The dark history behind Skye's famous Fairy Pools

Fairy Pools
[Getty Images]

The Fairy Pools are among Skye's best-known landmarks, but few of those who visit may be aware of its real name - or bloody past.

The series of waterfalls and rocky pools at the foot of the Black Cuillin hills are a tourist hotspot today.

Recent improvements to paths and crossings in the area were designed to better accommodate up to 200,000 visitors a year.

But, according to research, the location's original name is at risk of being lost.

Swimmer at Fairy Pools
The pools are popular with swimmers and other visitors [Getty Images]

Catherine MacPhee, of Skye and Lochalsh Archive Centre, says the first written reference to the location as the Fairy Pools appears to be in a 1930s tour guide.

She said before then it was referred to by its original Gaelic name, Coire na Creiche, meaning corrie of the spoils.

A corrie, or coire, is a hollow in a mountainside.

Ms MacPhee said: "There is a book in 1921 that makes no reference to the Fairy Pools."

She added: "The problem with the use of the Fairy Pools is that it has now become known as that and the original names are being lost.

"I have not found any fairy stories in the records relating to the river or the glen."

Tourists at the Fairy Pools
The site is popular with tourists [Getty Images]

While there are no records of tiny, winged mythical creatures there are of a battle fought between Skye's MacLeod and MacDonald clans more than 420 years ago.

The violent clash followed years of feuding and rival cattle raids - and the collapse of a trial marriage between members of the two clans.

It is said the partnership came to an end after Margaret MacLeod did not become pregnant.

In an act of humiliation, Margaret, who had lost sight of an eye, was said to have been tied up and sent home on a one-eyed horse.

The history of Skye's Armadale Castle tells of Margaret's horse being led by a one-eyed servant while a one-eyed dog walked behind them.

Visitors at the Fairy Pools
The popularity of the area led to the need for path and footbridge improvements [Getty Images]

The battle that followed was violent.

Ms MacPhee said: "There is reference in the records of the rivers running red with blood and tartan."

Decker Forrest, a piper and tutor at Skye's Sabhal Mòr Ostaig Gaelic college, said traditional pipe tunes still played today recalled the clans' rivalry.

"There are many songs and stories about the feuds between the MacLeods and the MacDonalds," he said.

"It was a really brutal time."

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