Outrage as forest workers clear ‘clouties’ at fairy spirit site

Folklorists are up in arms after forestry workers cleared away years’ worth of mementos at a beauty spot in Perthshire said to be home to supernatural spirits and fairies.

General view of Perthshire by Scotsman reader
 David Howard.
General view of Perthshire by Scotsman reader David Howard.

Workers from Forestry and Land Scotland, previously known as the Forestry Commission, are accused of ruining the “mystic ambience” of the Fairy Knowe of Doon Hill in Aberfoyle, revered as a magical spot since it was mentioned in a book by the celebrated 17th-century folklorist Reverend Robert Kirk.

His book, The Secret Commonwealth, set down folk beliefs he encountered on his travels across the Highlands, but he died before it was published, on the way back from Doon Hill in 1692.

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The clergyman’s mysterious death, aged only 47, led to the legend the fairy folk had been angered by their secrets being revealed in his book and had spirited him away to serve as their chaplain, leaving a changeling corpse in his place.

His work was no published untilmore than a century after his body was found on Doon Hill.

The forest became a place of pilgrimage for visitors interested in the esoteric. Trinkets and mementos, known as “clouties”, were often left by wellwishers. But the removal of the objects provoked the outrage of another writer who has penned several books on the occult in Scotland.

Author Ron Hallidaysaid: “On a recent visit to the fairy mound I was shocked and disappointed to discover that the myriad of ribbons and other hangings that have for years decorated the site had been completely removed with the result that the whole mystic ambience of the area had been destroyed.

“What we have now is a single tree with a rope round to enforce control over where people can place messages.

“The worst aspect of this arbitrary clear out is that many personal messages and prayers left by visitors have simply disappeared.

“This historic site commemorates the world-famous legend of Robert Kirk’s encounter with nature spirits, which the Forestry Commission had no right to reduce to a managed space. It belongs to the people and that fact seems to have been ignored.”

However, a spokesman for Forestry and Land Scotland said: “We appreciate that the Fairy Knowe is a place of special significance to lots of people and we do what we can to keep the place special.

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“Unfortunately, some of the mementos left are inappropriate or non-biodegradable and may need to be removed from the site to protect the wildlife and environment.

“We have not recently had to carry out removal of material and if this becomes necessary we have agreed to work with local groups in the Aberfoyle community.

“We are happy for people to continue to leave mementos, but must advise that offerings are bio-degradable.”