Deep in the heart of Glen Brittle, a crystal clear stream pours down from the Black Coullin, tumbling through pools of turquoise blue and pastel pink. The Allt Coir a Mhadaidh, Stream of the Foxes Hollow, has carved a stunning series of waterfall linked pools. The water is snowmelt for most of the year, and even in the height of summer it is ice cold despite its tropical colours. These are the now famous Fairy Pools, and if you look closely you might make out the speckled stone faces within and around the tumbling water.
All around the Glen stone faces watch unblinking from the earth. Speckled or dappled is considered touched by or owned by the sidhe, the fairy folk of Scotland, and this place holds a lot of speckles. The speckled folk was another name for these magical otherworld beings, and the pools of Glen Brittle, or Bhreatal in Gaelic, are just one of their haunts on the magical Isle of Skye. Their lichen dappled faces peep out from all around the rocks themselves, and they can shift shape into speckled trout or salmon, and swim as far up or down stream as they please.
These pools with their stone-faced guardians, were seen as places where gifts and divination could pass through from the magical otherworld, and into this world. Places where wild forces could snatch away life, or grant healing, and where wisdom could be sought. The speckled trout and salmon who inhabit the waters were holders of this wisdom, and could travel the waters between the worlds.
These waterfalls are on a truly large scale, despite being dwarfed by the towering mountains behind them. There is something utterly transformative about standing at the edge of tumbling water, feeling the spray damp on your skin, hearing your ears fill with the voice of the falls and your eyes held transfixed by the eternal motion. Nothing can remain static here, even the solid rocks of the riverbed are giving way and transforming in the unending flow from mountain top to ocean. It’s a place to let go and just be, and see what comes to you.
If you do chose to join the growing band of wild swimmers who come to the pools, swim with respect in the pools of the speckled folk. They were here long before we set foot on the earth, and will continue to flow once we have all passed through this life. Beneath these huge mountains, let yourself feel small and powerless, as you move through this landscape of elemental Giants. There is no need to change or fix or do anything here, just feel your breath in your warm soft body.
We dipped no more than our feet and hands on this occasion, and as we walked back, fresh snow was dusting the mountain tops. Cold doesn’t even begin to describe the water, but it left a sparkle.
You can see some other Fairy Pools here in a previous post.