Scottish Folk Beliefs
Kelpies Ė a Water-Horse
Folk-belief. Skye, Inner Hebrides, Scotland.
The water-horse plunged into the depths of a large splash pool and disappeared from sight.
In the northwest of the Hebridean island of Skye, in northwest Scotland, is an inlet of the sea called Loch Varkaseig, which has many small streams running into it from the surrounding hills and mountains. Once, an old woman and her daughter went out to feed their cattle on the summer pastures near one of these streams and retired to spend the night in a hut that they used at this time of the year.
It was a wild and windy night; a storm was blowing in from the west and a knock on the door revealed a handsome young man drenched to the skin and urgently seeking shelter from the rain. They invited him in and a rather excited if apprehensive daughter let him lay his head on her lap as he fell asleep. Her mother, having her suspicions, gave her a comb and it soon revealed the manís hair to be full of sand and tiny seashells. Slowly, she and her daughter placed a bag of wool under his head and crept towards the door. They opened it, making a dash to find safety from this supernatural being on the other side of the running water of a stream that lay nearby but they discovered that the water was too far away, they could not cross the running water in time – the man had woken up already and, resuming his proper shape – a horse! – was galloping after them.
The old woman turned to face this Otherworldly creature: 'If you do not return into the stream, I will reveal your name to everyone!' she shouted. The horse stopped in its tracks. She uttered the name, to let the creature know that she knew. The water-horse plunged into the depths of a large splash pool and disappeared from sight.
It is said that this horse may still be seen galloping across the sands where the stream meets the loch, on a summer evening.
Story recounted from: Swire, Otta F. and Black, Ronald (Ed), 1952 reprinted 2006. Skye: The Island and its Legends. Birlinn Limited, Edinburgh. 14. Dunvegan to the Maidens, pp 145–6.