The Mythological Arthur in Scotland

Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh

Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh

Arthur was perhaps originally a Celtic mythological figure who some people have suggested was already thousands of years old by the 6th century AD. He has been seen as representing a totemic figure of the Bear and associated with the Pole Star Ursa Major. What is indisputable is that he occupies a place among the p-Celtic peoples very like that of Finn Mac Coul among the Q-Celtic (Gaelic) speaking peoples of Scotlandd and Ireland. It is potentially this mythological Arthur that is referred to in place names all over southern Scotland, following the tradition of the legends being told in the locale of the audience.

It is only in the past two or three hundred years that roads have been developed allowing people to travel freely. Before that most people lived in close proximity to their place of birth all their lives. So the great traditions of their tribe, clan or people would be told to them in the settings they knew and understood. it is hardly surprising then that we have Arthurian placenames in those parts of Scotland we now were P-Celtic speaking in the Dark Ages. The legends themselves were central to people’s social existence and took the place of history, genealogy, philosophy and morality. The tales all have strong moral components and provide models for behaviour in a warrior society as well as a source of tribal/clan identity.  The tribal Celtic speaking peoples kept these stories alive for a surprisingly long time even after Christianity was established and printing made books generally available. We have access to a witness who was told as a child that Loch Moan in Dumfries and Galloway was where Arthur returned Excalibur and it is possible that this story has been passed down unbroken for over a millennium. Be that as it may the following are some specific Scottish Arthurian locations.


Arthur’s Fold – Meigle, Strathmore


Arthur’s Fountain – Crawford, Dumfries and Galloway


Arthur’s Fountain- source of River Clyde (see Tolstoy Quest for Merlin)


Arthur’s Oven – formerly stone building near Falkirk, possibly an early Christian oratory akin to those in western Ireland


Arthur’s Knot – below Stirling Castle


Arthur’s Lee- Neilston, Glasgow


Arthur’s Seat – Edinburgh


Arthur’s Seat- Dunbarrow Hill, Angus.


Arthurstone- Meigle, Strathmore


Arthur’s and Vanora’s (Guinevere) Stones – Meigle


Barry Hill – Vanora’s prison. Modred’s Castle(?), Alyth, Strathmore


Ben Arthur- Strathclyde


Merlin’s Grave – Drummelzier, Borders


Vanora’s (Guinevere) Grave – Meigle

5 thoughts on “The Mythological Arthur in Scotland

  1. I need to devote some time to reading back through your blog. I’ve always enjoyed the Arthur legends, but haven’t read up on them very much. Thanks for sharing the details.

  2. Pingback: Event Adventure – Leafing Through Natural Scotland 2013 | edinburgh streetlamps

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