The Old Man of Storr is a Scottish legend passed down from generation to generation. But do you believe the tale? It’s easy to say no in modern times, thanks to groundbreaking technology, however in 10th century Scotland, this may not have been the case.
Place yourself back in 10th century Britain and imagine you saw a 1,000-year-old Roman wall or Stonehenge. You wouldn’t understand how it was created: you’d assume something with incredible strength or magic must have made it. And what about mountains? You didn’t know about glaciers, volcanoes, or how long the earth had existed for.
Giants and faeries were the simplest explanation for these mysteries. They had battles between realms, lifted mountains from the earth, and played tricks on ignorant humans.
In this article, we tell you about the ancient creatures who allegedly lived on the Isle of Skye and the origins of the Old Man of Storr.
A word of warning: these stories may change your perception of this rock formation forever.
The Old Man of Storr is a rocky hill face located on the North-Eastern part of the Isle of Skye. A couple of miles north of Portree, you can see the Old Man of Storr jutting out of the undulating terrain, standing 160-feet-high. Whether because of their unusual placement or the stories they carry, these rocks are one of the most photographed places in Skye.
The rock face known as the Old Man of Storr gained its name because of the outline the rocks display. When viewing the sight, you may be able to see a resemblance of a man's profile. It’s for this reason the name stuck and we now all refer to it as the Old Man of Storr.
Scientists today believe that lava flows created these huge rocky outcrops, but is this what you think? Let's discover the top four legends and myths which are said to have created the Old Man of Storr. From giants to faeries, you decide which to believe.
The Legend of a Giant The first story behind the Old Man of Storr says a giant was minding his own business on the Scottish island until he fell over and died. Just like that. Pretty short story, don’t you think? The earth covered him, and the big pointy bits of rock are said to be his fingers. Well, this is the polite version of the tale.
Some say that The Old Man of Storr’s original Gaelic name translates to the ‘Penis of Storr’.
Yes, you can stop giggling now.
When the historians discovered this, they were too polite to keep this name, so they incorrectly translated it to the ‘Old Man of Storr’. So, when the giant died, the locals didn’t say his fingers were sticking out, it was his…his you-know-what!
The ancient Gaelic tribes even worshipped this large piece of rock as a symbol of fertility.
Anyway, that’s enough of those rude things. It’s time for another legend.
The lore says Scotland is home not only to giants, but also faeries and demons.
The limited size of the land made coexistence between these creatures difficult. So, fighting over territory and using magic on enemies was common.
Another version of the Old Man of Storr legend says two giants occupying the ridge were fleeing from a demon. When they were running for their lives, they unwisely looked back and were turned into the cluster of giant stones. Now, they’re standing at the Storr to remind everyone that looking at a demon chasing after you turns you into spectacular landscape.
If you like these legends of giants, you should also read our story about the waters of Sligachan on Skye.
Here’s another story about the creation of the Old Man of Storr. It’s a little sad and romantic, so get the tissues ready.
Scottish folklore tells of a little creature called a ‘brownie’. These looked like goblins and did small tasks to help humans. A man saved a brownie’s life in Skye and never asked for anything in return. They became great friends, but the brownie had to go away for a week. And when it was away, the man’s wife died, and then he died from a broken heart.
The brownie was devastated.
So, he magically carved these pillars of stone so his favourite married couple could be remembered forever.
There’s a legend that connects faeries to the creation of the rocky pinnacles of Storr. And these aren’t cute little guys like Tinkerbell or Cinderella’s fairy godmother.
The Scottish faeries were part of the invisible world and were deceitful and dangerous. They could steal your soul or trap you in their realm for eternity.
The faeries living near the Trotternish Ridge liked to play tricks on people. They observed a local man and his wife who walked up the hill every evening. As the years passed, the couple became old, and the wife could not climb to the top with her husband. He became upset because he loved exploring the countryside with her.
The faeries made an offer. They promised the man that his wife could accompany him wherever he went. He cheered up and accepted this: it sounded perfect. And in that moment, the faeries deceived him and turned them both into pillars of rocks for eternity.
These are just a few of our favourite legends connected to the Old Man of Storr. You may be sceptical about giants, faeries, brownies and demons, but you must admit these tales are still enchanting.
Try to walk to the pillars if you have a chance. They offer a stunning view over the island. And who knows, maybe when you’re up there, you’ll dream up another story about the creation of the Old Man of Storr.
Scotland has many hidden treasures to explore. One of them being the Old Man of Storr. And you can see and stop for a photo of this attraction while on our Isle of Skye tour, travelling in the comfort of our warm mini coach. Our small group tours can provide the perfect getaway for any traveller. Simply pick your departure point which can include Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness, then pack and prepare for your tour. Our friendly guides will be able to provide in depth stories that go beyond the guidebooks to ensure you experience the destinations like a local. What are you waiting for? Book your space for a 2023 tour or stay up to date by signing up to our newsletter.