Glenshee is a magical place with a rich history, and for a thousand years has been Scotland’s hidden route north to the Highlands. Lying in the extreme north-east corner of Perthshire, Glenshee takes its name from the Gaelic word shith, signifying ‘fairies’. Until the old tongue died out in the late 1800’s the inhabitants were known as Sithichean a’ Ghlinnshith - ‘The Elves of Glenshee’. The Glen’s ancient meeting place behind the kirk was called Dun Shith (Hill of the Fairies) and is still dominated by a standing stone from the Bronze age. The Coire Shith or Fairy Burn, plunges down the side of Ben Gulabin, the mountain commanding the head of Glenshee and adds still more weight to the glens fairy past. In the 1820’s there existed at the Spittal of Glenshee, a Chapel of Ease many centuries old. When the church was to be re-built some distance further down the glen, the workman woke each morning to find the foundations dispersed and tools scattered. After several unsuccessful attempts and much discussion with the locals, it was decided not to antagonise the fairies further and to build the new church where it had always been! It is said the fairies soon decide whether visitors are welcome or not, and that those accepted will continue to return to the glen for the rest of their lives.
Legends and facts mingle together in Glenshee to form a myriad tapestry typical of Scotland’s ancient past. The earliest reference to Glenshee is the legend of Dermid and the Wild Boar from the Dark Ages when the region was renowned for its hunting. Grainne, wife of the noble Fingal became infatuated with her nephew Dermid, a famous warrior. Fingal, learning of this, arranged for Dermid to hunt a wild boar which had been terrorising Glenshee from its home on the slopes of Ben Gulabin. Although Dermid fought bravely and killed the boar, the jealous Fingal demanded a careful measurement of the huge animal. In doing so, Dermid was fatally poisoned by sharp bristles which pierced his foot and was refused treatment by Fingals physician. To the east of the Spittal of Glenshee lies the 4 Poster, a large elevated barrow looking down Glenshee with four standing stones on top. Here Dermid was buried along with Grainne, who on hearing the news flung herself upon an arrow to join her lover.
For centuries after this event, Glenshee formed the route north from the lowlands to Upper Deeside through Scotland’s highest mountain pass. Today this is still Scotland’s highest road.
Today the visitor can find evidence of Glenshee’s long history all around them. They can wander over sites millennia old, admire the castles and lodges, gaze at the settlement ruins of those who left for the New World, trace the lines of dry stone walls built by unknown hands, or perhaps follow the Cateran’s paths.
But the visitor must beware….if the fairies like you, and cast their spell, then you will be forced to always return to our enchanted glen.
Glenshee, glen of the fairies.