with some Historian's suggesting the stones housed ritual practices of some kind.
Near the standing stones, at Achavanich, the remains of a woman were found that was eventually carbon dated to 2400 BC.
To mark Summer Solstice 'I along with a group of women gathered together at the Achvanich Stones led by Lisa from the 'Soul Sister Tribe'.
We shared in an evening of music, mediation, movement and healing. The stones may have granted us permission to gather and give thanks to nature and the abundance of wealth it holds but the midges did not! The midges were merciless despite the vast plumes of earthy smelling smoke coming from incense sticks. The evening was a truly cathartic experience with one participant noting that when she opened her eyes she realised she was now inside in the circle...
Half way across the Causewaymire is the turning to Lybster, follow this road a short way to the car parking area.
The road is signed to Lybster and there is a prominent, two- storey white house on the left hand side just beyond the junction. Drive up the road for about ½ a mile. You will pass the entrance to the track and Loch Stemster on your left hand side and then come to the lay-by where you park, also on your left hand side.
The lay by is next to the Achavanich stone circle and some of the upright standing stones can be seen immediately on the other side of the wire fence, close to the road.
(Sources Express Britain, Scotland Guide)