Scotland is full of folklore – tales of fairies and “little people”, and talk of the gift of second sight . .
Thomas of Ercildoune, who became known as Thomas the Rhymer, lived in the Scottish Borders back in the 13th century. The story goes that, one fine day, as he sat beneath the Eildon Tree near Melrose, he heard the tinkling of silver bells and the sound of a horse’s hooves. A beautiful lady approached, astride a beautiful white horse. The lady turned out to be none other than the Queen of Elfland: Thomas fell under her spell and followed her deep within the hollows of the Eildon Hills to the fairy Otherworld. Thomas remained there for seven years, and during this time was given the gift of prophecy. When he returned to the mortal world, Thomas found he had certain gifts – he was no longer able to tell a lie and he became known as “True Thomas”. He could foresee the future, and is said to have foretold of many significant events in Scottish history including the death of King Alexander III. Some say Thomas became immortal and still lives, gathering horses for the sleeping knights that rest deep within the hollow hills.
Later in the 19th century the author Sir Walter Scott collected many of these Border ballads including the tale of Thomas the Rhymer, and walked the Eildon Hills with the artist JMW Turner.
Today you too can walk the Eildon Hills, where Thomas is said to have met the Fairy Queen, and visit Rhymer’s Glen. A magical spot, whether or not you believe in fairies!
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