The Isle of Skye has always been seen as a magical place. Beautiful landscapes, plus myths and legends. There are some great stories, some true, some legends that go with the landscape of the Isle of Skye. From clan stories to faerie magic. Personally, I think stories like this really add to the place. And with the landscape on Skye, it’s easy to believe the legend. The Old Sligachan Bridge on Skye has a great tale, and what’s more, you can gain eternal beauty from the waters below the bridge.
The History Of Sligachan Bridge
Old Sligachan Bridge is now disused and has been replaced by a new bridge on the main road. You can find the old bridge just next to the new bridge. The bridge was built between 1810 and 1818 and was the work of Thomas Telford. With three spans, this rubble bridge has a pronounced hump. The new bridge that replaced this one is in a 1930s style. However, the exact date of it’s building is not known. Well, I can’t find a date anyway. If you know, please pop it in the comments below.
The Legend Of Sligachan Bridge
Now for my favourite part! The story behind the enchanted waters that run through the river below the bridge. There are actually two legends to the waters. I will tell the one that I was told on my Macbackpackers tour, as it is the only one I have heard from a Scotsman.
Two Great Warriors
Many years ago, on the Isle of Skye, there lived the greatest warrior woman of Scotland, Scáthach. Word of her greatness spread everywhere and one day it reached the ears of the greatest warrior of Ireland, Cúchulainn. Being such a renowned warrior, Cúchulainn knew that he must go and fight this warrior woman of Scotland to prove that he is better. So he set sail for the Isle of Skye.
Arriving on Skye, Cúchulainn came across a trainee of Scáthach and demanded that her mistress should come and face him. Scáthach came to meet him to battle and prove which one was strongest. So they fought. Their battle raged through the whole of the valley, shaking the earth, creating the valleys and mountains of Skye. Animals fled before them, terrified of the warriors. As they battled Scáthachs daughter ran down to the river and cried. She was terrified as she could not see how her mother could possibly win.
As everyone knows, water allows a gateway between the faerie world and ours. Some of the faeries heard the cries of Scáthachs daughter and came to her. The faeries told her to wash her face in the water of the river. She followed the faeries advice and washed her face in the waters. Once she had done this, she was filled with the knowledge of how to stop the battle.
The Faerie Knowledge
Quickly, the daughter acted on her new knowledge. She ran back home to the lodge where her mother lived; along the way, she gathered herbs and nuts. Arriving at the lodge, she threw the nuts and herbs in onto the fire and fanned the smoke into the valley. Upon smelling the scent both warriors realised just how tired and hungry they were from the fighting. So they decided to stop for a bit, they laid down their weapons and headed to the lodge.
Arriving at the lodge they were greeted by Scáthachs daughter. She had prepared a meal worthy of the two mighty warriors. As Cúchulainn ate under the roof of Scáthach, this meant that he became her guest. Because of this, they could do each other no harm.
The legend of Sligachan states that if you dip your face in the river water by the Sligachan Bridge, you will be granted eternal beauty.
How To Gain Eternal Beauty
The phrase ‘eternal beauty’ is a strange one. Why did Scáthachs daughter get knowledge and now you can gain beauty? Is it because beauty is more than skin deep; is ‘beauty’ open to interpretation? Whatever you believe, it is important that you wash your face the correct way to gain beauty.
After getting to the river bank by the Sligachan bridge, washing your face is not a simple as it sounds. You must dip your face in the water, not bring the water up to your face. To do this you must get on your hands and knees at the water’s edge and fully submerge your face for seven seconds. Be warned, it is Scotland, the water is far from warm. Also, you can not wipe the water off, you must allow your face to dry naturally. And that is how you gain eternal beauty from the faeries at the Old Sligachan Bridge on the Isle of Skye.
Whether you believe in myths or not, the Sligachan Bridge is a great viewpoint. In the heart of the Cuillins, it is a beautiful part of Skye. I would encourage you to dip your face in the river whether you believe or not. I just like traditions and think it’s important to experience everything. Plus, you never know, it might just work,
How To Find The Old Sligachan Bridge
The Old Sligachan Bridge is just off the main road to Portree, in the heart of the Cuillins. Park at the Sligachan Hotel and make your way across the road to the left of the hotel to the bridge. If you’re parking at the hotel though, I would obviously advise you not to be too cheeky. You should at least have a coffee as you’re using their parking facilities. Clamber down the rocks on the right-hand side of the bridge to reach the enchanted faerie waters.
