5 spooky discoveries made in Scotland's peat bogs

They are the places where objects can get locked in time for thousands of years, with Scotland's peat bogs holding deep some strange secrets from our past.

The clothes of Arnish Moor Man who were recovered from a peat bog on Lewis and helped to unravel an island murder (left) and the 2,500-year-old Ballachulish Goddess, which may have been an ancient good luck charm for sailors. PICS: National Museum of Scotland.
The clothes of Arnish Moor Man who were recovered from a peat bog on Lewis and helped to unravel an island murder (left) and the 2,500-year-old Ballachulish Goddess, which may have been an ancient good luck charm for sailors. PICS: National Museum of Scotland.

Here we look at five unusual discoveries made in Scotland's vast peat bogs, where natural conditions slow down the passing of time.

1. Mummified bodies at Cladh Hallan, South Uist

The only mummified bodies to be found in the UK were discovered below an 11th Century township at Cladh Hallan on the island of South Uist.

The head of the 'Rogart Bog Beast' found in a peat bog in Sutherland last year. PIC: Contributed.

Around a decade after the find, scientists realised that the two 3,000-year-old Scottish "bog bodies" were made up from the remains of six people.

The male and female were assembled from various body parts of others - although no one knows why.

Tests revealed the woman had died around 1,300 BC, around the time of King Tutankhamen of Egypt.

It later emerged that the bodies had been placed in a peat bog for six to 18 months before being moved into a dwelling.

Cladh Hallan on South Uist where bodies mummified in peat were discovered (left) and a reconstruction of Gunnister Man, who was found in peat in Shetland after possibly becoming lost in bad weather. PICS: Creative Commons/Shetland Museum and Archive.

The Cladh Hallan case is an unusual one as it shows that peat bogs were used specifically for the purposes of preservation.

2. The Ballachulish Goddess, Highland

She was found face down in deep peat in the Highlands and dates to some 2,500 years ago.

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The 'return' of the 2,500-year-old Ballachulish Goddess
The items found around Gunnister Man, including hats, his purse and necklaces. PIC: Shetland Museum and Archive.

To some, she is known as the Ballachulish Goddess - and mystery still surrounds her origin.

Discovered in 1880 during building work, the figure was found around 120 metres from the shore of Loch Leven.

It is believed she may have stood overlooking the water or a pool with offerings made to her by sailors to ensure a safe passage.

What is known is that radiocarbon tests have dated the Ballachulish Goddess to 600 BC.

Last year, a replica of the goddess was made with her now standing overlooking the water once again.

In 1951, two peat cutters on Shetland revealed remains of 'Gunnister Man’ who is believed to have lived in the late 17th or early 18th century.

The man died without trace - nobody knew why he was there and no folklore surrounded his passing.

The peat had preserved all the woollen garments worn by the mystery figure, as well as his hair and his nails.

Experts do not believe Gunnister Man was murdered given his clothes remained in good shape and that there were no signs of wounds being inflicted.

What was interesting was his clothes, including stockings, were fashionable for the day - and not likely from Shetland.

It is believed he may have been a Dutch whaler who had lost his way in bad weather. He may have been found long after a storm had passed with his body not suitable to carry the distance to nearby cemeteries.

Gunnister Man was later brought to life in a reconstruction, with his personal items giving valuable insight into clothing and garments of the day.

4. Arnish Moor Man, Isle of Lewis

The ghost of Arnish man was said to haunt a stretch of moor on the Isle of Lewis - but the apparitions ceased after a body was recovered from a peat bog on the lonely stretch in the 1960s.

The remains were those of a young man, around 20 to 25 years of age, who was buried with a fracture to the back of his skull. His clothes had been almost perfectly preserved by the peat.The forensics department of Edinburgh University found that the fracture was likely to have been caused by a right-handed assailant striking him from behind.

In other words, the man was likely murdered.

The discovery somewhat links in to a story of a young man being killed by his friend while the pair were out looking for grouse eggs on Arnish Moor.

They ended up arguing over their haul with one of the young men hitting the other over the head with a rock.

The killer dug a hole and buried him by the rock before heading out to sea to flee his crime. After some time away, he returned and stayed in a hotel, where he was served supper and given some unusual cutlery.

The landlady explained the knife and fork had been fashioned from sheep bones discovered on Arnish Moor. When the man picked them up, the handles started to bleed.

The sheep bones were actually the bones of his dead friend. Was an old legend at work that the corpse of a murder victim will bleed if touched by its killer?

The man confessed to the killing and was hanged for his crime in Stornoway.

The clothing found on the skeleton is believed to have dated back to around 1700, at around the time when the murder is understood to have occurred on Arnish Moor.

5. Rogart Bog Beast

There was great excitement on a croft at Rogart, Sutherland, last year when the remains of an animal thought to be a young wolf that lived some 2,000 years ago were discovered in a peat bog.

The animal remains were well preserved by the acidic ground with a piece of skull, bones, teeth, claws and golden fur removed from the site and sent to Oxford University for testing.

It is now believed the 'beast' is just 200 years old but archaeologists are still curious why it was buried so deep.

The species has yet to be determined with test results still due.