The Eildon Hills
[Monday - 05/03/99] Our route this morning out of Scotland and into the north country of England takes us through the Eildon Hills. Long recognized as a center of magic and mystery, the Eildon Hills are the haunt of more than one legendary figure, including the Scots wizard Michael Scott, who is attributed with splitting the hills into three. Another figure about whom many stories are told is Thomas the Rhymer (1220-1297). Supposedly, he visited the fairy lands beneath Eildon and became the captive of the Fairy Queen for three years, during which he learned the art of prophecy. Both of these figures are very much like Merlin in character and it is, perhaps, no surprise to find some of the most elaborate tales of Arthur and his sleeping soldiers lying under these very Hills.
Similar stories are told of Sewingshields Crag and Alderley Edge (two places we didn't get the chance to see this trip), and the tales associated with the Eildon Hills are much the same. A traveler is returning home and meets a stranger who offers him antique coin in exchange for a horse. The traveler is then invited in to a huge underground cavern where Arthur and his knights lie sleeping. The Eildon legend takes on far more ancient character though as it includes the mention of a sword and horn. The traveler blows the horn and wakes the sleepers and then draws the sword to protect himself. Usually, the clattering of the waking knights terrifies the traveler into fleeing. In the Eildon Hills version, it is Thomas the Rhymer himself who is the stranger who tells the traveler that, should he have only drawn the sword first and then sounded the horn, he would have become King of all Britain. Sadly, we met no stranger this morning as we penetrated the hills towards the border.
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