Want to visit? Check out hostels on the Isle of Skye on Hostelworld and if you want to explore the area, grab an Ordnance Survey Map of the Cuillin Hills.
This is so fascinating! I absolutely love the legend. And now, I have something else on my ever growing bucket list! LOL
I did this May 13, 2018 and it was invigorating to say the least. I could only stay under 4 seconds so I guess I’m stuck with my 60 ish face !
I think invigorating is definitely the word to use!
What’s fascinating is the fact that grown people believe this fantasy tale, I know the majority know it’s just fantasy, but it amazes me how some people actually believe it and I bet they look in the mirror the next day to see if they are beautiful.
It is quite funny what people will actually believe. But I do think most people take this legend with a pinch of salt. Plus there’s the whole”what is beauty?” Does it even mean looks?
Fantastic story and a great retelling. Thank you.
Glad you enjoyed the read 🙂
The actual story says it happened at Scathachs fortress in the south. The daughter prepared three meals to try and tempt them to stop fighting on three consecutive days. The thrid day both parties were tempted by the hazels of knowledge – each thought eating them would let them know how to end the battle to their advantage. It worked. They both realised that neither could win – they were evenly matched. So they became allies.
Thanks for that! It’s amazing how many versions of these old legends there are in the world. I guess it’s because they were originally shared through word of mouth.
Our tour bus guide told us the legend of margaret who was forced to marry a rival clansmans to insure peace between the clans. When she did not become pregnant AND to top it off had an accident which scarred her face, she was returned to her clan and war broke out. All her clans people were killed. She had no one to protect her. A river fairy came to her, told her to bath her face in the river and all would be well. And it came to pass! She went on to marry again, had children and many grandchildren. Ta-daaa
That’s a good story! I love how these places tend to have several legends surrounding them. I think I was told one very similar to you, but at a different point in Skye, I think it was the most northerly point where I was told that. That’s the beauty pf word of mouth tales.
It was a lovely experience! I managed to dip my face twice for seven seconds and it was amazing feeing. The water was chilling but worth it. Would definitely recommend doing it.
It is freezing no matter when you go! But so worth taking part. Gald you enjoyed it.
Haha, nice story but as someone who lives on Skye, the “washing the face” story is most definitely an invention for tourists! It’s an amazing part of the island though so take the time to walk around there but expect eye rolls from the locals if you start doing this “tradition”.
It is a good story though, and all word of mouth stories and traditions have to start somewhere. So as long as they harm no one and don’t harm the environment if it has been invented just for tourists, I’m still fine with that 🙂
Sligachan, to me a place of incredible beauty as indeed is the rest of that enchanted isle, all of the legends and myths only enhance that beauty, it’s a place that lifts not only the spirits but the soul as well, my wife and I have been countless times and I must not forget the people of Skye, they are the kindest and hospitable folks you could wish to meet, but don’t take my word for it, go there, and you will fall in love with her and her people.
Skye is a beautiful place, definite worth visiting. I love all the myths and legends that go with the landscape.
I was becoming enamored of the place and its legends. Then, came the myth-busters with their eye-rolls.
The myths and legends really make a place. I don’t care how young a myth or legend is, they all have to start somewhere these stories.
Leave it to a Scotsman to tell a great story and invent a tremendous myth with a difficult tradition attached to it! How bland this world would be without the Scottish to season our lives with their tales! Great story and tradition! I would love to visit this place! Thank you all for sharing!
It just wouldn’t be the same without these myths and traditions, would it? Glad you enjoyed reading!
Love me a good tale. Shame, though, I think Ellie & I missed that bridge completely. Hopefully next time.
That’s such a shame! The bridge is easy to miss though if you’re not trying to find it. Hopefully, you’ll make it next time and don’t forget to dip your face in the waters 🙂
It’s a delightful legend and also a beautiful place. If I ever get to Skye again I will make sure I visit Sligachan.
I hope you make it out there again! Skye is one of my favourite places to visit 🙂