FINN paused to take one last look at the view before leaving the rock. He had a new way of seeing the land, footsteps of the past were now sewn into it by his aunt’s storytelling.

They walked together through the wood and down the hill, and Izzy told the old Celtic legend of Grainne (pronounced Grawnya), a princess, daughter of a powerful king.

It was said she was the greatest beauty in the kingdom and it had been decided by men she should marry the great Fionn mac Cumhaill (pronounced Finn MacCool).

“I know stories about him, because I have his name,” said Finn, “he was a great warrior with magic powers, wasn’t he?”

“He was, but at the time of this story his younger days were behind him.

READ MORE: Chapter 1 of Tim's Book

“He was still the leader of the Fianna, the legendary band of Celtic warriors, but he was an old man. When Grainne saw him she thought: ‘Naw, dinnae want to marry him, too old!’

“Instead she fell for one of his warriors, Diarmuid. He was young and handsome, with a wise way of talking. He had a love spot on his forehead, if anyone saw it they’d fall in love with him.”

“Handy,” said Finn, amused by the idea.

“Well not always, so he kept it hidden under his long hair. But Grainne was smitten by him and so she had a plan.

“She put a sleeping potion in Fionn’s drink and the drinks of others, then placed a sacred oath on Diarmuid so he had to go with her. They fled as Fionn slept. When he awoke he was enraged at the betrayal. He vowed revenge and hunted for them for many years.”

“Wait a minute,” said her nephew. “Fionn didn’t love her did he? I mean they hadn’t met until then, so why was he so angry?”

READ MORE: Chapter 2 of Tim's Book

“He saw it as a betrayal. Diarmuid had been one of Fionn’s closest friends; now he’d run off with the woman he was due to marry.”

“But she didn’t want to marry Fionn anyway.”

“It was the way of things in those days, women had no choice in who to marry. That’s why I like Grainne, she refused to accept it and ran off with the man she did love. She defied the greatest warrior that had lived as well as convention. There are many stories about her travels with Diarmuid, places they hid, the adventures they had. All this time Fionn was searching for them. When he finally found them, the years seemed to have softened his anger and they made peace.”

“So it was a happy ending then? I can’t see the connection to the name of this place, though,” said Finn.

“The tale is not finished.” Izzy stopped walking to explain what happened next.

READ MORE: Chapter 3 of Tim's Book

“You see, the way Fionn felt inside was not the way it showed on the outside. Bitterness still festered under the surface and it showed itself when he went hunting with Diarmuid and the other warriors of the Fianna.

“During the hunt, Diarmuid was attacked by a wild boar. A prophesy had told that he would be killed by a boar and the beast savaged him. He managed to kill it, but Diarmuid lay mortally wounded.

“There was one chance to save him. If Fionn gave Diarmuid water to drink from his hands, his magical powers would save his life.”

“Ah, because of his magic thumb?” wondered Finn.

“Aye, well remembered Finn. There was no time to lose. Fionn rushed to a nearby burn, cupped his hands and brought water to the dying Diarmuid. But then...”

Izzy put her hand on her heart.

“Then what?” her nephew asked, spreading out his arms in a questioning gesture.

“Fionn’s anger and vengeance returned. He couldn’t forgive Diarmuid for his betrayal. So he deliberately let the water seep through his fingers.

“But Fionn’s emotions were conflicting and when he saw Diarmuid dying on the ground his bitterness eased, and he ran back to the burn to collect water. But, as before, he let the water drain from his hands because, in the last moment, he still couldn’t forgive.”

READ MORE: Chapter 4 of Tim's Book

Izzy began walking.

“So he leaves Diarmuid to die?” asked Finn, catching up with his aunt.

She paused again.

“His warriors, including Fionn’s own son Ossian, begged him to give Diarmuid water. They were all loyal to him, but they also loved Diarmuid. They had all suffered from the split between to two men they both loved.

“So for a third time, Fionn returned to the burn. He walked carefully with the water in his hands. Memories of his old friendship flooded his mind. An understanding grew in him of the power of Grainne’s love for Diarmuid and how difficult it had been for them. Fionn felt his bitterness and anger finally dissolve; he could now forgive.

“He knelt down by Diarmuid and carefully trickled the water onto his lips. But it was just too late.”

“He was dead?”

Izzy nodded. Finn walked on, saying nothing.

READ MORE: Chapter 5 of Tim's Book

They had reached the part of the trail where tall planted pine trees grew. There was the faint sound of running water below on their right and Izzy led Finn down a small path that zigzagged steeply down a slope.

They reached a burn which tumbled down the glen, with native trees lining its banks.

Izzy paused by a hazel tree that leaned over the burn to catch the sunlight. Finn arrived with a thoughtful look on his face.

“So that story is how Creag an Tuirc got its name?” he asked.

