The Carlin of the Spotted Hill

A fairy wife who owned the deer of Ben Breck, which she would not allow to descend to the beach. This herd "loved the water-cresses by the fountain high in the hills better than the black weeds of the shore." She was, according to a popular rhyme, "large and broad and tall."

She is well known in the Highlands:

It is told of her that on one occasion, as she milked a hind, the animal became restive and gave her a kick. In return she struck the hind with her open palm and expressed a wish that the arrow of Donald, the son of John (a noted hunter in his day), might come upon it. That very day the restive hind fell to Dò'il MacJain's arrow.

It is also told of this Elfin wife that while three hunters were passing the night in a bothy on Ben Breck, the Carlin wife came to the door and sought admittance. A dog that accompanied the hunters sprang up to attack her. She retreated and asked one of the men to tie up his dog. He refused. She asked him again, and a second time he refused. She asked a third time, and he replied he had nothing to tie it with. She pulled a hair out of her head and told him to tie his dog with that, it was strong enough to hold a four-masted ship at anchor. He pretended to consent, and the hag, on trying again to enter, found the dog was not secured. She then went away, saying it was well for the hunter the dog had not been tied, and threatening to come again. It does not appear, however, that she ever came back.

She was last seen about twenty years ago in Lochaber. Age had told severely upon her. Instead of being 'broad and tall,' she had become no bigger than a teapot! She wore a little grey plaid or shawl about her shoulders.



  • Campbell, J.G. (1900). Superstitions of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Glascow: James MacLehose and Sons, pp. 28-29, 122-123.