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View looking onto Tomnahurich Hill from the Caledonian Canal. (Credit: Am Baile)
Home / Discover / Stories / The Tomnahurich Tale

The Tomnahurich Tale

By Marie Annand

The Tomnahurich Hill overlooks the city of Inverness in the Highlands of Scotland. It is commonly known as the Fairy Hill and has been surrounded by much intrigue and mystery for more years than you could imagine…….

In Inverness of long ago there dwelt two likely lads

Who busked as fiddlers in the streets where money could be had

One fateful day in wintertime their business had been slow

They had no coin nor bread to eat and nowhere warm to go.

But as they sadly packed their bags an old man stopped and stared

His eyes were of the brightest green, his head was silvery grey.

'I have some work for you’ he said.

‘We plan the grandest ball But no musicians have the strength to play in our great hall’.

‘A bag of gold will be your prize, come now we must make haste

There’s food and drink aplenty lads, we have no time to waste’

With this he set off up the hill, his legs were bent and slow

But somehow with unearthly speed, moved through the deepening snow.

And though he hardly seemed to move our lads ran with a will

To keep pace in the rising mist around the fairy hill.

Faster then the old man went, our friends fell far behind  

But somehow kept him in their sights, the bag of gold to find.

At last he stopped and turned around, his green eyes bright and bold

‘Come on’ he called ‘you’ve much to do to earn your bag of gold’

The fairy hillside opened up and inside was a hall

A cave so bright and full of folk ‘twould be a fearsome ball.

And as our lads were ushered in, a silence filled the air

A thousand eyes were fixed on them until they reached the square.

And then the hall erupted with the noise of drumming heels

So fiddles ready bows in hands, our lads screamed out a reel.

The old man threw his tattered cloak, his green eyes fairly blazed

The hoard leapt wildly in the air in dancing which was crazed

And so they played all through the night, their bows like lightning sped

They had no time to drink their wine, their bellies were not fed

At last the old man raised his stick and crashed it to the floor

The madding crowd all turned as one and then they were no more.

Our lads sat on the hillside, but the hall had disappeared

They looked around in disbelief, their hearts were clutched by fear.

And then they saw the bag of gold so, smiling, shook their heads

Rich now they headed to the town to find a welcome bed.

But as they looked in disbelief, ships sailed behind the hill

And houses stood where there’d been none, their bones began to chill

A young boy gathering kindling there then slowly turned his head

And when he looked upon our lads his face was filled with dread.

‘What are your names?’ he whispered, as his eyes grew round with fear

‘You disappeared one winter’s night, it’s been a hundred year’

And as the poor boy trembled, time turned our lads around

Until they crumbled screaming out, just dust upon the ground.

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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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