Izzy was looking for hazelnuts, so she spoke as she knelt down and foraged.

“Nobody knows for sure how it got its name. The tale of Grainne and Diarmuid is actually an ancient legend from Ireland, but legends and stories are carried by people and planted in new places.”

She stood up happy, holding a hazelnut between her thumb and finger. She put it in her pocket and looked at her nephew.

“There was a shared culture and language here with Ireland. Creag na Tuirc was named in Gaelic in the mists of time. Was the story of Diarmuid’s death told here round the fireside? For sure it was. Was the rock named to give the tale a local setting? I like to think it’s possible. There are lots of places in the Highlands named after these old Celtic legends. There’s a place called Tor an Tuirc which means hill of the boar, near Oban, and close by there is a standing stone called Diarmuid’s pillar. Local people said it was where he was buried. So the stories were planted here many years ago and now have roots here too. In fact, just up the road there is what tradition says is Fionn’s grave.”

“Really! Aw can we go there aunty, please?”

READ MORE: Chapter 6 of Tim's Book

“Of course, we might even be able to see it later today,” Izzy assured him.

She continued her search for hazelnuts and Finn helped, but they found no more.

“I’d hoped to find nine,” explained his aunt.

“Why nine?”

“I’ll tell you later, in a story,” Izzy smiled.

Finn was quiet as they walked down the path by the tumbling water. Suddenly, he recognised where he was: the waterfall they’d passed earlier.

“You stay here and enjoy the falls, I’ll meet you at Rob Roy’s grave,” said Izzy as she wandered back to Balquhidder Kirk.

READ MORE: Chapter 7 of Tim's Book

Finn stayed a while longer, watching the water cascade over the rocks. The sound soothed him and the damp coolness of the air was welcome in what was becoming a very warm day.

He eventually walked back to the kirk and emerged from the shade of the trees to see his aunt talking to a man. They broke off their conversation as soon as they saw Finn and the man walked briskly away out of the kirkyard.

“Just a tourist asking about Rob Roy,” she explained when she saw Finn’s inquisitive expression.

Two women then arrived.

“Do you know where Rob Roy’s grave is?” they asked Finn. He smiled and pointed at it.

“Could you take our photo please?” they asked.

They stood by the graveside with their thumbs up as Finn clicked a couple of times to make sure. Finn was keen to explain the mystery of the grave but they didn’t linger. The women thanked him and left, happy they’d got their photo.

As they drove away, Finn noticed the other car parked in the small parking space.

He was sure it was the same car which had been parked in the layby by Samson’s Stone the day before. But he thought no more of it, as his stomach began to tell him it was time for some proper food.

He looked for his aunt. She was in the 19th-century kirk, looking at a stone with a carving of a person on it.

“I’m hungry, can we go for lunch?” Finn asked.


They walked back to the car through the wood and past the waterfall once again.

On the way, Izzy pointed out the grave of Robert Kirk’s wife, who had died young, and the faerie hill on the northern edge of the kirkyard.

It was midday and the sky was almost a Mediterranean blue.

They left Balquhidder and drove towards Kingshouse at the east of the glen, which was originally built to accommodate British army officers using the military road.

Balquhidder had seen its share of Redcoat atrocities in the aftermath of Culloden in 1746, as many MacLarens had come out for Bonnie Prince Charlie.

The military road had been built to make transport of the military easier, and to supply the many British army forts located in the Highlands, which were garrisoned to keep an eye on potential Jacobite trouble.

As they drove out of the glen towards Loch Earn, Izzy told the tale of Capt Donald MacLaren.

He had joined the Jacobites during the rising of 1745. He was wounded and captured, then taken on a journey to England for execution. But he managed to escape while passing a place called the Devil’s Beef Tub in the south of Scotland, and one tradition says he returned to Balquhidder and lived many years in disguise as a woman, despite being heavily built.

She told it in a funny way and Finn laughed at the image of this big bearded man dressed as a woman fooling the soldiers.

“How can you remember all these stories?” he asked.

“I remember the pictures they paint in my imagination,” replied Izzy.

“Maybe I sometimes get some of the details wrong but for me they are portraits in my head and so when I tell the story I just describe what I see. That’s the way I remember anyway.”

Finn understood what she meant. Her stories had helped him paint his own portraits in his head.

He was silent for a while as Izzy drove, then said: “I want to phone my mum.”

“Of course sweetie, let’s find a phone box and see if she’s free.”

Izzy felt a wave of anxiety. She was worried that Finn might have recognised who she had been talking to at Balquhidder. She also had emotions that were not showing on the surface.

She asked herself if she was she doing the right thing. Then she looked at her nephew, who was looking out of the window while humming along to the tune she was playing.

“I’m doing it for him,” she thought, “focus on that.”