Eilean Donan Castle and a legend about Seilkies

Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle

Picture and some commentary courtesy of Davy Tolmie as posted in the Scottish and Proud facebook group.

Eilean Donan Castle is located northwest of Fort William.  It is at the meeting point of three sea lochs on the west coast of Scotland and is situated by the picturesque village of Dornie on the main tourist route to the Isle of Skye.  Here is a link to a webcam of the castle.

Eilean Donan Castle is on Loch Duich.  Davy found this story about a legend connected with Loch Duich.

Legend states that three brothers went fishing at the loch one night. They became enraptured by three seal-maidens who had thrown off their furs and assumed the likeness of humans. While the maidens danced in the moonlight the brothers stole their furs, intending to claim the seal-maidens as their wives. The youngest brother, moved by his seal-maidens distress, returned her seal-skin. For his kindness, the girl’s father allowed the youngest brother to visit the maiden every ninth night. As for the other two brothers, the middle brother lost his seal-maiden wife after she found her stolen fur, and she returned to the loch. The eldest brother, determined to keep his seal-maiden wife, burnt her fur as a preventative measure, only to burn her accidentally in the process.

From Wikipedia:  A Faroese stamp depicting the capture of a seal woman – Selkies (also known as silkies or selchies) are mythological creatures found in Faroese, Icelandic, Irish, and Scottish folklore. The word derives from earlier Scots selich, (from Old English seolh meaning seal).   Selkies are said to live as seals in the sea but shed their skin to become human on land. The legend apparently originated on the Orkney and Shetland Islands.  Stories concerning selkies are generally romantic tragedies. Sometimes the human will not know that their lover is a selkie, and wakes to find them gone. In other stories the human will hide the selkie’s skin, thus preventing it from returning to its seal form. A selkie can only make contact with one human for a short amount of time before they must return to the sea. They are not able to make contact with that human again for seven years, unless the human is to steal their selkie’s skin and hide it or burn it.


In my novel Dark Birthright, two young boys, Ian and Dughall, talk about Selkies as they are watching seals on the rocks.  Here is an excerpt:

Dughall stood on the precipice and looked below at the sea cliffs. The wind whipped his dark curls around his face. He ran his fingers through his hair, smoothing it back. Water crashed as the tide surged into rock hollows.

Ian gave him a shove, pushing him closer to the edge.

“Hey, stop it!” Dughall shivered as he studied the sheer drop. His heart pounded like a drum.

“Scared ye, didn’t I?”

“Aye!” A puffin stood on the cliff with its bill full of sand eels. It peered into a burrow and bobbed its head, feeding chicks. Dughall’s heartbeat slowed. “Look. A mother puffin feeding her chicks.”

Ian nodded and pointed at the sea, where jagged rocks rose out of the water. “There, on the rocks. Four gray seals.” A speckled male plunged into the water and caught a fish. He lay back and floated, biting off the head. Females lay on the rocks, clapping their flippers.

“Do ye think they’re silkies?” Dughall asked. “That they come ashore and shed their skins, to sing and dance as lads and lassies? Aunt Maggie says if ye steal their skin, they’ll stay with ye as husband or wife. Yer children will have webbed feet.”

Ian rolled his eyes. “Just a story, Brother. Have ye seen such children? Do ye believe everything Maggie tells ye?”

Dughall smiled.  “Aye.”


You can read about the novel at:



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s