British Folklore
Fairy Lore & Prehistoric Sites in Britain

Castle Law

Castle Law

Near Castle Law, a hill about a mile south west of Abernethy, is a ruined but still important fort. It was defended by a great stone wall that is now collapsed into rubble - it even had it's own water supply, from a rock-cut cistern inside the fort on its southern side.

On the top of the hill are three small round lochs - legend says that in one of these is hidden a golden cradle in which the Pictish Kings children were rocked to sleep in, and that somewhere between the hill and Cairnavain in the Ochil HIlls an immense treasure is buried, enough to make every man, woman, and child in Scotland rich.

By local tradition, at some distant time in the past a set of golden keys were found in a small stream, which were supposed to have belonged to Cairnavain. A rhyme of that belief was printed in 1845 in the New Statistical Account of Scotland:

In the Dryburn well, beneath a stane,
You'll find the key of Cairn-a-vain,
That will mak' a' Scotland rich ane by ane.

The age of this particular verse is uncertain, but similar predictions of treasure couched in rhyme are to be found throughout the British Isles, dating back to the 16th century.

Cairnavain, to the north of Orwell parish, had in former times been a huge collection of stones but by then was much reduced in size due to excavation of the site. The workmen who had removed the stones had eagerly expected to find some treasure, but all they discovered was a rough stone coffin in the center of the cairn containing an urn full of bones and charcoal.

The tradition of the Pictish King probably arises from observation or antiquarian knowledge of the ancient remains in the neighborhood. Abernethy was a place of some importance in the Dark Ages; early carved stones in the vicinity include a 7th century Pictish symbol stone now set against the wall of the 11th century round tower by the church.

As is often the case with buried treasure stories, there were rumors of a menacing guardian in this location as well. In 1861, Alexander Laing noted a belief that if you ran three times around the loch muttering the spell "the words of which, however, are too modern to be genuine" (so he does not give them), "a hand will arise from a golden cradle and pull you in.'  He adds, 'well I do recollect of having in my schoolboy days, and undefined feeling of terror in approaching too near its dreaded waters.'