There are many hidden gems to be found within the Rothiemurchus estate. A beautiful Loch nestled deep in the forest. An island castle ruin with a buried causeway. The cursed grave of a 14th century warrior. All just a stone’s throw from Aviemore. All can be visited in a single afternoon.
Are you brave enough to face the legends of Scotland’s past?
Anyone for a dip in Icy Eilein?
Loch an Eilein translates to loch of the island and when you see its impressive castle ruins you can see why. The Loch is nestled amongst picturesque Scottish surroundings about 5 miles from Aviemore. We visited on a cold February morning and the centre of the loch was covered in a thick layer of ice. The ice thinned and cracked around the shores… perhaps presenting the opportunity for an ice dip later? We shall see!
The walk was an easy and level 3-mile path around the circumference of the loch. Our morning stroll very quickly descended into a slip and slide as much of the path was covered in a treacherous layer of ice! Undeterred, we negotiated our way around the loch slowly, meeting several walkers all trying their own techniques to stay on their feet! Eventually, we found straying off the main path to be the best course of action as the thick snow gave good traction. This also gave the opportunity for some fantastic pictures!
You can read more about the history and location of the loch here.
Time For a Swim!
As we finished our loop the call to go for a dip in Loch Eilein’s frigid water was too strong to ignore. Wild swimming and ice dipping have become something of a trend this year and I must say I’ve been truly bitten by the bug! We found a secluded spot to make the plunge! I wasn’t keen on spoiling anyone’s lovely view! I tiptoed across the ice trying to get to a small circle of water we could see a little further from shore. True to form, I clumsily slipped and broke through the ice, landing in a shallow bit of water with a crash. It was one of those moments where embarrassment supersedes the pain. However, I soldiered through the thin ice to a larger spot of water loudly declaring “I am okay.” as Michelle simply laughed and snapped away.
Ten tips for a safe ice dip
- Stay within your depth, especially as a beginner. You don’t know how the water temperature will affect you initially.
- If you are breaking the ice to enter- only do so somewhere you are very familiar with. You don’t want to be surprised by any sudden drop offs or nasty surprises under the surface.
- Take a large blunt object such as a sledge hammer to break the ice – an ice axe is likely too small to get the job done right.
- Tether yourself to something on the shore for safety- there is a danger of slipping under the ice and not being able to find your hole to resurface.
- Wear something on your feet. Ice is sharp and the stones on the bottom of the loch can do serious damage! I’ve cut my feet before and not even realised it because the water is so cold!
- Take a buddy with you, especially in the beginning. It’s safer and will give you the moral support you need! Even if that moral support is laughing at your expense!
- Don’t expect to stay in too long initially. Getting used to the shock of the cold will take time!
- Ease yourself in to minimise the impact of shock on your body. Take the time needed to acclimatise to the water.
- Get out quickly, dry off and have warm clothes ready. There is nothing like a pair of dry fluffy socks after an ice dip! Have your clothing laid out and ready for you to pull one. You don’t want to be fumbling about when you are wet and cold!
- Take a flask of something warm and a sugary snack for after your dip. You want to warm your body gradually from the core to avoid the dreaded afterdrop!
The Castle with the Concealed Causeway
The Loch An Eilien castle ruins dates way back to the 14th century. The fortress has seen its fair share of excitement through the centuries, from clan wars, to Jacobite invasions and marauding thieves who would use the paths along the eastern shores of the loch to descend on Strathspey in search of plunder.
From 1700 it has lain unused; however, its presence can still be felt from every side of the loch. Legend has it that there is a zig zag causeway running somewhere beneath the water that used to connect the castle island to the shore. Mysteriously no trace of it has been found, but its existence is written in history.
The only way to reach the island castle at present is by kayak, canoe, or a bit of front crawl. Its remoteness adds to the allure of reaching the castle walls.
Unfortunately for us it wasn’t safe enough to walk across the ice to the castle on this occasion, but we will 100% be taking our kayak across in the spring for a return visit! I can’t wait to fully explore where the famous Grant Clan once reigned supreme! Despite our castle visit being thwarted we still felt very excited. We had a cursed grave to visit after all!
Seath Mor and the Five Cursed Stones
We left the castle and loch behind and despite the distinct chill I could now feel running through my body, we were determined to find the Old Doune Church Burial Ground and the cursed grave of the legendary Seath Mor. Michelle had read about this tiny little graveyard online. She really has a knack for finding the most unique places!
Had it not been for some co-ordinates we located on an obscure website we would never have found the graveyard and Seath Mor’s cursed grave. This is due to it being very well hidden amongst farmland without a single sign to identify its existence. Why are they so keen for us not to find it?
We parked the car at the end of a narrow track and half walked, half ran to the graveyard, keen to see what lay behind its iron gate! Would we really get to see the cursed grave of Seath Mor? A 14th century stone covered in a mysterious iron grate. The suspense was just too much!
A church ruin lies in the middle of the graveyard and there are a variety of graves ranging from relatively recent to very, very old! We walked around the side of the church and then we saw it! Sitting not far from the church wall. The cursed grave covered in the iron grate. The five cursed stones. Seath Mor’s final resting place.
Who was Seath Mor?
Seath mor was a 14th century warrior and the gravestone reads “Victor at the battle of Perth” This relates to a clan battle between 30 of Seath Mor’s men (Clan Chattan) and 30 men from one of their traditional enemy clans. King Robert the 3rd had ordered the clan war to settle a dispute. Thanks mainly to Seath Mors battle prowess they slay all but one of the opposing side. Cementing into legend his reputation as a fearsome warrior!
The five cursed stones.
The grave is certainly the oldest I have ever seen, but its intrigue goes far deeper than that. Sitting on top of the original grave are five, cylinder shaped stones. Why are they there you may ask? Legend has it that these stones are cursed and there to protect the soul of Seath Mor. Reports of people becoming poorly or dying after touching these stones exist in abundance, and the story goes that the iron grid was placed over the grave to protect all those that visited its site.
However, there is a less exciting explanation. It holds that the stones were previously stolen and retrieved and the iron grate was placed over the grave to protect its integrity. However, as I scanned the many coins that has been left atop the grave as some sort of offering to the ghost of Seath Mor, I found myself reaching in my pockets and adding some of my own. I certainly wasn’t about to take any chances!
If you’re like us and LOVE reading about creepy places, check out our blog on 13 of Scotland’s scariest places!
Our exciting, action packed day fulfilled our need to get out in nature, our desire to keep active and our interest in our beautiful country and its fabulous history. All in all, our walk lasted 3 hours. What a fantastic way to spend a Saturday afternoon!
See our handy map below, to help you in your search for Seath Mor’s Grave.
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