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Loch Hope, Tongue, Sutherland (Credit: Visit Scotland/ Richard Elliot)
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Lord Reay and the Working Fairies

There are many versions of this tale, but some key facts remain in all.

In the far North of Scotland there lived a Lord of Reay, of Caithness, who's land stretched throughout what is now part of Sutherland. His land was known as Reay's country. His castle remains at a headland overlooking the beautiful Kyle of Tongue under the shadow of the menacing Beinn Loyal. His sweetheart lived in the settlement of Melness on the opposite of side of the Kyle, which, in the absence of any bridge meant a full days riding round the Kyle just to see her for a few hours. As his love grew for her so did his frustration of wasted time travelling.

He knew of a witch in Embo who had working fairies. He sent one of his clansmen, Angus MacKay, to the witch to agree a barter and return with the fairies so as to build a causeway across the Kyle and enable him to see his love more frequently!

Off Angus went to strike a deal with the witch and as he bade farewell to the witch, a chilling warning was given to him. "No matter the noise and curiosity man of Reay, never open the box I have given you until you are back with your master!"

As Angus lay at Meikleferry having his lunch, the scratching and squeaking noise from within the box grew too much for him and he gingerly opened the box, but before he could shut it again, a hundred of so working fairies escaped with all gazing on their new master, Angus. Angus, knowing that they were a blessing and a curse in equal measure, for a working fairy needs to be given jobs to do for as long as their master lived. Without work, they'll bite and scratch their master.

Angus, being quick of mind, looked to the Dornoch Firth and commanded the fairies build a causeway from Dornoch to Tain on the otherside, with bricks from sand. To this day, the fairies work on the Gizzen Briggs only for tides to wash it away!

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Share your stories of local tales and folklore in the Highlands and Islands

Stories are at the heart of what we do as a project and we are always looking to learn more about what the Highlands and Islands means to people who live, work, and visit here.

Oral tradition, storytelling, and folklore play a key role in the history of many cultures across the world, including the Highlands and Islands. We would love to know, do you have a favourite folklore or tale associated with your local area? How do you feel this tale sums up the Spirit of the Highlands and Islands for you? Tell us below, we can't wait to hear from you!

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