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Myths & Legends Day

"Whatever you make of it, I do not know, but there is something very queer about the top of Ben MacDhui. And I will not go back there again by myself I know.”

~ Professor J. Norman Collie, 1925, at the 27th Annual General Meeting of the Cairngorm Club in Aberdeen

Beware, climbers of Ben MacDhui, the highest peak in the Cairngorms, for this is the reputed haunt of Am Fear Liath Mòr (the Grey Man of MacDhui) also known as a Scottish Big Foot! Those who have encountered the Greyman say they first sensed a feeling of dread and panic, often accompanied by the sound of eerie crunching footsteps or noises which seem to follow the climber. And if you're tempting fate, most encounters are known to occur just below the skyline close to a region known to the locals as Lairg Ghru Pass! More prosaic explanations include infrasound (low inaudible frequencies created by the wind which can be detected by some individuals) and a natural optical illusion known as the Brocken Spectre, in which a magnified (and often enormous) shadow of an observer is cast upon clouds, mist, or fog opposite the Sun's direction. Regardless of explanation, in the run up to this year's Hallowe''en, keep careful watch! This tartan's design specifically alludes to close encounters of the grey kind in the Cairngorms! 🏔️

Folklore in the Cairngorms is rich and varied and include:

  • Reports of John Brown's ghost haunting Balmoral Castle

  • Glenshee Fairies

  • Serpents Stone and legends of a witch at Loch Beanie

  • A phantom at ‘Loch of the Curse’ (Loch Garten & Loch Mallachie)

  • Ghostly figures at The Corrieyairack Pass

  • Strange occurrences at Ruthven Barracks

But one of the most interesting and more historically recent of mysterious encounters has to do with Am Fear Liath Mòr, the Greyman.

Sightings and reports of Am Fear Liath Mòr go back at least a couple of centuries, but the first credible experience took place back in 1891. Professor Norman Collie was a respected mountaineer who had a strange experience during his ascent on Ben Macdui. At a meeting of the Cairngorm Club in 1925, he related the following detail:

I was returning from a cairn on the summit in the mist when I began to think I heard something else other than my own footsteps. For every few steps I took, I heard a crunch and then another crunch as if someone was walking after me but taking footsteps three or four times the length of my own. I said to myself this is all nonsense. I listened and heard it again but could see nothing in the mist. As I walked on and the eerie crunch, crunch sounded behind me I became seized with terror and took to my heels staggering blindly among the boulders for four or five miles nearly down to Rothiemurchus Forest. Whatever you make of it I do not know but there is something very queer at the top of Ben Macdhui and I will not go there again by myself I know.

His revelations opened the way for similar stories from other climbers.   One of the more fantastic reports came from a man called Alexander Tewnion. In 1943, Tewnion claimed that while he was on Ben Macdui, he shot at and possibly wounded something in the mists. While Tewnion was descending the mountain along the Coire Etchachan path, a strange shadow-like form appeared out of nowhere and seemed to be heading straight for him. Fearing for his safety, Tewnion fired a trio of shots with his revolver before fleeing in the direction of Glen Derry.

This tartan is listed in the register as: Designed by Fenton Wyness, Dee Valley Textiles, c 1963. The story of the Cairngorm Plaid is the story of this famous mountain range and Ferla Mor - The "Big Gray Man."

For more real life accounts and history of Greyman sightings, click the photograph of a Brocken Spectre!

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