K is for Kelpie: The Alphabet Trail

Image courtesy of Steven Marshall Photography www.smarshall.photography

Read about this beautiful woodland walk close to Salen, through the open oakwoods to brooding Lochan na Dunaich, said to be haunted by a kelpie (or water spirit). Called the Alphabet Trail, it provides an interesting introduction to the importance of nature and plants to the Gaelic culture.

The Salen alphabet walk is a short circular woodland walk, perfect for families to explore the area. The walk is referred to as the Alphabet Walk as throughout the short trail, signposts are decorated with a letter from the Gaelic alphabet and is then associated with a particular tree species which can be seen along the trail.

This short woodland walk takes you round a small Loch, known as Lochan Na Dunaich. The Loch itself is a great place for spotting wildlife such as wildcats, woodpeckers and pine martens as well as dragon flies which are in abundance in the summer months.

Loch Na Dunaich translates from the Gaelic 'Little loch of sadness'. Linked to this particular walk is the Scottish folktale legend of the Kelpie, a mythical water-horse, would lure children into this very Loch, and were never to be seen again. The Kelpies are said to have sat waiting on the banks of lochs and rivers throughout Scotland and Ireland looking for its victims. It’s believed that the name Kelpie originated from the Gaelic terms “Colpach” or “Cailpeach” meaning Heifer or Colt.

Kelpies are said to be an aquatic spirit that appears in the form of a horse or even in human form. By disguising themselves as horses, children would often be lured to them, they would climb onto their backs before being dragged down to the bottom of the loch or river. Young men would also play the part as a victim, as it’s said that the Kelpie would change its appearance depicting a young woman before being dragged to their deaths. Even travellers were sought after. The Kelpie was also thought to hold magical powers that could summon a flood, sweeping travellers away.

According to legend, the only way of stopping a Kelpie was to take hold of its bridle. Anyone who would achieved this is said to have full command over not just that Kelpie but of all Kelpies. Rumours were spread as it was told that the Mac Gregor Clan were in possession of a Kelpie bridle and that it had been past down through many generations.

The legend of the Kelpie continues to be part of Scottish literature. Its reference is mentioned in the book “The Doomed Rider” from “Scottish Fairy and Folk Tales,” which was published in 1901. References to it continue to surface in well-known modern-day literature, with author J.K. Rowling referring to them in her book "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," where she describes the Loch Ness monster as being little more than an oversized kelpie who appears as a sea serpent, rather than a horse.

Posted on 27th November 2019, by Sunart, Moidart, Morvern, Ardnamurchan and Ardgour Tourist Association (SMMAATA).

Share post on:

Related Posts