Having recently returned from a trip to the west coast of Scotland which consisted of travelling over mountain, through glens and past lochs to get to my castle destination, it got me thinking about the old legends and stories. At the Baronial Castle, where the clan chief has resided for many centuries, it was the belief throughout the highlands of Scotland that every castle had a “brounie” to watch over the chief and his family, and this was the case here. What is a “brounie”, you may well ask? Well, it is from the gaelic (traditional Scottish language) “brùnaidh”, and is best described as a “hobgoblin” or in modern parlance a “house-elf”, rather like Dobby in the Harry Potter books. This legend was common throughout Europe and would be known as a “tomte” in Scandanavia and “heinzelmännchen” in Germany.
The legend goes that this “brounie” stayed with the family for centuries looking after the clan chief and his family, and was particularly vocal whenever anyone from the clan Campbell tried to integrate with the family. But the story that resonates most with tourists of today is the one associated with Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite rebellion of 1745/46. Like many clan chiefs he took part in the attempt to restore the Stuarts to the throne in Scotland and supported the Jacobite cause. One night the “brounie” spoke to the chief in the vaults of the castle and warned him of the danger and proclaimed “there is a stranger arrived this day in the North, whose fortunes you will follow and never return”. The chief knew immediately that Bonnie Prince Charlie had arrived, and said “I shall now either live in a way becoming the descendent of an ancient and honourable race, or else I shall die gloriously in the best of causes, the restoration of my rightful King to the throne of his ancestors.”
After gathering men from his clan, he was amongst the first to join Charles Stuart on his march to Edinburgh. At the battle of Culloden on the 16th April 1746, the clan chief was still there and ready to fight for the cause. After an hour of bloody battle on that fatal day, the Jacobite troops were already in retreat and the clan chief was left dead on the battlefield, whilst Bonnie Prince Charlie fled the scene. Bombarded by cannon shot and mortar bombs, the Jacobite tactics of charging the enemy had been mastered and the rebellion was over. Thus was fulfilled the doleful prophecy of the “brounie”. Worse was to follow, as the government confiscated the clan lands and the Argyll Militia destroyed the castle.
However, like all good stories, there is a happy ending. A few years later in 1749, the lands are returned to the clan and the chief’s son, now the 18th chief, aged 14 is in charge and by 1794 is able to get the construction of the new castle underway, further up the glen from the old castle. Perhaps the “brounie” aided him on his way and guided the clan to remain part of these lands for all these years right up to the present day. Whatever the legend, there is no doubt the amazing amount of history here at both castles, old and new, with the Baronial Castle available for let on a self-catering basis for up to 13 people throughout the year. Whilst the old castle remains a magnificent ruin, a charity is now in the process of killing off the ivy and starting a restoration project.
But where is the “brounie” today? Well, when I was there I saw no evidence of him (Harry or Munn is his name), but perhaps if I had stayed longer I may have spotted him somewhere. Or maybe I did, as on the stairs there is a stylised figure holding a crest – perhaps that is the “brounie”? I will definitely stay longer next time to find out more, as staying at this Scottish Castle is a legend in itself, and a great experience for anyone wanting a genuine Scottish Castle Holiday with Scotts Castle Holidays.